A THOROUGH spring clean of the Church of England's "unhelpful"
and "restrictive" legislation is proposed in a report by a
simplification task group, published on Wednesday.
The task group, chaired by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd
Pete Broadbent, concentrates on rules that touch on clergy
appointment and parish organisation.
The group was given the task of considering "concerns raised
about the constraints caused to the mission and growth of the
Church of England by existing canons, legislation, regulations and
procedures". It was to "bring forward options and proposals for
simplification and deregulation" by November 2014.
Its work has already been seen and approved by the House of
Bishops and the Archbishops' Council. The report goes before to the
General Synod next month, and again in July.
It includes caveats. "We are realistic that deregulation and
simplification on its own will not bring about a renewal of mission
of the Church of England or the re-evangelisation of our nation,"
the group says. "It is not our purpose to remove important checks
and balances, nor undermine rights and duties."
The group believes, none the less, that "the work of
simplification can make a vital difference and contribute to the
wider missionary task". It complains of "a plethora of
legislative complexity which, we believe, acts as a barrier to
experiment and innovation - and thus frustrates the Church's
The group targets three areas:
• immediate, serious hindrances to mission, including pastoral
reorganisation and diocesan/parochial management;
• weighty and worthy bureaucracy and procedure that is of its
time, but is no longer fit for its purpose; and
• matters that generate redundant paperwork which could easily
A key point is that each of the simplification group's
recommendations emerged from consultations with dioceses. As many
as 20 dioceses highlighted particular pieces of legislation which
they found troublesome.
The group reckons that it can work fruitfully for the next
quinquennium - the five-year life of the next General Synod, to be
elected this autumn. Its first recommendations target legislation
covering ministerial deployment and terms of service, as well as
pastoral reorganisation, contained in the Clergy (Terms of Service)
Measure (and Regulations) 2009 and the Mission and Pastoral Measure
It acknowledges that some of the work will be complex, given the
tie-in between C of E and state legislation: "Changes to
regulations can be achieved by a one-stage procedure; changes to
Measures and Canons will need several stages of work." It will fall
to the General Synod to agree and implement many of the
For the next stage, the group envisages wider consultation to
identify areas that relate to parish ministry.
In a video introduction to the simplification process, Bishop
Broadbent says: "Of course, the genius of the Church of England is
that it is an ordered Church: our legal framework is part of the
law of the land, and has prevented us from sliding into
sectarianism and irresponsibility.
"But there has been a tendency over recent years, in framing our
legislation, to over-prescribe, to defend against every possible
eventuality, and to create a defensive bureaucracy that is in many
instances no longer fit for purpose.
"The simplification group recognises that a programme for change
runs the risk of being time-consuming, intricate, and at times
controversial. There will need to be a balance between the rights
and duties that legislation is framed to protect and the need to
make a missional difference in the life of our dioceses and
"Identify the essential: what makes for good governance, proper
legality, and a clear process? Eliminate the rest."