THE Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Peter Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), introduced a debate on the Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms or Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.
These were, he said, the “first fruits” of the simplification process and addressed matters where the Church had been “over-elaborate and over-prescriptive” and an example of where, “with a bit of tweaking”, the Synod could improve legislation without needing major reforms.
The regulations had two parts: the first was to remove the requirement for self-supporting ministers to provide sick-notes when they were off work through illness; and the main part of the regulations would extend the opportunities for interim ministers to be appointed to posts.
Bishop Broadbent explained that the introduction of common tenure introduced a “level playing-field” that meant that people appointed to incumbent-level posts were appointed “until they resign or retire”.
“That left us with some circumstances where we may not wish to go down that route,” he said. “The new regulations would provide some flexibility without undoing the principles of common tenure.”
He said that under the current regulations, when wanting to appoint a priest to a post on an interim basis, a bishop had either to employ the priest under a contract or to give the priest “common tenure, with the risk that they carry on with their general licence after the interim period”.
The regulations would allow an interim post to be extended, “but only once. This is not a mandate for a diocese to run in perpetuity with interim ministers,” he said.
The Archdeacon of Tonbridge, the Ven. Clive Mansell (Rochester), questioned the guidance that accompanied the regulations. It appeared to suggest that interim appointments could be made as incumbents. He thought that that would be unlawful. Bishop Broadbent agreed, and said that the guidance would be amended.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) said that short-term appointments showed how important it was to support the career development of interim minsters: “During the period of the appointment, there needs to be some oversight of whether the trajectory of the post is moving in the right direction.”
The Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani (Peterborough) said that she welcomed the amendments, but they didn’t go far enough. She was concerned that young curates were not receiving enough support and training for incumbency after just two and a half years. It would be better to offer young priests a form of second curacy, giving them more responsibility with the “safety net” still in place.
Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) supported the proposal but wanted it to go further, perhaps imitating the Episcopal Church in the United States, which had specialist interim ministers at a provincial level. It should also be very clearly stated why an interim post was being created.
The motion to consider the regulations was carried.
An amendment from the Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn), which was to clarify the regulations’ intention, was accepted by Bishop Broadbent and carried without debate.
The motion to approve the regulations was then carried.