If a parish priest rejects his bishop’s oversight and joins a “GAFCON” Church and is followed by the PCC, do they have a claim on the church building and other parish property?
Church buildings and parsonage houses are vested in the incumbent for so long as he or she holds the cure of souls in the parish. An incumbent who resigns the cure and takes the congregation outside the Church of England will have no rights over the property at all; the diocese will simply proceed in the usual manner to fill the vacancy, whereupon the new incumbent will have the same property rights as the old one.
If, however, the incumbent decides to retain the cure while the church aligns itself with a GAFCON bishop, his or her rights over the property remain unless and until he or she is removed by due canonical process.
It would be possible, in theory, for the bishop to suspend the incumbent pending the outcome of the process, though I fancy that many bishops would not have the stomach to suspend if there were a significant number of parishes in the diocese that went this way, especially if the churchwardens and the PCCs were minded to reject the bishop’s authority to suspend.
I understand that, a few years ago, an incumbent, in possession of the freehold of his parish, aligned himself with the Church of England (Continuing) and declared himself to be under obedience to the CEC bishop and not his Church of England diocesan; and that the diocese decided to leave him to it until he retired, and to sort things out at that point.
A PCC would hold no rights over the church or parsonage house as such, but would be subject to charity law in its dealings with the rest of the property; for instance, selling the church hall and giving the proceeds to GAFCON would be very likely to attract the attention of the Charity Commissioners, as the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament did when its trustees attempted to give away half its assets to the RC Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in 2011.
Steve Vince, Wolverhampton
“The crucifix, an aide-memoire of Christ’s Passion.” More than that?
D. G. H.
Can a patron of one parish in a benefice veto the appointment of a female priest if its stated position is that it does not support such ministry? Does it make any difference if the patron of one of the other parishes is the Crown or the bishop?
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