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General Synod: Changes to faculty rules more than ‘tweaks’

12 July 2019

Madeleine Davies, Adam Becket, and Tim Wyatt report from the General Synod in York


The Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC

The Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC

THE Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2019 were approved after a debate.

The Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC, introduced a raft of changes to rules after, he said, an extensive consultation over the past year. As well as many “tweaks” to what was on List A and List B, there were also significant procedural changes, most notably front-loading the consultation requirements in the faculty process to avoid delays between the formal commencement of faculty proceedings and the diocesan chancellor’s decision.

Also, documents that had to be inspected in person at the church could now be inspected online. Finally, any objector was no longer able to require holding an oral hearing rather than simply a written one; that power would now rest with the Chancellor alone. The aim throughout had been to simplify the process by moving as many changes to a church to List A as possible, and some had been removed from the process entirely where very minor. If the Synod approved the new rules, further guidance on their operation would be produced.

The Archdeacon of Oxford, the Ven. Martin Gorick (Oxford), noted how his diocese had both more parishes than any other, and more faculty applications also: more than 100 in just the past month. He commended the proposals, saying that they echoed some changes already implemented in Oxford diocese which were working well and preventing lengthy and frustrating delays. His one concern was that the changes to List A and B could lead parishes to undertake unwise mortar repairs and repoint with inappropriate materials.

The Revd Paul Ayers (Leeds) said that he broadly welcomed the changes, but did have some concerns, similar to Archdeacon Gorick’s, as well as issues concerning boilers and sound systems. He was also worried about the new need for the diocesan advisory committees to not send advice when all the consultees have replied, which could compromise their independence.

The Revd Timothy Goode (Southwark) said that he and the diocesan advisory committee of which he was a member fully supported the hope of making the faculty system more efficient and effective. Any remaining concerns could, no doubt, be picked up by the forthcoming advice from the Church Buildings Commission. He had similar worries about the front-loading of the consultation requirements and asked for clarification on some finer points of the new process.

Julie Dziegiel (Oxford) said that she often had to defend the existence of the faculty system, which was seen by parishes as a “right royal pain in the behind”. But, thanks to it, the Church of England was exempt from most planning-permission requirements and the need for listed-building consent, also. It was, in fact, a “huge privilege”, and the Church should be thankful for it. The Synod must support these new simpler procedures wholeheartedly

The Archdeacon of Halifax, the Ven. Dr Anne Dawtry (Leeds), commended the new rules to the Synod, as part of the simplification of the system, which had occurred throughout this quinquennium. There was a helpful distinction between those needed in an unlisted church and a listed church. “The rules on trees caused great confusion in 2016, and the simplification of these is much welcome,” she said.

Read full coverage of the General Synod here

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