THE Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA), a grouping of clergy members of the Unite union, have called for a moratorium on new disciplinary complaints against priests during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement issued last week, CECA’s executive committee said that clergy were under extreme stress and pressure while trying to serve their communities during the lockdown.
To lift any “unnecessary additional stress” on ministers, the whole operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) should be urgently reviewed, it said.
Besides barring new disciplinary proceedings, complaints that are already under consideration should be resolved as quickly as possible, CECA says.
It represents about 1000 clergy, approximately five per cent of the priests and chaplains active in the Church of England.
The group is also worried that financial pressures on dioceses will lead to the cutting of stipendiary posts, the statement says.
“We strongly urge that all due and statutory process be carefully followed in each diocese in respect of the rights of our members to fair treatment and to legal and reasonable compensation in the event of posts being removed.”
This week, the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners announced emergency measures to prop up struggling dioceses whose finances have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Some of CECA’s members were also due to be ordained this year, or move post, and are concerned about losing access to stipends and housing attached to their current posts without being able to take up the new post because of the shutdown.
The national Church should act swiftly to “reassure” anxious clergy that their Covid-19 concerns will be addressed, CECA concludes.
When asked to comment on CECA’s concerns, the Director of Ministry, the Rt Revd Chris Goldsmith, said that he was “immensely grateful” to clergy for their hard work in “unprecedented times of need”.
“We know that this is a very difficult period not only for congregations and the wider communities but for clergy and lay ministers themselves, who will be ministering at times in exceptionally demanding circumstances.
“I would like them to know that we are striving to offer practical and collegial support through the dioceses and the national team, using national and local resources. There has been an extraordinary outpouring of creativity in ministry across the country and we shall do all we can to inspire, equip, and enable all those who lead and serve.”
The Pensions Board has written to all 40,000 pensioners to reassure them that pensions will continue to be paid, while all clergy on the national payroll have also been told that their stipends are not under threat because of the wider financial pressures caused by the coronavirus.
All staff at the national church institutions are understood to be working as usual, but from home, and so processes, including CDM proceedings, should not be affected by the lockdown.
Advice for clergy and ordinands who are due to move to new posts this summer and unable to do so because of the pandemic will be issued shortly, after consultation between the dioceses and national church bodies.