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North London parish seeks patron other than CPAS

12 March 2021

Impasse delayed the appointment of the present incumbent

JOHN SALMON/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

St Luke’s, West Holloway

St Luke’s, West Holloway

A PARISH church in north London no longer wants the Anglican Evangelical mission agency the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS) as its patron, and is seeking patronage more in harmony with the congregation’s outlook. The Inclusive Church logo is prominent on the website of St Luke’s, West Holloway, along with the Pride flag, and is “very much who we are as a church”, the Vicar, the Revd John MacKenzie, says.

St Luke’s clashed with the CPAS in 2018 over the appointment of a new incumbent. Two rounds of interviews ended in an impasse when the patron and the PCC electoral representatives were not prepared to shortlist the other’s candidates.

The parish believed that nothing would be gained by going for a third round. After a year passed and the patron had failed to present a candidate, the right of presentation lapsed and passed to the diocesan bishop. The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, conducted the interview process, and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, appointed Mr MacKenzie, who took up his appointment in January 2020.

“Our criterion is to ensure that, at some future time, the parish is not again in a situation where a lengthy period has to elapse before they can start the appointment process for a new vicar,” Mr MacKenzie said on Tuesday. “It is unlikely in the short and medium term that CPAS and the PCC of St Luke’s will be in alignment over what they require.”

In the centuries after the Reformation, landowners and wealthy individuals were empowered to sell the ancient patronage right of a particular parish to a corporate body. Trusts were established to acquire patronages, which remained a right in law.

The CPAS, second only to the Crown in the number of livings that it holds, was established in 1836. In a position paper in 2017, it countered “voices wishing to suggest that in the 21st century, patronage is now anachronistic” with a defence of the system as something deeply embedded in national life: “a tripartite arrangement”.

It argues that good patrons can act as “wise external advocates” and “offer a significant mechanism for the Church to retain its theological diversity in a healthy way . . . a legal and primary way that contributes to the theological balance of the wider church and influences parishes and senior church structures to remain committed to the gospel as received in the Scriptures and interpreted by the Anglican formularies”.

Patronage seemed out of step and out of time with churches now, Mr Mackenzie suggested. “I understand that patrons can offer something to a parish, especially if they are of a like mind, but where there is this gap between the outlook of the patron and the outlook of the parish, then I am not sure the relationship is helpful,” he said.

“A patron can be of huge benefit to a parish, especially if they take an interest both spiritually and financially in the life of the parish. We don’t have that sort of relationship with CPAS.”

The CPAS had not responded directly to St Luke’s, Mr MacKenzie confirmed, but it had contacted the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell. “She has had a good conversation with the churchwardens, myself, and the lay chair of the PCC,” Mr MacKenzie said.

“As a gesture of good will, we have agreed to take down the request on our website inviting St Luke’s parishioners to write to the trustees of CPAS. We are looking to post something new about our current stance and our desire to have a new patron other than CPAS.

“Our understanding is that Bishop Joanne is seeking a parish that might wish to have CPAS as a patron, and with whom we might be in a position to do a patronage swap. We have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the work she is doing on this.”

The PCC understood that the CPAS board of trustees did not want to give up this patronage without acquiring another its place, but might be willing to swap. If that was not achievable, the parish would ask for some kind of working agreement with the patron so that a clear understanding and framework existed for a future appointment.

The CPAS was approached for comment, but neither its general director, Canon John Dunnett, nor its patronage secretary, Canon Mike Duff, took up the invitation.


Read an online comment piece by the Associate Vicar of St Luke’s, West Holloway, the Revd Martin Wroe, here

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