To the point

Our parish is currently without a priest, the vicar having retired. The PCC wished to advertise the vacancy, but the diocesan bishop, who is also the patron, refused, and instead presented his own candidate. This person was not suitable and has now been rejected by the PCC representatives.
We still would like the post to be advertised. Are we entitled to insist on this, or must we wait for the bishop to present another candidate (who might be equally unsuitable)?

The law on the appointment of incumbents is to be found in the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986. The PCC may request the patron to consider advertising the vacancy but the decision as to whether, and if so how, to advertise is left to the patron.

The patron (whether the bishop or some other person or body) is entitled to put forward his ‘own’ candidate, but this is subject to the rights of the parish representatives to refuse to approve the appointment. Where the bishop is not the patron, he also may refuse to approve the appointment.

The patron may go on putting forward his own candidates and the parish representatives (or the bishop) may go on rejecting them until nine months after the benefice became vacant. At that point the archbishop of the province acquires the right to appoint. He must consult the parish representatives and the bishop, but they no longer have a right of veto.

It is sometimes the practice for there to be an interview of one or more candidates conducted by a panel that includes the parish representatives. The fact that they sit on the panel does not change their role, and they still have the right to refuse to agree to the appointment even if the rest of the panel (often stacked with diocesan functionaries such as the archdeacon, rural dean and deanery lay chairman) are all in favour.
Many of the provisions of the 1986 Measure do not apply where the patron is the Crown, the Duke of Cornwall or the Lord Chancellor. These exceptions are currently the subject of a consultation exercise by HM Government and the archbishops.

Our lawyers are happy to answer readers’questions about church law – please email tothepoint@forwardinfaith. com