– Arrangements for Parishes

Colin Podmore looks at what the House of Bishops’ Declaration says about parishes

The arrangements for parishes are set out in paragraphs 16 to 29 of the Declaration. Forward in Faith will be issuing guidance to parishes on passing Resolutions under the Declaration later this autumn.

The House is committed to enabling parishes in one part of the country to receive broadly comparable and consistent arrangements to those provided in another, notwithstanding differences in the culture and ethos of particular dioceses or the approach of the relevant diocesan bishop.
The practical outworking of the arrangements may vary according to local circumstances but the approach commended in the following paragraphs will, in the view of the House, enable all dioceses and parishes to act consistently with the guiding principles set out above and the requirements of the law, including the Equality Act 2010.
The responsibility for signalling that a parish wishes to take advantage of arrangements available to those whose theological conviction leads them to seek the priestly or episcopal ministry of men rests with the relevant parochial church council

2. In the case of a guild church designated and established under section 4 of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act 1952 the responsibility rests with the guild church council and what is said in paragraphs 16 to 29 applies to guild churches and guild church councils as it applies to parishes and PCCs, with the necessary modifications.

Paragraph 16 says that there is not to be a `postcode lottery’. This is a quite different approach from that of the previous legislation, which envisaged `diocesan schemes’ interpreting a ‘code of practice’.

Paragraph 18 is important. In the Church of England the responsibility for such decisions is neither with the priest nor with the congregation as a whole, but with the PCC. Members of the congregation maybe invited to express their views, but the FCC must exercise its responsibility and not effectively delegate it to a congregational referendum.

19.A meeting of a FCC to consider a motion seeking arrangements of this kind should either be one held under section 11 of the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 or one for which the secretary of the FCC has given members at least four weeks’ notice of the place and time of the meeting and the motion to be considered. Given the importance of the issue such a motion should have been passed either (a)bya majority of those present at a meeting at which at least two-thirds of the members of the FCC who are entitled to attend are present or (b) by a majority of all the members of the FCC.

The quorum and majority requirements are different from those under the 1993 Measure and the Act of Synod. For Resolutions A and B to be passed, at least half of the FCC members had to be present and a simple majority of those present had to vote in favour. For a petition under the Act of Synod (`Resolution C’), at least half of the PCC had to be present and two-thirds of those present had to vote in favour.

By contrast the quorum for resolutions under the Declaration is the normal FCC quorum (one-third), but the majority required depends on the number present. If two-thirds are present, then only a simple majority of those present need to vote in favour, but if fewer than two-thirds are present, there must be a simple majority of the whole membership of the PCC.

So, for example, if there are 20 members of the FCC and all are present at the meeting, Resolution C would have required at least 14 to vote in favour, but a Resolution under the Declaration will be passed if only 11 vote in favour. If 14 members are present, only 8 (instead of 10) need to vote in favour. But if fewer than 14 attend, 11 will need to vote in favour.

Another important difference is that Resolution C could only be passed if the incumbent or priest-in-charge agreed with it. The Declaration contains no such restriction.

The recommended form of the resolution to be passed by the FCC is as follows:
‘This PCC requests, on grounds of theological conviction, that arrangements be made for it in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests’.’

A PCC which has passed a resolution should send a copy of it to the diocesan bishop, archdeacon, diocesan registrar and registered patron.

Parishes which have passed a resolution may rescind it at any time. The same procedures as are set out in paragraphs 1849 should apply in relation to a PCC meeting which is to consider a motion rescinding a resolution. Parishes which have passed a resolution should review it from time to time, especially when a vacancy in a benefice arises.
The form of words is only a recommendation. Forward in Faith is likely to recommend a somewhat fuller text for the Resolution.

Re-viewing the resolution can involve reviewing how the arrangements under the recommendation are operating: are they satisfactory or do they need to be revised? Having this on the FCC’s agenda from time to time will also serve to remind people (and inform new members) of why the Resolution is needed.

Reviewing the Resolution does not mean that the PCC has to vote again. All that is needed is for a FCC agenda to include as an agenda item To review the Resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration: If the PCC is content with the working of the Resolution, the Minutes of the PCC should simply record that a discussion took place and include a distillation of the view arrived at.

The House recognises that the nature of the theological conviction on the ordained ministry of women which underlies a decision to pass such a resolution will vary according to the tradition of the parish concerned. Where a resolution has been passed, and before clergy are appointed to the parish or a bishop chosen by the diocesan bishop to provide oversight, there will, therefore, need to be consultation between bishop and parish to ascertain the nature of that conviction so that the resolution can be implemented effectively. The House will provide guidance for bishops and parishes to help facilitate these conversations.
A Guidance Note from the House of Bishops has been published. The covering note says This is…aguidance note. It neither adds to nor subtracts from the contents of the Declaration: Any attempt to give it a status that it does not claim to possess should be resisted.

The purpose of consultation between the diocesan bishop and the parish’s representatives is not for the bishop to attempt to persuade the PCC to modify its theological conviction, but simply to find out what the conviction is, so that appropriate provision can be made. A Conservative Evangelical parish mightbe happy with a male bishop or a male priest, regardless of who ordained him, but a Catholic parish will not be.

A Catholic parish will understand that in receiving the ministry of a priest it is receiving the ordaining ministry of the bishop who ordained him, and that if there is doubt about the sacramental ministry of women as bishops, there will be doubt about the sacramental ministry of those they ordain. And a well-taught Catholic parish will understand that a priest can only flourish if he is in full communion with a bishop and with all those whom that bishop ordains to the priesthood — a full communion made visible when he stands together with them at the altar. This will require the ministry of a bishop who ordains only men to the priesthood.

Forward in Faith will issue guidance to facilitate this consultation between the diocesan bishop and the parish.

Anyone involved in making appointments to ordained parochial roles, whether of incumbents, priests-in-charge or assistant curates, or in exercising the power conferred by Canon C 8.2(a) to allow occasional ministry in a parish, should do everything possible to achieve an outcome that does not conflict with the nature of the conviction on this issue underlying the FCC’s resolution. Where a clerk in holy orders is the registered patron of a benefice in right of his or her office, he or she should not limit his or her selection of candidates to those of a particular sex except in circumstances where a parish has passed a resolution.
In the event that any difficulties arise between a patron and a parish following the passing of a PCC resolution, the diocesan bishop should do all in his or her power to achieve an outcome that respects the declared view of the parish and protects the parish representatives from having to resort to their own power of veto under the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986. The archbishop of the province should also seek to achieve such an outcome in the event of the right of presentation lapsing to him or her under the 1986 Measure.
Paragraph 23 means that if the PCC has passed a Resolution, an incumbent or priest-in-charge must comply with it when appointing curates or inviting other clergy to minister in the parish, regardless of his (or her) own views.

Paragraph 24 means that if a patron presents a candidate whose appointment would not comply with the Declaration, the bishop must use his or her power to veto the appointment in order to protect the lay representatives from having to use theirs.

In the case of multi-parish benefices the needs of parishes in the benefice that have not passed a resolution should be weighed alongside those of any parish that has when decisions are taken about appointments to the benefice.
Note that paragraph 25 refers to `appointments to the benefice; not ministry within the benefice. What is contemplated here is that, when it comes to appointing an incumbent or priest-in-charge, the needs of parishes that pass a Resolution and the needs of parishes that do not pass a Resolution are weighed. With regard to ministry within a parish that has passed a Resolution, the Resolution will stand and those responsible are charged with finding a way of giving effect to it.

The choice of a bishop to undertake ministry in respect of a parish which has passed a resolution is for the relevant diocesan bishop to make, again with a view to avoiding conflict with the theological conviction on this issue underlying its resolution. In all cases the choice should be made from among the male bishops who are members of the House of Bishops of the diocesan synod of that or another diocese of the Church of England.
As noted in paragraph 16, parishes which pass a resolution in one part of the country are entitled to expect equivalent treatment to that provided in another. In all cases the diocesan bishop should seek to ensure that pastoral and sacramental ministry is provided in accordance with the guiding principles set out in paragraph 5 above.
In addition the diocesan bishop and the bishop invited to minister to the parish should explore how they can best cooperate in a variety of ways to contribute to its welfare, resourcing and mission and in its relationship with the diocese.
The precise extent of the ministry entrusted to the bishop is for the diocesan to determine and is likely, for practical reasons to vary according to the pattern of episcopal ministry in that diocese and the extent of the bishop’s other commitments. But the expectation is that there will be many similarities with the range of responsibilities carried by any suffragan bishop within a diocese.
Paragraph 29 says that the ministry of a bishop under the Declaration willbe like that of a suffragan bishop (not like that of a retired Assistant Bishop who may visit a parish to do a confirmation). As the fifth Guiding Principle says, the provision is to be `pastoral and sacramental: That means that it will not only be sacramental but will involve responsibility for the life of the church.


The House of Bishops Guidance Note says, The aim should be to explore options that will avoid, on the one hand, a single parish being able to frustrate the wishes of the others in the benefice and, on the other, that parish being denied the pastoral and sacramental provision that the PCC has sought: Thus, the House of Bishops contemplates a situation where the incumbent or priest-in-charge of a multi-parish benefice cannot exercise priestly ministry within a parish in that benefice (just as the diocesan bishop maybe unable to exercise episcopal ministry within that parish).