CofE: Resolution of Disputes Procedure

On 16 December, the Church of England published the following  two documents on the Operation of the Resolution of Disputes Procedure on which we posted in June.

1. Notes on the Operation of the Resolution of Disputes Procedure: Response to the Consultation. Sir Philip Mawer’s response to the eighteen submissions received on the Consultation Paper covering a draft set of Notes on how the procedure for resolving disputes relating to the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishop and Priests might work in practice. It also addresses the points made at a well-attended meeting of General Synod members in the margins of the July 2015 meeting of the Synod in York. Sir Philip states:

“5) Some of the comments raised issues which had previously been aired in the course of the debates and discussions leading up to the introduction of the present arrangements. For example, a number stressed the need to be clear about the distinction between a Parochial Church Council (PCC) and a parish, reflecting concerns that a PCC might not be wholly representative of the views of its parish (either of the worshipping congregation or of the wider community). It is not for me to re-visit such matters. However, I have sought to be careful to make clear to what I am intending to refer when mentioning either the PCC or the parish in the revised version of the Notes which I am now publishing.

6) Other comments raised issues which fall outside my role. It is, for example, for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to decide, with the concurrence of the Chairs of the Houses of Clergy and Laity of the General Synod, who they appoint as Independent Reviewer, including the gender of the person to be appointed. Similarly it is for them to decide whether to appoint any Deputy Independent Reviewer(s). I have however sought to be alert to the concerns expressed to me about the need for gender sensitivity, for example in ensuring that, when referring to the Reviewer, the revised Notes are inclusive of both genders, so that they will not require future amendment if and when the gender of the person appointed as Reviewer should alter.

7) Some of the submissions I received focussed much more specifically on the detailed wording of the draft Notes than others. For example, the submission from Forward in Faith made a number of specific suggestions for amendment of the text. The equally weighty submission from WATCH focussed not so much on the Notes themselves as on the approach the Reviewer takes to his or her task, emphasising among other things the need to guard against unintended bias, to use language carefully and to have regard, when forming judgements, to fostering relationships based on trust. I understand the importance of both types of submission I received, and will have the points made in them in mind as I undertake my role.

8) As regards the wording of the Notes, most attention focussed on paragraphs 13 and 14, and 24 – 28 of the original draft. I have looked carefully at these again in the light of the wording of the Regulations, so as to ensure that they are entirely consistent, the one with the other.

9) I received a number of questions about specific aspects of the operation of the procedure, many of them in the course of the General Synod ‘fringe’ meeting. I was able to respond to these at that time and my responses are recorded in the note of that meeting.”

2. Independent Reviewer: Notes on the Operation of the Resolution of Disputes Procedure (December 2015)  Issued by Church House, “these notes are intended to help those who want to know more about the procedure for the resolution of disputes relating to the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (GS Misc 1076). The procedure itself is set out in The Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure) Regulations 2014 (GS Misc 1087).

These notes need to be read alongside those Regulations. The notes describe the way in which the procedure works. They are a guide, not a rigid set of rules. How the procedure for resolving disputes is made effective in any particular case will, inevitably and rightly, depend to some degree on the circumstances of that case. Moreover the way in which cases are handled is likely to evolve over time as the Church gains practical experience of how the procedure can best be used to advance rather than hinder its mission and its unity.”

[Links to CofE documents updated, 7 October 2018]

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "CofE: Resolution of Disputes Procedure" in Law & Religion UK, 17 December 2015,

2 thoughts on “CofE: Resolution of Disputes Procedure

  1. The congregation of St Martins,Ruislip, London has shown, by various means, that it does not want told come under the auspices of the Bishop of Fulham, and thus to deprive itself of the ministrations of a woman priest. The PCC has blatantly ignored the wishes of the congregation and voted on 29th June 2021 to come under the Bishop of Fulham. What redress do we have?

    • Dear Ann. Thank you for your query. However, we do not give advice on individual cases. Disputes concerning the ministry of women priests in the Church of England are normally dealt with by the Independent Reviewer, but as you appreciate, complaints must be raised through the PCC. Perhaps your Diocesan Registrar or Archdeacon could advise?

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