Last week we reported the publication of the first Annual Report of Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer, on the operation of the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure) Regulations 2014. We also posted on Sir Philip’s clarification of the Legal & Canonical Status of Provincial Episcopal Visitors; this formed Appendix 3 to the Report and had been circulated last August, but with a limited distribution.
The other legislative issues addressed in the Annual Report concerned two aspects associated with licences issued to ministers, and these are summarized below. In common with the clarification on the status of PEVs, both are broader considerations highlighted by the North Cheltenham case, the subject of Sir Philip’s report of 10 August 2015; both provide informal guidance.
Arrangements for parishes
Paragraphs 16 to 29 of the Declaration concern the arrangements for parishes; parochial church councils (or guild church councils) have the responsibility for signalling that the parish wishes to take advantage of arrangements available to those whose theological conviction leads them to seek the priestly or episcopal ministry of men, . The recommended form of the resolution to be passed by the PCC is: “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”; and a PCC which has passed a resolution should send a copy of it to the diocesan bishop, archdeacon, diocesan registrar and registered patron.
With regard to making an appointment to ordained parochial roles, paragraph 23 states:
“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 PCC’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.”
The interpretation of these provisions in the case of All Saints, Cheltenham was considered in his second report; and the Annual Report reiterates the general recommendation made in paragraph 37, viz.
“Where it is the intention to appoint a woman to minister otherwise than as a member of the team in a multi-parish benefice in which one or more parishes has, or is deemed to have, passed the resolution set out in paragraph 20 of the House of Bishops’ Declaration:
(a) The PCCs of the parishes in the benefice should be consulted, before a licence is issued, about the nature and extent of the ministry she is to be licensed to exercise; and
(b) The licence which is then issued to her should specify the nature and extent of the ministry she is authorized to undertake in the parish or parishes which have passed the resolution (as well as in the other parishes of the benefice).”
This recommendation is intended to be of help to diocesan bishops and others who are concerned in framing licences in such situations.
The other issue relating to licences concerns “whether it is possible for a licence issued by a bishop to a member of a team ministry other than the team rector to qualify, as well as amplify, the scope of that member’s ministry within the Team”. The relevant correspondence is included as Appendices I and II; the latter, comprising the Independent Reviewer’s response based upon legal advice, answers in the affirmative, i.e. “it is indeed possible for such a licence to qualify as well as amplify the scope of a team member’s ministry (except for that of the Team Rector)”.
As far as team vicars are concerned, “s.34(7) of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 does allow the licence of a team vicar to take such a form as to limit the nature and extent of his or her ministry in the area of the team ministry”. However, Sir Philip adds “the Legal Office is not aware of any instances in which in practice a licence has been so limited or qualified, and the Commissioner’s Code of Practice on the 2011 Measure makes no reference to the possibility, although that is not of course to say that this has not happened.”
What is so sad about this is that the ministry of women in a particular benefice might restrict their ability to be ‘The Cure of Souls’ in that place. But we are in a situation where we’re actively using gender discrimination because, we have a legal ability to do so – that would not be acceptable in any other context than an Established Church.
What I wonder would happen is someone who was Gay, of either gender was presented by a Diocesan Bishop to a Parish in this category – would we actually limit their ministry in the same way? Because, it’s bound to happen sometime soon and than we’d be actively in a live Equality of Opportunity scenario if the particular minister were to be prevented from exercising their ministry by the position being taken by the parish and decided to take it to a tribunal.
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A careful comparison of s.34(7) of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, before and after the legislative changes of Nov 14, will show that the proviso was removed, which had stated “Provided that a woman who is a vicar in a team ministry shall not by virtue of this subsection have authority to preside at or celebrate the Holy Communion or pronounce the Absolution in a parish to which a resolution in the form set out as Resolution A in Schedule 1 to the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (1993 No. 2) applies.” Similar clauses and provisos were removed at the same time from all the law, ie the measures and canons, which in any way enshrined discrimination in law. That was the principle at the core of the changes which also allowed the entry of women to the episcopate. In seeking to have such provisos now put once again into legal documents, eg individual clergy licences, it would seem that Forward in Faith are trying to turn the clock back, instead of trusting, as was Synod’s intention, that a parish’s wishes, properly expressed in the appropriate resolution would be respected. Such a failure to trust those involved is nothing less than a direct affront to the integrity of all concerned in the provision of ministry in such a parish, from the diocesan bishop downwards.
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