Bishops’ Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate

House of Bishops Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate

On Friday 20 July, the Church of England’s House of Bishops Delegation Committee issued a new Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate (PTO). The 25-page document with 8 Annexes was produced in response to the independent review by Dame Moira Gibb into the case of Peter Ball. The Introduction explains: 

“1.1 The House of Bishops has committed itself to applying this policy when granting clergy permission to officiate (PTO).


1.3 Some of this policy (especially paragraphs 4.5-4.28) represents the application of the existing practice guidance (particularly that on safer recruitment) to clergy on PTO. That guidance is covered by section 5 of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016, which requires all authorised clergy, bishops, archdeacons, licensed readers and lay workers, churchwardens and PCCs to have ‘due regard’ to safeguarding guidance issued by the House of Bishops.

Following criticism on the uncertainty on the meaning of “due regard” at the earlier IICSA hearing, the new Policy explains the term in detail, viz.

“This means that they are required to follow that guidance unless there are cogent reasons for not doing so. (‘Cogent’ for this purpose means clear, logical and convincing.) Failure by clergy to comply with the duty imposed by the 2016 Measure may result in disciplinary action”.

It also notes “Other parts of this policy refer to the Canons and other statutory requirements, which also must be followed [1.4], i.e.

“1.5 Where provisions of this policy should be considered mandatory – either because they reflect legal requirements or provisions of the guidance referred to in paragraph 1.3 – the language used reflects that with words such as must or required being used. Other parts of the policy are recommended as good practice and are referred to as recommendations or by use of the word should.

1.6 Finally, there are parts of the policy that suggest how the policy could be implemented in a diocese. In these cases, the word may is used”.

Whilst the Policy represents the Bishops’ thinking concerning all aspects of granting Permission to Officiate (or a Licence when appropriate), in context of next week’s IICSA hearing, it is the safeguarding aspects that will be of more immediate concern; an article in the Church Times highlights these as:

  • PTO may be withdrawn or refused by the bishop, even if the investigation of the cleric has concluded, and no conviction made: “Where a cleric has been the subject of a criminal investigation for offences relating to children and vulnerable adults that did not result in a conviction, again the bishop must consult the diocesan safeguarding advisor and the diocesan registrar before deciding whether to grant PTO.”
  • appropriate reasons for withdrawing PTO include “following an allegation of abuse in a cleric’s past ministry pending the police investigation”.
  • refusal of a PTO when: a cleric has accepted a police caution; an allegation of abuse has been proved in court; or the cleric has been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.
  • a new application procedure for PTOs to include: completion of a form to by clerics; safeguarding checks, an entry interview; and an exit interview when transferring PTO to a new diocese.
  • review of PTO at least once every five years before renewal.

[We have posted a number of relevant extracts in Permission to Officiate – the new policy].


A public hearing on the Peter Ball case study will take place 23 – 27 July 2018 at the Inquiry hearing centre at 18 Pocock Street, London SE1 0BW. During the preliminary hearing on 6 June 2018, counsel to the Inquiry, Fiona Scolding QC, outlined preparations for the July hearing including the current status of witness statements and the themes and issues that will be addressed. Issues specific to the granting of PTO to Peter Ball were:

  • 10. Why Peter Ball was granted permission to officiate in various forms and was permitted to return to ministry, albeit in a partial and incomplete manner after his resignation, given his offending, and to explain and understand the circumstances in which such permission to officiate was granted, [page 28, line 22].
  • 12. Whether or not a similar senior figure within the church would be treated in the same manner today and for similar reasons and, if not, why not, [page 29, line 8].

Ms Scolding also referred to the Church’s independent inquiry into the handling of the Ball case by Dame Moira Gibb whose report was published last summer. A copy of the provisional timetable is available on the IICSA web site; Lord Carey of Clifton will give evidence on the morning of Tuesday 24 July, and written evidence from the Prince of Wales will be read on Friday 27 July. A draft of the Prince’s submissions has been carried by The Times (£).

Contents summary

1. Introduction
2. What is PTO?
3. When is PTO appropriate
4. The process
5. Safeguarding training
6. Refusing, withdrawing or not renewing PTO
7. Reviewing PTO
8. Renewing PTO
9. PTO in retirement
10. Supporting clergy on PTO and maintaining them in ministry
11. Recording PTO, record keeping and Blue Files
12. PTO in more than one diocese

Annex 1 Differences between licence and PTO
Annex 2 Retirement timeline
Annex 3 Model application form
Annex 4 Model permission to officiate
Annex 5 Model statement of agreed expectations
Annex 6 Annual ministerial return
Annex 7 Flow Chart
Annex 8 Template for conferring exemptions from safeguarding training requirements in exceptional cases

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Bishops’ Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate" in Law & Religion UK, 20 July 2018,


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