Law and religion round-up – 24th February

Largely Anglican news this week – it’s the C of E’s General Synod again…

EU Regulation causes mix-up in marriage fees”…

… or that’s perhaps how some of the “red tops” in the media might have highlighted the issue. On Tuesday this week, we posted Increased fee for issue of Marriage Certificate, drawing attention to the changes in the fees for the issue of a marriage certificate as from 16 February 2019. This is the date on which the EU Regulation 2016/1191 of 27 July 2016 came into force “to promote the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in EU countries”.

The changes to marriage fees were made through the snappily-titled Registration of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Fees) (Amendment) and Multilingual Standard Forms Regulations 2018, SI 2018/1268 which was laid before Parliament on 30 November 2018. This month, notification of the changes was given by the Faculty Office and in the General Register Office Clergy Newsletter February 2019, although they have yet to be made in the Church of England’s Parochial Fees 2019, specifically to Note A4 which suggests that the fees might be increased from April 2019. Whilst the changes are small in monetary terms, they are mandated by statutory instrument and, consequently, PCCs have been obliged to impose them as from 16 February.

With hindsight, the 16 February 2019 implementation date has been in the public domain since July 2016 but several people (like us) do not appear to have had the EU Regulation on their radar. Nevertheless, there seems to have been a serious lack of communication in conveying this relatively simple change to incumbents and PCCs. Whilst it has been incorporated in our widely-accessed post Church of England parochial fees 2019, the change has yet to appear on national and diocesan church sites.

Confusing headlines

The CofE Daily Digest for 22 February includes links to media reporting of General Synod’s approval of Amending Canon 39, GS2047BB,  which increases flexibility for worship schedules in multi-parish benefices. Typical was the BBC’s headline “Churches no longer have to hold Sunday services” with the  sub title “A weekly Sunday service will no longer be compulsory for churches after a vote to change a 400-year-old law was passed by the Church of England’s ruling body”. By way of contrast, the headline of the CofE Press Release captured the essence of the change “General Synod approves greater service flexibility for benefices“, but perhaps “benefices” is not in everyone’s normal vocabulary.

Church of England Parochial Fees – 2020 to 2024

On Thursday 21 February, the General Synod of the Church of England approved a new scheme for parochial fees which will be applicable for the years 2020 to 2024 inclusive. Stephen Lynas, aka bathwellschap, reported that the debate was “the first of two revolutions when Synod got to discuss the statutory fees payable for weddings and funerals”.

“The Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, a redoubtable champion of the poor and estate communities, brainstormed Synod into trying to abolish fees altogether – to attract people to churches for these significant life events. Frankly, some people can’t afford what we charge (even though we are cheaper than wedding venues, and our fees are not the largest part of funeral directors’ costs). He managed to garner about one-third of people voting in support – but it was not enough, and a new fees order is in place”.

The voting was: For – 165; Against – 80; Abstention – 22. The actual 2020 fees will not be known until the August CPI inflations figures are published by the Office of National Statistics, and processed by the Church. However, the revised scheme introduced a number of important changes which are described in our post, Church of England Parochial Fees – Changes for 2020 to 2024. Judging by David’s twitter feed, one of the more contentious item at PCC level is that whereas at present, the 2014 Order provides for a PCC to receive a fee (currently £30) when a funeral service takes place at a crematorium or cemetery, this payment to the PCC will cease from 1 January 2020. For some, this will represent a loss of income of £1,500 per annum.

ERG and a two-term limit

Still with General Synod and the debate on the revised Church Representation Rules, and the controversial aspect of preventing people from holding a deanery synod seat for more than two three-year terms. Stephen Lynas notes that, procedurally, Synod looked at the matter in July 2018 and turned down the proposal to remove the ‘two strikes and you’re out’ idea. It was therefore not possible to amend the Measure and the debate was to rubber-stamp “drafting amendments” – little tweaks in the text. The Chair of the Elections Review Group, Clive Scowen, reassured Synod that the ERG  would be looking at the two-terms limit fairly quickly. However, the revised Rules will not be relevant until the deanery Synod elections in 2026, (see Comment by David Lamming, below).

The theory behind limiting the re-election to Deanery Synod is that it would bring in fresh thinking, remove the old dead wood, and allows the elderly Deanery faithful to stop being part of “a collection of Anglicans who want to go home”. Having been a member of Deanery Synod, David is amazed that anyone would wish to prolong the experience for more than one three-year term.

Modified rapture

Bulletin No. 41, February 2019 on the Archdeacons’ News website contains information on ChurchCare’s new web presence, which is now within the Church of England’s central website. All the ChurchCare content has been rewritten, updated and moved on to a new section of the central website. The current ChurchCare website is still active but by the end of February it will be closed down following the end of the current hosting contract.

Users of the revised CofE site will be familiar with the format, with its proliferation of photographs, large font and use of “find out more” links. A couple of quick links which may be useful to readers are:

Sex and the City comes to the consistory courts

The Daily Mail reported that Kim Cattrall, star of Sex and the City, was forced to back down after losing a long-running dispute with relatives in Liverpool over a family gravestone; she is said to have replaced a headstone in her family’s plot in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Wavertree, Liverpool, with one having her own name on “so that she would be buried there when she dies”. It also included the inscription “the Liverpool Cleopatra”, described as “a nod to her much-publicised return to the city in a production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in 2010”.

After “almost two years of wrangling in an ecclesiastical court”, Sir Mark Hedley, chancellor of the consistory court of the Diocese of Liverpool, ordered that Miss Cattrall’s name and the Cleopatra reference be removed from the headstone. The stone has been removed and must be reinstated by next month.

We will review the judgment when it becomes available.

Quick links

And finally…I

Nothing whatsoever to do with law, but Kathryn King of Magdalen College, Oxford, is conducting a three-year, AHRC-funded project on Experiences of Choral Evensong and is inviting responses to an online questionnaire, here. So if it’s your thing…

And finally…II

“All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6) was never more apt than in the village of Harrold, Bedfordshire, when 200 sheep piled into a bewildered man’s garden after one of the flock took a wrong turn into his driveway, soon to be joined by a couple of hundred more. Full details and photographs in the Daily Mail

3 thoughts on “Law and religion round-up – 24th February

  1. Re the revised CRRs and the ‘two-terms’ limit for lay members of deanery synods, it’s not quite correct to say that “the revised Rules do not come into effect until 2026.” Assuming a smooth passage for the Measure through the Parliamentary stages of the legislative process (and absent a snap General Election intervening as happened in 2017 – by no means guaranteed!), we could reasonably expect Royal Assent later this year and for the Archbishops then to make a commencement order bringing the new CRRs into force on 1 January 2020. (This will be necessary if electronic voting is to be used for the General Synod elections in September/October 2020.)

    However, since the two-terms limit in model rule M8(5)-(7) is not retrospective, it will not ‘bite’ until 2026 when deanery synod members elected at the APCM in 2020 (and re-elected in 2023) will have served two terms. Also, rule M8(7) allows an APCM to vote to disapply the two-terms limit in respect of that parish (cf the similar provision in section 3 of the Churchwardens Measure 2001.) It appeared to me to be the reference to the ‘opt out’ provision by the Archbishop of York in his speech during the debate at York in July 2018 that led to Synod rejecting Clive Scowen’s proposed amendment to delete the ‘two-terms’ paragraphs from the new rules.

    It will be interesting to see what the ERG comes up with. It was the announcement by Sue Booys (Chair of the Business Committee) that the ERG would look at the ‘two-terms’ limit that almost certainly reduced the number of Synod members voting against final approval of the Church Representation and Ministers Measure to just two (with seven abstentions).

    • Thanks for the clarification of the subtleties of the “effective date” of 2026 which I took from Steve Lynas’ report of the Synod session. I will amend the text to make reference to your comment.

  2. Pingback: Ecclesiastical court judgments – February | Law & Religion UK

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