Church of England Considering Legislation Regarding Parishes
Seeking Input on Proposals
Input has been requested on the proposals to change the current legislation regarding parishes within the Church of England. The review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure of 2011 is underway now until September of 2021. PCCs have eight weeks to make their opinions known.
In the Foreword to Report GS2222, Church of England Mission in Revision, Eve Poole, in her role as Third Church Estates Commissioner, wrote:
“One option of course has always been to hand back the Exemption to the state, but I fear the experience we have all had of local planning, and the resourcing constraints that affect local authorities, would make this an extremely unpopular move. This is therefore our chance to get this right, by paring the primary legislation back to its essentials, to uphold our part of the bargain while reducing bureaucracy. But we know that applying weed killer to the whole garden willy-nilly kills the flowers as well as the weeds, so it is important to take a moment to understand the complex ecosystem before we make our choices”.
Wendy Matthews, Head of Pastoral and Closed Churches Church Commissioners wrote in the Introduction:
“In recent years, the Church of England has recognised that its complex legal systems and processes need reform and simplification in order to further the mission of the Church more effectively. In 2020 the Archbishops’ Council re-established the Legislative Reform Committee to oversee a programme of simplification, and following discussion with dioceses, they identified a review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 (MPM) as a priority for action.
“This paper is offered to begin a process of formal consultation in the anticipation that detailed legislative proposals will follow. The questions raised throughout the document range from high level matters of policy to detailed points seeking to simplify complex process. In all of this we have sought to keep the general duty of the existing measure in our minds, that all of this work is undertaken to ensure ‘the furtherance of the mission of the Church of England’.
The Executive Summary sets out the possibilities.
“Specific options for change, in the shorter or longer term, are:-
• Possible changes to where decision making, review and appellate functions should lie
• Reduction in the number of different processes
• Reducing the number of consultation stages
• Possible limitations of rights of representation or appeal
• Omitting the requirement for CBC reports ahead of church closure proposals
• Providing for an interim or alternative status to churches being “open” or “closed”
• Simplification of the requirements around the future use of closed churches and dealing with disturbance of human remains
• The processes around clergy dispossession
• A single simpler provision for suspending/restricting rights of presentation
• More limited options for patronage provisions for new benefices
- Abolition of sequestration
It is thought the proposed changes could have the by-product of creating super-deaneries thereby impacting the parish system and eliminating local parish distinctives.