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Church of England Governance Reform Planned

A plan, shaped by discussions of focus groups on how to reform the governance structures of the Church of England, is being mooted. If approved by the General Synod, it would be the first major change since 1995.

In a public statement to press, the matter was outlined thusly:

“A Church of England Governance Review working group, established by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to explore options for simpler and more effective governance, has recommended changes to the Church’s national governance structures. These recommendations will be considered by the Church’s governance bodies during the autumn. 

“The main recommendation of the Governance Review Group is to reduce the number of the national governance entities by merging the oversight of most of the Church’s national activities into a single body. 

“The review, led by the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, became one strand of the Emerging Church of England initiative, which together will help leaders in every diocese to discern the shape, life and activity of the Church in the 2020s.

The Bishop of Leeds said:

“In undertaking this governance review, we are responding to challenges and opportunities that have been expressed across the Church and tested in focus group discussions. The ultimate aim is to provide more transparent and accountable governance for the Church at parish, diocesan and national level.”

Welcoming the report, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: 

“This review responds to major societal changes, including the need for the Church of England to be “A Church for All People”. The Church of England’s national governance structures must be accountable to and transparent for all the parishes and worshipping communities which they support, to build trust and so the Church can fulfil its mission in the 21st Century. Better governance should enable the Church at every level to be more agile in decision making, and responsive to the pastoral and missional needs of local and regional communities.”

There will be further consultation amongst the Church’s existing governance bodies before the Church moves towards any potential implementation of all or part of the report. An overview of the Governance Review Group’s process will be presented to the General Synod at the first meeting of its new term in November.  

The plan is not universally supported.  In a story in the Daily Telegraph, reporter Gabriella Swerling wrote:  

“A leading campaigner for parishes across the country, who did not want to be named, said: 

‘Simplification is in theory a good idea. But the bishops are the wrong people to do it. Bishops are not suitable to run this kind of body. They are unelected and unaccountable.  

‘There are already too many bishops and they are unelected, unlike those who sit in the House of Clergy and Laity.

‘It’s a coup by the House of Bishops, they want to take control of everything. These are failed middle management kind of people. They should scrap the Archbishops Council and go back to being synodically governed.

‘They say they want more transparency and accountability but it looks like more control.”

Proposals will be taken up by the next quinquennium of the General Synod which will have its first meeting in November.

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