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 Issues | General Synod | November 2005

General Synod

Draft Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure

Motions

The Draft Measure is a response to the Toyne Report which was earlier approved by the Synod.

The Synod will be asked to remit the draft measure to a Revision Committee.  If agreed then a Committee will be created and Synod members are entitled to write and request changes to the legislation (by 20 December 2005).

The Revision Committee will also be asked to look at Amending Canon 27 and revisions to the Vacancy in See Committees Regulations which are both consequences of the main report.

It is anticipated that the legislation will go to Parliament in 2007 and will come into force in 2008.

Details and Comment

This Measure is intended to fulfil a number of puproses:

To replace the present Dioceses Measure to make it easier to revise the present diocesan structure of the Church of England and at the same time to make it easier for a Diocesen Bishop to delegate his functions to a suffragan Bishops.

With the decline in numbers of the Church of England and the amalgamation of parishes there has been a lot of concern about the number of Bishops and overheads related to the administration of Dioceses.  The present Dioceses Measure has not made it easy to look at changing Diocesan boundaries and these new proposals are intended to help in this.

To amend the Pastoral Measure 1983 in order to make it easier to close churches for regular public worship.  This will also beef up the role of the Council for the Care of Churches.

To allow a Bishop to make an 'order' in order to provice for 'mission initiatives'. See below.

To change the way in which Pastoral Committees operate.

To make provision for the description of assistant curates and their functions.

 

The drafting committee state:

"The resulting legislative package is the most substantial to have come to the Synod for over 20 years. It raises a number of important ecclesiological issues which have been carefully considered both by the Toyne group itself and the Follow-Up group. The legislation spans a very broad range of separate if related areas of the Church’s life and work. It includes three different sorts of provision: complete replacement of some existing provisions; amendment of some provisions which will remain in force in an altered form; and some wholly new provisions."

Mission Initiatives

Such initiatives are growing in number both within and outside the current parochial structure.  The legislation is intended both to facilitate these and to make it possible to regulate them.

One of the key issues will be who is required to consent.  As it stands whilst the consent of a Bishop and the Diocesean Pastoral Committee is required there is no need to gain the consent of a local incumbent which is a major change from the present practice.

The drafting committee state summarise from Toyne:

• existing incumbents and parishes should not have a veto but their views must be taken into account;
• initiatives should supplement but not undermine the existing parochial system; and
• initiatives and parishes should ideally be mutually supportive.

They further report:

The basic structure the Group has provided for this involves, in particular:
an order by the Bishop, accepted by those leading the initiative – thus making episcopal authority and acknowledgement of that authority the key – made after full consultation (including with those having the cure of souls) with the consent of the diocesan pastoral committee, ensuring that the impact the initiative would have on the existing work of the Church in the diocese as a whole is fully considered;
• a “visitor” acting on behalf of the bishop as guide, counsellor and friend and also providing oversight and conducting periodic reviews, and
• a carefully written House of Bishops’ Code of Practice to which the bishop, the leaders of the initiative and the visitor must have regard.
• The legislation will also involve some limited amendments to the Canons, taking account, for example, of ecumenical considerations, with express provisions for mission initiatives to be “slotted in” to the overall framework of the existing Ecumenical Canons.

The legislation will also:

• devolve to dioceses the preparation and publication of draft schemes not involving closure of churches; and
• encourage forms of collaborative ministry other than formal teams, providing the bishop with the possibility of giving experienced assistant curates some of the types of special pastoral responsibility that could be entrusted to a team vicar, and of using descriptions such as “associate minister” in the curate’s licence.

Mission and Order in a Decaying Church. Cross†Way article (99 Winter 2006) David Phillips discusses the relationship between the structure of the church and mission initiatives in the Church of England.

 

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