Thinking Anglicans

Retirement age for archbishops and other clergy

Discussion of who might become the next Archbishop of Canterbury has included the question of how long potential candidates could serve before they had to retire. It seems helpful to set out the law on this matter.

In the Church of England there is a compulsory retirement age of 70 for all clergy (with just a few exceptions, none relevant to archbishops or bishops) in the following categories:

  • Archbishop
  • Diocesan Bishop
  • Suffragan bishop
  • Dean of a cathedral church
  • Residentiary canon in a cathedral church
  • Archdeacon
  • Incumbent of a benefice
  • Vicar in a team ministry
  • Vicar of a guild church

This is set out in section 1 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975, and the schedule to the measure.

However in certain circumstances such clergy may continue to serve for a limited period past 70. For archbishops this is for a maximum of one year, provided that the Queen considers it desirable and authorises it. This is set out in section 2 of the measure.

2 Archbishop may continue in office for certain period after attaining retiring age at discretion of Her Majesty.

Where Her Majesty considers that there are special circumstances which make it desirable that a person holding the office of archbishop should continue in that office after the date on which he would otherwise retire in accordance with the foregoing section, She may authorise the continuance in office of that person after that date for such period, not exceeding one year, as She may in her discretion determine.

I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that Her Majesty would, as usual, exercise her powers under the measure on the advice of her prime minister. The British constitutional convention is that she always accepts that advice, as for example she does when appointing bishops and archbishops.

Similarly diocesan bishops can be given a year’s extension by their archbishop. For example, the current Bishop of Manchester has been given such an extension and will retire on his 71st birthday. A diocesan bishop can give a two year extension to parish clergy and a one year extension to other clergy in his diocese. Details are in section 3 of the measure.

There are further provision relating to the retirement of archbishops and bishops in the Bishops (Retirement) Measure 1986, but these relate only to the process, and not to the principle of a maximum retirement age.

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Peter Ould
Guest

Really Peter – if you don’t want Sentamu to be the next ABC, just come out and say it. Why play around with “retirement age” smoke-screens.

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

I don´t want ++Sentamu to be the next ABC (certainly he is functioning just fine where he is at York as Metropolitan and chief partner to Rowan Williams?)…but I do want the present Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba who is a REAL, fair, middle/objective, emotionally/spiritually fit man…I think it´s a time for someone of genuine ¨balance¨ in all Church of England and Anglican Communion to ascend to the throne of Canterbury (again)…it´s time for fresh Face and fresh Grace.

Susan Cooper
Guest
Susan Cooper

One of the things that has gone through my mind is whether there is any mileage in proposing a private members’ motion at General Synod to see if there is any interest in extending the compulsory retirement age to 75. Some clergy may like the opportunity to earn more pension now that the accrual rate for pension has been reduced. Of course, extending the limit does not force people to work longer than they wish, the choice of age is more likely to be governed by the age at which a person can take their pension.

Dan BD
Guest

Leonardo – Cape Town is not eligible because ABC sits in the House of Lords, and in order to do so must be British, Irish or a citizen of a Commonwealth realm. (So says the ABC procedure document issued by Church House last week.)

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Dan BD,

Last time I looked (5 minutes ago), South Africa was a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. So it’s entirely possible that +Cape Town is a Commonwealth citizen.

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

South Africa is a Commonwealth nation, is it not?

Concerned Anglican
Guest
Concerned Anglican

Susan Cooper is right to consider a private members motion about retirement age.

The Roman Catholics do not retire their clergy until age 75. The Church of England consigns otherwise fit and ‘workable’ clergy to a compulsory retirement at 70 and its pension scheme creaks at the seams as a result. Consequently, it’s a serious waster of person power.

Bring on the private members motion please.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Is it legal any more to prescribe a fixed retirement age? This might be thought to be age discrimination and against public policy. Certainly in the secular world such compulsory retirement ages have been outlawed.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

The Church House doc says: ‘Since the Archbishop of Canterbury is automatically a member of the House of Lords he must, under the law of the land be a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen.’ IANAL but I this is arguably not entirely correct. I suggest it is quite possible to be a member of the House f Lords but not able to take one’s seat. For example, until recently, an American citizen who inherited a title would not be able to take their seat because they were not a citizen of a specified country. But they would still be the… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Tutu was considered in the Carey appointment, so SA is not out — my favorite is still Liverpool (who was considered a decade ago, so they tell me — so I would say the Mersey man is still in with a chance).

Simon Kershaw
Admin

I think there is a very important reason for not appointing someone from outside Britain. To do so would emphasise the international aspects of the role over and above the domestic aspects. It would be a further step in the aggrandization of the office of Abp of Canterbury, a further step towards papalization. I hope that we are near the point of seeing off the Covenant at least partly for its centralizing tendancy; a ‘John Paul II’ at Canterbury would push us once again in that direction. No; let us have an Abp who can focus on the needs of… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

The fixed retirement age hasn’t been tested in the Courts. It’s thought to trump the other legislation. The problem with people being able to stay in their job for life is that they get stuck in their parish because they live in the house, and you can’t move them on. We still have a few lifelong freeholders left in the Diocese (those who were in before the age limitation measure was passed) It’s fair to say that most (though not all) are not exactly examples of vibrant missional leaders. The *theory* of no age-related discrimination is all very well –… Read more »

RPNewark
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RPNewark

IANAL but: Clergy in the Church of England are not employees but are office holders. This has been recently affirmed by a higher level tribunal in the case of X v Worcester DBF & Others. [I forget the name of X for the moment.] The Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975, cited by Peter Owen above, states at s.1(3) “Subject to the following provisions of this Measure, a person who holds an office listed in the Schedule to this Measure shall vacate that office on the day on which he attains the age of seventy years.” Thus (most)clergy in the… Read more »

Alan T Perry
Guest

Her Majesty is also Queen of Canada. Just sayin’.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“No; let us have an Abp who can focus on the needs of England. And let the Churches in other provinces govern themselves.” – Simon Kershaw –

INDEED! Otherwise, just think, you could have someone from Nigeria or another GAFCON Province.
That really would be the end of the Church of England – not to mention the Anglican Communion.

Susan Cooper
Guest
Susan Cooper

Unfortunately, the post is being filled too rapidly to consider one of the best Canadian possibilities.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I sometimes wonder if it was John Paul 2nd and his globe trotting that somehow projected the Abp of C into a more quasi-papal role…various Provinces wanted a sort of international figurehead for their Church who paid pastoral visits, celebrated with them at big services and gained media coverage. I once said this to +Robert Runcie and he rather agreed. +Michael Ramsey was aware of the dangers and commented to that saintly priest Roland Walls…though the reference isnt to hand..In a way ARCIC also contributed..the dialogue was from the beginning with the world-wide Anglican Communion and I wonder if the… Read more »

Dan BD
Guest

I deliberately wrote Commonwealth realm (i.e. one of the 16 realms of which HM is Q – SA is not one of the 16). Interesting to note however that the CH doc says precisely “Commonwealth citizen” – I had assumed this meant cit of a CR (i.e. a subject of HM). But maybe not…

Dan BD
Guest

Also, just out of curiosity (i.e. I know it’s not going to happen) – the CofE cannot yet consecrate female bishops, but is it technically possible (leaving aside the ramifications) to appoint a female already in Anglican episcopal orders who fulfils the criteria?

E.g. the Bishop of Edmonton (CAN) is British-born and raised and has experience as a diocesan.

leonardro ricardo
Guest

I think there is a very important reason for not appointing someone from outside Britain. To do so would emphasise the international aspects of the role over and above the domestic aspects. It would be a further step in the aggrandization of the office of Abp of Canterbury, a further step towards papalization¨ Simon Kershaw

I understand. Thank you. My passion for change took me way beyond common sense and the bigger picture…you are right, of course…no pope, not now, not ever.

David
Guest
David

An essential requirement must be chairing the 2018 Lambeth conference, without assuming any extension applies. I would have thought the appointment would be for a minimum if 5 years. Thus John Sentamu could be considered and ++Rowan left it as late as possible to allow Tom Wright to be in the running.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Dan DB: ‘is it technically possible to appoint a female already in Anglican episcopal orders who fulfils the criteria’

No. At present it is not legal for a woman to exercise episcopal ministry in the Church of England.

Alan T Perry
Guest

“E.g. the Bishop of Edmonton (CAN) is British-born and raised and has experience as a diocesan.”

And she’s brilliant! You’re not taking our bishop away from us!

Alan T Perry
Executive Archdeacon
Diocese of Edmonton

Father Ron Smith
Guest

What may have been forgotten about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury is that, first and foremost, he is the Metropolitan of the Church of England’s Province of Canterbury – and, as such, has a great deal of work to do in his own diocese and province. This is one reason why expecting an Archbishop of Canterbury to have a juridical role in the world-wide Communion is magisterial and un-Anglican. By erecting an exclusivist confessional Covenant, that would bind the Provinces to the lowest common denominator in Gospel outreach, we would hinder the ministry of the Church to those… Read more »

rjb
Guest
rjb

I actually rather like the international exchange of bishops. My home province of ANZ&P has had several bishops ‘flown in’ in recent years: an American in Waiapu, a Canadian in Christchurch… This does not, I hope, reflect the poverty of local candidates, but rather the catholicity of the church. It seems to me that such personal links are what make the Anglican Communion a reality. I don’t much like the parochialism that says only an Englishman – or perhaps every now and then a Welshman – is qualified to sit in the chair of St Augustine. (“This is a local… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Father Ron, First and foremost surely the Archbishop of Canterbury is bishop of the see of Canterbury, rather than Metropolitan of the Province. As with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI all other titles derive from his being bishop of Rome.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“a Nigerian Archbishop of Sydney!” – rjb –

Don’t joke about that. It is not impossible, they already have a living connection – through GAFCON.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Back to the topic for a moment –

One supposes that Her Gracious Majesty The Queen, Head of the Church of England, would not be averse to allowing the tenancy of a bishop (or Archbishop) to be extended until he/she reaches the same age as Her Majesty’s-self; God Bless Her!

Paul Bird
Guest
Paul Bird

Sirs forgive this post as not being specifically re the topic most comments seem to address but I have only so far found this site in an extensive search, that comes anywhere close to my issue, and it is related. I am a Christian and an active member of my local church, and we’re seeking to appoint a new priest in charge. We have applicants who are about my age (not young) A ‘faction’ within the panel wishes to exclude them essentially on age grounds. I believe that this appears unlawful, and I’ve been researching this issue, with little real… Read more »