Sunday, 18 March 2012

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.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 2:50pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

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.

Posted by: Peter Ould on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 3:31pm GMT

Peter - you may find this hard to believe, but I was genuinely trying to be helpful, and to respond to what several people have asked me in private. The main reason for my post was to point out the possibility of an archbishop serving to age 71 rather than 70, which might help the chances of the older candidates such as Sentamu. In any case he is not the only such candidate, as the bishops of London and Liverpool are of a similar age.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 4:35pm GMT

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)´s time for fresh Face and fresh Grace.

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 4:38pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 5:32pm GMT

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.)

Posted by: Dan BD on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 6:33pm GMT

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.

Posted by: RPNewark on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 7:22pm GMT

South Africa is a Commonwealth nation, is it not?

Posted by: Christopher (P.) on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 7:27pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 7:48pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 7:57pm GMT

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 holder of the title. (Under American law they would not be allowed to use the title I think, but that's entirely a different matter; and under recent changes inheritance no longer entitles one to a seat in the Lords.)

But I think there is another related blocker. The Archbishop-elect must pay homage and fealty to the Queen. A citizen of, say, the USA would I imagine be prevented by the laws of their own country from paying homage and fealty to a foreign Head of State.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 8:02pm GMT

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).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 8:06pm GMT

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 England. And let the Churches in other provinces govern themselves.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 8:27pm GMT

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 - the outworked reality is a bit different.

There is of course no reason why clergy cannot continue to be licensed to SSM roles beyond 70. Several priests in my Area are.

As to Archbishops, I would have thought that the CofE needs the best possible person for the job, even if they only last a few years.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 8:52pm GMT

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 CofE, including archbishops, *do not retire*. They *vacate their office* and the anti- age discrimination legislation does not apply.

Posted by: RPNewark on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 9:02pm GMT

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

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 9:28pm GMT

"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.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 11:05pm GMT

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

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 1:30pm GMT

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 Roman Catholic authoroties ever realised how dispersed Anglican authority was, and how prized Provincial Autonomy. Canon Law is so deeply entrenched in the Roman system..did they take on board how different the organization of the various Anglican Provinces were and so how difficult any sort of real "grass roots" reception of the work of ARCIC would be....

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 2:17pm GMT

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...

Posted by: Dan BD on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 2:33pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Dan BD on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 2:41pm GMT

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 are right, of pope, not now, not ever.

Posted by: leonardro ricardo on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 3:45pm GMT

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.

Posted by: David on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 4:52pm GMT

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.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 8:23pm GMT

"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

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 12:44am GMT

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 on the margins of society - the very ones for whom Christ died.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 4:27am GMT

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 province, for local people. We'll have no trouble here!"). I'd prefer a church that was willing to take risks, and to take seriously its claim to be catholic and apostolic. So why not have a South African Archbishop of Canterbury? And a British Archbishop of Cape Town? And a Kiwi Archbishop of Abuja? And - why not? - a Nigerian Archbishop of Sydney!

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 7:22am GMT

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.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 7:45am GMT

"a Nigerian Archbishop of Sydney!" - rjb -

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

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 8:05am GMT

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!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 10:05pm BST


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 success. No definitive statements since the Equality Act 2010 was introduced into law last November. BUT it does appear not to allow exclusions other than on grounds of particular minority needs in the 3rd Sector (where that can be proven)but nowhere else.

My simple question:- Does the CofE hold an exemption from the current legislation, particularly in respect of disadvantaging applicants on grounds of age, and the DRA currently (apparently) operated by the CofE. If so where can I find details please.

Many thanks

Paul Bird

Posted by: Paul Bird on Tuesday, 3 April 2012 at 6:39pm BST
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