Update Sunday 30 Jan
Additional coverage of this on today’s Radio 4 Sunday programme. Listen here with Real Audio (7 minutes).
There was considerable press coverage of this topic even prior to this week’s publication of the second report on the Review of Clergy Terms of Service. Some of this was inspired by the trade union Amicus. They in turn were reacting to a separate UK government decision concerning the outcome of a consultation held by the Department of Trade and Industry with its Clergy Working Group. Basically, the government has decided it will not pursue the route of requiring churches and other faith bodies to give clergy employee status provided that the churches agree to conform to a (not yet published) DTI code of practice. The issue is the Section 23 rights that employee status would automatically confer. (This is a reference to Section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.)
17 January Telegraph Clergy trade unions attack compromise over workers’ rights
17 January Ekklesia Clergy say Government has acted like Pontius Pilate
21 January CEN Churches ‘win exemption’ from employment laws
21 January Church Times Clergy rights under review by Bill Bowder
The new report published last Monday, GS 1564 Review of Clergy Terms of Service: Part Two (RTF format only) recommends inter alia that these Section 23 rights should be conferred on all clergy, while retaining office holder status. Those who currently have Freehold could obtain these rights by transferring to the new Common Tenure if they wish. The full press release describes the recommendations this way. The summary version press release said:
This Review, under the chairmanship of Professor David McClean, was set up by the Archbishops’ Council in 2002, following its response to the Department of Trade and Industry’s discussion document on Employment Status in relation to Statutory Employment Rights. Its terms of reference were to review the terms under which the clergy hold office, to ensure a proper balance of rights and responsibilities, and to consider in this context the future of the freehold and the position of the clergy in relation to statutory employment rights.
The Review Group’s first report, on the position of clergy without the freehold or employment contracts recommended a new form of tenure for clergy, to be called common tenure. This was welcomed by Synod in February 2004. The Group’s second report, now before Synod, proposes applying common tenure to clergy with the freehold, defining incumbents’ rights in terms of employment law rather than ownership of property, providing an enhanced Human Resources function across the dioceses, and adopting a general framework for ministerial review. Synod is asked to welcome the report, provide for a period of consultation with the dioceses and agree that the Archbishops’ Council should appoint an implementation group to follow up the recommendations in the report as a whole.
The explanation of what General Synod is being asked to do about this, as published by the Business Committee, can be found below the fold.
Amicus and the organisation known as the The English Clergy Association have expressed hostility to this as well. Press coverage so far:
23 January Sunday Times Vicars in revolt over ‘theft’ of their freeholds
25 January Telegraph Clergy face loss of ‘job for life’ guarantee
25 January The Times Church to end 800 years of clergy having jobs for life
25 January Yorkshire Post Bishops could get power to hire and fire vicars (this is quite misleading as nothing in this report is concerned with “hiring”)
28 January CEN New battle looming over plans to abolish freehold
28 January Church Times ‘Incapable’ clergy face the axe as freehold comes under review which is the best newspaper account of the proposals so far, though the CT also has this rather reactionary editorial Replacing the freehold
Review of Clergy Terms of Service (extract from Business Committee report GS 1560)
29. This Review, under the chairmanship of Professor David McClean, was set up by the Archbishops’ Council in December 2002, following its response to the DTI’s discussion document Employment Status in relation to Statutory Employment Rights. The Group’s terms of reference are as follows
“To review the terms under which the clergy hold office to ensure a proper balance between rights and responsibilities, and clear procedures for resolving disputes which afford full protection against possible injustice; and
to consider in this context the future of the freehold and the position of the clergy in relation to statutory employment rights.
In the review, to give priority to consideration of the position of clergy without the freehold or employment contracts, and to report on this aspect in 2003 with detailed proposals and a programme for their implementation, the rest of the review to be completed, if possible, in 2004.”
30. The Group’s Report on the first phase of its work, GS 1527, was considered at the February 2004 sessions of General Synod, where its recommendations were welcomed. That Report recommended a new form of tenure for clergy, to be called common tenure, under which appointments for clergy without the freehold would:
31. During the subsequent consultation period, the recommendations in the Group’s first report received a largely positive response, which has informed the Group’s discussions as it has proceeded with the second phase of its work. The Group’s second report has now been considered by the Archbishops’ Council, which commends it to the Synod. Its main recommendations include the following:
32. It is intended to follow the same consultation process as last year. The Synod will be invited to debate the report, welcome its recommendations, and commend the report to the dioceses and the Church of England at large, with a deadline of the end of July 2005. The Archbishops’ Council will be requested to appoint an implementation group to follow up the recommendations in the report (taking account of the responses from dioceses and other interested parties, both to this report and to the earlier report (GS 1527) on the first phase of the work), and to bring forward legislation based on those recommendations as early as possible in the next quinquennium.