Saturday, 14 March 2009

Clergy capability

Do Bishops and dioceses have the capacity to scrutinise the work of the clergy effectively? This week the periodic informal meeting of the local Anglican clergy came round to this question again.

Normal employment legislation does not apply to us. This has been made clear to clergy who have tried to take grievances to Employment Tribunals and have simply been told that they are not been able to proceed. It has also been clear to parishes where nothing can be done to tackle the scandal of the small number of clearly negligent clergy. The reasons the legislation does not apply to us includes how surprisingly uncertain it is who our employer is or what job we are meant to be doing.

Ten year’s ago the Government took powers simply to designate categories of workers who do not have employment rights as having them; it suggested that Anglican clergy would be one of these categories unless the church put in place new provision of its own to sort out things like these anomalies around grievance and capability procedures.

So the Church of England has worked at this since then and is now putting new ‘Terms of Service’ legislation in place. And alongside new rights inevitability come new forms of accountability; it appears that there need to be forms of ‘ministerial development review’ and related ‘continued ministerial education’ both with an element of compulsion to make things like grievance and capability procedures work.

And that is where the question came up again for us. Those at the meeting seemed quite relaxed about a new pattern if it ‘adds value’ for us and if it genuinely tackles the few scandalous situations. But the question was would any compulsory outcomes be based on sufficient depth of encounter with us? It would be hugely destructive and counter productive if they did not.

I raised the question with our Bishop again on the meeting’s behalf, knowing that he is already sympathetic about the issue. He and others in the diocese ‘share the concerns about our ability to resource what the new requirements will demand of us’ and have a pilot scheme for ‘ministerial development review’ in mind to ‘help us see what is realistic’.

There is an irony that most people seem to agree that we don’t want a multiplication of human resource expenditure in Bishops’ and diocesan offices across the Church of England, nor a distraction of these offices from other tasks, while also not wanting the new system to fail us by not being adequately resourced.

Meanwhile, the moon did interesting and bright things behind the cloudscape the other night, which I didn’t have any chance of capturing properly.


Daniel Barnett said...

Actually, last year the Court of Appeal said that there was no longer a presumption that clergy could not bring employment tribunal claims.

See New Testament Church of God v Rev Sylvester Stewart -

Daniel Barnett

Peter Mullins said...

Thanks, Daniel, for that important update, especially as I see that you are a professional in the field. I suppose it will only be really significant if one Anglican clergyperson successfully uses this ruling to bring his or her case before a Tribunal (which I still take not to be certain outcome?)? If and as soon as this happens then all bets would be off and Bishops and dioceses would have to abandon the new church Terms of Service legislation and change their whole employment practices to match the existing civil provision.