Monday, 10 December 2012

Believing in Common Tenure

Eighty-five per cent of the serving Bishops in the Church of England don’t want to share the new terms and conditions of their clergy.

Nearly two years ago (at the end of January 2011) all serving clergy without long term security of tenure (such as Priests-in-Charge, Team Vicars and Curates) were automatically moved onto new terms and conditions called Common Tenure. Since then all new clergy appointments have been on this basis. It was also open to those who did have long term security of tenure (such as Archdeacons, Rectors and Vicars) to opt in as well. Both Archbishops opted in to begin the cascade, and I see that my own formal Common Tenure paperwork is dated from 1st March 2011.

There have been something like twenty new Bishops appointed since then, and these all now serve under Common Tenure. What about the other ninety or so of our present serving Bishops who were already in post by January 2011? A question was asked at the recent General Synod about how many of them have opted in. The answer was eleven.

Although there is absolutely no obligation on them to do so, I had a quite disproportionately depressed reaction when I read this last week. I suppose it is the dull sense that if they really believed it was the best for us they would have grabbed the opportunity to be part of it themselves. I suppose it is the even duller sense that such a high proportion of Bishops are overseeing terms and conditions for us to which they chose not to be subject themselves.

Anyway, part of the new terms and conditions is a mutual obligation between Bishop and clergyperson to provide and to participate in appropriate schemes of ministerial development review (at least once every two years) and continued ministerial education. Of course these things are not new - indeed fifteen years ago I was working full-time for the diocese trying to operate the good practice recommended at that time in these areas.

I’ve written before about such things, especially when I was engaged in a ministerial development review experiment in the summer of 2010 which was part of the diocese's preparation for the introduction of Common Tenure. The process was not completed then (my Archdeacon never responded to the draft Role Description I was obliged to send her, and no offers of relevant continued ministerial education came my way), but it was only a trial run.

The keen eyed will spot the fact that this was more than two years ago, but I know the other Archdeacon’s Secretary has now been given extra hours to get the diocesan scheme moving (she included me in an e-mail a little while ago when she was trying to find out who had been trained as reviewers for it), and I suppose I will not be ‘overdue’ for such a review until March, so I simply have to trust that those who will supervise my terms and conditions hereafter  really do believe in them.

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