Lords approves four Church of England Measures, on property, pensions, ecumenism and miscellaneous

On 19th December 2018 the Bishop of Chichester introduced four Church of England Measures to the House of Lords for approval. The House passed the Measures after a short debate and so they were granted Royal Assent on 20th December . The House of Commons had previously passed the Measures on 11th December.

Moved by the Lord Bishop of Chichester

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Ecumenical Relations Measure, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, the Church Property Measure and the Church of England Pensions Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, the four Measures before us deal with significant areas of the Church of England’s life in ways that strengthen, update or consolidate her mission. First, the Ecumenical Relations Measure deals with ecumenism by updating the provision of existing legislation on ecumenical relations that is contained in the Church of England (Ecumenical Relations) Measure 1988. That Measure created a framework within which a wide range of ecumenical co-operation with partner Churches has been successfully fostered.

The ecumenical environment has developed in the 30 years since the General Synod and Parliament last legislated in this area. Legislation needs to catch up with those developments so that it can continue successfully to foster a wide range of ecumenical co-operation. If the Measure is passed, a new canon will be enacted by the Synod to provide a general framework and set some boundaries—but much of how to go about making these arrangements work in practice will be set out in a code of practice issued by the House of Bishops under Section 3 of the Measure.

The Measure will also address some uncompleted business from 1988, with provision now being made to enable a member of the Salvation Army to preach at a Church of England service. The rules are also being relaxed in relation to non-designated Churches more generally, so that a member of any Trinitarian Church can be invited to read the scriptures or to lead prayers at a Church of England service.

The Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure is the 12th in a series of miscellaneous provisions Measures dealing with uncontroversial matters that do not merit separate free-standing legislation. The fact that the matters it deals with are not controversial does not, however, mean that they are not important. For example, Section 1 will enable the Church Commissioners to support the work and mission of the Church of England more generally by creating a new power for them to make grants out of their general fund to the Archbishops’ Council, whose objects are:

to co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the mission of the Church of England”.

A grant could be made to the council under the new power for any purpose that came within those wide objects. Other examples are Sections that address securing the availability of clergy for taking funerals and ministering to bereaved families, and the working of provincial courts so as avoid anomalies between the Provinces of ​Canterbury and York. Despite the dry technical nature of much of this legislation, it is hoped that these miscellaneous provisions will make a real difference to the mission and work of the Church of England.

The Church Property Measure and the Church of England Pensions Measure are both consolidation Measures, bringing together in one place provisions relating to a particular area of ecclesiastical law that are currently spread across a large number of different enactments. They do not make substantive changes to the existing law. The Ecclesiastical Committee has reported that it is of the opinion that all four Measures are expedient. I beg to move.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, I am chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee. These four Measures came before 18 members of the committee, and we ​have reported. We found each of the Measures expedient and we were happy to support them as I am happy to support them today.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, as a recent arrival on the Ecclesiastical Committee, I thank our chairman for the meticulous way in which she conducted our discussions, towards the end of October, on these four Measures. I also thank the right reverend Prelate for the clarity and fullness with which he explained them; two, as he says, are consolidation Measures but important in their own right. I was particularly interested in the first Measure, which promotes the ecumenical activity of the Church of England; this is so very important. I am extremely happy to support the four Measures this evening.

Motions agreed.

House adjourned at 9.56 pm.