On 23rd March 2020 the House of Commons considered the emergency legislation from Government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the Bill provided powers to delay scheduled elections for devolved and regional assemblies and other bodies. A new clause to extend that provision to the General Synod of the Church of England had been tabled by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, and was accepted by Government. Andrew spoke about it during the Committee stage of the Bill in the Commons:
Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I will not detain the House long. I rise to speak to new clause 1, which I understand has been agreed in advance with the Government, and I will move it at the end of this evening’s proceedings.
New clause 1 is very straightforward. It enables the elections to the General Synod of the Church of England to be postponed. Quite recently, we postponed all the elections that we in the House are involved in—the mayoral, local government and police and crime commissioner elections—but the General Synod is the National Assembly of the Church of England, and it is a Church that is episcopally led and synodically governed. The General Synod is a devolved body of this Parliament. It is the first devolved body of the Westminster Parliament and has been since 1919. Synods last five years, just as Westminster Parliaments do. The last one was elected in summer 2015 and therefore would expire this summer.
On 30th January 2020 the House of Lords considered the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, a piece of church legislation that was introduced by the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek. A short debate also took place on a motion to regret the Measure, tabled by Lord Trefgarne, which was subsequently withdrawn. The Measure was passed.
Moved by The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, although the provisions contained in this Measure are miscellaneous, some of them are nevertheless important. Rather than go through the Measure section by section, it might be helpful if I just mention some of the more significant provisions at this point.
Section 2 implements a recommendation from Dame Moira Gibb’s report following her review of the Church of England’s response to the abuse committed by Peter Ball. One of the report’s recommendations was for the introduction of a national register of clergy with permission to officiate. That recommendation has been further developed and Section 2 will now require there to be a national ministry register. Every clerk in holy orders who has authority to exercise ministry in the Church of England will have to be included in the register. There is also provision for the creation of a register of licensed lay people, and bishops will be required to provide details to the Archbishops’ Council on a regular basis so that the national registers are kept up to date. A form of the register that omits personal contact information will be published by the council and be accessible to the public free of charge.
On 18th July 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered a written question from Rt Hon Frank Field MP, regarding Bishop George Bell:
Frank Field (Ind):275686 To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the Answer of 12 March 2019 to Question 227049 on George Bell, whether the £29,800 represents the full payment for all costs incurred by the church in its initial judgement on Bishop George Bell; and what proportion of that sum was used for costs for (a) lawyers and (b) damages. Continue reading “Church Commissioners written answer: Bishop George Bell”
On 18th June 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, introduced the Church Representation and Ministers Measure to the House of Commons. The Measure was passed by MPs and will receive Royal Assent.
Dame Caroline Spelman: I beg to move,
That the Church Representation and Ministers Measure (HC 2167), passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which it was laid before Parliament.
The Measure and the new rules it contains emerged from the work of a simplification task group established by the Archbishops’ Council. The task group’s role was to bring forward proposals to remove constraints on the mission and growth of the Church of England resulting from existing legislation and processes. It recommended three major ways in which that could be achieved. First, those processes needed to be made less burdensome to the clergy and laity. Secondly, parishes should be given much greater flexibility over their constitutional arrangements, so that they can operate in the way that is most effective for the mission, life and work of the local church. Thirdly, the administrative burdens for those involved in running multi-parish benefices, especially in a rural context where the number of parishes in a benefice can be considerable, needed to be radically reduced.
On 6th June 2019 the House of Lords debated and approved the Church Representation and Ministers Measure. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, introduced the Measure:
Moved by The Lord Bishop of Leeds, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church Representation and Ministers Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it was 100 years ago this week that your Lordships’ House gave a Second Reading to the National Assembly of the Church of England (Powers) Bill. Speaking in support of the Bill, Lord Parmoor said:
“If this Bill is passed, for the first time the laity of the Church will have a recognised and substantive position in the corporate expression of church life … The very object of the Bill is to give an effective part to a large number of Church men, earnest and eager to do their best for the Church and who cannot have an effective influence at the present time. That is why I, as a layman, have laboured for this Bill”.—[Official Report, 3/6/1919; cols. 1028-29.]
The Bill was passed and became the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. It devolved legislative power to the Church Assembly, which has since become the General Synod. It is pursuant to Section 4 of the 1919 Act that this Motion is before the House today.
On 8th and 9th April 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered five written questions from Sir John Hayes MP on a diverse range of issues: evangelical congregations, the 2020 Lambeth Conference, lay membership, pastoral support for women with unplanned pregnancies, and increasing church attendance.
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.