Friday, 7 January 2011
To sign or not to sign, that is the question
At the end of this month the new system of Common Tenure for clergy in the CofE comes into operation. I was going to write "comes into force" but in fact there is no force being exerted to change over to this different status.
The main thrust of the change is to bring clergy under the legal protection of employment law, something from which as "office holders" we are presently excluded.
Whilst the move has this main advantage, alongside access to a grievance procedure as well as a minimum stipend in law, there are, as I see it, several disadvantages.
The Incumbent who has a "living" will lose their independence. Under Common Tenure they will not only have to draw up a job description, but they will also have their performance periodically reviewed. For centuries Incumbents have had the freedom to develop their ministry as they believe best fits the parishes where they work. This has allowed some glorious eccentrics to hold their post until they keel over in the pulpit, but that is one of the glories of the Church of England. Common Tenure will harmonise ministerial practice and do away with such "blips".
It makes the clergy employees instead of office holders. This may well bring about a fundamental change in how they are perceived by not only their Bishop by also by their congregations. Can an employee make quite as strong a stand against what they see as injustice in the system as an independent person? There will be more pressure to not "rock the boat", which is something that clergy have managed to do quite successfully on various issues over the years.
My Bishop has written to me asking, as he is required to do, if I would like to transfer my office to Common Tenure. I have drafted my reply but have not yet sent it. There is yet time for a little more consideration of the implications of either course.