Options – within the rules – for rural parishes on governance and administration

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Introduction

Using internet based research I’ve found surprisingly few resources available to explain what can be done within the current rules.  Options available seem to include combining PCCs and roles on them – even if it be via a scheme renewed annually by the relevant PCCs.

The Church of England’s Church Representation Rules set out the bulk of its governance and administrative requirements as concerns parishes.   It seems to me that under them there are 6 possible options.

I’d really appreciate any comments on these options or examples of good practice in implementing them.

 

Option 1 – Follow all the rules without changing any approaches via APCM resolutions or schemes or buying in people for certain roles

In such an option a small parish with only a regular congregation of 10 or so would have to:

– Hold annually one APCM with 5 reports submitted to it and hold 4 PCCs a year;
– Elect 6 lay members to a PCC and elect/re-elect 2 each year;
– Elect 2 churchwardens, a treasurer, an electoral roll officer, a secretary, a vice chair and a safeguarding officer and appoint sidesmen (the sexist language the rules use) and an independent auditor.

CONCLUSION: Plainly not practical for a parish with a small congregation of 10 or so.

 

Option 2 – Do Nothing and don’t fill the roles, nor hold the meetings, nor produce the reports

For some rural parishes the option of doing nothing might seem attractive.  Faced with few if any volunteers to carry out the various roles why not leave it to the bishop to resource such roles if they want to exercise their powers to so do?

CONCLUSION: Plainly possible – but unlikely to be welcome by the church hierarchy.

 

Option 3 – Create an informal Joint Council or subject specific Working Group ( subjects might be Messy Church, Youth Work, School Assemblies)

The council might bring together churchwardens and clergy and maybe other officers of all the parishes periodically to discuss mission initiatives, joint events and any other matters of mutual concern.  The churchwardens would report back to their individual PCCs.

The Working Group might just be a way of helping volunteers get together to plan various events that can happen at several locations.

CONCLUSION: Plainly possible – and either approach can be a good way of encouraging co-operation, getting new ideas and making the best use of time.

 

Option 4 – Co-ordinate PCC meetings so that they take place on the same evening at the same place

This doesn’t require any special measures – just co-operation. Separate APCMs will continue to be held and it would be helpful to also create smaller working/task groups, to enable the PCCs to focus on their task of co-operating with the incumbent in promoting in their parish the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical.

CONCLUSION: Plainly possible – with co-operation.

 

Option 5 – Do things once

Example 1 – each parish APCM needs a report on the Deanery Synod. This could be created once by the Synod for use by synod representatives at APCM.

Example 2 – each parish needs its finances managing with reports to PCC and APCM.  The spreadsheets to record income and expenditure could be set up once so a standard template is used which also automatically produces reports.

CONCLUSION: Plainly possible.

 

Option 6: Delegate powers upwards and hold minimal PCC and APCM

This would use APCM resolutions and schemes to delegate roles upward to a Joint PCC or Team/Group Councils and minimise the numbers required on a PCC.  Within the same arrangements the roles of treasurer, electoral roll officer, secretary, vice chair, safeguarding officer, independent Examiner of Auditor and maybe some parts of the churchwarden role might be resourced centrally.

CONCLUSION: Plainly possible – but would be better supported with some good practice examples of such schemes and JDs to resource centrally some administrative tasks.

 

BACKGROUND BRIEFING AND SOURCES

The Church of England’s Church Representation Rules seem to set out the bulk of its governance and administrative requirements as concerns parishes.  They cover the following.

1) Annual Parochial Council Meeting (APCM)

Reports to be submitted on: the electoral roll; the proceedings of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and parish generally (including a statement on compliance with requirements on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults); financial statements independently examined/audited; the fabric, goods and ornaments of the church(s); the proceedings of the deanery synod.

Elections of lay representative(s) to the deanery synod and to the PCC.

Appointments made: sidesmen; the independent examiner or auditor.

Roles that maybe procured using remuneration – Treasurer, Secretary, Electoral Roll Officer and Independent Examiner or Auditor – but if they are procured then such people are not PCC members.

The number of lay people needed on a PCC maybe varied by an APCM resolution which takes effect after the next ensuing APCM.

 

2) Election of Churchwardens at an annual Meeting of Parishioners.

 

3) Parochial Church Council (PCC) Meetings
– Should be at least quarterly, should elect a vice-chairman, may co-opt a certain number of members.
– Have a Standing Committee – with powers as agreed by the PCC.

4) Joint PCC, Team Councils, Group Councils – paragraphs 19 to 21 of the Church Representation Rules do allow for:

Joint PCC with powers delegated from PCCs, (not necessarily all PCCs), in a benefice.  The bishop’s council and standing committee of the diocesan synod may determine whether the scheme comes into operation or not or with specified amendments.  Here and here are examples of Council schemes and here a joint PCC.

Team Councils where a team ministry is established for a benefice – similarly agreed.

Group Councils where a pastoral scheme establishes a group ministry – similarly agreed.

Note that the rules set out for each of the above say which ministers and licensed lay workers are members – but allows the scheme to set out the chairmanship, meetings, procedure, lay membership and for PCCs to delegate most of their powers “upward”.  It also appears that even if a Joint PCC or Council is created a parish APCM and 4 PCCs a year are still required.

5) Churchwardens have various other roles such as: “to be foremost in representing the laity and in co-operating with the incumbent” (Canon E1, para.4); to answer various questions for the annual Archdeacons visitations; to be parties in any faculty matters; to compile and maintain a terrier and inventory and log book in relation to the church and its contents; to make the annual inspection and reports to the PCC. (section 5 of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991 and Canon F17).

6) Under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 bishops can – for example – issue Pastoral Schemes which create Benefices with Team Councils.  Here is an example from 2013 for the creation of the Thurstable and Winstree Benefice .

7) What happens if none of these roles are filled nor any of the reports are submitted nor the meetings held? This Legal Advisory Commission paper addresses such a scenario.  In summary rule 53 of the Church Representation Rules says the Bishop can get somebody in to carry out the tasks required by the rules.

8) The rules also allow explicitly for the roles of Treasurer, Secretary, Electoral Roll Officer and Independent Examiner or Auditor to be procured using remuneration – but if they are then such people are not PCC members.

 

 

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