Sunday, 12 December 2010

Radical Pastoral Reorganisation

How often do pastors want to take the whole Church with them on an important issue? In these ordinariate days, there are clergy out there wanting to change their denominations and take the buiding. Well now they can, in the rural Midwest anyway, thanks to a radical fresh approach, from John Deere and the incomparable Daniel Pemberton.


Tregonsee said...

For those of us in the States, one is almost compelled to imagine ++KJS in a hybrid SUV with flashing lights, screaming at the top of her lungs, to bring her personal property back.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the mistake being that the church does not belong to the clergy.

Simon Sarmiento said...

Does Priscilla Chadwick know about this approach?

Erp said...

A town near to me in California has had two church buildings moved (both of them multiple times). The 'roamin' Catholic church' was moved in 1878 and again in 1879. An Episcopal church was moved in 1897 and in 1947 then sold to the Russian Orthodox community and moved again in 1957.

Ed Tomlinson said...

funny how it belongs to the congregation when the roof needs fixing but to the Diocese when the same congregation feel they must move into the ordinariate!!!

Personally a share scheme makes sense to me but, thus far, it seems the Anglican heirarchy are being overly defensive and adopting a scorched earth policy.

Synod in practice: accept our ways and be loved or sod off with nothing. Nice .

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for comments. What surprised me about this one was that the final situation of the Church seemed as remote as its starting position, but perhaps people were about to build an estate around it or something.

Very glad to know it's been possible for a while, Erp.

Joe, thanks for pointing out what matters here.

Ed, are you trying to tell me there are circumstances under which an RC congregation could decide they wanted to be Anglicans and be allowed to carry on in the same building? We have shared buildings with the RC's in Bucks, but estabished communities with their own identities, not split congregations. Surely the healthiest way forward if you want to change denominations is to commit 100% to the enterprise and go for it.

Jonathan Jennings said...


Ed's point was not so much about his congregation's transition, but more about the attitude of the diocese to the local congregation in the Church of England. Ed's comment reflects a feeling that the relationship is one-way in relation to property; that dioceses requires us to maintain their asset for them without any real local ownership that ultimately means anything, and I didn't think you answered that point at all.

It's as if we have to understood the relationship in business terms, the diocese being a property-owning organisation and congregations as franchises. In order to surrender the franchise, Ed and his congregation have to surrender the building and the rights and responsibilities that go with it, yes. But I understand Ed as saying that, morally speaking, the investment put into a building and plant should count for something.

And it's not a moot point; I am not sure that the law of the land will forever regard the diocese as holding the trump title card. Parishes might be understood to hold buildings in trust for the diocese as in the USA, but I suspect that in England the diocese is in turn understood to hold them in trust for the community at large - either locally or nationally.

'Who owns the parish church?' is not yet, I think, a totally settled question and I can see circumstances in which a diocese might struggle to claim ownership of plant conceived, built and funded by an identifiable group of people who then fall out with their local hierarchy.

Now that, as local charities, PCCs have to think very carefully about its precise charitable and legal responsibilities, I wonder what might happen if sufficiently large and organised churches began putting new-build assets in trusts. There would be nothing to stop a parish forming an independent trust, organising a new build with the trust and then leasing or renting the facility back for a peppercorn.

I daresay that this is already happening in places ...

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks, Jonathan for taking this further, because the answers about ownership are very different in England as opposed to the US. Actually there is no ambiguity in either, except for Virginia, where an eccentric piece of almost War between the States Vintage Legislation arisising from a Methodist spat doth muddy the waters.

In England a parish church is owned and held in trust by the incumbent for the time being, and the building is part of the "temporalities" (actual, physical and corporeal possession) given to her when she is inducted by the archdeacon. If there is no incumbent, sequestration rules apply.

Various trusts and responsibilities, including canonical obligations, apply to various people in relation to the building, including churchwardens and incumbent, PCC's and various legal officers.

“The Diocese," the much vaunted and sometimes all-purpose general bogeyman of everything, has almost nothing to do with it at all, assuming you mean the DBF. It does have responsibilities, however, e.g. to maintain the parsonage. Parishes often have various ancillary buildings which are not parish churches (Halls, curates' houses etc.) to which other arrangements apply.

There is an important exception, though, so-called proprietory chapels, of which there are a handful around the country are not, in themselves parish churches. There are also ecclesiastical buildings which look like parish churches but are in fact, not technically so (such as chapels of ease) but their use will still be subject to faculty jurisdiction if they have been consecrated or, in slightly different ways, if they have been dedicated.

I hope this clears up any ambiguity! As to the effect of this state of affairs on any proposal relating to a particular building, that question sends the lawyers, in their black coats, running over the fields.

Actually I'm not sure Ed's question is about ownership, but about usage. He would like, most understandably, for the majority of his congregation who wish to become RC's to continue using the building alongside the minority who wish to remain Anglicans.

There is no legal reason why not, with a Church sharing agreement, but, from my very limited experience with a congregation ma notional majority of whom wanted to become a Baptist Evangelical Free Church, I would say there are various rather obvious psychologyical and spiritual reasons why this is probably not a good idea.

The institutionalisation of a schism within a single place of worship cannot be helpful or right. another consideration is that people changing denominations need to make a clean break, fully to embrace the community they are joining. Also, the dynamic of an emerging congregation is often stimulated considerably by taking responsibility for its life with a reasonably clean sheet.

Before this job, I camr across another baptist example where the results of trying a similar arrangement hobbled both congregations for the best part of twenty years. In fact the main example I gave never happened because, having taken a large majority vote, as they thought, to become a FIEFC church, same vote crumbled as they actually contemplated the realities of the position. In the end only five or six people did actually become Baptists, joining another local fellowship which was delighted to help them. Another signal difference, I need to say, was that there was no building involved.

Jonathan Jennings said...

"In England a parish church is owned and held in trust by the incumbent for the time being, and the building is part of the "temporalities" (actual, physical and corporeal possession) given ..."

Just for fun, that being the case, would anything have stopped Ed whilst vicar and his pcc signing a binding legal agreement to share space with an emergent congregation of which he later became a leader?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Interesting one, Jonathan, that would certainly give plenty for people in black coats to run over the fields for. Therefore I have to underline, and heavily, that I am not a legal eagle.

You can own something without being entitled to do anything you might like to with it. I could own a car completely, but this still wouldn't entitle me to drive it at 95 down an Engish motorway. "held in trust" means a vicar is entitled to use the parish Church as a parish Church, but not as his personal fiefdom. He could not, for example, flog off bits of the fabric as he might be able to with other real estate he might own.

Questions around this with an ordinariate would I'd imagine at this stage be about the standing and ability to sign contracts of the body with whom he was making a Church Sharing agreement. Because faculty jurisdiction applies, he would need approval through the archdeacon. Church sharing agreements are regulated by canon and the rules of the other denomination, and assuming he wanted to include Roman Catholics in some way shape or form in the deal, would require guidance and approvals from various ecumenical officers etc.

June Butler said...

When I first heard of Episcopalians leaving the Episcopal Church for the Global South, and before I knew the details, I thought they would load up a plane and move. I'm not joking.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

It's rather confusing. An African friend was a bit bemused when he went along to global south meeting at Lambeth and many participants, and most of the talking, along with all the stage management was done by Americans and Brits. Global South is obviously not a place in the geographical sense — more a way of thinking, like Billy Joel's New York State of Mind.

evensongjunkie said...

When I hear whining about "the diocese owns the building, but we've got to maintain it", I think about a certain denomination that forbids any sort of contraception but refuses to take care of the unwanted pregnancies.

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