General Synod - London Sessions, 15-16 November 2005 Archbishop's contribution during the debate on The Review of Clergy Terms of Service: property issues and progress report
Wednesday 16th November 2005A contribution by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Thank you Mr Chairman. I'm speaking as someone who supported very strongly the Archdeacon of Berkshire's amendment earlier this year and therefore as someone who is very sympathetic to the concerns that have already been expressed by those speaking to the amendments. However, the Dean of the Arches has outlined some of the reasons which make me hesitate about supporting such amendments and I want simply to mention one or two points which I hope Synod will weigh in deciding on this matter, bearing in mind of course, as has been said we are making recommendations rather than drafting here.
It seems to me that the most salient question is do the proposals weakens or reinforce obligation of the diocese and the Church at large towards the parish clergy at every level. I have yet to be convinced that they do so weaken those obligations, because it is on those obligations that the security of the cleric depends. The one major change, however, which has been referred to on several occasions is the removal of the right of veto of an incumbent. It's a difficult point to make, and I make it with some hesitation, but it seems to me that the over-valuing of an absolute right of veto in these circumstances may be a mistake and , I say it with trepidation because this is a terrible phrase to use, in the best interests of both incumbent and parish, it's not always the case that an absolute right of veto is essential or even healthy.
I have, as a diocesan bishop and I'm sure others would echo this experience, sometimes been in a position where in the pastoral of a parsonage family as well as in the pastoral and missionary interest of a parish it is highly desirable to effect a change of parsonage house and it can be at times an obstacle to proper pastoral care and responsibility if an absolute right of veto is entrenched in the way that's being taken for granted by some speakers, so I hope we'll ponder that point in the overall context of this discussion.
I suspect that what the Dean of the Arches has said ought to weigh very heavily with us in that the opening assurances, the summary of recommendations in these suggestions before us does make clear for us that what is envisaged is precisely what some speakers have so properly insisted on, a full statement of rights as well as responsibilities for the occupier of a parsonage house. Whether those rights should include the right of veto, I remain unconvinced.
© Rowan Williams 2005