PASSING A RESOLUTION
The Bishop of Maidstone has produced a short booklet: Passing a Resolution under the House of Bishop’s Declaration. A copy of this publication is available here. Up to five printed copies of this booklet can be obtained free of charge by contacting the Bishop of Maidstone’s office at [email protected] If you would like more copies – up to 30 – we ask for a donation of £5 towards printing and postage costs.
The Reform briefing paper ‘Women Bishops: a guide for parishes’, which was published under Rod Thomas’ chairmanship of Reform, provides useful practical information. It can be accessed here. If you would like to obtain printed copies of this guide, please contact us at [email protected]
In brief, the steps that need to be taken are these:
- A decision on a resolution needs to be taken by a PCC. If a PCC wants to specify that it seeks only male applicants for a clergy role, then a resolution has to be passed – otherwise, the provisions of Equality legislation are contravened. A resolution is also needed if a PCC is unable to accept episcopal oversight from a woman. Please see the Additional Notes section below for further information passing resolutions in particular circumstances.
- A resolution can be passed at any time as long as the correct notice has been given to PCC members – and this includes during an interregnum.
- The notice period is four weeks. During an interregnum, a resolution can be passed at a ‘Section 11’ meeting – ie the meeting at which key decisions are taken about filling a vacancy. In its Guidance Note, the House of Bishops recommends that before consideration of a resolution, a period of consultation should take place with members of the wider church community.
- A recommended form of words is provided in the Declaration, but a PCC can change this. The suggested wording, given in paragraph 20 of the Declaration is as follows:
- ‘This PCC requests, on grounds of theological conviction, that arrangements be made for it in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests.’
This wording is deliberately vague so as to allow PCCs to specify separately exactly what their theological convictions are and what arrangements they are looking for. An example of the sort of theological statement that might accompany a resolution can be found here in the Belief section of this website.
- A resolution is passed when a specific majority has voted in favour of it. That majority has to be either:
- A majority of all the members of a PCC; or
- A majority of those voting provided at least two-thirds of the members of the PCC who are entitled to be present were attending.
- The letter of request, together with any theological statement, then needs to be sent to the diocesan bishop, the archdeacon, the diocesan registrar and the patron. The next step is for the bishop to consult the PCC (or representatives chosen for the purpose) in order to clarify any questions about their theological convictions. This is not an occasion for the bishop to seek to persuade the parish to change its mind but, rather, to help in knowing how best to implement the resolution.
If there is a diversity of views within the PCC, it may wish to consider passing an amended resolution. It is up to the PCC to decide on the wording of this but it is worth noting that some PCCS have passed resolutions in the form: ‘This PCC requests, on grounds of theological conviction and due to concern for the need for unity of our congregation, that arrangements be made…’ A further example of an amended resolution refers to meeting the needs of the incumbent: ‘Our flourishing requires the flourishing of our Vicar. In order to safeguard his convictions, this PCC requests…’
It is important for PCCs to pass resolutions even if no change in episcopal oversight is currently being sought. Having a resolution in place safeguards the position of the church to seek a male incumbent should a vacancy arise or should a change in episcopal provision within the diocese occur. It also sends out a message of the need for, and support of, complementarianism within the Church of England.
If a PCC believes that the outcome of all this is not in line with the principles or procedures of the House of Bishops’ Declaration, then it can register a grievance with the Independent Reviewer. Before doing so, it must give the officeholder in respect of whom the grievance is being brought a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to address the grievance. However, it is important to bear in mind that grievances have to be registered with the Independent Reviewer within 3 months of the action in respect of which a grievance is being brought.