Vicars in revolt
over 'theft' of their freeholds
23 January 2005
The Sunday Times
The Church of England
is facing a rebellion from rank-and-file clergy over a plan to
end the 1,000-year-old system of the parson's freehold, under
which priests own their church, churchyard and vicarage in trust
A report commissioned
by the church's General Synod, to be published tomorrow, recommends
that bishops take direct control of parish churches to streamline
management and make it easier to sack incompetent priests.
However, the proposal,
to be debated at the synod next month, has united traditionalist
and trade union-affiliated clergy against what they see as an
attack on priestly independence and job security.
"Such a proposal
is really a kind of theft," said John Masding, chairman of
the English Clergy Association. "The local church buildings
are really village property. In most cases, the property was acquired
locally. It was not given to them from above. Most clergy will
have serious reservations about this."
It should be noted that
if these changes go through then the Church of England will structurally
become much more akin to ECUSA and the Anglican Church in Canada.
The Diocese will have complete control over vicarages and churches.
The constraints in the new system will be as ineffective as those
in relation to suspension of presentation - not at all.