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Vicars in revolt over 'theft' of their freeholds
23 January 2005

Christopher Morgan, 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 for parishioners.

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."

Article continues:



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.


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