Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Parochial Church Council and LEPs

South elevation of Church of England parish ch...Image via Wikipedia
The need to register some Local Ecumenical Partnerships (LEPs) as charities continues to raise new issues about how churches relate to one another.  A couple of years ago Churches Together in England introduced a new model constitution and it is now the only permitted constitution for single congregation LEPs, whether or not they need to register as a charity.  This has, as a side effect, led to a radical simplification of the approval of LEPs.

Unfortunately, some new issues have emerged around the possibility of conflict of interest between ecumenical church councils (ECCs) (set up by the new style constitutions) and Church of England Parochial Church Councils (PCCs).  This is not a problem where the LEP is one church in a parish with more than one church.  The reason is that in such a parish the PCC cannot be the same body as the ECC.

Here is a note from the recent CCU Bulletin, which explains a but more about what is happening.  I'll make one further comment at the end which is very important if you are not an Anglican and trying to understand what this means!

Charity registration of single congregation LEPs is an ongoing task. As dioceses have engaged with this, challenging constitutional issues have emerged, which revolve around the relationship of the Church of England bodies in the parish to the LEP constituted as a charity. Work has been done on a Memorandum of Understanding between the PCC of a parish which participates in a single congregation LEP and the Ecumenical Church Council. The memorandum essentially:
  1. Recognises the need for the institutions and bodies of the Church of England in the parish to continue to exist and properly discharge their legal responsibilities.
  2. Sets out the responsibilities which the PCC continues to exercise under the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956, the Church of England’s Representation Rules, and the Canons of the Church of England.
  3. Expresses the PCC’s commitment to delegate those functions which it may lawfully delegate to the Trustees, and to consult with the Trustees before making decisions which have an impact on the SC-LEPs.
  4. Clarifies procedures when members of the PCC who are also Trustees have a conflict of loyalty, arising out of conflict of interest between the PCC and the Trustees.
The memorandum has been adopted by the Churches Group for Local Unity and is currently being road tested in Oxford Diocese.
I will publish a post with the actual memorandum once it becomes available.  In the meantime it is important to understand the PCC in a LEP is itself an ecumenical body.  In a Methodist Anglican LEP, for example, it is in theory possible for the PCC to be entirely Methodist.  I don't recommend this as an effective arrangement but it helps us understand this particular issue.  This is not about a group of Anglicans telling a LEP what to do.  It is about how the LEP is organised internally, to enable it to make legal decisions.

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