Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests
HOUSE OF BISHOPS' DECLARATION ON THE MINISTRY OF BISHOPS
In May 2014 the House of Bishops made its Declaration on
the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (GS Misc 1076) in the
context of the impending legislation enabling the consecration of
women to the episcopate which received final approval by the
General Synod in July 2014. It can be found
Central to the Declaration are the five guiding principles which
the House first commended in May 2013, and which the General Synod
welcomed in its resolution of 20 November 2013. As stated in the
Declaration, they need to be read one with the other and held
together in tension, rather than being applied selectively:
- Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to
become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally
committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all,
without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly
ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of
the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and
- Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be
prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a
clear decision on the matter;
- Since it continues to share the historic episcopate with
other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox
Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue
to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England
acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is
set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican
Communion and the whole Church of God;
- Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds
of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of
women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of
teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of
England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its
life and structures; and
- Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority
within the Church of England will be made without specifying a
limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible
degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across
the whole Church of England.
The House also issued a Guidance Note (GS Misc
1077) in May 2014 which is available
The House's Declaration sets out arrangements under which
parishes can take advantage of arrangements available to those
whose theological conviction leads them to seek the priestly or
episcopal ministry of men. Under these, Parochial Church Councils
(PCCs) can pass a resolution in the following recommended form:
'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.'
Further guidance about passing these Resolutions is set out in
paragraphs 6ff of the House's Guidance Note (GS Misc 1077).
In the vast majority of instances, it is anticipated that it
will be possible for parishes and bishops to agree arrangements
which are consistent with the Declaration. Where this is not the
case, and the PCC considers that the bishop or some other office
holder has acted in a way which is inconsistent with the
Declaration, it may bring a grievance to the Independent Reviewer
appointed under the Regulations it has made for the resolution of
disputes under the Declaration.
The House of Bishops made the Regulations under Canon C 29 on 17
November 2014. The Regulations are available
The Independent Reviewer
As set out in GS Misc 1090, the Archbishops of Canterbury and
York have appointed Sir Philip Mawer as the Independent Reviewer
under the terms of the Regulations. Notice of the appointment
can be read
How to bring a grievance?
Sir Philip Mawer is being supported administratively by Jonathan
Neil-Smith in Church House, Westminster. Any correspondence should
be sent to him at
c/o the Office of the Independent Reviewer
The Central Secretariat
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
Tel: 0207 898 1373
- The grievance has to relate to actions taken, or omissions, by
bishops and certain other types of office holder in relation to the
paragraphs of the Declaration (16-29 and 33) which deal with the
making of arrangements for parishes and non-parochial places of
worship which seek the priestly or episcopal ministry of men.
- Before approaching the Reviewer's Office, the PCC must give the
office holder in respect of whom it wishes to bring a grievance a
reasonable opportunity to address the grievance.
- The grievance must be made in writing and authorised by a PCC
resolution passed either by a majority of those present at a
meeting at which at least two-thirds of those entitled to attend
are present, or by a majority of all members of the PCC.
- The grievance should normally be made within three months of
the action or omission in question.
- The PCC's letter must specify
(a) The office holder in respect of whom the
grievance is brought;
(b) The nature of the act or omission in
(c) The nature of the PCC's grievance in
relation to it.
- The PCC must send a copy of its letter to the Reviewer to the
diocesan bishop, or (if different) the office holder in respect of
whom the grievance is brought.
The full process for bringing a grievance is set out in
paragraphs 9 - 15 of the House's Regulations.
Handling of grievances
- The receipt of a grievance will be acknowledged.
- A check will be made that the grievance is in accordance with
the terms of the Regulations.
- In order to decide whether the grievance is justified, partly
justified or unjustified, enquiries will be made as the Independent
Reviewer sees fit. Views will normally be sought from the office
holder against whom the grievance has been made. It is possible
that it may take a while to clarify the necessary facts.
- Subject to that, the review will normally be completed within
two months of the grievance being received.
- The Reviewer may choose to refer the matter to mediation
(depending on the circumstances) or in some other way seek to
achieve a settlement of the grievance which is acceptable to all
- The Reviewer's decision will be communicated in writing to each
of the parties (and the diocesan bishop, if he/she is not one of
Further details about the consideration of grievances by the
reviewer are contained in paragraphs 16-27 of the Regulations.
General concerns about the operation of the House's
Anyone (and not just a PCC) may raise a concern, in writing,
with the Reviewer about any aspect of the operation of the House's
Declaration. Such a concern may relate to more than one act or
omission under the Declaration, and to more than one parish or
diocese. If such a concern is raised with the Reviewer, he
may undertake an inquiry into it.
The Reviewer will publish an annual report to the Archbishops
following the end of each calendar year. The first report can be viewed here.