Ekklesia, 13 December 2005 — The new “ministerial reviews” are part of a raft of Human Resource measures designed to improve employment practice in the church.
Traditionally, the clergy have been exempt from employment rights because members were deemed to be office holders, not employees, and as such were working for God, rather than an earthly organisation.
The Chairman of the clergy and churchworkers branch of the Amicus union has previously accused the Government of acting “like Pontius Pilate”, and washing its hands of the clergy by failing to give them rights and protections enjoyed by other workers.
To many it appears as if the government has previously done deals with those high up the church hierachy.
Sacked clerics are for example denied statutory rights to challenge their bishops in employment tribunals. The Church of England and the Catholic Church have in the past argued that the unique relationship between bishops and clergy would be undermined if law was imposed.
However a church spokesman said that consultation was ongoing to decide what form the new proposals would take, and firm details would not be available until next summer.
Rachel Maskell, the Amicus officer in charge of negotiating employment rights for church workers, said the union had no objection to the new plans “as long as it is done properly and is not used as a stick to beat people with”.
The move to introduce appraisals is the result of a report at the start of this year, Review of Clergy Terms of Service, which also recommended appointing up to 18 strategic HR professionals to oversee people management in the church.
But the number of HR staff planned has been scaled back to seven or eight regional HR officers, according to Maskell.
“This reduction will have a real impact on people who really need help,” she said.
Implementation of a nationwide HR department stalled after the church synod (parliament) disagreed over the key issue of ownership of church property and clergy homes. In most cases, these officially belong to the incumbent minister.
The move to update employment practice came as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, called on the church to engage with more young people in its recruitment drives.
© 2005 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk