Setback for Carey over 'unsackable' priests

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The Independent Online
The ambition of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, to reshape the Church of England into a modern organisation has been dealt a blow by the decision of a working party to retain the "freehold" system which makes most priests unsackable without criminal proceedings. The Church's General synod, meeting for the first time since elections replaced about half of its membership, will hear at the end of November that the working party on clergy conditions of service which has been studying the freehold has recommended that it be preserved.

The working party, whose members included Dr David Hope, then bishop of London, and now Archbishop-elect of York, concluded that "The majority opinion in the church seems to be that improving clergy conditions of service in ways which would strengthen the confidence and sense of security of the clergy ... is essential before further consideration could be given to abolishing or amending the ecclesiastical freehold." This conclusion represents a widespread distrust of bishops among the clergy, and dissatisfaction with the present state of disciplinary procedures in the Church. The "freehold is felt to be a defence against the overweening power of bishops", the synod's Secretary General, Phillip Mawer, said.

The new synod will spend an afternoon debating the second part of Dr Carey's plan for church reform: the report of the Turnbull Commission, which recommended creating a central body to manage planning and strategy for the Church. This proposal for a "National Council" which would take over the functions of the General Synod's more important committees, has been attacked as handing too much power to the archbishops, who will appoint more than half of its membership.

The synod will debate the report on family life, Something to Celebrate, attacked for being insufficiently robust in its defence of Christian marriage. This criticism has been partly defused by republishing a report on marriage from the 1959 Lambeth Council, which urges Christian families to pray together.

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