C of E review proposes new body to take over (almost) every central church function

Sep 14, 2021 by

by Ed Thornton, Church Times:

Archbishops’ Council should be replaced; House of Bishops influence should be scaled back, says review

A RADICAL shake-up of the Church of England’s central governance has been proposed by an official review group.

The Governance Review Group’s proposals, released on Tuesday, include scaling back the powers of the House of Bishops to set national policy, and placing most of the activities currently overseen by the Church Commissioners and bodies such as the Archbishops’ Council under the auspices of a single charitable body called the Church of England National Services (CENS).

The report says that the “complexity” of the current governance structure “encourages confusion, duplication, and accountability gaps”, and “is not sustainable or suitable for the Church’s future mission”.

The chair of the review group is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines. He writes in an introduction to the report: “The need for the simplification of the Church of England’s national governance structures has been the single most discussed aspect of our work. Simplicity in the system will help remove duplication, help to identify and fill gaps, clarify where authority and responsibility lies, and aid the execution of tasks.”

He acknowledges, however: “Achieving this simplicity is not going to be simple. One consultee described this exercise as trying to dismantle and reassemble an aircraft in flight.”

The object of the national Church’s governance structure should be to support parishes and dioceses, the review says, “by giving support and resources of various kinds, as opposed to overwhelming and demoralising them by giving them things to do. The Review Group believes that none of this will be achieved without simplifying the national governance structures of the Church. . .

“The Church needs a governance structure that helps it to be lighter, more agile, and more purposeful in fulfilling its ministry to society in the future; one in which the executive functions facilitate rather than burden the local church. The Governance Review Group’s ambition has been to help the Church make its national governance framework more rational and more accountable and also more humane.”

The group was established by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in December 2019, but was unable to meet until August last year, owing to the pandemic. Since then, it has met 16 times. The group’s other members include the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent; the now former First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella; as well as Anglicans working in areas such as the Civil Service and in higher education.

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