Evidence submitted by Professor G R Evans,
Faculty of History, University of Cambridge
1. I hope the Committee will begin by considering
the fundamental principles of division between the roles of Church
and secular authority in the process which leads to the appointment
of a vicar or rector to a parish.
Only the Church can make a priest. The selection
of a priest, once ordained, for a particular pastoral office has
to meet two ecclesiological and theological requirements:
The first is the willingness of the
people of the parish to accept him or her.
The second is the willingness of
whoever has charge of the temporalities of the living to consent
to the appointment.
2. It is not clear that "variety"
is a good in the system of appointment. It rests on no theoretical
justification. It has simply grown up through a series of historical
accidents. These mainly concern control of the temporalities of
3. The exercise of patronage, unless carried
out according to published criteria and by a transparent process,
is not compatible with the principles of the Committee on Standards
in Public Life.
4. To transfer the Lord Chancellor's ecclesiastical
patronage responsibilities to the Church would not be not a move
towards disestablishment. It would merely add a further item to
the long list of historical accidents which decide how the particular
priests for whose selection the Lord Chancellor is at present
formally responsible are appointed.
5. If the transfer is to be made to the
Church it should not in my view go to the diocese. There are complex
questions of the shifts that would create in the balance of power
in the Church. There is, moreover, a likelihood that such a change
would merely ensure that the Bishop's preferred candidate is usually
appointed. There are reasons why that may not be a desirable outcome.
6. Dioceses have taken control of the endowments
of parishes (1978). They are responsible for the payment of stipends.
They are selling off parsonages. They are encouraging ministry
by teams of laity in the smaller parishes. All this undermines
the theology of a personal pastoral ministry. Traditionally, the
incumbent serves the local people in a parish. For parishes which
prefer to continue in that way the awarding of the advowson for
its own incumbent to each Parish Church Council would afford the
only protection against these trends. It would allow the present
management changes in the Church to be tested against the pastoral
preferences of the faithful. It would help to preserve a working
balance between the two requirements noted above at (1).
G R Evans
Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual
History and member of the Faith and Order Advisory Group of the
Church of England General Synod 1985-95
11 January 2004