Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Church 'land grab' thrown out by Synod

Plans for a £4 billion "land grab" of thousands of rectories and vicarages of the Church of England were thrown out today after members of the General Synod rebelled against proposals to centralise ownership of the homes of clergy.

Church leaders had wanted to vest ownership of the homes of nearly half the clergy, the 4,000 incumbents and their families, into new boards set up under the dioceses. At present, when a cleric is installed into the freehold of a parish, ownership of the vicarage or rectory is vested in him or her.

Athough they are not allowed to sell it or take advantage of this for personal gain, they are guaranteed the house as a home for them and their family until they retire at 70.

The synod heard fears of the symbolic impact of removing ownership of the clergy house from the local parish. Members said they were concerned that the houses could subsequently be sold to pay debts, or might even be at risk if victims of child abuse by clergy sued the diocese for compensation.

Even a majority of bishops voted against the change. The Bishop of Chester, the Right Rev Peter Foster, said the proposal was part of an invidious "centralising tendency" in modern culture. Read more

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