Appointments in LEPs
Appointments of new staff members can be crucial in an LEP. The life of the partnership is in the relationships; the structures can only be supportive and represent the acquired wisdom of years of experience. While there should be a full and prayerful consultation to discern the kind of minister to be appointed at this time, the actual appointment remains in the hands of the individual denominations. When any appointment which includes a LEP is being advertised, this fact should be made clear from the outset.
LEPs have to work within the denominational appointment systems described below. In consultation with the sponsoring body and/or the local support or advisory group and the appointing authorities, they should establish a Staffing Consultative Group
(SCG) and determine procedures to be followed in a vacancy. This group should include local lay and ministerial representatives of all denominations concerned and representatives of the sponsoring body. It may be most helpful if it is chaired by the County Ecumenical Development Officer.
As soon as it is known that a minister is leaving, he or she or the officer deemed appropriate by the denomination responsible for the appointment (e.g. churchwarden, circuit steward) should inform the SCG which should meet to draw up or update the job description if necessary and this should then be sent to the appointing denominational authority, the sponsoring body and the other denominations involved in the partnership. Some LEPs specify that the appointment of ministers alternates between the partner Churches while others are able to appoint from any of the partners. Where there is a shortage of ordained ministers, greater flexibility may be needed. The procedure may then follow that which is appropriate to the denomination concerned as outlined below with the addition that the candidate(s) who is/are approached should meet the SCG at the earliest possible opportunity.
This may or may not happen at the initial visit but neither should it be the last step in the process by which time it would be difficult for the SCG to make a negative response. The group secretary or the appropriate church officer may liaise with the candidate(s) about the interview, which should be as informal as possible. One of them should also make it possible for the candidate to withdraw while the SCG considers the matter further, and should ensure that the appointing authority is informed immediately of the opinion reached.
It is essential that a candidate should meet existing team members, not all of whom may be on the SCG before this stage and it is desirable that those appointed should attend an introductory course.
Denominational timetables for appointments vary, with the Methodists beginning 15 months ahead and some other denominations doing nothing until the present minister vacates the post. In LEPs it is desirable that staff changes should be planned as far ahead as it is possible and this may require of team members the discipline to accept the planning of their departure at an earlier stage than is usual in many denominations. An annual meeting of Church Leaders who are responsible for settlements and appointments can be a very useful means of coordination.
Due to circumstances beyond the control of an LEP, it occasionally happens that a staff member is removed by his or her denomination at short notice. Sometimes a denomination may wish to permanently withdraw its staff representative in an LEP. It is hoped that such measures will take place only in the most exceptional circumstances because of the importance of sustaining a well co-ordinated team, and because of the need, already expressed, for full consultation on appointments.
Methodist Standing Orders include a direction that there must be consultation with the sponsoring body concerning appointments involving an LEP and concerning the curtailment, extension or expiration of an appointment (SO 540, 545 and 547). The Bishops’ Code of Practice states that ‘… The Bishop shall consult with the appropriate authorities of the other Churches involved, through a sponsoring body where one exists…’ about appointments in LEPs and where withdrawal of staff is contemplated.
There are some LEPs, particularly one-minister LEPs, in which ministerial staff represent more than one denomination and may be regarded as ecumenical appointments for which no one denomination holds sole responsibility. The advertising of vacancies may be used in such situations, although this method of seeking new staff is also sometimes employed in more conventional circumstances. It is most important to keep all parties fully informed throughout.
The standard procedures of the five Churches which are the partners in most LEPs in England are as follows:
Based on Chapter 2 of MINISTRY IN LOCAL ECUMENICAL PROJECTS by Ivan Selman, published by the BCC on behalf of CCLEPE in 1985
- Baptist churches. In the event of a vacancy, the Chrch Secretary informs their Association Regional Minister who consults the deacons/ elders about the type of ministry needed. The church is asked to produce two profiles. The Church Profile contains information about the church and the town/ area where the church is situated. The Minister Profile outlines the type of minister and ministry the church is looking for. The Regional Minister responsible for pastoral settlements meets with colleagues from other Associations at least nine times a year and seeks to bring back a list of possible ministers for the church. The church is asked to prayerfully consider these nominations and to make contact with those it feels drawn to. After initial contact the church is encouraged to pursue a conversation with one potential minister to see if God is drawing them together. The minister will normally meet with the deacons, meet informally with the congregation and preach on at least two Sundays. At a subsequent church meeting a vote will be taken to see whether the church would like to invite the minister to the pastorate. A substantial majority (normally at least 75%) will be required.
- Church of England. Within a month of a resignation being announced, the Parochial Church Council must make representation to the patron (who may be the diocesan bishop, the Crown, a college, an individual etc.) about the kind of incumbent required and the needs of the parish if they wish to invoke the Measure which makes consultation with the churchwardens obligatory. Technically the patron invites a priest of his choice, who has been approved by the bishop, to meet the churchwardens or other church representatives chosen by the parish; both parties can say yes or no. In practise, there is usually an appointing group of Bishop or Archdeacon, Area Dean, Patron’s representatives and church representatives, which advertises the post and interviews the candidates who apply. The Patron then presents the person who is selected. When the churchwardens and the patron and the bishop agree, the bishop arranges for the institution and induction. In the case of team vicars, special procedures apply, involving consultation and assistant staff are licensed by the bishop on the nomination of the incumbent.
- Methodist Church. All appointments are made annually by the Methodist Conference in June/July and take effect from the 1st September next. In the Summer before that, where a minister’s invitation to a Circuit is under review, there is a process of consultation with all concerned before the Circuit Invitations Committee brings a recommendation to the September Circuit Meeting. If in the consultation process there is agreement that it is time for the minister to move on, then the Circuit draws up a profile for the new appointment, in consultation with all concerned, including the District Chair and Lay Stationing Representative and, in the case of LEPs, our partners. At the same time ministers on the move also draw up personal profiles. During the Autumn, Chairs meet and using these profiles and, in conversation with Circuits and ministers, make matches following which visits are made to Circuits by matched ministers. If on meeting a match is agreed by both parties, that ‘station’ will be presented to Conference which is the supreme authority. Appointment is to a circuit, not to a church. The Circuit Invitation Committee may issue an invitation initially for five years (with possible extensions of up to eight and eleven years). Where there is an LEP, Standing Orders require consultation with the ecumenical partners.
- Roman Catholic Church. Priests and deacons are incardinated into a diocese and belong to its Presbyterium. This means that priests normally belong to a diocese for life. The bishop is responsible for all appointments in the diocese and must approve the appointment of his clergy to posts outside the diocese, e.g. chaplaincies, seminaries, etc. The bishop will discuss a vacancy with assistant bishops and deans. A priest may refuse the offer of a parish. Assistant priests/curates may discuss difficulties they foresee in an appointment, but the bishop has the final say. Priests who belong to religious orders and serve as parish priests/curates are selected by the superiors of their orders but appointed by the bishop. Deacons are appointed by the bishop to serve in a deanery under the pastoral direction of the dean. Laity may make representations to the bishop and they are listed to but the decision rests with the bishop.
- United Reformed Church. An impending vacancy is notified to the Synod Pastoral Committee, which has responsibility in consultation with the Synod Moderator and the church(es) in question of deciding on ‘the scope of the pastorate’ (full or part-time). The committee or the Moderator will appoint an interim moderator to give oversight until a settlement is made. The Synod Moderator then visits to discuss with the elders the style of ministry needed and shares this with the other Moderators at their monthly meeting. In some circumstances a post may be agreed to be advertised. From this process, the name of a minister for consideration is suggested. Churches may be given the name and details of more than one possible candidate from which they select one for more serious consideration. The church then invites a candidate to talk with the elders about the possibility of his/her becoming the minister. If the mutual wish is to proceed further, he/she is invited to conduct worship. Thereafter, if there is a substantial majority in favour at a meeting of the church members, the church meeting issues a call, which the minister may accept or decline. The invitation has to receive the concurrence of the synod pastoral committee and of pastoral committee in the synod where the minister is currently serving.
 In some synods the Synod Pastoral Committee may delegate responsibility to an Area Committee and in some circumstances this may be a United URC/Methodist Area.
(Author: John Bradley)
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