Church examines licensing law

Published June 1, 2004

St. Catharines, Ont.

General Synod has begun the process of softening a canon or church law that allows a bishop to fire a priest for any reason without right of appeal. In response to a directive from the 2001 synod, aimed at limiting arbitrary use of power by a bishop, three amendments to Canon XVII dealing with the licensing of clergy were given first reading.Changes, which must be ratified on second reading at General Synod 2007, include a paragraph outlining likely reasons for withdrawing a priest’s licence: financial difficulties in a parish, decline in parish membership, redeployment of human resources, and inability of the licensee to carry out his or her duties. Another clause prevents a bishop terminating a priest suspected or accused of an “ecclesiastical offence” without due process to determine the validity of any allegation.Though ordained for life, clergy cannot function in a diocese without a licence or other authorization from the bishop. Withdrawal of a licence means loss of livelihood.

A third section outlines an arbitration procedure to determine the length of notice or the amount of pay and benefits in lieu of notice and also includes provision for financial and vocational counseling, taking into account “prevailing practices in the secular community”.In other decisions:

  • General Synod defeated a proposal to limit the primate’s term of office to nine years with the possibility of an additional three, but it passed a motion outlining a resignation process for the primacy. The most recent primates, Michael Peers and Ted Scott, held office for 18 and 15 years respectively. The longest primacy was that of Archbishop S.P. Matheson, who served 21 years from 1909 to 1930.
  • Reflecting the new relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, first reading was given an to an amendment adding clergy of a church in full communion with the Anglican Church to those eligible for election to office in the Anglican Church of Canada.

In all, General Synod dealt with a total of 18 amendments to the constitution and canons of the church, many of which were of a housekeeping nature.


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