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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 19:08 GMT
Synod rejects vicarage owner plan
General Synod
There has been a long tradition of local ownership of homes
Members of the Church of England's ruling synod have defeated an attempt by the Church to take control of vicarages.

It was proposed to move the freehold of vicarages or parsonages from the resident vicar to diocesan control.

Opponents, who put the total value of the properties at 4bn, argue that clerical homes have been under local control for nearly 1,000 years.

The proposals were part of legislation debated at the general synod.

They were part of the process of moving more clergy from open-ended appointments in parishes to contracts similar to those of other working people.

But opponents said those contracts could be brought in without centralising control of property.

Parish upkeep

Norman Russell, the archdeacon of Berkshire, said most vicarages had been donated by parishioners or even clergy.

"On the whole people have a sense that the vicarage belongs to them, held in trust.

"In practice it means they will help with decoration, because they feel some sense of ownership of it."

Church officials, who estimated the value of the vicarages at 2.7bn, said it was unfair that some clergy would continue to have the freehold of their property while others did not.

Officials also said that dioceses paid for the upkeep of parishes; while opponents claimed the money came from parishioners in the first place.

The BBC's religious correspondent Robert Pigott said that some evangelicals have suggested that the Church was acting strategically in anticipation of increasing disagreements over sexuality already dividing Anglicans.

The system of freehold makes it difficult for bishops to sack clergy, and some in the synod have claimed that the Church wanted to increase its power to discipline them, he explained.

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