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CODE OF PRACTICE FOR PARSONAGES

In this code of practice, Save Our Parsonages sets out the framework for a partnership between the bishop, the archdeacon, other diocesan officers, the parish priest, the PCC, the churchwardens, any parishioners who wish to be represented and where appropriate the patron of the living ( all below called 'the parties'),regarding the future of parsonages.

Within the framework of practice and the law, the parties agree that it is important that the Church is seen to represent natural justice as well as to abide by ecclesiastical law in all dealings with parsonages.

Accordingly, whenever and as soon as it is contemplated that the role of a parsonage is to be changed, or the parsonage is to be altered, modified or sold:

1.        The diocese shall call a meeting, prior to any action being taken, which all of the parties shall be invited to attend, to be held on a nnnnmstated date, subject to agreement on a revised date if necessary.

2.        The meeting must consider:

      (i)  The house, its state of repair, its convenience and maintenance cost;

      (ii)  Pastoral gains or losses consequent on retention or disposal and/or replacement;

      (iii) Economic losses as well as gains consequent on proposed disposal;

      (iv) The historic and conservation value of the house and garden.

3.        If disposal of the existing house is proposed by any party, retention or adaptation for alternative pastoral use must be considered   first.

4.        If there is disagreement on costings, the PCC and diocese must jointly obtain a second independent survey report, such report to have evidential value equal to any original survey.

5.        Following the meeting, a report shall be prepared and agreed.

6.        The parties must then seek to reach agreement on the appropriate course of action. An action plan must be drawn up and signed by the parties.

7.        If the cost of maintaining the existing parsonage (or an identified potential liability) is agreed to be significantly higher than the diocesan average, it may be retained on condition that additional funds are found, to assist the diocese in maintenance. A local trust fund may be the solution.

8.        Subject to 7 above, if unanimous agreement cannot be reached, the matter must be put to independent arbitration.

9.        Arbitration procedure shall be as follows:

      (i)     A committee of the Church Commissioners or an agreed third party shall arbitrate.

      (ii)   The chair of the tribunal shall not have a vote in the decision making process.

      (iii)  The process will at all times be fair and transparent.

      (iv)  All parties must be given equal time to make their case.

      (v)  The diocese should put its case first.

      (vi) All parties must have the right to make a final statement.

10.     It is acknowledged that many parsonages were built or improved from local benefactions by patrons, incumbents or others, whose intent was that they should be held in perpetuity for the parish. It is further acknowledged that diocesan 'ownership' of parsonages derives from Measures, not from acquisition by the diocese for financial consideration at market value. If, therefore, it is agreed or adjudged that the parsonage is to be sold, the diocese shall, before placing any proceeds from the disposal in a diocesan account, consult with the PCC to determine whether there is a case for those proceeds to be 'ring fenced' for the benefit of the parish or benefice (for example, to be credited to a parish fund for maintenance and repair, and/or to compensate the parish for lost meeting facilities) and if so, they shall, to the extent necessary, be so 'ring fenced'.