From time to time, changes within the local community may mean their current organisational structure for ministry and mission no longer meets their pastoral needs effectively and adjustments are needed to address this.

All Anglican parochial and formal ministry structures are enshrined in law so to make changes to any of these elements – from changing the name or geographical area of a parish to the number of team vicars in a team ministry – requires that you go through a statutory process to make the changes legal binding.

Pastoral reorganisation is the formal process of making such changes within the Church of England. The process is governed by the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 (MPM2011) and requires careful preparation, appropriate support and relevant consents.

The DMPC

As well as local approvals from those who are most closely affected, diocesan approval for proposed pastoral reorganisation is required from the Diocesan Mission & Pastoral Committee (DMPC), who make a recommendation to the bishop for his consent that proposals should progress and be considered by the Church Commissioners who oversee the final, public consultation stage and who make a final decision on whether proposed changes can go ahead.

At the Diocese of Oxford, the pastoral secretary, working closely with the archdeacons, area teams, deaneries and parishes involved, oversees the formal aspects involved with pastoral reorganisation for the diocese.

The archdeacons supported by their associate archdeacon and parish development advisor can help parishes and deaneries assess their missional needs and consider what changes may be needed.

The pastoral secretary offers technical guidance – so that the missional needs expressed locally can be translated into viable legal options; and guidance on procedure – setting out how these legal changes can be achieved. The pastoral secretary also conducts the formal aspects of the legal process in conjunction with the Church Commissioners.

Successful pastoral reorganisation requires careful reflection, evidence-based assessment of the current situation, open conversations and ongoing engagement with those affected, and evidence-based solutions. Some degree of Parish Planning may be suggested if this has not happened locally for some time, and many situations may benefit from some level of evidence-gathering consultation with the local community in the early planning stages.

Pastoral Scheme

Although some minor changes (such as changing the name of a parish or benefice) can be handled relatively simply by a [Bishop’s] Pastoral Order, where significant changes are proposed that will alter the governance, or formal role of those with a vested interest in the benefice –e.g., the PCCs, the clergy and the patrons – a full pastoral scheme is required (as is the case for a union of parishes, or the closure of a church building, noting that the latter requires particular care to be taken). See the Schedule of Pastoral Matters.

A full pastoral scheme follows a consultative process with three main stages: informal, formal and public. The MPM2011 requires that consultation must be conducted with an open mind and without prejudgment, so although it may start out with a fairly well detailed proposal, it is expected that revisions should be considered and, where appropriate, made, based on the feedback received.

Where people are in agreement and the proposed changes are straightforward, the process can be conducted in about a year, but where situations are more complex – which is more common – it can take considerably more time. It is always recommended to try and identify and resolve as many potential issues as possible during the informal stages, before embarking on the formal and public consultations.

For further information contact the pastoral secretary at pastoral.secretary@oxford.anglican.org or review the resources linked below.

Resources

Visual overview of pastoral reorganisation

Exploring Practical Implications of Pastoral Reorganisation

Parish Reorganisation Enquiry Form

Legal Framework for Parishes

Guidance on financial issues for merging parishes

Guidance on determining the future a church building

Church Building Options: Impact Document

Exploring Church Futures: Parish Enquiry Form

Consulting Your Community Guidance

Deanery Pastoral Plans: Overview

The Church of England Parish Maps in ArcGIS