Pastoral Reorganisation

What is pastoral reorganisation?

The basic framework of the ministry and mission in the Church of England comprises parishes (units of administration), benefices (units of ministry) and deaneries (geographical areas). These provide the structural and organisational framework of how the Diocese operates.

Some of these structures and groupings are historical, and so need to be reviewed from time to time to enable the local church to be more effective in mission and ministry whilst balancing needs and available resources. These changes can include, for example:

  • Boundary and name changes
  • Creation of team and group ministries
  • Creation of united parishes and benefices
  • Providing for changes in the use of church buildings, such as becoming a chapel of ease as opposed to a parish church

Why reorganise?

Pastoral reorganisation is intended to focus resources (both people and finances), ease administrative burdens, enable more effective governance, provide greater support and team work in addressing local needs for pastoral care from clergy and their lay teams.

Because the existing framework of parish/benefice/deanery is legal, a formal process needs to be undertaken in order to put any changes to the structure into effect. It also deals with Patronage arrangements and the provision of clergy housing, which can also need to change from time to time.

Who decides when pastoral reorganisation is necessary, and what form it should take?

The Diocese of Ely recognises that those who live and worship in our parishes are usually best placed to identify the needs and requirements of those parishes, and each deanery has its own pastoral committee which formulates a Deanery Plan to support spiritual and numerical growth throughout its parishes in line with the Diocesan strategy for growth, Ely 2025 .

These plans take into account critical factors like ageing congregations, levels of parish giving and share, retiring clergy and the viability of its buildings, and consider whether pastoral reorganisation could help relieve some of these pressures at parish level.

What starts the process of pastoral reorganisation?

Once a Deanery Plan has been made, and the time is right to start thinking about putting it into place, there will be extensive discussions at a parish level with local clergy, the Rural Dean and sometimes the Archdeacon.

In due course, Churchwardens and PCCs will become involved, as will the Deanery Pastoral Committee. Once proposals have been agreed locally, they are taken to the Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committee (‘ADMPC’), which has a legal obligation to ensure that deanery proposals are in line with Diocesan policy and will fit well into the ‘bigger picture’ of developments across the Diocese.

From there the Pastoral Secretary, together with the relevant Archdeacon and Rural Dean, will manage the legal processes.

How does pastoral reorganisation happen?

In order to put in place the changes proposed by the deanery plans, the Diocese has to follow the legal process set out in the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 to create Pastoral Schemes, which deal with large-scale and complicated reorganisation, and Pastoral Orders, which deal with less complex arrangements and which can be done using a shortened procedure.

Pastoral Schemes and Orders are legal documents, so it is important to follow the process properly in order to get them right.

What’s the process?

There are a number of stages to the process of pastoral reorganisation, depending on what is proposed to happen.

Complex arrangements involving multiple parishes and benefices will always take longer, because the Church Commissioners become involved. Simpler matters can be dealt with more quickly, and within the Diocese.

The below outlines the process in brief:

Stage 1: Informal Consultation

  • Once the proposals have been agreed following local meetings and initial consultation with the clergy and parishes, they will be considered by the ADMPC.
  • Once the proposals are agreed by the ADMPC, the Pastoral Secretary drafts either a summary or briefing paper outlining the key points for further local consultation by the Archdeacon (for more complex matters), or proceeds to Stage 2 (where the proposals are relatively straightforward and are known to have local support).
  • Once the proposals have been considered locally and it is agreed that they should go ahead (subject to any changes made as a result of the informal consultations), the Archdeacon will ask the Pastoral Secretary to move ahead with Stage 2 of the process.

Stage 2: Formal Consultation

  • Once the proposals have been agreed locally, the Pastoral Secretary will put these proposals into writing which will reflect the proposed Pastoral Scheme or Order (the ‘draft proposals’), together with explanatory notes.
  • The Pastoral Secretary will then circulate the draft proposals to the statutory interested parties. These are key stakeholders and include the clergy, PCCs (via the PCC Secretary), Patrons, the Rural Dean, Lay Chair, Archdeacon and Bishop.
  • The interested parties are asked to respond within 28 days (for most Pastoral Orders) or six weeks (for Pastoral Schemes). Affected clergy and PCCs may request a meeting with the Committee to discuss their views, if wished.
  • Responses received by the Pastoral Secretary from the interested parties will be considered by the ADMPC.
  • Once the consultation period has ended, and any meetings requested by clergy or the PCCs have taken place, the ADMPC may consider the matter again (if any objections have been raised or changes have been suggested) and make amendments to the draft proposals (which the Pastoral Secretary will recirculate as before), or it will proceed to Stage 3.

Stage 3: Pastoral Order (using the shortened procedure)

  • If the matter is being dealt with by a Pastoral Order under the ‘shortened’ procedure, the Pastoral Secretary will finalise the Order and send it to the Bishop for signature and sealing. It then comes into effect on the date stated.

Stage 3: Pastoral Scheme or Order (using the full procedure)

  • If the matter is being dealt with by Pastoral Scheme or a Pastoral Order not under the ‘shortened’ procedure, the Pastoral Secretary will liaise with the Church Commissioners to produce a draft Scheme or Order once the proposals have been signed off by the Bishop.
  • The Church Commissioners then produce a final copy of the Scheme which will then be circulated to the interested parties and the PCC Secretaries of the affected parishes will be asked to display a statutory notice (provided by the Pastoral Secretary) in every parish church, chapel of ease or other licensed place of worship in the parish for at least 28 days including a minimum of three consecutive Sundays. A copy of the Scheme or Order must be made available in the church or at another location for inspection upon request.
  • Any representations for or against the Scheme or Order must be made to the Church Commissioners, who will liaise with the Bishop as required for responses.
  • If there have been no objections, and no amendments are needed, the Commissioners will proceed to make the Pastoral Scheme or ask the Bishop to make the Pastoral Order, and the Pastoral Secretary will then circulate the Scheme or Order before it comes into legal effect.
  • If objections are made or amendments required, there will be a delay whilst these are given consideration. If the Commissioners decide to proceed notwithstanding the objections, they will provide a copy of their decision and the reasons for it to all who made written representations and interested parties. There is a right of appeal to the Privy Council against proposed Pastoral Schemes.


A flowchart setting out the full process for Pastoral Schemes (which can sometimes take up to a year depending on the complexity of the changes proposed and whether there are any objections to the proposals) can be viewed here.

Pastoral Orders dealing with simple and uncontroversial changes can usually be completed within a few months.

Pastoral Schemes and Orders: Step-By-Step Flowchart