Vacancies and Suspension of Presentation

What happens when our incumbent leaves – will we get a new one?

When an incumbent (a vicar or rector) resigns or retires, it is important for everyone involved to think carefully about the future. The views of the parish, deanery and Diocese are all taken into consideration, and it is often wise for there to be a period of time between the last incumbent leaving, and a new appointment being made.

The Archdeacon’s and Bishop’s offices manage the vacancy process together, and will decide whether a new incumbent will be appointed, or whether it would be better to put in place a priest in charge or make some other appointment such as a Licensed Lay Minister or worker. Please contact your Archdeacon if you need more information about this.

What happens if we are to have a new incumbent?

If a new priest is to be appointed on a basis which is essentially the same as the outgoing incumbent, the PCC(s) compile a parish profile and appoint parish representatives. Following advertisement and interview, the Patron(s) consult with the parish representatives and then ‘present’ a candidate to the Bishop who would then appoint that person as incumbent, or if the Bishop is Patron, he will make the appointment directly.

Following a number of legal steps, including the display of a notice on the church door(s) that a new incumbent has been appointed, he or she will then be presented to the benefice by the Patron(s) and either collated or instituted by the Bishop and inducted and installed by the Archdeacon.

What happens if we are to have a priest in charge rather than an incumbent, and what is the difference between them?

Following conversation with the parish and deanery, it may be felt that additional flexibility is needed to look at the arrangements for a benefice, and this is achieved by putting the procedure of appointing a new incumbent on hold, with the option of the Bishop instead licensing a priest in charge. Having a priest in charge rather than an incumbent in place gives the Diocese the legal flexibility to look at the arrangements for pastoral care locally, and to look at possible pastoral reorganisation.

Since priests in charge are appointed under Common Tenure there is very little practical difference between an incumbent (i.e. a rector or vicar) and a priest in charge at parish level. In both cases a priest is appointed to the parish; in both cases the Patron and parish are involved in the selection process; and in both cases the priest will be free to stay so long as she or he, the parish and the Bishop feel that staying is right.

In order to appoint a priest in charge rather than an incumbent, a legal process needs to happen which consists of suspending the Patron’s rights of presentation.

What is a suspension of presentation?

Suspension of presentation is the temporary removal of a Patron’s right to present an incumbent to a benefice. The Bishop will remain responsible for the cure of souls which he will normally exercise by licensing a priest in charge.

Who makes the decision whether to suspend the Patron’s right of presentation?

The Bishop is likely to seek to suspend the rights of presentation to a benefice when for pastoral, missional or financial reasons pastoral reorganisation is under consideration. Occasionally it is used when it is intended to change the parsonage house for a benefice. The Archdeaconry Mission and Pastoral Committee will consider whether suspension is suitable on a case-by-case basis, and make recommendations to the Bishop following consultations with the interested parties; these are the Patron(s), the PCC(s), the Rural Dean and Lay Chair of the deanery synod.

The Pastoral Secretary manages these consultations, and the interested parties are given 28 days to respond with their views. PCCs can request to meet with members of the ADMPC, if they wish, to discuss the proposals. If the Bishop decides that the suspension should go ahead, he will sign a notice to this effect which the Pastoral Secretary will circulate to all the interested parties and send to the Churchwardens for display at the relevant parish church or churches of the benefice.

How long does the suspension last?

Following consultation, the right of presentation to a benefice can be suspended by the Bishop for a period lasting no longer than five years. It is possible to renew the suspension, but again for no longer than five years.

Suspension may be lifted by the Bishop with the consent of the Mission and Pastoral Committee, or when a Pastoral Scheme takes effect, naming a new incumbent for the benefice.

If you have any questions about suspensions or pastoral reorganisation which have not been answered by the information here, please take a look at the Glossary and FAQs pages.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, please feel free to contact your Archdeacon or the Pastoral Secretary, who will be happy to help.