What is Patronage?
The exercise of Patronage is the right to present an incumbent (i.e. a vicar or a rector) to the "living" of a particular benefice as its incumbent. This is an historic right which forms part of the law of property, dating back to pre-Reformation England. Today it forms a system of checks and balances which ensure the continuance of a broad spectrum of belief and practice within the Church.
Who has the right of Patronage?
The right of Patronage is possessed by a wide range of individuals and corporations (including local landowners whose predecessors would have donated the land on which the church was built) as well as by Diocesan Bishops, Cathedral Chapters, Colleges, Societies, Patronage Boards, the Lord Chancellor and the Crown. The right cannot be bought or sold, but it can be transferred by Deed of Gift, a bequest in a Will, or on intestacy.
Does each benefice have one Patron?
Patronage historically attached to a benefice when most were single-parish benefices. Many benefices now have a number of parishes and so the Patronage arrangements have become combined. The Pastoral Scheme which created the benefice will set these out. Patronage can be held jointly and exercised either by a series of turns, or by way of a vote, or as constituted by a special Patronage board.
Does the Patron have the last say on the appointment of an incumbent?
No. The PCC(s) and Bishop are also involved. Patrons do not have an unfettered choice in making a presentation of a new incumbent to a benefice. They are required to obtain a statement from the parish(es) of the benefice describing the conditions, needs and traditions of the parish (generally referred to as the "Parish Profile"), and may be requested by the PCC to meet with them to discuss.
In addition, each parish concerned appoints two representatives and the Patron cannot make a presentation without the approval of the Bishop and all parish representatives. This effectively gives the Bishop and each parish a right to refuse any individual candidate, although there is a right of the Patron to request the provincial archbishop to review the refusal to approve the offer.
How do we know who is Patron of our benefice?
The Diocesan Registrar is required by law to keep and maintain a Register of Patrons, setting out for each benefice in the Diocese who the Patron or Patrons are, and what the Patronage arrangements are. The Pastoral Secretary or Archdeacons' Office should also be able to advise you.