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Diocese in Europe Measure

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 14 March 2013

Motion to Present for Royal Assent

Moved by

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Diocese in Europe Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

My Lords, the purpose of this short Measure is twofold: to bring the Diocese in Europe more into the mainstream of the Church of England’s financial arrangements, and to update one important aspect of its synodical governance.

On the first point, on financial systems, the Measure will widen the discretionary powers of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council to make grants to the Diocese in Europe. It will enable the diocese to become eligible to receive grants for the same range of purposes as our other dioceses in England. At present, payments can be made only in accordance with the powers conferred on the commissioners by the Diocese in Europe Measure 1980. That provides for the commissioners to pay the costs of the bishops’ ministry and housing. The proposed new power to make payments for the development of the mission of the Diocese in Europe is sufficiently wide to enable the commissioners and the council to respond to evolving needs. The Measure does not seek to specify what level of national support the diocese might receive in the future. If the Measure is passed, the level of any grants to be made to the diocese will be determined as part of the usual wider discussions on the distribution of money available from the Church Commissioners’ funds. The first occasion on which that could happen would be when spending plans for 2014 to 2016 are discussed later this year.

Clause 2 deals with references under Article 8 of the constitution of the General Synod of the Church of England. Article 8 provides that permanent changes to the services of baptism or holy communion or in the ordinal, and certain changes in the Church of England’s relations with other churches, must be referred to the dioceses for approval before they can proceed to final approval by the General Synod. In all English dioceses the reference is made to the diocesan synod. At present, in Europe, references are made to the bishops’ council and standing committee, because when the diocese was established there was no diocesan synod at all. However, the Diocese in Europe now has had its own diocesan synod for a number of years, and therefore it seems very appropriate to amend the legislation to bring the procedure into line with the other dioceses in England. I beg to move.

My Lords, there is very little that I can add to what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle has said. However, I would like to draw attention very briefly to the evidence given by the current Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe at page 79 of the report. He told us that the diocese has doubled in size since it came into existence in 2008. He meant size not in a geographical sense, because it could not get any bigger than it already is, but in the number of its congregations. So it can be regarded, in many ways, as a success story. It now has, as has been pointed out, a diocesan synod that meets in Cologne, and that makes it possible, therefore, to bring this diocese more into line with the other dioceses of the Church of England. The Ecclesiastical Committee had no difficulty in finding the Measure expedient. I support the Motion.

My Lords, this occasion should not pass us by just on the nod, as it were. This is a moment to pay tribute to the chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who has just spoken. He chairs that committee with a certain distinction and cheerfulness which holds everyone together and enables the committee to take a very constructive line towards its deliberations and to be very expeditious in its work.

We should also mention a word of appreciation to all those within the church who put a lot of work into the proposals that have been put before us. I want to make just two observations about their content. First, a tribute is due to the province that we are discussing. I think that it has done some excellent work, and we should put on record that it is recognised by people probably of all faiths that it has done a good job, and I am glad that we are strengthening its position for the future. Secondly, while I wholeheartedly endorse what is before us, one ambiguity should be registered. I am not a lawyer, but I am a little interested by the provision about clergy not advocating support of a political party that is not in good standing and that has specifically been debarred by the church.

I think that we will come to that issue when we deal with the other Measure, which follows immediately after this. I did not mean to interrupt, but I think it will come better at that stage.

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for their comments and support of this Motion. I therefore ask the House to approve it.

Motion agreed.