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World News

CofE to consider Code of Conduct to address poor behaviour in Parochial Church Councils

by Donna Birrell

A Code of Conduct for Parochial Church Council (PCC) members and lay volunteers is to be explored by the Church of England.

Members of the CofE's General Synod backed a motion by the Diocese of Chelmsford seeking to address an imbalance of accountability in relationships where lay volunteers currently face no significant consequences for persistent departures from acceptable standards of behaviour.

Whereas clergy can be disciplined for unacceptable behaviour under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process, currently there is no proportionate means for laity to be held to account for their actions. 

The paper cited National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) advice that, while disagreement is a healthy part of decision making, it was recommended that charities should use a code of conduct for their trustees.

It highlighted instances of uncooperative or aggressive behaviour in meetings over a long period where there was no mechanism to remove a member from the PCC.

Introducing the motion, The Revd Dr Sara Batts-Neale from Chelmsford Diocese (pictured) said: “It’s not news to discover that human beings sometimes fail to be loving, kind, patient, gentle or self-controlled. It’s not news that sometimes human beings fail to love their neighbours. We are all a work in progress. growing in holiness.

“When [things] do go wrong, there is currently no way to change the composition of a PCC. There is a lack of clear accountability.

“There are big questions about why we, as the body of Christ, sometimes find ourselves in fraught relationships - not just about doctrinal or ecclesiological disagreements, but about the small and local challenges.

“A code of conduct can help guide us all in places whilst we prayerfully find the grace to live alongside each other in peace.

“We seek a review into a code of conduct to encourage healthy cultures, and to give a possible remedy for intransigent behaviours that damage people, the church, and hinder our ability to share the good news of Christ Jesus.”

The Archbishops' Council will now carry out a review to consider drawing up a Code of Conduct for PCC members and lay volunteers. 

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