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A Diocesan Synod motion relating to Deaneries was debated at the July 2010 sessions of General Synod.

The Diocese of Coventry motion sought to extend the role of the deanery in order to develop effective missionary strategies across wider areas than single parishes. Their Signposts for the Future document calls for consideration of devolving greater strategic responsibilities to deaneries and reducing their number in order to "release the missionary energies of the diocese." This motion arises out of a desire to explore the best ways of doing this.

The Diocesan Synod motion:

'That this Synod request the Archbishops' Council to convene a working party:

(a)              to consider the case for legislation (i) conferring incorporated status on deanery synods and (ii) amending their functions so that, whilst they retain their deliberative function, they are also able to take a more executive role in promoting in the deanery the whole mission of the Church; and

(b)              to report to the Synod on its findings with, if appropriate, proposals for the introduction of legislation.'

The Diocese of Coventry is not unique in wanting a greater role for deaneries. Others have been debating a similar motion to ours and we are grateful for the conversations that have taken place between our dioceses.

The Motion centres on the legal implications of a deanery employing staff, holding property and having bank accounts. All of these activities might form part of a strategy for developing the role of the deanery, but currently the deanery synod is not able to undertake them, because of the nature of its purposes and the fact that it does not have incorporated status.

One solution to the problem would be the creation of a free standing charity alongside the each deanery synod that wanted to operate in this way. However, even if the office holders of the deanery were listed as the office holders of the charity, the charity itself would not be a part of the governance of the Church of England. This is seen as a significant weakness of this approach.

The full background paper GS1773A

Further papers GS1773B

The Coventry motion was significantly amended by an amendment from Archbishop's Council.: 

'That this Synod

(a) welcome the wide measure of discretion that each diocese has to determine the extent of any delegation of functions to deaneries;

(b) note the increasing range of legal vehicles available to deaneries where it is agreed that a more executive role may help in promoting the mission of the Church; and

(c) invite the Archbishops' Council, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to produce updated guidance on available options, with examples of how recent practice has been developing.'

Audio of Debate

Is this a much wider issue? 

More and more the focus for mission and community initiatives seems to be on the Deanery. In the future it is probable that the Deanery will be the main unit rather than the Parish for the delivery of mission and pastoral care. We will not have the resources both people and finance to support the parochial system and structure the way it is now.

If you have views on the role and function of the Deanery please let us know so we can inform the ongoing debate.


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Last modified: December 15, 2012