Does Common Tenure Help Clergy Wellbeing?

It has struck me that I think I am subconsciously confused about whether clergy are employees or office-holders. I think it is all the mixed messages we get, one of which I explain in the post about days off.

The reason that it is so important is I don’t think we as clergy can be passive about our wellbeing – if we are office holders then it is up to us. I started being employed when I was 18 and so I think since being ordained a part of me has been a bit bewildered, wondering when the church will start looking after me as if I am an employee.

For some, there is also a sense that the church wants to have its cake and eat it. Some dioceses seem to want to get clergy to accept aspects of line management and reduce their autonomy, whilst at the same time not providing the tools and support that an employer would routinely do. Of course some of this cannot be helped, such as insisting on safeguarding training.

The introduction of Common Tenure in 2010, when clergy changed from having the Freehold, feels like it has made all these mixed messages even more mixed. Common Tenure has pushed clergy closer to being employees by giving us some rights and responsibilities. I have always been a bit confused by Common Tenure, I asked Bishop Alan for explanation in the comments on his blog in 2010. There was much discussion at the time about whether it was good or bad for clergy, and many clergy were not changing jobs because they didn’t want to lose the Freehold. I have found some helpful information from Guildford and Salisbury dioceses, and from these I have constructed this table:

Differences between being an employee, having Common Tenure and Freehold in the CofE

So under Common Tenure we are a bit like employees, a bit like it used to be under Freehold and a bit like neither of these… I think. Hope that is clear! The problem is I think we need to be clear – we need to know that we have to take responsibility for lots of things, including our wellbeing. We also need to recognise we have lots of autonomy and perhaps feel less stressed about those things that people are trying to make us do when they have no right to do so.

To answer my own question, I think Common Tenure is better than the fixed term Licenses that about half of the clergy were on before it was introduced. I’m not sure Common Tenure has done much for those who were previously on Freehold. I feel it has probably muddied the waters and further confused us though!

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