Church of England Bishops Seek Power to Fire Churchwardens
Should bishops have the right to suspend elected lay members from their duties? That is the question facing the Church of England (Anglican), whose legislative body passed a measure in July that would allow bishops to suspend churchwardens for "good and reasonable" causes. Churchwardens are elected by lay members of Anglican churches to serve as their senior-most representatives. Among other duties, they have control over their churches' finances.
In 1994, the bishop of the English county of Norfolk, Peter Nott, removed from office a priest who had announced that he would marry again after a second divorce. The churchwardens at the priest's five churches refused to recognize the bishop's actions, and they hired the priest back with their churches' money. Supporters of the measure say that the bishops' new powers would only be used in specific cases. However, the measure may be blocked by Parliament, which has the ability to block legislation in England's national church. "I certainly want to discover why bishops should want to take such extraordinary powers to themselves," said Peter Pike, a member of Parliament, according to The Sunday Times of London. "This matter should be dealt with at a local level."
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson