A deanery is a group of parishes within an archdeaconry or episcopal area. The deanery is a strategic mission unit in the diocese, acting as a vital link between people in the parishes, the diocese and the Church of England nationally.
Within the four archdeaconries of the Diocese of Lichfield there are 29 deaneries, some mostly rural, some predominantly urban and a good number who are a mixture of both. Each deanery is led by a rural or area dean appointed by the bishop following consultation with the clergy of the deanery. The rural or area dean is appointed as an officer of the bishop.
Every three years each church within the deanery appoints lay representatives to sit on the deanery synod, which is part of the church of england’s synodical structure of government – parochial church council, deanery synod, diocesan synod and general synod. Each clerk in holy orders beneficed in or licensed to any parish in the deanery is also part of the deanery synod
The Synodical Government Measure 1969 sets out the following functions for the deanery synod
(3) The functions of a deanery synod shall be—
(a) to consider matters concerning the Church of England and to make provision for such matters in relation to their deanery, and to consider and express their opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest;
(b) to bring together the views of the parishes of the deanery on common problems, to discuss and formulate common policies on those problems, to foster a sense of community and interdependence among those parishes, and generally to promote in the deanery the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical;
(c) to make known and so far as appropriate put into effect any provision made by the diocesan synod;
(d) to consider the business of the diocesan synod, and particularly any matters referred to that synod by the General Synod, and to sound parochial opinion whenever they are required or consider it appropriate to do so;
(e) to raise such matters as the deanery synod consider appropriate with the diocesan synod:
Part III of the Church Representation Rules, sets out the constitution for all deaneries, which includes the following in relation to procedure:
(1) A diocesan synod must make rules for the deanery synods in the diocese.
(2) The rules must include provision -
(a) for the rural dean and a member of the house of laity of the deanery synod elected by that house shall be joint chairs
(b) for the joint chairs to decide between themselves who is to chair each meeting or particular items of business on the agenda;
(c) for there to be a secretary;
(d) for a specified minimum number of meetings to be held in each year
(e) for decisions to be taken by a majority of members present and voting, except where the rules require there to be a vote by houses;
(f) for there to be a standing committee, the membership and functions of which are provided for by the rules;
(g) for a report of the deanery synod’s proceedings to be given to every PCC in the deanery
(3) The rules may include provision for such other matters consistent with the provision required by paragraph (2) as the diocesan synod decides.
(4) The provision which may be made under paragraph (3) includes provision to impose a maximum period for which a person may serve as an officer, or as a member of the standing committee, of a deanery synod in the diocese.
(5) he provision which may be so made also includes provision to enable the lay chair of each deanery synod in the diocese to continue to hold office as such until the election of his or her successor as chair.
(6) Subject to the rules, a deanery synod may determine its own procedure.
(7) ‘Lay chair’, in relation to a deanery synod, means the member of the house of laity of the deanery synod who, by virtue of paragraph (2)(a), is one of the two joint chairs of the synod.
The Church Representation Rules also give important roles to those representatives elected to deanery synod in so much as they are the electorate for deciding on who is elected to diocesan and general synods. Deanery synod representatives are also the only people who can propose and second individuals to stand for these elections.
In 2014 the Lichfield Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee has also included a role for the Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committees within its reviewed and re-approved written constitution:
4.8 Duties and purpose of the Area Mission and Pastoral Committees
(b) to receive and consider the plans for pastoral provision and pastoral re-organisation presented by any deanery mission and pastoral committees, including arrangements for post savings as appropriate or required by policy;
(i) to receive as part of the plans of each deanery mission and pastoral committee their considerations of the use of buildings (especially churches) within the deanery as resources for mission. To receive advice from the deanery mission and pastoral committees on the development of new buildings and the need for closure.
How the formal activities of deanery synods are to be managed will be considered later in this document and, once adopted, the complete document shall comprise the rules made by diocesan synod for deanery synods. This should provide greater clarity and consistency to the work of Deaneries across the whole of the diocese.
Before considering the formal role of deanery synod it is important to consider the wider opportunities that exist within the deanery unit, since much more can be done outside the formal role both in the synod and in the deanery as a whole.
For a long time the clergy chapter has provided a supportive network for clergy across the Deanery and in some deaneries the opportunity has been recognised for supporting other groups of workers in a similar way – church wardens, treasurer’s, secretaries, readers, stewardship officers, those working with websites, Facebook groups or other means of communication, those who work with children and young people either in the church or in local schools. The list could continue - working with larger groups and those who face similar issues can be a considerable blessing and a great encouragement to others as experience and expertise in similar tasks is shared. Churches may each have their own distinctive churchmanship, but they also have a great deal in common!
Similarly, the deanery can be a good way to share resources. Speakers or training events which may not be viable in a small church could be shared across the Deanery, with the interchange of ideas as an added bonus. It may also be possible for the deanery to engage together in mission in some form or another. The diocese already has at least one curate deployed across a deanery and some deaneries are looking at the possibility of licensing local lay minister to a deanery rather than a Parish.
Synod meetings can also be utilised to benefit the deanery as a whole with the potential to share “good practice” or ideas across churches, to share fellowship or worship or in prayer together and to hold open synod meetings where all those who have an interest in a particular subject can come and contribute and be challenged to take something back to their churches.
Diocesan synod has recently adopted a new way of working in all synodical meetings, relying on a set of principles to govern the conduct of meetings and much more streamlined standing orders.
The first six principles are relevant to the work of the deanery synod and should be adopted for all meetings:
- All meetings must be conducted in a transparent, robust and fair manner in a spirit of Christian grace.
- We are the body of Christ and will seek to work in a collaborative and inclusive way at all times.
- We are committed to upholding synodical government as instituted by the national Church of England. The constitution of the synod determines membership, voting rights, election procedures, notice of meeting, committee procedures and General Synod business.
- The chair is responsible for the conduct of a meeting, but is accountable and must be flexible.
- The chair must strive to ensure a balanced debate and manage the business of the meeting and speakers to time.
- Any subject being debated and its desired outcome must be clearly stated.
When considering the formal business of the deanery synod parts 2 to 4 of the standing orders and principals adopted by the diocese (guidelines governing debates, rules for formal debate and constitutional matters) will apply where not covered in this section.
Each parish in the deanery will elect lay representatives to the deanery synod every three years, the number to be elected being advised by the diocesan secretary. The election is made by those present at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) and each person elected will also be an ex-officio member of the PCC for the length of their appointment.
If an individual has to resign their position then the PCC can appoint a replacement until the next APCM at which point the APCM will appoint a replacement for the remainder of the three year term.
Any lay member of general synod or a diocesan synod whose name is on the roll of a parish in the deanery is an ex-officio member of the deanery synod. This also applies to lay workers licenced to work in the deanery (see CRR 16(1).
Each clerk in holy orders beneficed in or licensed to any parish in the deanery is also part of the deanery synod.
One for every ten clerks holding permission to officiate and resident in the deanery is eligible to be elected to the deanery synod by their fellow such clerks (see CRR 15).
The incumbent of the church or the PCC secretary should ensure that details of those appointed to the deanery synod are passed to the diocesan secretary through parish audits or via other written correspondence. These details should then be passed to the deanery secretary and be kept updated by both secretaries corresponding with each other.
At the first meeting of each new synod the lay members will elect a lay chair for the three year term of the synod, the election to be conducted by the rural dean.
All synod members will then elect a secretary and treasurer for the three year term of the synod, either of who could be lay or clergy, again the election to be conducted by the rural dean.
Lay members will then elect up to three lay people to serve on the deanery standing committee for the three year term of the synod, again the election to be conducted by the rural dean.
The clergy will then elect up to three clergy to serve on the deanery standing committee for the three year term of the synod, the election to be conducted by the lay chair.
The standing committee will meet between synod meetings to plan the content of the synod meetings and to discuss matters affecting the deanery as a whole, including any pastoral and parish share issues and the potential for taking forward wider opportunities within the deanery.
The deanery standing committee will also be the deanery mission and pastoral committee, unless and until the diocesan mission and pastoral committee decide this should take on a different form. In this regard the deanery standing committee will be responsible for considering plans for pastoral provision and pastoral re-organisation within the deanery and for providing advice on the use of buildings (especially churches).
The standing committee will also manage the finances of the deanery synod and as part of their accountability will ensure that a document is prepared annually for synod and the individual churches explaining how any income has been spent.
Deanery synods should arrange to meet on at least two occasions during the year (no longer than seven months apart) to have the ability to consider formal business. Under exceptional circumstances 20 members of synod from at least a third of the Parishes can ask for an additional synod meeting to be held with 28 days of their request.
The deanery synod secretary should advise synod members of the date and venue of the synod meetings no later than 21 days before the date of the meeting. The agenda should be made available no later than 14 days before the date of the meeting and should include an opportunity to consider any business of General or diocesan synod which is of concern to the deanery, and consideration of any issues, concerns or motions brought to the deanery synod by any of the churches. The latter should be brought to the attention of the Rural dean, lay chair and deanery secretary at least four weeks before the date of the synod meeting.
The agenda should also include an opportunity to consider and, if appropriate, approve a written record (the minutes) of the formal business from the previous meeting.
When considering formal business, a quorum shall be one-third of the members of each house (lay and clergy) and if a quorum is not present formal business should not be considered.
The success of a deanery synod relies heavily on:
- How the diocese views the role of the deanery. Where a diocese values and encourages the input of the deanery the deanery synod feels valued and will rise to the expectations of the diocese.
- On the relationship between the rural/area dean and the deanery lay chair and the deanery standing committee and their relationship with the diocese – bishop and archdeacons.
As with all organisations good communication is at the heart of ensuring all involved can and do give of their full potential.
Here in the Lichfield diocese the deanery is seen as a valuable resource, to be involved with and consulted about all aspects of the life of the diocese. This is essential in supporting the diocese whose vision, mission and ministry are focussed around the three priority areas of discipleship, vocation and evangelism – following in the footsteps of the first bishop of Lichfield, St Chad. Our shared diocesan vision is below:
“As we follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad, we pray that the two million people in our diocese encounder a church that is confident in the gospel, knows and loves its communities, and is excited to find God already at work in the world. We pray for a church that reflects the richness and variety of those communities. We pray for a church that partners with others in seeking the common good, working for justice as a people of hope”
These standing orders and principles governing deanery synods set out the framework governing deanery synods.
Where possible it is desirable that deaneries synods operate within a relaxed and more informal environment as set out in the principles governing the conduct of all synodical meetings. However, deaneries are governed by and must operate within the rules set out within the Synodical Government Measure 1969 to be found in the section The Rules for Deanery Synods.
This review of the standing orders and principles for governing the conduct of deanery synods has been undertaken to:
- Bring about consistency in the way deanery synods work and to align this with the way that diocesan synod now operates
- Ensure deanery synods fulfil their legal requirements
- Improve the conduct and effectiveness of work within deaneries; and
- To enable the members to actively engage with the business of the deanery
The review was undertaken by:
Revd. Prebendary John Allan, Chair of the house of clergy in diocesan synod and former rural dean of Lichfield
Mr Chris Gill, Member of bishop’s council and lay chair of Newcastle Deanery
Mrs Julie Jones, Diocesan secretary and chief executive
Mr John Naylor, Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance
Mr Cyril Randles, Member of the agenda planning group for diocesan synod
Mrs Lilas Rawlings, Member of the agenda planning group for diocesan synod and lay chair of Lichfield Deanery
Mr John (Tug) Wilson, Chair of the house of laity in diocesan synod and former lay chair of Lichfield Deanery
Updated September 2023