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Orders from above

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date online: 16 April 2014

Parishioners have flocked to the defence of a popular vicar who has been told he must quit his post when he turns 70 in June.

A heartfelt appeal signed by more than 80 irked locals has been sent to church hierarchy in a bid to keep the Rev Howard Sutcliffe — an unpaid, part-time vicar — at St Chad’s, Uppermill.

Father-of-five Mr Sutcliffe, a former local Labour councillor, will have to quit the vicarage, where he lives with physiotherapist wife Truda, when he is 70 on June 14. The pair have lived there since he took over the parish in 2009.

The letter, addressed to the Rt Rev Mark Davies, Bishop of Middleton, says: “Many members of the congregations of the parish of St Chad are gravely concerned.

“Howard is part-time, with limited involvement in the running of the parish, no role in the Parochial Church Council and no stipend. If there was a successor waiting to fill Howard’s post, he would vacate the vicarage and stand aside. However there is no indication a successor will be available for some time. Howard has indicated his willingness to have permission to officiate, a wish that large numbers of his congregations wholeheartedly support.”

The letter points out that other members of the clergy who are working past the age of 70 include a bishop and another minister who still has permission to officiate at local places of worship.

The letter adds: “Next year will be the 800th anniversary of St Chad’s for which various high-profile celebrations are planned, and we still need a steady hand at the helm.”

Mr Sutcliffe also ministers to congregations at Lee Street Parish Centre in Uppermill and Kiln Green Church, Diggle. He was formerly vicar at St Paul’s in Ashton Road, Oldham.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester said: “It is national Church of England policy that all clergy retire from their duties at the age of 70. Clergy may apply to the diocesan bishop for permission to officiate beyond this date, but in the case of Rev Sutcliffe such permission has not been sought.”

The diocese has schemes to assist retiring clerics with housing and other advice, if required.


Surely it's best to retire with good "grace" after 5 years as a Vicar aged 65+ ?
The Church of England has a gold-plated non-contributry pension scheme, with retirement housing options for clergy
- unlike the Catholic Church, where the Pope is 77,
& the Bishop of Hallam in Sheffield is 78 !

So what is the story here? The reverend gentleman knew the conditions of service when he accepted the post - is it just that he and his wife prefer to live in Saddleworth? A letter signed by 80 people out of a population the size of his Saddleworth parish does not seem impressive, unless he has a very small congregation.

As the report says, "It is national Church of England policy that all clergy retire from their duties at the age of 70."

Therefore, Mr.Sutcliffe would know of this rule.

The report also says "Clergy may apply to the diocesan bishop for permission to officiate beyond this date." - so, if Mr.Sutcliffe has not sought permission to officiate beyond that date, just who is to blame ?

Answer - Mr.Sutcliffe !

Rev Sutcliffe works unpaid and there is no one to replace,him ,so why is there a problem with him staying on till a new incumbent is found. The Church of England " moves in a mysterious way"?

sorry to say this but if the Diocise new he was approaching 70 5 years ago and that he would have to leave why give him the job and house wouldnt it stand to reason get someone younger or were they hoping it would be another church and vicarage that was going to close so that they could sell the buildings on


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