Permission to Officiate (PTO)
In this diocese, Readers change their authorisation when they reach the age of 70. The Licence is cancelled and usually the Bishop then gives the Reader his written permission to officiate (PTO); provided of course that the parish priest recommends it and the Reader is willing to continue in active ministry.
As with all Licences, the Bishop reserves the right to withdraw permission at any time should circumstances make that appropriate.
Permission to Officiate is a diocesan-wide authorisation and not specific to any parish or benefice. Readers with PTO are not shown in the Online Directory as belonging to a particular parish. This is exactly the same as for clergy with PTO. Readers who transfer to PTO status are no longer required to have a working agreement and are therefore free to do as much or as little as they wish. For many Readers who reach the age of 70, the level of involvement in their Parish hardly changes at all, but it should be an appropriate opportunity for that Parish to acknowledge the Reader’s past service wherever that has been and also to recognise that, in future, his/her ministry may not be based in the same parish, and may gradually reduce.
Permission to officiate is subject to triennial review by the Bishop, on the recommendation of the Area/Rural Dean, and this is an obvious time for a Reader with PTO to review his/her work load. Obviously circumstances can change suddenly or gradually in between reviews, and Readers with PTO are asked to notify their Area/Rural Dean of any changes in their circumstances.
If a Reader serves on a PCC as a non-elected member, once they reach the age of 70 and are granted PTO, that ex officio membership ceases. A Reader with PTO may then serve as a member of a PCC only if elected at an APCM as a lay member in the normal way.
CRB clearance remains an absolute requirement for all Readers in ministry - whether licensed or with PTO.
Different Dioceses have different approaches to this and there isn’t a clear policy. In the past it has been suggested that to be granted Emeritus status depends on 20+ years of active Reader ministry, but then of course we are asked “What about the Reader who has only been in ministry for 15 years, but has given huge amounts of time and commitment to the church?”
Emeritus status is definitely a mark of retirement, and an Emeritus Reader in the parish should not be called on to preach or lead services, although at important parish events (eg the induction of a new incumbent) he/she might appreciate the opportunity to process with the other ministers.
Readers with Emeritus status continue to receive the main mailings, and are welcome to attend the Spring and Autumn Reader conferences. They have the option of continuing to receive the Reader magazine.
Not all Readers who retire want to continue the link as Reader Emeritus – some prefer to retire and completely stop. Either way, retirement should be marked in the parish or deanery as appropriate, and the Reader thanked for his/her ministry over the preceding years.
The normal process for Readers receiving Emeritus status is begun from the Parish or Deanery – usually with the priest or Area/Rural Dean contacting the Warden of Readers. An incumbent might be hesitant to do this if he/she is new in the parish and has only seen the last years of a Reader’s ministry, but there will be established parishioners who will remember further back, and the Reader’s file in the Diocesan Office has the details of when and where the Reader was admitted and licensed and which parishes he/she has ministered in. The Warden would normally discuss the request with the Deputy Warden for the Archdeaconry before asking the Bishop to grant Emeritus status.