Methodist Church leave to appeal in Haley Moore case
The Methodist Church has been granted leave to appeal over an unfair dismissal case brought against it by a minister in Cornwall.
In March an employment tribunal ruled that the Reverend Haley Moore, who resigned from her job in Redruth in 2009, was an employee.
It meant she could pursue her claim for constructive unfair dismissal against the church.
Traditionally church ministers are office holders rather than employees.
The outcome of the appeal to the Court of Appeal could have far reaching consequences for churches of different denominations.
The leave to appeal was granted by the court because "the key question of whether a minister of religion is not an employee is unclear and requires further consideration by the court".
The Reverend Kenneth Howcroft, assistant secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: "The Methodist Church is treating this matter with great seriousness as something that would affect all our ministers.
"The Court of Appeal held as long ago as 1984 that Methodist ministers are not employees. Our ministers have legal rights of redress under Church procedures.
"The Methodist Church cares for all who serve it, whether lay or ordained, paid or volunteer, and we want to ensure that we treat everyone fairly and properly."
The Unite union, which represents about 2,500 church ministers, has been campaigning for church ministers to be classed as employees so they would have greater employment rights.
Rachael Maskell, the union's national officer for community and non-profit sector, said: "We've got real concerns that the Methodist Church is wanting to spend an extortionate amount of churchgoers' money on trying to defend its position on employment status.
"This is rather than trying to improve employment conditions within the church.
"The courts are not the answer, the church is trying to hold on to history rather than trying to move forward."