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 Issues | The Church of England | Legal

The Church of England is governed by legislation in two ways.

First, there are general laws which affect all churches and other organizations.   This would include such things as tax law, building regulations and so on.

Second, there is specific legislation which relates to the Church of England.  Because the Church is the established Church this legislation is passed by Parliament.  However, in recent years a particular mechanism has existed by which legislation is approved.

  • Legislation is drafted and agreed by the General Synod.  The piece of legislation is called a Measure.  Strictly speaking the Synod is only proposing legislation, it does not itself make it.  Ordinarily it takes 2-3 for legislation to pass through the synodical process, but it can take much longer.
  • The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament (made up of members of both the Commons and the Lords) examines the Measure and produces a report indicating whether it thinks the Measure should be made.
  • A draft of the report is sent to the Legislative Committee of the General Synod.  If the Synod agrees then the Measure can be laid before Parliament.
  • If the Ecclesiastical Committee objects to some point it is normally sent back to the General Synod.  However, the Synod could in theory opt to bypass the Committee.
  • Motions must be passed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before being presented for the Royal Assent. Parliament is not bound to accept Measures.
  • It is also possible, in  principle, for Parliament to legislate directly.

Significant legislation defining the Church of England and its legislative authority.

Act of Supremacy 1534 (November).  (Reinstated by Act of Supremacy 1559)  - making the Church and Nation of England free of the power of the Bishop of Rome.

Act of Uniformity 1559 - establishing a slightly modified version of the 1552 Prayer Book which later became the 1662 Book of Common Pryaer.

Coronation Oath Act 1688 - requiring the monarch to uphold the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law.

Act of Settlement 1701 - this act effectively ensured that the monarch should adopt the Reformed Protestant faith, or not be eligible to rule.  This was significant in the development of democracy in that he people of England were thus freed from the whims of the monarchy.

The Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 - known as the "Enabling Act".

The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974

Other important legislation

Marriage Act 1949

Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963

Faculty Jurisdiction Measure 1964

Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1965

Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967

Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977

Pastoral Measure 1983

Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986

Deacons (Ordination of Women) Measure 1986

The text of all measures from 1988 onwards can be found online.

Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993

Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1994 (This is not a Measure of Parliament, it is simply an Act passed by the General Synod.)

National Institutions Measure 1998

Churchwardens Measure 2001

Clergy Discipline Measure 2003

Further information on this website.

Past Legislation now superseded or no longer in force

Statutes of Provisors (1351, 1353, 1365 & 1389)

Statutes of Praemunire (1353, 1365 & 1393)

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Related Links
C of E Legal Framework
BulletStatutes of Provisors
BulletStatutes of Praemunire
BulletAct of Supremacy 1534
BulletAct of Uniformity 1559
BulletCoronation Oath Act 1688
BulletAct of Settlement 1701
BulletEnabling Act 1919
BulletOverseas and Other Clergy 1967
BulletWorship+Doctrine Measure 1974
BulletPastoral Measure 1983 (excerpts)
BulletOrdination of Women 1993
BulletEpiscopal MInistry Act 1993


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