Church of England legislation

Church of England legislation falls into a number of categories:

  • Measures (a form of 'primary' legislation) are passed by the General Synod. If approved by both Houses of Parliament they then receive the Royal Assent and - by virtue of the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 (see below) - have the same force and effect as Acts of Parliament;
  • the Canons Ecclesiastical are a form of primary legislation whose application is specific to the Church of England and which may be made and promulged by the General Synod only with the Royal Assent and Licence;
  • 'secondary' or 'subordinate' legislation is made by the General Synod under powers contained in a Measure before being laid before both Houses of Parliament as a statutory instrument (usually under the 'negative resolution' procedure) and can take the form of Rules, Regulations or an Order;
  • another category of subordinate legislation is made by the General Synod under other powers, such as powers contained in a Canon, and does not need to be laid before Parliament;
  • it remains possible for primary legislation concerning the Church of England to be made by Act of Parliament, however in practice this has happened only very rarely since the enactment of the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 (see below), and there is a constitutional convention that Parliament does not legislate for the internal affairs of the Church of England without its consent.

From the sixteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century, Church legislation (other than legislation by Canon) was by Act of Parliament. The Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 gave the Church Assembly the power to legislate by Measure, with Parliament retaining the power to consider such Measures (but not to amend them) and to resolve whether or not they should be presented to the Sovereign for the Royal Assent. Under the Synodical Government Measure 1969, the powers formerly vested in the Church Assembly were transferred to the General Synod (with Parliament's powers unchanged). Additionally, under the 1969 Measure, the power to legislate by Canon, which had up to that point been vested in the Convocations of Canterbury and York, was transferred to the General Synod.

An outline of the legislative process in the General Synod is provided here. Up to date details of all Church of England legislation currently being considered by the Synod or by Parliament are available here.