Legal Opinions and other guidance
On this page you will find copies of the Legal Opinions concerning the Church of England covering a range of matters, as well as other formal guidance relating to legislation.
The Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod of the Church of England exists to give advice on non-contentious legal matters of general interest to the Church which are referred to it by the Synod or one of its Houses, by any of the National Church Institutions, by the Church's legal officers (diocesan registrars and chancellors) and by other officers such as archdeacons and diocesan secretaries. From time to time the Commission's advice has been published in consolidated form as the Legal Opinions concerning the Church of England, which have established themselves as authoritative in the various areas of ecclesiastical law they cover.
A comprehensively revised and updated eighth edition of the Legal Opinions was published by Church House Publishing in 2007 and is available for purchase on their website.
Subjects of new or significantly revised Opinions include:
- The clergy and confidentiality
- Appointment of non-stipendiary ministers as incumbents
- Consecration of sites for 'green' burials
- Ownership of tombstones and monuments in churchyards
- Disturbances during services in cathedrals
- Legal responsibilities of PCC members
New and revised Opinions issued by the Legal Advisory Commission since the preparation of the 2007 edition are available for download from the links below as follows:
- Maintenance of monuments in closed churchyards (January 2007)
- Revocation of presentation by patron and refusal of presentee by bishop (January 2007)
- Parish churches and fire safety (October 2007)
- Marriage - flowers and timing (October 2007)
- Enforcement of chancel repair liability by PCCs (October 2007)
- Ringing of church bells and liability for nuisance (revised October 2008)
- Seeking the consent of the DBF to the sale of PCC property (March 2009)
- Ordinands: requirement of confirmation (March 2009)
- Wedding receptions held on church premises (March 2011)
- Holy Communion: administration of the Sacrament (September 2011)
- Liability of members of diocesan advisory committee and of members of church buildings council (April 2012)
- Collections at funerals and memorial services (June 2012)
- PCC: legal position of members (January 2013)
- Churchyards: liability for personal injury accidents (January 2013)
- Parishes with no Churchwardens or Parochial Church Councils (February 2013)
- Baptism and same sex parents (May 2014)
- The use of non-alcoholic wine and gluten-free bread (May 2014)
- The celebration of marriages by Anglican clergy in Nonconformist chapels (October 2014)
- Diocesan boards of finance: conflicts of interest (June 2016)
- Public rights of way over land forming part of a churchyard (October 2016)
- Parochial Church Councils (October 2016)
- Using churches for secular purposes (October 2016)
- Baptism and the consent of parents (February 2017)
- Burial and cremation: funerals in undertakers' private chapels (February 2017)
- Celebrity marriages in Anglican cathedrals and churches (February 2017)
- Parish music: organists and choirmasters and church musicians (February 2017)
- Delegation of episcopal functions (February 2018)
- Friends' charities: conflicts of interest (February 2018)
The exercise of the Crown's sede vacante patronage
Section 2 of the Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure 2010 and the whole of the Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure 2010 came into force on 1st January 2011. The former made changes to the way in which the Crown's sede vacante patronage (i.e. the patronage which normally belongs to the bishop but which passes to the Crown during a vacancy in see) is exercised. The latter provides for PCCs of Crown benefices to appoint parish representatives whose approval must be sought before the Crown may present a priest for institution. Guidance on the operation of those provisions can be found here.
Chancel repair liability
Neither the Legal Office nor the Church Commissioners is a central authority for the purposes of establishing chancel repair liability. Answers to some frequently asked questions are available here, and further information in the form of a National Archives Information leaflet is available here. See also the Legal Advisory Commission's Opinion on enforcement of chancel repair liability by PCCs above.
Overseas Permissions to Officiate
Clergy of Churches in communion with the Church of England, or of Churches whose Orders the Church of England accepts and recognises, require permission from the relevant Archbishop before they are able to officiate in the Church of England. Applications under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 for permission to officiate in the Province of Canterbury should be sent to The Legal Office, Church House, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3AZ; and those for the Province of York should be sent to the York Provincial Registry. The application form gives details of what documents are required to support the application.