An Established Church

Most countries of the world still have an established religion or established church, sometimes more than one. That church or religion has a particular and favoured relationship with the state. All churches in the United Kingdom are under the authority of the laws of the land, but there are special ecclesiastical and cannon laws governing the Church of England which are ultimately approved by parliament. In addition the monarch contineus to be the supreme governor and through the Prime Minister and Parliament has authority in certain other areas.

There are also in England certain “ecclesiastical corportations”, such as a benefice, bishopric and  cathedral chapter. The benefice of St James Chorley is one such and the benefice holder, the Vicar, is a “corporation sole”. Governed by ecclesiastical law the bnefice holder owns the benefice propery, the church, churchyard and vicarage. It is a bit like being a sole trustee of a charity but with very little power. In the past the benefice holder had far more power than today. If the Church of England were to be disestablished one of the main decisions would be what to do with these corporations.  In the case of the Church of Ireland most property was transferred to a central body. However, the property could be transferred to thousands of local trusts, or to certain reglional trusts, or to one large national church trust. That decision will reflect in large part where people think the focus of the church is - national, diocesan or local.

The establishment of the Church of England is also reflected at the local level in things like the right of people to be married in parish churches (subject to certain rules) and the role played by clergy in local affairs.  This is sometimes called “low establishment”.


© St James Chorley 2011-2016 -  Registered charity no. 1130725