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Twentieth-Century Revision of Canon Law in the Church of England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2008

Canon Peter Boulton
Affiliation:
Former Prolocutor to General Synod, Province of York; Chaplain to H. M. The Queen

Extract

This study describes and evaluates the Church of England's revision of its canon law in the twentieth century, concentrating on the period from 1939 to 1969. By way of introduction it should be said that this assessment is but part of a larger study which proceeds on two planes of comparison. In the larger study, revision by the Church of England is laid horizontally alongside another Anglican revision carried out as a result of disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920, and also the two revisions of Roman Catholic canon law leading to the promulgation of the Codex luris Canonici in 1917 and 1983. Vertically, the history of the revision of English canon law over the previous four hundred years gives some idea of what needed revision, and the difficulties in carrying it out under the constraints of being an established church. In this article, however, only the process of revision by the Church of England in the twentieth century is discussed.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Ecclesiastical Law Society 2000

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References

2 Wood, E. G., The Regal Power at the Church: or. the Fundamentals of Canon Law (Cambridge. 1888: Westminster, 1948). p vi.Google Scholar

3 Paul, H.. A History of Modern England (London, 1904)(5 vols), II, 394.Google Scholar

4 The new Archbishops' Commission acknowledged its debt to its predecessors: The Canon Law of the Church of England, being a Report of the Archbishops' Commission on Canon Law (London, 1947). p. 87Google Scholar (hereafter referred to as the Canon Law Report).

5 The Report declared: ‘the law of public worship in the Church of England is too narrow’, and ‘the system of ecclesiastical courts has broken down’.

6 The Archbishops' Commission on Church and State, chaired by Lord Selborne. reported in 1916.

7 Bell, G. K. A., Randall Davidson (London, 1935)(2 vols)Google Scholar: ‘I am sure there is a great deal to be said before we can decide that such a committee should go seriously to work’.

8 Rejection in 1929 drew from both Provincial Houses of Bishops (supported by the Lower Houses) a Statement of Principles to be followed during the present emergency and until further order be take: see Riley, H. and Graham, R. J. (eds.). Acts of the Convocations of Canterbury and York 1921 1970 (London, 1971). pp 6568.Google Scholar

9 Bullard, J. V. and Bell, H.C. (eds). Lyndwood's Provinciate (London, 1929). p xiv.Google Scholar

10 Quoted in Bullard, Canon J. V., Standing Orders of the Church of England (London, 1934)(written in 1929). pp v, vi.Google Scholar

11 Convocation of York, Report of the Joint Committee on the Oath of Canonical Obedience (1934), no 414.Google Scholar

12 York Journal of Convocation, 7 06 1934, pp 2629 at p. 29Google Scholar; Report of the Joint Committee on the Oath of Canonical Obedience (1934), no. 414Google Scholar, Appendix, pp xxiv–xxvii (see Riley and Graham, p 14).

13 Archbishops' Commission on Church and State (1935)(Lord Robert Cecil), p 93.

14 Riley and Graham, p 14.

15 Bishop G. Chase of Ripon; Deans E. Mimer-White and E. G. Selwyn; Archdeacon C. J. Grimes; Canon E. W I. Hellins; Canon-Professors C. Jenkins and R. C. Mortimer; Prebendary A. J. MacDonald; and the Revd P. Ward.

16 The Hon Sir Harry Vaisey; Chancellor F. H. L. Errington and Mr E. F. Jacob. Later, Professor A. Hamilton-Thompson and Chancellor W. S. Wigglesworth were added.

17 Smyth, C., Cyril Forster Garbett. Archbishop of York (London. 1959). p 370.Google Scholar

18 Canon Law Report. Introduction, p viii.

19 Matt 18 18; Matt 16:19 and 19: 28; Luke 22 28–30 and 10:16; 1 Cor 11; Acts 15.

20 Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594). III. 1 and 8.

21 Canon Law Report, p 85.

22 Canon Law Report, p 98.

23 Crockford's Clerical Directory 1953—54 (Oxford, 1954), pp xii. xiii.Google Scholar

24 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 19 January 1960, pp 9, 10.Google Scholar

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26 Welsby, P. A., A Histony of the Church of England 1945–1980 (Oxford, 1984), pp 4144.Google Scholar Welsby became a proctor in the Canterbury Convocation four years after Fisher's retirement, by which time most of the canons had received the royal assent. The remainder, promulgated in 1969, being more controversial, took up a large amount of his first five years, perhaps leaving him with a one-sided view of the whole project. In Hastings, A., A History of English Christianity 1920 1985 (London, 1987), pp 150Google Scholar, 151. 439, only two sentences are devoted to the revision process, whereas the Roman Catholic Code of 1917 merits a full page of his racy account of the period.

27 Welsby, p 42.

28 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 20 May 1947. p 35.Google Scholar

29 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterburv, 20 May 1947. p 34Google Scholar; Welsby. p 42.

30 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 21 May 1957, p 8.Google Scholar

31 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 19 January 1960, p 9.Google Scholar

32 Chronicle of the Convocation of Can terhury, 10 January 1960, p 9Google Scholar. He reminded us that Psalm 23 in the Book of Common Prayer is headed ‘Dominus regit me’.

33 Pureell, W., Fisher of Lambeth; A Portrait from Life (London, 1969), p 206.Google Scholar

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57 See Gray, D.. ‘The Revision of Canon Law and its Application to Liturgical Revision in the Recent History of the Church of England’ in The Jurist 48 (1988) 638652Google Scholar, where the full story is told by my friend Donald Gray, Canon of Westminster and one-time member of the Liturgical Commission.

38 Canon Law Report, pp 215–223.

39 Ramsey, A. M.. The Gospel ami the Catholic Church (2nd edn)(London. 1956). chs 7 and 8.Google Scholar and The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ (London, 1949). chs 9 and 13.Google Scholar

40 Ramsey, M.. Canterbury Pilgrim, pp 9Google Scholar, 10: ‘The Canterbury pilgrim rejoices to have seen the Church of England use its powers for liturgical reform in recent years in such a way as to help people with greater understanding to do the liturgy and to be the Church.’

41 Riley and Graham, p 14.

42 Submission of the Clergy Act 1533, s 3.

43 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury. October 1947. p 182.Google Scholar

44 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 11 May 1954, p 3.Google Scholar

45 Canon Law Report, p 88.

46 Kemp, E. W., An Introdoction to Canon Law in the Church of England (London, 1957), pp 81. 82.Google Scholar

47 Those on marriage, for example, were affected by the Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1957.

48 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 1 October 1958, p 250.Google Scholar

49 Chronicle of the Convocation of Canterbury, 28 April 1959, pp 157161Google Scholar. and 29 April 1959, p 231.

50 Riley and Graham, p III.

51 York Journal of Convocation, 10 October 1956, pp 243245.Google Scholar

52 Synod, General, Report of Proceedings, 5 November 1970. pp 74, 75.Google Scholar

53 GS 254.

54 GS 254, paras. 11. 12. Cf Synod, General, Report of Proceedings, 30 June 1975, p 321.Google Scholar

55 R v Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament, ex parte The Church Society (1993) The Times, 4 11, CAGoogle Scholar; R v Archbishops of Canterbury and York, ex parte Williamson (1994) The Times, 9 March.Google Scholar CA. Earlier the Court of Appeal had rejected appeals over the ratification of Canon C 4, stating 'there is no jurisdiction in the Court to enquire into the legislative processes of the General Synod any more than the legislative processes of Parliament: Brown v Runcie (1991) The Times, 20 FebruaryGoogle Scholar, CA. affirming (1990) The Times, 26 June.

56 Middleton v Crofts (1736) 2Google Scholar Atk 650; Bishop of Exeter vMarshall (1868) LR 3 HL 17.Google Scholar

57 Canon Law Report, App II, pp 69, 70.

58 Dispensation in Practice and Theory (London, 1944).Google Scholar

59 This is at present carried out by the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod but with no authority or personnel to prepare revisions or additions to the canon law, or to consider wider interfaces between such matters as law and ecclesiology.

60 Riley and Graham, pp 132. 133.

61 See the Canon Law Report, p 86 and note 1.

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