Ecclesiastical Law

The law of the Church of England is contained in various Acts of Parliament, Church of England legislation, codes and guidance and the Canons of the Church of England. The Church of England is also impacted upon by the general laws concerning data protection, freedom of religion, employment law, charity law and so on. Variously described as canon law, church law or ecclesiastical law, the internal law of the Church of England overlaps with and interacts with more general law that all organisations need to get a handle on. Good and flexible connections are therefore maintained between our ecclesiastical lawyers and our other colleagues in charity, education, dispute resolution, employment, real estate and private client sectors.

Our ecclesiastical lawyers act as the legal officers to four diocesan registries, providing advice to bishops, clergy, parish officers and diocesan organisations. We are also home to the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Furthermore, we do some degree advise and act for the majority of Church of England dioceses in England as well as in Wales, advising on education and property matters as well as trusts, constitutional and other more esoteric challenges faced by the Anglican Church throughout the country. We are the authors of the Ecclesiastical Law volume of the practitioners’ guide Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents.

Ecclesiastical law is at the heart of the firm's practice and it is for this work that the firm is particularly highly regarded. We regularly design and deliver training days for both clergy and churchwardens and other parish officers on a wide variety of topics with which clergy and others have to grapple in their parishes. Having practised ecclesiastical law from our offices next to Westminster Abbey since 1855, we continually seek to nourish and recruit the next generation of church law experts to pass on and develop that knowledge and expertise. Our ecclesiastical law solicitors have served variously as churchwardens, members of parochial church councils, charity trustees and have a good understanding of the practical issues that church organisations deal with. One of our ecclesiastical solicitors has a degree in canon law and all are active members of the Ecclesiastical Law Society.

Contact our ecclesiastical lawyers in Westminster, London

Call our lawyers in London now on 020 7222 5381 or use the contact form above and we will get back to you.


Matters our ecclesiastical law solicitors can assist with

We can help you with such matters as:

  • The law around making changes to churches, including obtaining faculties, contesting faculties, licences and leases, community use of churches and consecrated ground.
  • The property of the Church of England including church halls, glebe land, vicarages, rectories and much more.
  • When things go wrong - disputes in church communities and complaints against clergy (including the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003, pastoral breakdown, capability and wellbeing), and protecting parish property and vicarages and rectories from appropriation.

Our ecclesiastical lawyers can also advise on how the secular law of England and Wales interfaces with the Church's emanations and including:

  • Data protection
  • Trading subsidiaries
  • Safeguarding

Find out more about our specific areas of ecclesiastical law expertise

Burial Grounds, Churchyards & Cemeteries

We can assist private individuals, religious organisations, parochial clergy, parochial church councils, cemetery owners and managers and local authorities in the following areas:

  • Acquisition and disposal of burial grounds
  • Granting and extinguishing exclusive rights of burial
  • Churchyard regulations and faculties for memorials
  • Disinterment/exhumation of human remains
  • Infrastructure works requiring disturbance of burial grounds
  • Setting up new burial trusts
  • The post-death treatment of human remains, including disputes
  • Questions around organ donations upon death and use of human tissue for medical research
  • Responsibilities of local authorities and burial authorities in open and closed cemeteries (including under the Open Spaces Act 1906)
  • Consecration of burial grounds and consequences
  • Building or development of disused burial grounds
  • Setting up new burial grounds, including woodland burials
  • The legality of other methods of disposing of human remains.

For more information see Burial Grounds, Churchyards & Cemeteries

Cathedrals, Abbeys & Royal Peculiars

Cathedrals are due to be subject to the requirement to register with the Charity Commission should the proposed new Cathedrals Measure become law. We have followed the development of the proposed Measure closely and can assist with the governance and constitutional changes which the Measure would require. We are also able to assist Cathedrals by providing the role of Chapter Clerk or legal adviser including in the following areas:

  • Charitable foundations - setting up and managing.
  • Charitable giving, fundraising and Gift Aid.
  • Commercial arrangements.
  • Constitution and Statutes - revising and interpreting
  • Setting up trading subsidiaries
  • Employment and pensions.
  • Fabric work and maintenance.
  • Licensing (music, photographs, filming).
  • Marriage law.
  • Property and construction.
  • Regulatory and compliance.
  • Special services and events.
  • Visitations

For more information see Cathedrals, Abbeys & Royal Peculiars


Clergy provide the pastoral care of the Church of England and fulfil the ministerial functions set out in Canon Law. We can provide help and advice on:

  • Appointments and licensing.
  • Capability.
  • Clergy Discipline Measure.
  • Complaints.
  • Housing.
  • Ministry.
  • Pensions.
  • Remuneration.
  • Safeguarding.
  • Terms and conditions of service (including common tenure).
  • Wellbeing.

For more information see Clergy

Clergy Discipline

The modern system for making and considering serious complaints against the clergy is established under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and in the Clergy Discipline Rules 2005. In our experience clergy discipline cases involve a complex mixture of factual and legal issues concerned with mutual fallings-out within parishes, bullying and harassment (sometimes of the complainant, sometimes of the respondent and sometimes both), disputed evidence, wellbeing, mental health and safeguarding. We can help with:

  • Defending clergy who have had a complaint made against them.
  • Advising Bishops and Archdeacons on cases of potential clerical misconduct.
  • Helping those aggrieved to bring complaints against clergy.
  • Coming to settlement agreements to allow a member of the clergy to depart.
  • Mediations.
  • Parish visitations.
  • Pastoral breakdown.
  • Interactions with employment law, common tenure and human rights.

For more information see Clergy Discipline


We are able to assist bishops, archdeacons and diocesan boards in ensuring good governance and healthy working of the various duties vested in those persons. In particular, our staff act as the diocesan registrar (the legal officer of a diocese) of four dioceses, as well as doing ad hoc work for other dioceses. In particular we are able to advise on:

  • Bishop's Legal Secretary (ie licences and other legal drafting).
  • Bishops' Mission Orders.
  • Consistory Court Hearings.
  • Clergy discipline, capability and pastoral breakdown.
  • Diocesan Boards (Finance and Education).
  • The law around investments, including “total return”.
  • Land and property.
  • Mergers and restructuring.
  • Parish reorganisations.
  • Restricted funds and permanent endowment.
  • Schemes and Orders under the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011.
  • Structure and Governance.
  • Trading companies.

For more information see Diocesan

Ecclesiastical Trusts & Charities

Church property can be held in a variety of ways and it is important to get to the bottom of the nature of the landholding for the owner or manager of the property to use or dispose of the property in the correct way. Often there is confusion over the ecclesiastical terms of ownership or trusts pertaining to the property, and the property might not be registered.

We can help with:

  • Amendments and trust modifications.
  • Application of income.
  • Charity law application.
  • Church and parish halls and institutes (including Albemarle Schemes).
  • Constitutions, trust deeds and memoranda and articles.
  • Governance and Trustees.
  • Green burial sites.
  • Land and property.
  • Legacies and fundraising.
  • Parochial charities (including PCCs and other church councils).
  • Registration.
  • Restricted funds including permanent endowment.

For more information see Ecclesiastical Trusts & Charities


Changes in churches and churchyards of the Church of England may require a “faculty” or other permission under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure 2018 and under the detailed provisions contained in the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015.

We can help with:

  • Parishes applying for faculties, or help those with a stake in the church to oppose them when the work would be damaging.
  • Applications concerning memorials in churchyards and exhumations.
  • Draft licence agreements, deeds of grant and leases which accord with the statutory and canonical framework for the occupation and use of consecrated buildings, including for car parks, nurseries and community services which allow for a wider use of a church building. Off the shelf documents are unlikely to help when dealing with land or buildings falling within the faculty jurisdiction.

For more information see Faculties


You may want to include a testamentary gift to a church, charity or a religious organisation in your Will. Churches may also receive a legacy and want to understand better any terms and conditions which attach to the gift. We can help with:

  • The wording to go into Wills.
  • Providing advice on the tax efficiency of a Will including gifts to charities.
  • When a Will has been made, we can advise personal representatives on the administration of the estate and on challenges to provision made in Wills.
  • Gifts to charities and how to make variations to the strict wording of the gift when too inflexible for the charity's needs.
  • Legacy administration and with setting up schemes to encourage their followers to make provision for their affairs by Will.

For further information see Legacies

Parishes & Churches

The parish church is the bedrock of the Church of England. That Church’s claim to be the national Church rests in part on the fact that every person and place in England (and in Wales) is within a parish and within the pastoral care of ministers responsible for that parish.

We are able to help parishes with the following:

  • Chancel Repair Liability.
  • Charitable giving, fundraising and Gift Aid.
  • Church and parish halls and institutes (including Albemarle Schemes).
  • Church closure.
  • Church property, income and assets.
  • Church reordering.
  • Churchwardens.
  • Churchyards and their regulations.
  • Consecrations and the removal of the legal effects of consecration (sometimes referred to as "deconsecration").
  • Employment and pensions.
  • Faculty jurisdiction.
  • Law and rights of burial.
  • Licensing (music, photographs, filming).
  • Liturgy and ministry.
  • Local Ecumenical Partnerships.
  • Marriage, baptism and confirmation.
  • Parish reorganisations.
  • Patronage.
  • PCCs and other church councils.

For further information see Parishes & Churches

Vicarages, Rectories & Pastoral Reorganisation

The Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 sets out the framework under which parishes of the Church of England can be enlarged, reduced, dissolved or amalgamated. The appropriation or redeployment of vicarages and rectories and parish property and the dispossession and compensation of parochial clergy are also covered.

We are able to help with:

  • The drafting, process and implementation of pastoral reorganisation for dioceses or for parishes.
  • Representations on behalf of aggrieved parishes when pastoral reorganisation is ill-conceived or premature.
  • Prevent the appropriation of a vicarage or rectory or parish property.
  • Advice to dioceses where issues of pastoral reorganisation are connected with wider issues.

For further information see Vicarages, Rectories & Pastoral Reorganisation

Our ecclesiastical law solicitors’ fees

We can provide you with an estimate of our charges following an initial telephone call or email with the background to your matter. Depending on the nature of the work fees might be charged according to time spent or for a fixed fee, or if you will be needing our help over a range of matters we can offer a fixed-price legal advice service retainer. Please contact us for a no-obligation estimate.

Contact our ecclesiastical lawyers in Westminster, London

Call our lawyers in London now on 020 7222 5381 or use the contact form above and we will get back to you.

  • Ian Blaney
      • 0207 960 7131
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  • Howard Dellar
      • 0207 960 7181
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  • Susan Newell
      • 0207 960 7171
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  • Jane Grenfell
      • 0207 960 7160
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