Ecclesiastical Law

Mark Hill QC

 £150, Oxford University Press


Surprisingly we lawyers do not get a good write-up in the Bible. Most references start with the word ‘woe’. There are only two professional lawyers mentioned by name in the Bible: a prosecutor named Tertullus and a man called Zenas who needed some help; so probably a defence lawyer.

Why does the profession need a book about church law, especially when most of the population does not attend church? 

In this country, there has always been a close link between church and state and the legal profession and the church. Conveyancing only took off when Henry VIII closed the monasteries, which led to lots of land coming on to the market, requiring the skills of lawyers to deal with it.



The issues the church deals with are relevant to society as a whole, such as life, sex and death. Most people still choose the church to host major life events, such as marriage and funerals. The Church of England has a unique position in this country; it has its own parliament, courts and laws.

This book includes sections on its constitution and how it regulates its professional and lay staff. It protects or fails to protect the vulnerable and the protection of its heritage. Like many organisations, it is increasingly reliant on volunteers. Anyone involved in any voluntary or community activity understands that the burdens of accountability have increased, making it less attractive to people to offer their time. Although active membership is reducing in some areas, the church retains its role in the nation and community life. Increasingly, it is the main provider of community services.

This book is a very comprehensive account of the law of the church of England. Now in its fourth edition it covers many developments in law over the last 10 years. There have been significant changes in the employment rights of paid clergy, and bishop’s powers to suspend and disqualify others.

Written by a very experienced ecclesiastical lawyer, it is essential reading for anyone advising on ecclesiastical matters and has historical interest as well as being a mine of information on the subject. 

David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury

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