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Diocesan Policies and Guidelines

G. Legal Matters

The teaching and discipline of the Church of England is set out in Canons G1 – G6

G1  The Consistory Court of the Diocese

(a)  § 23 of the Diocesan Constitution sets out the function of the Consistory Court of the Diocese, whose judge is the chancellor of the Diocese.

(b)  All matters concerning the court should be addressed to the diocesan registrar.

G2  Visitations

(a)  In addition to ordinary pastoral visits, each diocesan bishop and archdeacon has the right and duty of visiting in what Canon G (5) describes as 'a more solemn manner' the chaplaincies and congregations in his care.  Such a Visitation may be general or particular.

(b)  A General Visitation is held as part of an on-going process of getting to know those in the Bishop's or archdeacon's care, and of supporting them in their Christian life.

(c)  A Particular Visitation is held when, in the judgement of the Bishop or archdeacon, the circumstances of an individual chaplaincy or congregation require it.

(d)  In either case the object of the Visitation is 'the edifying and well-governing of Christ's flock, that means may be taken thereby for the supply of such things as are lacking and the correction of such things as are amiss.' (Canon G (5))

(e)  When the diocesan Bishop holds a Visitation he is normally accompanied by the archdeacon (or another priest acting for him), and may delegate parts of the Visitation to him.

(f)  The diocesan Bishop may commission the suffragan bishop or a vicar general to hold a Visitation on his behalf.

(g)  During the formal part of a Visitation:

  • the Bishop or archdeacon has full canonical authority in the chaplaincy, and (except so far as is required by local law) all other authority is suspended, including that of the parish priest, the churchwardens and the church council: the exception is to ensure continuity of legal ownership, financial status and similar matters;
  • no annual or special church meeting may be held.  If necessary an extraordinary church meeting may be held under Rule 23 of the CRR;
  • if a meeting of the church council is to be held (other than the extraordinary meeting held with the Bishop or archdeacon in the chair) the proposed Agenda must be submitted to the Bishop (or archdeacon) for his approval;
  • the church council may not take decisions on matters of policy (i.e. anything other than routine business) without the Bishop's (or archdeacon's) consent.

(h)  Preparations for a Visitation

  • The diocesan Bishop / archdeacon informs the chaplain, the churchwardens, and the secretary of the church council of his intention to hold a Visitation, and, in general terms, of his reasons for doing so.
  • The dates of the Visitation are decided in consultation with the chaplaincy.

(i)  Articles of Visitation

Articles (requirements for the visitation) are prepared and sent to the chaplain and churchwardens. They are answered with the assistance of the officers of the church council and other members of the parish, and returned to the Bishop / archdeacon, with such supporting papers as are requested (e.g., minutes or accounts).

(j)  Programme of the Visitation

The detailed programme of the Visitation will be agreed by the Bishop / archdeacon with the chaplain and churchwardens, but it will always include the following. Plans, especially for parts marked *, should be announced in good time.

  • A preliminary meeting with the chaplain and churchwardens;
  • *Private meetings with the chaplain, any other ordained or lay ministers holding the Bishop's Licence, the churchwardens (separately or together), and (when appropriate) any persons employed by the chaplaincy;
  • Sufficient opportunity for any person whose name is on the electoral roll of the parish (and any group of such persons) to see the Bishop or archdeacon.
  • Meetings with appropriate representatives of other Churches and of the local community.
  • An extraordinary meeting of the church council at which the Bishop / archdeacon takes the chair and to which he makes a preliminary report of his findings.
  • *A celebration of the Eucharist for the parish / chaplaincy at which the Bishop / archdeacon presides and preaches.

(j)  After the Visitation

  • The Bishop / archdeacon prepares a Report, including recommendations and / or instructions for the future of the chaplaincy, and sends it to the chaplain and churchwardens, who may make a preliminary response.
  • The Report is considered by the church council, who may make a preliminary response.
  • At a later date the Bishop / archdeacon returns to the parish / chaplaincy for a meeting of the church council at which he takes the chair, and at which the chaplaincy response to the Visitation is considered.
  • At this point the Bishop / archdeacon will either issue further recommendations/ instructions or declare the Visitation completed.
  • The formal conclusion of the Visitation is a celebration of the Eucharist for the chaplaincy at which the Bishop / archdeacon presides and preaches.  The arrangements for this Eucharist should be announced in good time.
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