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Diocesan Policies and Guidelines

E. The Lay Officers of the Church

The teaching and discipline of the Church of England is set out in Canons E 1 – 8

E1  Churchwardens (see Canon E1)

(a) Section 31 of the Diocesan Constitution sets out the rules governing churchwardens in this Diocese.  It has been modified by the Churchwardens' Measure 2001 which is effective from 1 January 2002.*  This section includes a summary of the principal points of 2001 Measure as it affects this Diocese. It is the responsibility of each Chaplaincy Council to ensure compliance with the provisions of that Measure.

*Note   In the last sentence of §31a of the Diocesan Constitution the words 'vicar general' should be taken to mean 'diocesan secretary'.

(b) Basic provisions for appointing churchwardens

  • Each designated chaplaincy has two churchwardens, unless a Scheme made under paragraph 32 (b) of the Diocesan Constitution, provides otherwise or there is a tradition of appointing more churchwardens dating back to before 1925.
  • The churchwardens shall be chosen from persons who are baptised and ―

whose names are on the electoral roll of the chaplaincy;

who are actual communicants as defined in rule 54(1) of the CRR;

who are twenty-one years of age or upwards; and

who are not disqualified for reason of dishonesty, offences against children or being a cause of pastoral breakdown, as detailed below

  • The Bishop or archdeacon may, in the case of a particular person who is not qualified under the first three points above, permit that person to hold the office of churchwarden, provided that the person is of full legal age in the country concerned. Any such permission shall be in writing and shall apply only to the period of office next following the date on which the permission is given.
  • No person may be chosen as churchwarden of more than one chaplaincy unless the chaplaincies are related, either by a formal Scheme approved by the Bishop or archdeacon, or by having the same chaplain.
  • The following are disqualified from being chosen as churchwarden:

a person who is disqualified from being a charity trustee under the Charities Act 1993 or any similar legislation in another country;

a person who has been convicted of any offence mentioned in Schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 or any similar legislation in another country;

a person who is disqualified under the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977.

  • A person who has served six successive years as churchwarden may not be chosen again until the annual meeting in the next year but one following the end of the last of those successive years.  An annual or special chaplaincy meeting may by resolution determine that this rule shall not apply to the chaplaincy concerned.  A subsequent general meeting may revoke any such resolution.
  • The churchwardens are chosen by the annual chaplaincy meeting, to be held not later than 30 April in each year, and not by a special 'meeting of parishioners'.
  • Candidates for election must be nominated and seconded in writing by persons entitled to take part in the meeting, and each nomination paper must contain a statement, signed by the person nominated, to the effect that that person is willing to serve and is not disqualified from being chosen as described above.
  • A nomination is not valid unless ―

it has been received by the chaplain (or other chairman of the annual meeting) before the commencement of the meeting;

where the Bishop's or archdeacon's permission is required, that this has been given in writing before the nomination is submitted.

  • If it appears to the chaplain that the election of any particular person nominated might give rise to serious difficulties between the chaplain and that person in the carrying out of their respective functions, the chaplain may, before the election is conducted, make a statement to the effect that only one churchwarden is to be elected by the meeting. In that event one churchwarden shall be appointed by the chaplain from among the persons nominated, the name of the person so appointed being announced before the election is conducted, and the other churchwarden shall then be elected by the meeting.

During a vacancy there is no provision for the appointment of a churchwarden by the chaplain.

  • The Measure does not explain how the election is to be conducted and the meeting has power to determine its own rules of procedure.  In most cases the election of churchwardens is carried out by a show of hands, but it can be by ballot.  The chaplain does not have a vote on the choice of churchwardens, but does have a vote on matters of procedure, such as a proposal to adjourn.  The chaplain does not have a second or casting vote on any matter.
  • A person chosen to fill a casual vacancy is chosen in the same way as was the churchwarden whose place is to be filled, except that when the churchwarden concerned was appointed by a chaplain who has since ceased to hold office, the vacancy is filled by a special chaplaincy meeting.
  • Deputy churchwardens, though lacking the formal powers and duties of churchwardens, may be appointed in some cases where there are two or more places of worship and where the Chaplaincy Council has made a scheme for their appointment.

(a) The custom in some places of choosing a 'chaplain's warden' and a 'people's warden' is discouraged.  The distinction makes sense only in circumstances where one warden is chosen by the chaplain and the other by the annual meeting.


(d) Canon E1 requires that churchwardens shall be admitted by 'the Ordinary (ie the Bishop) or his substitute duly appointed'. In this Diocese distance makes the holding of an annual Visitation impossible.

  • Therefore (unless he himself or the archdeacon is to be present at the chaplaincy meeting) the Bishop, by this regulation, appoints the chaplain or priest-in-charge of each chaplaincy and congregation of the Diocese as his substitute for the purpose of admitting churchwardens.
  • If the vice-chairman of the church council knows that, at the time of the annual chaplaincy meeting, there will be neither a chaplain nor a priest-in-charge of the chaplaincy, he should inform the archdeacon in good time so that other arrangements may be made.

(e) The admission takes place either at the annual chaplaincy meeting (or, in the case of a churchwarden chosen to fill a vacancy during the year, the special chaplaincy meeting) at which the choice is made, or during an act of worship which immediately follows the meeting.

Blank forms of Certificate of Admission are sent to chaplaincies annually: completed copies should be sent to the diocesan secretary with the annual return of Chaplaincy Council officers.

(f) If a churchwarden is not admitted to office by 31 July, the position becomes vacant, and there needs to be a new election.

(g) The churchwardens are the officers of the Bishop. It is their duty to tell him, or the archdeacon, of anything concerning the welfare of their chaplain or chaplaincy which he should know.

(h) Churchwardens are appointed for one year only and have to be admitted to office every year.  They remain in office until a successor is admitted to office.  Although newly elected churchwardens do not take up the office of churchwarden until formally admitted, they do immediately become members of chaplaincy councils.

(i) Churchwardens need not 'resign' if they do not intend to stand, or are disqualified from standing, for re-election, but the Bishop is glad to have a 'final report' from a warden whose term of office is concluded.

The Form of the Admission of Churchwardens

(j) Before their admission the newly chosen churchwardens must sign a Certificate of Admission (see notes above).

Unless it has already been read at the meeting, the chaplain / priest-in-charge reads § 31 (b)(i) of the Diocesan Constitution which sets out the duties of churchwardens. He then says:

Name and Name, you have been duly chosen as churchwardens of this chaplaincy /congregation for the coming year.  Before you can be admitted to that office you must make the appropriate declaration.

The churchwardens say:

I, Name / I, Name,

having been chosen to the office of churchwarden for the chaplaincy /congregation of N, do declare that I will faithfully and diligently perform the duties of my office. So help me God.

The chaplain / priest-in-charge says:

As the duly appointed substitute for the Bishop in Europe, I hereby admit you, AB and CD, as churchwardens of this chaplaincy for the next year, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If desired the chaplain / priest-in-charge may hand the wardens their wands of office or the keys of the church.

Receive this wand / these keys as a sign of your responsibilities of your office and your service of the people of God in this place.

The wardens may then exchange a greeting of peace with the chaplain / priest-in-charge and members of the congregation.

The chaplain then signs the Certificate of Admission.


(k) A churchwarden may resign in this manner but not otherwise:

  • written notice of intention to resign shall be served on the Bishop by post (that is, not fax or email);
  • resignation shall take effect at the end of two months, unless the Bishop, after discussion with the chaplain and any other churchwarden, determines an earlier date.

Note:  This provision replaces that in the Churchwardens (Appointment and Resignation) Measure 1964 referred to in §31 (d) of the Diocesan Constitution.

Vacation of office

(l) The office of churchwarden shall be vacated if ―

  • the name of the person concerned is removed from the church electoral roll under rule 1 of the CRR; or
  • the name of the person concerned is not on a new church electoral roll prepared under rule 2 (4) of the CRR; or
  • the churchwarden become disqualified as described above.

E2  Lay Ministry in the Diocese in Europe

This following categories of lay ministry are authorized by the Bishop in this Diocese:

  • readers and readers in training:  see E3
  • licensed lay workers:  see E4
  • diocesan lay assistants:  see E5
  • those whom a parish priest is authorized to use in the distribution of the Holy Communion:  see B4
  • those who have the Bishop's permission to preach:  see B5
  • members of Churches not in communion with the Church of England:  see B25

E3  Readers (see Canons E4 – E6)

(a) Reader candidates

  • Candidates for readership are commended by their chaplain and Chaplaincy Council (quoting the appropriate minute) to the Bishop through the Warden of Readers.
  • Normally the chaplaincy will have produced a Local Ministry Plan in which the ministry of the candidate will have been identified.
  • Candidates for readership are required under the Child Protection procedure to complete a Declaration and will be vetted in the same way as applicants for the Bishop's Licence or permission.  See J11.
  • The candidate will be advised by the Warden of Readers, normally acting through the diocesan director of ministry, as to the training which will be appropriate.

(b) Readers in Training

A person who has been accepted by the Bishop for training as a reader is, like a candidate in training for ordination, authorized as part of that training to conduct worship and to preach under the supervision of the chaplain.

  • Permission to assist in the distribution of the Holy Communion is, however, required, and should be sought from the archdeacon in the usual way. See B4.

(c) Admission of Readers

A candidate for the ministry of reader is admitted by the Bishop to that office, using the form available from the Warden of Readers.  

At a special service of admission, as at all episcopal services, the cash collection is divided between the Diocesan Development Fund (see L4) and the Diocesan Ordination Fund (see L5).  See sections L6 for the method of transmitting the collection.

(d) Procedure for licensing new Readers

A person who has been admitted as a reader must also be licensed by the Bishop for the particular duties he or she is to perform. The normal practice is for a new reader to be licensed by the Bishop at the admission service.

  • A reader is licensed to a particular chaplaincy, and remains licensed until he or she ceases to be a member of a congregation within it, or until reaching the age of seventy, whichever is the earlier. A reader's licence does not, therefore, need to be regularly renewed.
  • Any archdeacon may request the Bishop to give a wider licence (e.g., to the archdeaconry as a whole).
  • On reaching his or her seventieth birthday a reader will normally be given Permission to Officiate, enabling a chaplain to issue an occasional invitation to preach. This Permission does not, however, confer ex officio membership of any council or synod.

(e) Procedure for licensing an existing Reader of the Church of England

  • A chaplain wishing for the Bishop's Licence for a person who has previously been admitted as a reader in the Church of England first seeks the support of the church council. This is expressed by a resolution in this form: 
  • 'This church council would welcome the ministry of (NN) as a reader in this chaplaincy'.
  • The chaplain and churchwardens write to the Warden of Readers, requesting a licence, enclosing copies of the reader's certificate of admission and last Bishop's Licence, and quoting the Chaplaincy Council's resolution.
  • Any reader for whom application is made is required under the Child Protection procedure to complete a Declaration and will be vetted in the same way as applicants for the Bishop's Licence or permission. See J11.
  • The Warden of Readers arranges for the reader to be licensed. This is usually done by one of the Bishops during Sunday worship, but may be delegated to the archdeacon or another priest.

(f) Readers of other Churches in Communion

The provinces of the Anglican Communion and other Churches in Communion have different regulations for their readers.

  • A chaplain wishing for the Bishop's Licence for a reader from a Church other than the Church of England should write to the Warden of Readers, enclosing the reader's certificate of admission and last Bishop's Licence.
  • The Warden of Readers will reply setting out the duties the reader is authorized to perform and the form of licence which can be issued.
  • From this point the procedure set out in (e) above is followed.

(g) Ecumenical

Under the ecumenical canons (Canons B43 and B44) lay members of certain other Churches may be authorized to perform in chaplaincies of this Diocese duties similar to those they may perform in their own ChurchesB25 above sets out the procedure. (A form for such authorization is available from the Diocesan Office.)

E4  Licensed Lay Workers  (see Canons E7 and E8)

(a) A chaplain who wishes to commend a member of the chaplaincy to the Bishop for consideration as a candidate for Licensed Lay Ministry should follow the same procedure as for candidates for ordained ministry.  See C4 (e).

(b) A chaplain who wishes to commend a member of the chaplaincy to the Bishop for consideration as a candidate for local Licensed Lay Ministry should in addition follow the same procedure as for candidates for local ordained ministry.  See C4 (f).

(c) Candidates who are to attend a Selection Conference are required under the Child Protection procedure to complete a Declaration and will be vetted in the same way as applicants for the Bishop's Licence or Permission to Officiate. See section N.

(d) A candidate for licensed lay ministry must be admitted by the Bishop to that office.

(e) A chaplain who wishes to nominate a lay worker for stipendiary or non-stipendiary ministry in his chaplaincy should apply to the Bishop in the same way as for an ordained assistant.  See C8.

(f) A lay worker is licensed to the chaplaincy in accordance with canon E8. The licence will include permission to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion and to preach.

(g) A licensed lay worker is an ex-officiomember of the church council and of the House of Laity of the archdeaconry or deanery synod.

E5  Diocesan Lay Assistants

The Policy on Congregational Worship Leaders is given in 'Information for Clergy'

See also B5 - The ministry of Preaching.

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