Legal Advisers' Consultation

What was Discussed at the Consultation?

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Provincial Representation
Seventeen Provinces and Churches were represented at the Consultation. This is a good representation but we were aware that it was under half of the Provinces. You will find the individual Legal Advisers' brief biographies in Appendix I to this report. Each addressed the consultation, giving details of:

  • his or her own Province or Church,
  • its canonical and legal structure, and
  • current legal issues facing it.

Expert Resources
The Legal Advisers were addressed by Professor Norman Doe of the University of Wales, Professor Richard Helmholz of the University of Chicago, and the Reverend Canon David Hamid of the Anglican Consultative Council. Copies of their addresses and notes are available on request, or may be downloaded from

Professor Norman Doe
The core of Professor Doe's paper was the material provided to the Primates' Meeting at Kanuga in 2001. This paper had been further refined since that meeting and has been published in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal. In addition, Professor Doe gave an introductory talk on underlying jurisprudential issues and introduced the material for seminar discussion.
The development of Anglican canon law
Professor Richard Helmholz
Professor Helmholz drew upon his expertise as an ecclesiastical legal historian of great distinction. He explained the background to the development of Anglican canon law from its pre-Reformation roots, through the Reformation period (where he emphasised particularly the continuities, rather than the discontinuities) and the formative role of Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
The koinonia of Christianity worldwide
The Revd Canon David Hamid
Canon Hamid gave a wide-ranging and provocative address in which he discussed the koinonia of Christianity worldwide, the essential structure of Churches, their relationships with one another, the nature of ‘communion’ as contrasted with federation or monolithic styles of organisation; and the ‘provisionality’ of Anglicanism.

Evidence for the propositions

We used a range of criteria to determine whether a principle is part of the canon law common within the Anglican Communion.
Professor Doe helpfully provided several examples of principle drawn from various laws he had examined. One paper, relating to canonical obedience, is reproduced as Appendix II of this report. Working from these we found that there is a high degree of unity on various central aspects of the life of our Churches.

Applying the same approach to a selection of principles, we tested them against the laws of the Churches represented by the Legal Advisers attending the Consultation. Here again, we found a high degree of commonality of approach among the Churches of the Communion.

Six principles we examined

  • Order in the Church
  • Ecclesiastical Government
  • Ministry
  • Doctrine, Liturgy and Rites
  • Church Property
  • Inter-Anglican Relations 

These are by no means exhaustive, but are offered as a cluster of examples around which we were able to achieve broad consensus.

Shared problems

As the result of the personal presentations from each of the legal advisers, we identified a number of current legal issues which are of concern to the Churches.

Current legal issues identified and considered by the Legal Advisers attending the Consultation.
1. Clergy and secular employment law.
2. Applicability of Civil Law standards to the Church.
3. Recourse by Church Members to the Courts of the State.
4. Child Protection.
5. Arbitrary action by Bishops.
6. Clergy Maintenance.
7. Financial Contributions to the Church.
8. Secret Societies.
9. Discrimination against people within the Church.
10. Marriage and Polygamy.
11. Clergy and Political Activity.
12. An understanding of Church Law by Church members (clergy etc).
13. Inter-Anglican Relations: Recognition of Ministry.
14. Inter-Anglican Relations: Territorial Jurisdiction.
15. Minority Dissent and Disagreement within the Church.

We considered these and agreed that there is a pressing need for further work by the Churches, with the assistance of their Legal Advisers, on these issues.
Many of the issues raise questions of policy, but once more this exercise demonstrated the high degree of commonality among the Churches.

Recommended Action
We recommend that the Primates Meeting request ACC-12 to establish a Network of Legal Advisers, which will: 
1. produce a statement of principles of Canon Law common within the Communion;
2. examine shared legal problems and possible solutions;
3. provide reports to the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council as the work progresses.

Canonical Obediance

Principles of Canon Law common to the Anglican Communion