Our Ecclesiastical Team offers advice on all aspects of the law as it relates to the Church of England.
Birketts now hosts three diocesan registries: James Hall is registrar for St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich (since 1998, having been deputy for some 14 years under John Mitson, his predecessor). Stuart Jones is the diocesan registrar for both London (since 2020) and Norwich (since 2009). Birketts is committed to developing this area of work within its wider practice as a full-service law firm, and the team is growing accordingly.
We advise parochial clergy and lay ministers, diocesan bishops and other senior diocesan staff, diocesan office, admin., and safeguarding teams, diocesan boards of finance and education, as well as PCCs, churchwardens, treasurers and local church officers. We will tackle strategic considerations affecting the church at a diocesan level as well as the challenges faced locally by parishes and we hope that our practical experience enhances the advice we offer.
Our dual aim is “To make things simple; to keep things legal”. The complexities of the Church of England, its history, laws, structures and role as the established church can all too easily become a burden, and we try hard to minimise and share the load. We work closely with Birketts’ charities, property and employment teams.
Examples of our work
- Our primary task is to provide the services falling within the scope of the diocesan registrar’s retainer (determined at national level). Some, but no means all of this is covered in the remaining examples.
- We will help ordained and lay ministers with any legal matter arising in the course of their ministry, whether PCC governance, the application of the canons, marriage and parish registers, the faculty process, churchyard matters, or day-to-day questions thrown up by parish life.
- We advise diocesan boards of finance and bishops’ councils on their statutory roles, duties and responsibilities, and give advice to sub-committees on process and governance.
- We assist dioceses in their commercial dealings (employment, licensing, buildings/land, contractual disputes).
- We provide legal support for commercial and property transactions at all levels (including parsonage, glebe, church halls and board of finance land).
- We work with church schools, diocesan boards of education and academy trusts and have been involved with schools converting to academy status.
- We advise PCCs and church charities about the management of trusts and charity funds (including trustees’ duties), charitable giving, legacies and fundraising, and on contractual, property and employment matters.