Stone King has a proud history advising a wide range of Church of England clients on both the technicalities of ecclesiastical law and the application of secular or civil law to their concerns. 

We work with clergy, lay officers – such as churchwardens and Parochial Church Council (PCC) secretaries – parishes and PCCs, diocesan boards of finance and education, bishops and cathedral deans, and chapters and senior staff. 

Church of England law is contained in a range of sources including Acts of Parliament or Measures, codes, guidance and the Canons of the Church of England. These are impacted by other, secular laws of the land touching upon issues such as data protection, human rights, equalities, employment and charity law. 

We work across the firm and each of our areas of expertise to provide a full service to our ecclesiastical clients so that they are not advised in isolation. 

Diocesan registries

Currently the firm hosts three diocesan registries: Bath and Wells, Bristol, and Leicester. 

Our growing team assists the registrars, as the legal officers of each diocese, in providing general advice to clergy, parish officers, diocesan staff, synod and boards, committees and councils about their functions and duties. 

Our registry teams prepare legal documents for clergy appointments and respond to enquiries about marriage, baptism and burial. We play a key role in dealing with church buildings through the administration of the faculty jurisdiction (the ecclesiastical exemption from the listed building regime), and other church property including churchyards, parsonages and glebe. We also advise under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 in relation to complaints made about clergy to the bishop.

Other ecclesiastical work 

Beyond the day-to-day work of the registries, we have a fully-resourced team to provide support to all clients, whether they fall under the diocesan registry retainer or otherwise, on the full spectrum of legal concerns arising at parochial, diocesan and episcopal level. 

In addition, we often advise on issues regarding property, trusts and endowments, safeguarding, employment, clergy complaints issues arising in religious orders, and matters of charity and other secular law.

We have further specialist expertise in educational matters relating to Church of England schools and other institutions, and frequently advise senior staff, diocesan boards of education, school governing bodies, site trustees and academy trust directors and trustees on a full range of issues. 

More information is available on our Education Law,  CofE schools and Diocesan Boards of Education (DBEs) pages. 

  • Clergy ministry, including marriage law, churchyards and burials, parish registers, housing, terms and conditions of service (including common tenure), safeguarding, faculties, church halls, parochial trusts and endowments, complaints made under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (CDM) including advising as to process, written submissions, penalties and the tribunal;

  • Governance, including the Church Representation Rules, elections of PCC members (including the APCM), joint benefice councils, deanery synods, archdeaconries, episcopal and diocesan structures (such as bishops council and diocesan synod), boards and committees, on their statutory roles, responsibilities and duties as well as process, constitution and terms of reference;

  • Ecclesiastical legislation including Church of England Measures, Codes of Practice, Guidelines, Rules, Codes of Conduct, and the Canons of the Church of England;

  • Patronage and matters relating to pastoral reorganisation, closed churches, clergy appointment processes, terms of office and common tenure;

  • Diocesan boards of finance on the full range of their operations, including employment, property, safeguarding, charity law compliance and governance, constitutional and other requirements;

  • Diocesan boards of education, multi-academy trusts and Church of England schools and academies, and further and higher educational institutions 

  • Property matters for churches, church charities and dioceses on transactions at all levels (acquisitions, sale, lettings), including parsonages, glebe, church halls and DBF property and investments;

  • Commercial dealings by churches and dioceses in relation to contractual arrangements, negotiations, disputes, licensing, employment and property; 

  • Anglican Religious Orders and members of the same

  • Cathedral Deans and Chapters on matters of governance and management (including their constitutions and statutes under the Cathedrals Measure 2021, and implications of registration with the Charity Commission), charitable foundations, endowments, fundraising and legacies, commercial arrangements and trading subsidiaries, employment matters, licensing (music, filming, photographs, performance rights), marriage, building works, property management, and episcopal visitations;

  • Charity law including compliance and best practice, trustee duties, charitable giving, legacies, fundraising, and dealing with parochial and other trusts and endowments (including working with the Charity Commission for amendments and consents where applicable).

Faith-based organisations often have a long and rich history, in many cases going back centuries. We look to build long-lasting relationships with our clients to enable us to develop a genuine insight into your faith. This allows us to provide advice that is consistent with the longer-term changes in your mission as circumstances change.

We appreciate that reputation and integrity are core to your mission and objectives. Our significant experience enables us to provide solutions that not only address the legal issues, but seek to do so in a practical way that protects both your reputation and your integrity. 

Our experience and practice over many years has given our team a deep appreciation of local pressures, priorities, and strategic challenges faced by our Church of England clients. We address legal matters with this in mind, knowing the importance of the Church’s mission and ministry.   This means we support our Church clients’ priorities in an approachable, practical and sympathetic way, offering a bespoke service of clear and affordable technical advice.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.