The Structure of the Church in Britain
of England is the successor of the medieval church in England. It
has its own liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer dating from 1549 and the
Alternative Service Book which was introduced in 1980. It is divided into
two provinces, Canterbury in the south and York in the north of England.
The archbishops of these respective provinces are the two most senior clergy
in the Church. Each province contains a number of dioceses, defined administrative areas presided over by a bishop who has exclusive jurisdiction within it. The province of Canterbury has 30 dioceses, including the Diocese of Europe, and the province of York has 14.
The dioceses are further divided into archdeaconries, deaneries and parishes. An archdeaconry, headed by an archdeacon appointed by the bishop, may include the whole of a diocese, but is usually smaller. A deanery, presided over by a dean, is a collection of parishes within an archdeaconry. The smallest administrative unit in the Church of England is the parish. There are 13,150 of these, covering the length and breadth of England. The majority of the Church's 13,920 clergy are involved in parish ministry.
Each diocese has its own bishop, who is responsible for its spiritual leadership,
and is centered upon a cathedral church. With the exceptions of the cathedrals
of Coventry, Guildford and Liverpool (all of which were completed in the
post-war period) these are ancient buildings, originated before 1500.
The church nominates two candidates to fill each vacancy of and archbishop
or bishop. One of these candidates is then appointed by the Sovereign on
the advice of the Prime Minister. The two archbishops, the bishops of London,
Durham and Winchester, together with 21 other bishops in order of seniority,
sit in the House of Lords. Clergy of the Church of England, in common with
those of the Church of Scotland, the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic
Church may not sit in the House of Commons.
The Church of England has its own central governing and legislative body,
the General Synod. This has three houses, one for the diocesan bishops,
while the other two are made up respectively of elected representatives
of the clergy and the laity of the Church. Lay people are also involved
in church government in the parishes. The various organizations within the
Church report to the Synod on such matters as the mission of the clergy
and laity, missionary work, inter-church relations, social questions, the
care of church buildings, education and recruitment and training for the
ministry. Measures passed by the General Synod are scrutinized by Parliament's
ecclesiastical committee, which consists of members drawn from both Houses.
However, the committee can only accept or reject the measures placed before
it, it does not have the power to amend them.
The Church of England is part of a worldwide communion of Anglican churches.
These are similar in organization and worship to the Church of England and
originated from it. Links between the components of the Anglican
Communion are maintained by the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops
held every ten years, and the Anglican Consultative Council, on which lay
people and clergy are also represented, which meets every two to three years.
There are three of these sister churches in the other parts of the British
Isles, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church
in Wales. The first and last of these were disestablished in 1869 and 1921
respectively, and there is now no established Church in either Wales or
Northern Ireland. Each of these Churches is governed separately by its own
institutions, as are the other Churches in the Anglican Communion. This
has led to a number of differences developing between them, of which the
most obvious example is in attitudes to the ordination of women. A number
of Anglican churches around the world now ordain women as priests. The Church
of Ireland, has ordained women since 1991. The Church of England's General
Synod voted in 1992 to allow the ordination of women, and the first such
ordinations took place in Spring 1994.
The Church of Scotland and the Free Churches
The Reformation in Scotland led to the replacement of the medieval church
by one which is presbyterian in form. That is, it has no bishops but is
governed by its ministers and elders. While it is an established Church,
the State has always recognized the complete freedom of the Church in all
matters of doctrine, worship and church government.
Both men and women may join the ministry, which is, as in the Church of
England, exercised through a network of parishes across the country. There
are about 1,600 of these parishes, which are governed locally by Kirk Sessions,
consisting of ministers and elders. Above the Kirk Session are 47 Presbyteries.
These select a number of ministers and ruling elders, varying according
to the size of the Presbytery, to sit on the General Assembly. This meets
annually under the presidency of an elected Moderator who serves for one
year. The Sovereign is usually represented at the General Assembly by the
Lord High Commissioner.
There are a number of Presbyterian churches which are independent of the
Church of Scotland, particularly in parts of the Highlands and Islands.
There are also Presbyterian churches elsewhere in Britain. The Presbyterian
Church of Ireland is the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland,
and there are a number of smaller Presbyterian bodies in the Province. The
Presbyterian Church of Wales (also known as the Calvinistic Methodist Church)
is the largest of the Free Churches in Wales. The Presbyterian Church of
England is now part of the United Reformed Church.
The term "Free Churches" is used to describe those Protestant
churches in Britain which, unlike the Churches of England and Scotland,
are not established churches. While their historical experience has given
these churches a shared sense of identity, they vary greatly in doctrine,
worship and government. All the major Free Churches, Methodist, Baptist,
United Reformed and Salvation Army, allow both men and women to become ministers.
The largest of the Free Churches is the Methodist Church with about a million
members, followed by the Baptist church and United Reformed Church
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