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The Structure of the Church in Britain
The Church 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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