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For some, the possibility of women bishops in the Church of England is to be resisted. For others, it would be a natural progression from women's ordination, first as deacons and then as priests. Last year, General Synod called on the House of Bishops to initiate further theological study on the episcopate in preparation for a debate on the ordination of women as bishops. The resulting working party, which I am to chair, will report during 2002. But what are the theological issues with which we have to grapple?
The Churchwardens Measure is concerned with the number of churchwardens in a parish, the qualifications to be a churchwarden, how they are appointed, and how they may cease to hold office. Nowhere does the Measure state anything about what a churchwarden actually does. For this you must look elsewhere. Two useful guides are A Handbook for Churchwardens and Parochial Church Councillors by Kenneth Macmorran and Timothy Briden (Mowbray, 2000), and Practical Church Management by James Behrens (Gracewing, 1998).
In any discussion of church-state relations in the United Kingdom, it should be remembered that there are four national Churches: the Church of England, the (Reformed) Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales (disestablished in 1920 as a result of the Welsh Church Act 1914) and the Church of Ireland (disestablished by the Irish Church Act 1869). The result is that two Churches are established by law (the Church of England and the Church of Scotland) and enjoy a particular constitutional relationship with the state, while the other Churches and faith-communities (the Roman Catholics, the Free Churches, the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others) have particular rights and privileges in particular circumstances.
In an article in this journal published in 1998 entitled ‘Digging Up Exhumation’, Rupert Bursell, Chancellor of the Dioceses of Durham and St Albans, surveyed the then existing case law on exhumation and identified divergencies of approach between the cases. He concluded: ‘A definitive decision from the Court of Arches and Provincial Court may, therefore, seem to be called for […]’. Shortly afterwards the Chancery Court of York had occasion to consider the matter in Re Christ Church, Alsager. This article considers that case as well as two cases subsequent to it where the impact of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights has fallen to be considered.
Before its enactment, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 experienced a stormy passage during the debates in Church Assembly, being roundly attacked as unnecessarily complex and unwieldy by Garth Moore, who represented the University of Cambridge and was at that time Chancellor of the Dioceses of Durham, Gloucester and Southwark. In view of this, it is ironic that the first case under the disciplinary sections of that Measure should have occurred in the Diocese of Gloucester and should have been heard at first instance by Moore, sitting with four assessors, in July 1969.