Court, ecclesiastical

Mayfield, in his The Church of England: its members and its business OUP 1958, has 12 pages on this subject!   Suffice it here to say that these are legal courts administered by the church and intended to correct and educate those who transgress or ignore the church’s teaching or laws of conduct, to correct and as necessary remove from office those of its officers whose conduct is unseemly or whose teaching is heretical, and to protect the clergy in their teaching of the gospel and to prevent their censure or dismissal without due trial.   This right not to be deprived of office capriciously is what is known as “the parson’s freehold”.   Clergy today can only be dismissed on proved grounds of gross immorality or total pastoral breakdown.   Use of the ecclesiastical courts is infrequent; the most used is the consistory court, the main function of which today is in deciding the outcome of opposed applications for faculties to introduce changes in the fabric of churches.

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