Canon Law and the Curate’s Answering Machine

An earlier post noted that the teaching of canon law to trainee priests in the Church of England is less rigorous than to Catholic seminarians. As if to emphasize this, in association with the Ministry Division of the Church of England, the Ecclesiastical Law Society has recently re-issued an updated 3rd Edition of Canon Law for the newly ordained A Brief Guide and Teaching Aid, by Lindsay Yates and Will Adam.  The booklet is available here, and importantly, ‘may be photocopied for use in Colleges, Courses and Training Schemes for use with the training of those preparing for ministry in the Church of England’.


If this post were written in the style of a book review, it would commend the authors and publishers for the production of an accessible booklet that in 35 pages provides a readable ‘Canon Law Lite’ for its intended audience, and fulfils its claims in being:

‘a simple guide to those parts of Ecclesiastical Law with which a newly ordained minister entering their first training post should be familiar’.

However, given the raison d’être that

‘the expectation that, at the point of ordination, candidates should ‘demonstrate familiarity with the legal, canonical and administrative responsibilities appropriate to the newly ordained and those working under supervision’’

the very need for such a booklet is an indication of the degree of importance placed on these issues by the Church of England.

Anyone doubting the practical importance of these issues would do well to start reading at page 21 with the training exercise entitled ‘The Curate’s Answering Machine’ – a set of 14 situations (with model answers) dealing with legal and canonical issues that might be encountered during the everyday life of a CofE clergyman.

The booklet cautions

‘N.B. Before you panic. These are extreme examples and, of course, it doesn’t happen like this in real life!’

the implication being in reality, i] situations this extreme hardly ever occur, or ii] some situations may be even more intractable.  There are also those situations which demand a pragmatic solution that is on the borderline of canonical acceptability, which for a booklet endorsed by the Ministry Division of the Church, is unlikely to be recorded in print.

Perhaps there is scope for a guest post on this blog, for which we might be prepared to waive the ‘non-anonymity’ requirement?

2 thoughts on “Canon Law and the Curate’s Answering Machine

    • Thanks for letting us know – it is difficult to ensure that the links on our more elderly posts are still operational. However, I have found another link and corrected the post. dp

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