Churches as charities: some basics

The basic law on the charitable status of religious organisations in England & Wales is something we have not previously addressed. This attempts to remedy that omission: but it’s a very complex issue and comments/corrections would be particularly welcome.

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The meaning of “charity”

The legal underpinning of churches’ charitable status In England and Wales is partly the law of trusts and partly the various successive Charities Acts. In the Charities Act 2011:

  • s 1 (Meaning of “charity”) states that “For the purposes of the law of England and Wales, ‘charity‘ means an institution which—

(a) is established for charitable purposes only, and

(b) falls to be subject to the control of the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction with respect to charities”.

  • s 3(1)(c) defines “the advancement of religion” as a charitable purpose.

Therefore, an organisation whose objects are exclusively charitable is, in law, a charity and, crucially, charitable status is not dependent on registration with the Charity Commission for England & Wales. If someone (“the settlor”) establishes and endows a trust that has an exclusively charitable purpose, it may be regarded a charity even if it is not clear that the settlor had intended it to be so regarded. (And if the settlor does not wish to set up a charitable trust, s/he had better make sure that the objects of the trust are not exclusively charitable).

It should also be emphasised that charitable status is just that – a status. It is emphatically not a legal form: the forms of governance of individual charities are extremely various. At one extreme, a charity may consist, corporately, of all its individual members, each of whom may be a trustee by default (which used to be the situation in the vast majority of Quaker Monthly Meetings). At the other, a charity may be governed by a group of trustees who are collectively responsible under a detailed governing document for its activities and its compliance with the law.

Exception: and legal status as a charity

The situation is further complicated by the fact that a large number of church charities with an income below £100,000 are still excepted from registration with the Charity Commission by statutory instrument: the current list of excepted denominations can be found here.

Excepted status is being gradually nibbled away by inflation; but it is still perceived in some quarters as a problem, partly because some think that it is anomalous. There is also an issue when, as sometimes happens, a granting body asks an applicant charity for its registration number: excepted charities do not have registration numbers precisely because they are excepted from registration. But perhaps just as big an issue is this: excepted status was not intended to be permanent and is currently due to terminate in 2021; but to bring it to a sudden end would cause a major administrative headache for the Charity Commission, which simply does not have the resources to cope with a sudden flood of new registrations.

Part of the problem, also, is the legal status of church congregations as charities. The Commission accepts that Church of England parochial church councils (all of which are individual charities) are sui generis in legal terms because they are governed by Measure – which is fully part of the secular law. However, the internal rules of other religious organisations in England and Wales do not have the same secular legal status as the law of the Church of England because all of them are regarded, in principle, as voluntary associations. And that is the case even though some of the Churches whose congregations are excepted from registration, such as the United Reformed Church, are creatures of statute. Nor could it possibly apply in the case of the Church in Wales: see the Welsh Church Act 1914.

So the position is that there is a multiplicity of small independent church charities that are currently excepted from registering with the Commission until 2021 and which operate under documentation that probably varies from the very detailed, in the case of the major denominations, to not much more than the back of an envelope in some of the smaller ones.

Public benefit

A further issue is the fact that s 2(1) the 2011 Act states that, in order to be charitable, the activities of a trust must fall within the descriptions of purposes in s 3(1), and be “for the public benefit”. The Charities Act 2006 that was consolidated into the 2011 Act removed the presumption of public benefit; but because it did not at the same time define precisely what constituted “the public benefit”, the issue has since been left to the Charity Commission and the courts to determine case by case, on the facts. And that is why the case of the Preston Down Trust (a trust of the Exclusive Brethren) generated so much interest, not to say controversy.

The Charity Commission guidance 

During Dame Suzi Leather’s time as Chair, the Charity Commission published a sectoral guide on the issue, The Advancement of Religion for the Public Benefit; but although the guide remains on the Commission’s website, it now carries a disclaimer:

“This guidance is currently under review. It no longer forms part of our public benefit guidance and should now be read together with our set of 3 public benefit guides. It will remain available to read until we publish replacement guidance”.

It was published originally in December 2008 and last amended in December 2011 – and we are still waiting for its replacement.

In April 2017, Graham Senior-Milne made an FoI request to the Commission asking when it expected the review to be completed and replacement guidance published or, failing that, when the decision was made not to continue with the review and for confirmation that the Commission does not intend to issue a new version. The Commission replied as follows:

“The ‘Advancement of Religion for the Public Benefit’ guidance document is still under review.”

We are not holding our breath.

Charities and local authority grants

The issue that occasioned the original query was a problem relating to eligibility for grant-aid from the public sector in the case of a church charity that (understandably) did not have a governing document of the kind that the granting body could understand; and my guess is that there may be a suspicion in some quarters that that there is something inherently anomalous about excepted status and, indeed, about religious charities generally. And there may indeed be an issue here: there is always a danger that churchpeople in positions of trusteeship will view matters, first and foremost, in terms of faith rather than of charity law – which is why we were moved to post on the Commission’s publication, Charity trustee meetings: 15 questions you should ask.

Moreover, public sector bodies that make grants to charities often expect the recipient charity, as a condition of grant, to have in its governing document specific provisions that it may simply not have included – or which its parent body would not allow it to include. For Churches established or reconstituted in their current form by specific Acts of Parliament, though each of the Acts is different, each lays down some aspects of the constitution of the Church in question and provides a mechanism for drawing up some kind of governing document: see, for example, The Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church. In most cases, those governing documents cannot be drawn up or amended by local congregational trustees but are subject instead to regulation at a higher level within the denomination concerned. In some cases, no local constitution or governing document exists as such, because as each congregation is obliged to operate under a constitutional document determined centrally.

Charities, external influence and the duties of trustees

There is a particular problem when a local authority wishes (no doubt for reasons that its elected members regard as entirely reasonable and proper) to exercise some measure of control over a charity, as the following example demonstrates.

In 2014, Croydon Council proposed to become a majority member of recreation and leisure charity Fairfield (Croydon) Limited, which maintains and manages the Fairfield Halls. The charity and the Council had agreements in place under which Fairfield leased the premises from the Council and the Council made grants to Fairfield that paid the rent under the lease. So far, so good; but in order to safeguard significant funding for planned refurbishments to the Halls, the Council proposed becoming a corporate member of Fairfield and taking 75 per cent of the voting rights.

The Charity Commission was extremely unhappy with the proposal and investigated the situation. In the resulting operational case report, it became apparent that the Council had decided to withdraw the membership proposals. The trustees confirmed that the relationship between the Fairfield charity and Croydon Council would be dealt with by lease and grant agreements. The Commission advised the trustees that surrendering the lease agreement – even if it was replaced by another one – would be tantamount to a disposal of charity land; and it was likely that such a disposal could not be done without the express authority of the Commission. The moral, said the Commission, was this:

“Charities are run by their trustees for the benefit of the charity’s beneficiaries. An organisation cannot be a charity if it is run in the interests of anyone beyond the charity, including private individuals and public bodies such as local authorities”.

If nothing else, the Fairfield Halls case demonstrates that trustees must be mindful of charity law and, where necessary, seek specialist advice when negotiating relationships with third parties. But it also raises the more general issue of what I tend to think of as “sweetheart charities”: where the Government, in a desire to get a non-departmental public body off the Civil Service books, hives off all or part of it as a charity.

That happened recently when English Heritage was split into two:

  • a regulatory and advisory body, Historic England (which advises on listing, planning, grants and heritage research – and which, incidentally, is one of the amenity societies consulted under the C of E faculty jurisdiction); and
  • a slimmed-down English Heritage (which is now a charity running its predecessor’s historic buildings portfolio).

Fine: but what would happen if – however unlikely – the trustees of the new-style English Heritage were to decide that it was in the interest of the charity to sell a couple of historic properties and ministers at DCMS disagreed? In principle, it is a matter for the trustees’ judgment as to what is in the charity’s best interests and for no-one else.

In 2013 we posted about the decision of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège to selling St Anthony’s Private Hospital in Sutton to a private company and the demand of the then local MP, Paul Burstow, that the Vatican intervene in the case. We suggested that if the Vatican were, in fact, to order the trustees not to sell the hospital and the trustees were, nevertheless, of the considered view that selling it was in the best interests of the charity, then their duty under charity law would be to sell the hospital. The possibility of religious sanctions against them would not be a relevant consideration in secular law. In the event, St Anthony’s was sold to Spire Healthcare.

The bottom line

Though it may seem gratuitous (not to say blindingly obvious) to point this out, charities are bound by charity law; and the fact that a charity is too small to register with the Charity Commission or is exempted or excepted from doing so does not relieve its trustees of the overriding duty to act prudently and within the law. And the overwhelming majority of charities do operate within the law: year on year, without a hitch.

However, trustees sometimes take their collective eye off the ball, either because they simply forget that there is such a thing as charity law at all, because they feel that their duty to some other cause – loyalty to their friends and colleagues, what they perceive as the interests of their charity’s beneficiaries, or their own religious or philosophical views – ranks higher, or because they feel that it’s more important to be out there doing “good things” than to be fussing about mundane matters like administration and financial control. But once trustees start ignoring good practice the result can be a disaster. Think Kids Company

Updated 22 July 2017

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Churches as charities: some basics" in Law & Religion UK, 4 September 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/09/04/churches-as-charities-some-basics/

22 thoughts on “Churches as charities: some basics

  1. I make absolutely no pretension to expertise in charity law, although I appreciate that charity trustees have a primary financial obligation to maximise the value of resources so as to fund their charitable purpose But what if the purpose is itself to preserve land or buildings for the benefit of the public. Selling them would be likely to defeat the object. I don’t know what the express objects are of the new slimmed down English Heritage but the National Trust holds most of its land on the statutory basis that it can not be alienated without Parliamentary approval.

    Your example raises questions for churches. To what extent may their charitable role include stewardship of a major part of the national heritage? To what extent does that have a spiritual element? The Church of England’s position here is of course regulated by a substantial body of law and PCCs could not sell off local church assets simply on the basis that it would be financially beneficial.

    • The National Trust is sui generis: as you say, it’s a charity but its activities are governed by the National Trust Acts. The situation I was thinking of was where the trustees of a charity whose purpose is to preserve land or buildings for the benefit of the public conclude that, because of economic constraints, some part of its property portfolio has to go in order to preserve the rest. What if an external body such as DCMS says, “No, we don’t want you to do that – you’ll have to struggle on as you are?”. I think that the answer must be that the trustees have to ignore outside pressure and simply do what they think best in the interests of the charity.

      The other example that came to mind when I was writing the post was the Canal & River Trust, set up in July 2012 as a charity to care for 2,000 miles of historic waterways in England and Wales, in succession to British Waterways (which was a nationalised industry). Bits of the canal network are still in a dreadful state and there’s never enough money to keep it all in good repair – so the Trust must be under constant financial pressure. But there’s also a wider environmental interest in the canal system, not least in terms of land drainage and preventing flooding, so presumably DEFRA keeps a watchful eye on what the Canal & River Trust does with its estate.

      As to the Church of England, as you say, PCCs are regulated by a substantial body of law (not least, the faculty jurisdiction and the special considerations relating to the alienation of consecrated land). But the C of E is also sui generis; and only this week I heard a Welsh colleague pointing out that there are currently about 5,000 listed churches and chapels in Wales and suggesting that to maintain and preserve all of them as places of worship in active use is simply unsustainable.

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  3. A church not covered by affiliation with an exempted organisation is NOT automatically a charity. It is only a charity if it has a governing document that makes it subject to the High Courts charity jurisdiction and operates for the public benefit. I’m involved with a situation where things have gone badly wrong and you can follow my reporting of this at http://www.fivekings.co.uk it’s a live case and I now understand things pretty well and will be happy to help anyone with issues incidentally, I now believe that the advancement of religion should not be considered a charitable purpose any longer.

    • Yes, certainly. Just calling yourself “a church” doesn’t make you a charity. But if a trust is established for the advancement of religion and its purposes are purely charitable and for the public benefit, then it is a charity even if the settlors had no intention of setting up a charity in the first place. (I’m not sure about the position in Scots law but I have a strong suspicion that it’s the same.) The way to avoid that situation is to include at least one non-charitable purpose in the objects of the trust.

      But I did state that:

      “an organisation whose objects are exclusively charitable is, in law, a charity”

      and that

      “s 2(1) the 2011 Act states that, in order to be charitable, the activities of a trust must fall within the descriptions of purposes in s 3(1), and be ‘for the public benefit’.”

      If that wasn’t clear enough, my apologies – but I don’t see how I could have made it much more explicit.

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      • So, if a church meets the definition of a charity under the Act but isn’t a Trust then it has the choice not to be a Charity?

        • I reckon that’s correct. If it’s merely a voluntary association – say, a group of friends who meet regularly in each others’ houses to pray – it’s not a legal person so I don’t see how it could engage charity law. But once a group wants to hold property or enter into contracts, either the members adopt a legal structure or they accept that they are jointly and severally liable if things go horribly wrong.

          • But what happens to a church that has a structure determined by its members (a governing document for example) that is not accepted by the Charity Commission as suitable for being a charity? What legal identity does it have?

          • It’s simply a non-charitable voluntary association or trust: there are lots of voluntary associations and trusts that aren’t charities.

            Under the Charities Act 2011, registration as a charity by the Commission requires that a trust should have exclusively charitable purposes and that its activities should be for the public benefit. If it doesn’t meet both those criteria, it’s not a charity.

          • What follows is taken from a Charity Commission response to an enquiry as to whether a given church which had claimed gift aid and created a corporate contract of employment yet had no one willing to admit to being legally responsible for financial governance was a charity and if so who were it’s trustees. Good luck in making sense of it.

            I have today written to the Commission with a link to this blog suggesting they might like to respond. I will be surprised if they do so at all, let alone with clarity! The writer of this letter is Alex Young whose job title was not provided…

            Dear Mr King,

            Thank you for your emails, including those of 30 October and of 2nd to 4th November.

            APOLOGY
            Before addressing the specific complaints you have made against the charity and its leaders, I wish to reiterate the Commission’s apology for the amount of time it has taken us to reach, and to offer conclusions on the issues you have raised. This has reflected significant resource pressures during the period in question (from mid-2015) but that does not excuse failure to provide substantive responses in a timely way.

            This letter does not represent a review of our decisions we have previously made (because your expressed concern is in part that we have failed to reach conclusions, and make decisions, up to this point). We accept that delays in providing substantive responses to your concerns represent poor service.

            CONTEXT:
            I think I must start by laying out certain points as wider context and explanation, all of which I believe is relevant to the assumptions and statements you have made in making your complaints. I appreciate you appear already to be aware of some of these points:

            What is a charity, and what are the registration requirements (particularly in relation to Churches)?

            • ‘A charity’ is as defined in Section 1 Charities Act 2011, as further explained and elaborated in sections 3-4. It is not clear on what basis you ‘contend’ in paragraph 30 of your ‘draft statement of claim’ that the Church (prior to its re-establishment as a CIO) was not a charity (see for example s3(1)(c)). We note that Mr X too was perhaps unclear on this issue. It is of course moot whether the Church was a charity during this period, because if it was not (and was merely a private members’ benefit organisation) we would have had no jurisdiction over it, and could offer no further comment and take no further action. I am proceeding on the basis that there was in fact a charity operating in the period from 2012 to the creation and registration of the CIO.

            • A formal offence is committed if a body that is not a registered charity states that it is (s63 Charities Act 1992) but it is not an offence for a body that is not liable to registration, but is charitable (by virtue of its objects and how it operates) to state that it is a charity;

            • Above a certain threshold (presently income > £5,000 pa) trustees of a charity are obliged to seek its registration (but see also following bullet). Although failure to register is regarded as a matter of non-compliance, it is not one of the defined offences under the Charities Act. The Commission would nevertheless, where it is aware of an unregistered charity, seek to ensure that those who purport to be (or in practice act as) the trustees of the charity take steps to apply for its registration;

            Registration as a charity indicates that the body in question may be conclusively presumed to be charitable for all purposes (including, for example, for treatment under tax legislation);

            • An organisation can, however, be (and represent itself to be) a ‘charity’ without being a registered charity, and many thousands of bodies are recognised as charitable for the purposes of tax legislation (by HMRC) that are not also registered. If it is below £5,000 income a charitable body will not need to seek registration, or file accounts with the Commission, but it will nevertheless be subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction in relation to most matters, and be subject to various regulations e.g. in respect of accounting;

            • Until relatively recently most Christian religious charities were excepted from registration under regulations put in place under the Charities Act 1960. This also applied to Place of Worship registered under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 (excepted under s4(4) of the 1960 Act). When the exceptions were removed many churches (including some of the principal denominations) were slow to understand the implications for the requirement to register.Many churches also failed to recognise and understand that there were typically 2 charities involved: a property held on a trust for a specified charitable use (under a document that may or may not provide for the governance of the congregation using the property) and (separately) an unincorporated association – typically a congregation/ membership, with elders or deacons or similar officers. We note, in the present case, the mention of a ‘[previous name]l’, which may be a property hold on trust for religious worship, and registered as such (under the 1855 Act). We appear to have no record of that property.

            The exception for registration applicable to the Place of Worship (the building) was not untypically (mis)understood to extend to the (separate) congregational charity occupying the building. When exceptions were removed for many denominations, it was agreed that the applicable threshold would not default to the generic £5,000 pa, but would started at > £100,000 and then be reduced.

            In summary, the confused position relating to exception has contributed to many churches failing to comply with the duty to register with the Commission at the point at which they were liable to do so. The Commission has worked in partnership with key bodies to address this issue (and to promote compliance with the duty of registration), but it has not been viewed as a ‘high risk’ regulatory matter to which priority should be applied;
            Governance of a charity:

            • The ‘trusts’ of a charity are:
            “(a) in relation to a charity, means the provisions establishing it as a charity and regulating its purposes and administration, whether those provisions take effect by way of trust or not, and
            (b) in relation to other institutions has a corresponding meaning” (s353(1) Charities Act 2011.

            The underlined wording indicates that a charity may be established and operated under a variety of legal governance structures and statuses, and not only under a ‘declaration of trust’ (e.g. as a charitable company, as an unincorporated association). Powers and restrictions outside the written governing document of the charity may also form part of the ‘trusts’ that apply to any given charity e.g. powers to make payments to trustees as set out in s185-188 Charities Act 2011.

            • Charity trustees are “the persons having the general control and management of the administration of a charity” (s177 Charities Act 2011). The role played within the charity, rather than the label applied by the governing document, identifies who are the charity trustees;

            • It is possible for a charity to arise (and to be recognised for regulatory purposes) where there is no formal written governing document in place e.g. where an appeal has been made. The purposes of the appeal are deemed to be its charitable objects, and those who control the appeal are deemed to be its charity trustees. Case law has provided that charity trustees are permitted to declare written ‘trusts’ over funds and assets held in such circumstances, but in doing so they cannot alter or extend the original purposes of the charity. There are charities on the Register of Charities that do not have a formal governing document (although it is no longer our practice to enter onto the Register new charities until they have been formally established under a written governing document);

            • The accounting and audit framework for charities applies to unregistered charities as well as to registered charities, but there are additional responsibilities (relating to filing of accounts and trustees’ annual returns with the Commission) for registered charities;

            • A charity (as you correctly understand) defaults to being ‘unincorporated’ unless it is formally established as a charitable company, or as a CIO (or the Commission grants a certificate of incorporation to the trustee body). An unincorporated body does not have the legal status of a ‘person’ in law, and is therefore unable (for example) to enter into a contract. Any contracts must be entered into as between the charity trustees (or two or more of their number, mandated under s333 Charities Act 2011) and the other party(ies). If any party has entered into what they believe was a contract with an unincorporated charity, and that the contract has been breached, it is open to them to seek redress against the charity trustees individually.

            Because trustees of an unincorporated charity are acting for the charity they are entitled (so long as they have acted lawfully) to be indemnified from the funds and assets of the charity against any such claim. If they have acted unlawfully or negligently the liability is personal to them. Even if they have acted properly, however, because an unincorporated charity does not have unlimited liability, if the liabilities of the charity exceed its assets the trustees may face personal liability for the shortfall;

            • An organisation established for the advancement of a religious faith can be established with trusts that provide a self-appointing body of charity trustees. Even though it may operate with a congregation who are deemed as a ‘membership’ (comprising those who attend religious services) those members do not automatically have any role or rights in the governance of the charity. This is not untypically so if the only written ‘trusts’ of the church are those linked to a building occupied by the congregation;
            Trustee decision making:

            • It is a fundamental tenet of charity law that charity trustees have the right and duty to make decisions as to how the charity they administer is to be operated PROVIDED they do not act in breach of ‘trust’ (as defined above). There are clear rules and standards around what represents proper trustee decision making, as set out in the Commission’s publication CC27 it’s-your-decision: charity-trustees-and-decision-making. Provided that trustees operate within this framework the Commission is precluded for intervening in the administration of a charity (s20(2) Charities Act 2011).

            The Commission’s regulatory role:
            The Commission is a ‘risk based’ regulator, meaning that we direct our limited resources to situations that we judge represent the most significant risk (this is required of us by s16(3) Charities Act 2011). In practice this means that we apply proportionality in terms not only of the charity funds/ resources that appear to be at risk/ affected by the issues highlighted, but also the wider impact of the issues that have arisen in a particular charity.

            As the statutory ‘regulator’ of charities it is often an appropriate outcome to achieve regularisation (of governance, decision making, registration etc.) for the future, through regulatory advice, rather than taking regulatory action to seek to return a charity to a point before which an error or errors occurred.

            As an evidenced based regulator the Commission must establish with some certainty that a breach of trust has occurred before it can act, and sometimes it is simply not proportionate (to the issue in question) to apply full investigatory resource to establish what may or may not have occurred, if the impact on, or the risk to, the charity is limited. Answering the question ‘did the trustees act appropriately on every occasion in the past?’ is not sufficient basis to apply extensive resource,so long as there is assurance that there is currently compliance with legal requirements, and no reasonable basis to assume future breaches will occur.

            On some issues any ‘claim’ by a third party will be personally against the trustees, rather than against the charity, and the Commission has a limited regulatory role to play (particularly in assessing legal claims outside our competence, and acting against individuals on the basis of any such assessment). It is not part of the regulatory remit of the Commission to act for third parties in claims against charities, or those who run them, but equally we are not there to defend trustees where it is established that they have acted unlawfully. Given s20(2) of the Charities Act 2011, there is also a very ‘high bar’ for an intervention that would see trustees suspended or removed from office, as opposed to being advised as to future conduct.

          • Thanks for your response below Frank. So if a church does not wish to be a charity then can they simply not apply or do they have to make sure that they do not meet both criteria?

          • This is getting slightly beyond what one can do by way of comments!

            My understanding is that if a church congregation is not currently a charity and does not wish to become one, it should ensure that its governing document or constitution includes objects that are definitely not charitable.

            But – and it’s a very big but – that can, presumably, only apply to independent congregations who can set what you might describe as their own ‘terms of trade’. Member congregations of most of the large denominations (with the exceptions, I should imagine, of Baptists and Congregationalists) are bound by the regulations of their parent denominations: ecclesiastical law for the Church of England, the 1983 Codex for Roman Catholics, the Constitution and Standing Orders for the Methodists, the Acts and Regulations of Assembly for the Church of Scotland – and so on.

            If there’s a charity law specialist out there with a better view, I’d very much like to hear it. (I know more charity law than the average bloke at the bus-stop, but I certainly don’t regard myself as a fully-fledged charity lawyer.)

  6. “Therefore, an organisation whose objects are exclusively charitable is, in law, a charity”… if this was the case then the Charity Commission would force Churches (that meet the Charities Act criteria) to comply with the requirements of the Act. But I know of cases where this hasn’t happened.

    Churches that have been unwilling to change their set up to comply with the CC requirements have simply been told that they can’t register as a charity (and therefore can’t benefit from the status and financial benefits this would bring). In a way the Preston Down case demonstrated this in some ways… that just because the criteria of church charity parameters (income, public benefit etc) are met doesn’t mean the church has to become a charity. There remains a choice. If it was the case that all churches that meet the parameters have to structure themselves as charities then the CC would be forcing churches to structure themselves such that they meet the full requirements of the act, and this isn’t happening.

    Unfortunately, the way that the act was written didn’t make the choice clear and hence why there has been confusion on this front. Even leading solicitors in charity advice haven’t been able to give clear advice on this in the past because there were no precedents and the law wasn’t clear. There has been a tendency to be very cautious on this front and advise churches that if they meet the parameters they have to apply but this has been proven to be a misinterpretation of the law. The Charity Commission are trying to rightly protect the status that comes with charity status in only allowing correctly (in terms of the requirements of the act) structured churches to benefit from charitable status. But this still leaves a choice for a church not to be registered, if it so wishes not to take advantage of the benefits of that status.

  7. if as a church/fellowship we wish to leave the FIEC, how would that affect our status regarding the CC? Would we need to amend our constitution?

    • I’m afraid that that’s a classic example of the kind of legal advice that we cannot give. That said, however, if your constitution declares that you are in membership of FIEC, surely you couldn’t leave without amending it in any event? To so so otherwise would surely be unconstitutional?

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  9. We are a not for profit community land trust with unpaid directors/trustees and charitable aims in the form of providing affordable homes and we have the support of our district council amongst others.

    We made a bid to purchase our now closed C of E primary school building from the PCC, who have now decided to accept a higher offer. We had been advised that in this case, the PCC could have considered us a charity and “gifted” the price difference to us. They now say that under church law they could not do that. Can anyone advise on that please?

    • We certainly can’t (we don’t carry the necessary professional indemnity insurance), but someone who reads your comment might.

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