Why join the Ecclesiastical Law Society?

A bit of unashamed – and entirely unremunerated – advertorial…

For those of you who are unaware of its existence, the Ecclesiastical Law Society was founded in 1987, initially to fill what the late Quentin Edwards described as “an ecclesiastical law shaped hole in the Church of England from the dissolution of Doctors’ Commons in 1857”. Its stated purpose as a charity is “to promote the study of ecclesiastical and canon law, particularly in the Church of England and those churches in communion with it.” So on the face of it, the ELS may look like a group entirely concerned with the technicalities of Anglican ecclesiastical law; however, its activities range far more widely than that, not unlike this blog’s “occasional forays further afield”.

In association with Cambridge University Press, the Society publishes the thrice-yearly Ecclesiastical Law Journal, which includes case-notes (by no means all of them from the consistory courts), comment pieces, book reviews and full-length articles ranging across an increasingly wide field of law and religion. There is also a regular Parliamentary Report updating members on activities in Westminster both in terms of legislation and policy, together with annual reviews of proceedings in the General Synod and the governing bodies of Anglican churches in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

The Society holds a day conference and a residential conference in alternate years: in 2018 it will be a day conference at the St Bride Foundation, Fleet Street on 17 March, when the subject will be promoting education in ecclesiastical law: £55 to members, £65  to non-members – lunch included – you can book a place here.

The Society organises a series of London Lectures, of which there are usually four each year, held at the offices of Winckworth, Sherwood in Southwark. The London Lecture programme for 2018 is:

  • Wednesday 10 January – Philip Petchey, Chancellor of the Diocese of Southwark, on Faculty Cases from City Churches.
  • Wednesday 7 March – David Frei, External and Legal Services Director of the United Synagogue and Registrar to the London Beth Din, on The Role of a Beth Din in Jewish Law.
  • Tuesday 3 July – Baroness (Elizabeth) Berridge, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
  • Wednesday 10 October – Dr Peter Smith, barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and formerly Dean of Law at Exeter University, on Visitations.

The Society also sponsors – jointly with the Canon Law Society of Britain and Ireland – the annual Lyndwood Lecture. On Wednesday 7 November 2018, it is the ELS’s turn to take the lead and the lecturer will be Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt DD FBA, on the theme of Richard Hooker (1554-1600): Invention and Reinvention.

A little further in the future, the Society will be hosting a major residential conference at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor from 5-7 April 2019 on the subject of Church and State in the Twenty-first Century: Re-imagining Establishment for the Post-Elizabethan Age, which will focus on the role of a national church in a pluralist and increasingly secular society.

Membership of the Society is currently £40, with a concessionary rate of £25 for members of Christian religious orders not otherwise in receipt of a stipend and people who are unemployed or retired: further details on the Society’s website, here. For that, subscribers receive regular newsletters, hard copies of the Journal three times a year and get free access to the archive of earlier issues on the Cambridge University Press website.

The ELS includes lawyers, academics, clergy from almost all the mainstream denominations and people who are simply interested. Needless to say, we are both members – and we would strongly encourage anyone with a serious interest in law and religion to join, whatever their denominational affiliation. Even Quakers.

FC and DP

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