GDPR and the Church Electoral Roll

Further to our post Parishes and the “GDPR” which provided a summary of the informative document from the Parish Resources web site, Data Protection: Parishes and the “GDPR”, we now reproduce further pertinent information from this site, GDPR and the Electoral Roll. Whilst the APCMs for 2018 should now have taken place, in view of the central role of the Church Electoral Roll in parish governance, clarification of the associated legal issues is clearly important. 

Church Electoral Roll

The basics of the Church Electoral Roll are described in the Church of England Companion Glossary, viz.

“This is the basic list in every parish of all those entitled to vote on elections within the Church of England. Those entitled to have their names on this roll have to be 16 years of age or more and they must reside in the relevant parish or be regular worshippers in church whose roll they wish to join. The roll is completely renewed every six years, at which point all members have to re-apply for membership or else their names will be deleted. By this means, the continuing validity of the roll is maintained”.

The legal basis of the Church Electoral Roll is contained within sections Part I of the Church Representation Rules, which form Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969, as amended.

Following a number of enquiries to Parish Resources concerning the impact of the GDPR in this area, the following response was provided by its legal team (22 January 2018). [Emphasis in original]

GDPR and the Electoral Roll

The [Electoral Roll] forms are prescribed and included as part of the Church Representation Rules, (part of the Synodical Government Measure 1969). If they were to be amended it would mean they would have to go through the legislative process, which would take some time.

In any event, I view the processing of personal data in relation to the electoral roll in the following manner: Although the data [are], by implication (if nothing else), sensitive personal data because of [their] connection to religious belief, the processing of [these] data relates to members (or individuals in regular contact with the PCC). This processing under the CRR [Church Representation Rules] can be seen as a legitimate activity of the PCC (i.e. a not-for-profit body), (see Art 9(2)(d) of the GDPR) carried out under the CRR.

In addition, the “Form of Notice of Revision of Church Electoral Roll” states that a copy of the revised roll shall be exhibited for not less than 14 days on, or near to, the principal door of the Parish Church for inspection. Indeed, under r.2(1) this “Form of Notice” of the intended revision is itself published on or near the church door of every church in the parish and every building licensed for worship and will remain there for a period of not less than 14 days prior to the revision, making individuals aware that the revised roll will be published, so giving them a chance to object.

So, that by applying to have their name entered on the electoral roll they are already consenting to its publication in the manner set out above. Indeed, I think an individual would be hard pushed to argue that their name shouldn’t be published in this manner, if they apply to be on the electoral roll.


David Lamming, a member of General Synod and regular contributor to this blog, has provided the following additional information:

“Readers of this blog may be interested to know that issues arising from the GDPR have been addressed by the Revision Committee of General Synod that, since January, has been considering the draft Church Representation and Ministers Measure.

The Measure, which received first consideration at General Synod in February 2017, involves a complete rewrite of the CRR, by substituting a new Schedule 3 for the existing Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969. Amendments made to the draft Measure, on the advice of the Church House legal team, are designed to ensure that data held for the purposes of the rules will not need separate treatment.

The Revision Committee is aiming to report to General Synod at York in July, when the Revision Stage of the Measure will be taken in full synod. Its report (together with the draft Measure as revised in committee) will be included with the papers for the synod meeting which, when published next month, will be available to download from the C of E website. The nature of the synodical process, however, means that it is unlikely that the new CRR will come into effect before 1 January 2020″.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "GDPR and the Church Electoral Roll" in Law & Religion UK, 15 May 2018,

10 thoughts on “GDPR and the Church Electoral Roll

  1. …and is that you, David, insisting on ‘data’ being treated as a plural noun? My sympathies are with you (I do so myself), but I fear that the English-language community as a whole has moved on and absorbed ‘data’ as an uncountable noun taking a singular verb. Latinity is not what it once was (among the educated and privileged classes) 😉

    • When I was a kid, aeons ago, I was taught that neuter plural Latin nouns take a singular verb. Which is one of the reasons that I’ve always thought that ‘the data are’ looks wrong. But please let’s not start an argument about it!

    • Yes, it was. Unlike Frank, I always use the plural in relation to “data” since coming with a science background (and only O-level Latin), I associate the singular “datum” with “a fixed starting point of a scale or operation” (OED). What really irritates is “panini” used as a singular, or worse still “paninis” as a plural. However, I once had an Italian Research Officer who adopted the English usage.

      • The BBC Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less?’ is currently (16.50 on Friday 18 May 2018) discussing the decision of the Financial Times to refer to ‘data’ in future as a singular noun!

  2. Grateful to David Lamming for the update. Some of us, who are past GS members, still take a keen interest in such matters. Via a GS diocesan rep I suggested that the new CER form should include an option for an email address. I would hope that all incumbent/PCC contacts, by any means, with CER members would come under the ‘lawful interest’ category. But obviously the CER list must not be used for other purposes or shared with other bodies.

    • Christopher: both matters have been addressed by the Revision Committee, i.e. supply and use of e-mail addresses and that such supply does not authorise their use for purposes other than as permitted by the rules. New notes to Form 1 explain this. A new rule concerns the handling of personal data by those who hold it for the purposes of the rules.

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