Legal Expertise & Advice for Churchwardens

Churchwardens are chosen by a meeting of the parishioners. This is a joint meeting of persons on the church electoral roll of the parish and persons resident in the parish whose names are on the register of local government electors. The Church Representation Rules include extracts from the Churchwardens Measure 2001 on this topic.

In order to be eligible to stand for election as a churchwarden of a parish, a person must:

  • Be baptised;
  • Have their name on the church electoral roll for the parish;
  • Be an actual communicant, according to the definition set out in the Church Representation Rules;
  • Be at least 21 years of age;
  • Not be disqualified from being elected. A person is disqualified from being a churchwarden if they are disqualified from being a charity trustee, if they have been convicted of an offence under Schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. if they are disqualified under the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure 1977 or if they are included on a safeguarding barred list
  • Signify their consent to serve as a churchwarden

A person may not stand for election as a churchwarden if that person has served as a churchwarden of the parish for six successive periods of office. A meeting of the parishioners may resolve not to apply this requirement.

A person who has been chosen or elected as churchwarden is required to make the Declaration of Office before being admitted to the office by the diocesan bishop or his duly appointed substitute. The admission to office will usually take place at an archdeacon or bishop’s visitation service. As the appointment of churchwardens is for one year, the Declaration of Office must be made every year, even by those churchwardens who have held office for a number of successive years. If you are unable to attend a visitation service, it is important that you make arrangements to make the Declaration of Office, otherwise you will not be appointed as churchwarden.

Churchwardens are the officers of their diocesan bishop. The office is an ancient one, and is both a privilege and a responsibility. Churchwardens are missionaries, they form a link between the parishioners and the clergy and they have wide-ranging management duties. Many of their duties are set out in the Canons of the Church of England, Canon E1.4 says of churchwardens:

They shall discharge such duties as are by law and custom assigned to them; they shall be foremost in representing the laity and in co-operating with the incumbent; they shall use their best endeavours by example and precept to encourage the parishioners in the practice of true religion and to promote unity and peace among them. They shall also maintain order and decency in the church and churchyard, especially during divine service.

Please do not hesitate to contact your archdeacon, rural dean or diocesan registrar for help and advice in discharging your duties.

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