Letter from the Chairman: 3 June

June 3, 2020

Dear Member,

This round-robin is intended as an update to members on how the Society has been continuing its activities notwithstanding the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and to express thanks to all those who have gone the extra mile to support the work of the Society in these challenging times.

Meetings of Trustees and Standing Committee

The Trustees have continued to meet via Zoom and the Standing Committee monthly by telephone conference.  The April meeting had as its main focus the work of the Education Sub-Committee, noting its considerable achievements over the last few years and setting out expectations for the next three years. You can find out more about this from the YouTube interview here of its chairman, Ven Simon Baker.

Reading Group on the Canons

The response to the suggestion of a fortnightly reading group on the Canons of the Church of England was overwhelming.  Such was the demand that four groups had to be established which now meet fortnightly, two convened by Revd Russell Dewhurst and two by Revd Stephen Coleman. There is a waiting list for participants. Please contact Russell if you would like your name added: communications@ecclawsoc.org.uk.

CDM Working Party

The CDM working party convened by HH Peter Collier QC is underway and has established its terms of reference. Any member wishing to make written representations to the Society’s working party should contact Peter via execsec@ecclawsoc.org.uk, marking the email for the attention of Peter Collier.

Ecclesiastical Law Journal

The Covid-19 emergency prevented the printing and mailing out of the May issue of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal. This will be undertaken as soon as possible, but in the meantime, members can enjoy the online version here.

Northern Province Lecture – 25 June 2020

Arrangements have been made for the live streaming of Bishop Helen Ann Hartley’s lecture on Law and Life in the Anglican Communion. Members will need to register in advance for a Zoom access code. For this experimental venture, participation is limited to 100 and the lecture is nearly fully subscribed. Sign up here. 

Membership renewal

The annual membership renewal is now underway. With over 700 members, the Society is the largest it has even been at any time in its history.  But we could still do with more new members. Please encourage friends and colleagues to join by circulating this link.

Annual General Meeting  

The AGM which was to take place during the Day Conference on Saturday 28 March was cancelled, due to the Covid-19 emergency. It is our current intention to reschedule it for Wednesday 25 November 2020 at 5.30 pm at the offices of Winckworth Sherwood in Southwark, to precede Will Adam’s London Lecture that evening – here.  Of course, this is conditional on the compliance with the regulations on social distancing and mass gatherings by that stage.  We would require a minimum of 35 members to be present for the AGM to be quorate.  We will keep you updated on developments but please mark this date in your diary.

ELS YouTube Channel

We have launched an ELS YouTube Channel on which Russell Dewhurst has already placed an introduction, together with interviews with Norman Doe, Simon Baker and the custodians of the Law and Religion UK Blog – Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington. More videos will be added, such as Helen Ann Hartley’s lecture, so please subscribe to the channel – 107 so far and counting.

ELS Newsletter

There will be a further edition of the ELS newsletter circulated next week, under the new editorship of Benjamin Harrison. Please contact Ben – bha@no5.com – if there is anything you would like to contribute.

Winding up of Unincorporated Association

As members will be aware, the ELS reconstituted itself last year as a Charitable Incorporated Association (CIO).  It has taken over the assets and liabilities of the Society as an unincorporated association, and the membership has migrated to the CIO. We will shortly be taking steps formally to wind up the unincorporated association and have it removed from the Register of Charities. This has been a laborious and time-consuming business which has occupied much of the Trustees’ time over the last couple of years. Particular thanks are owed to the governance group under the able leadership of Elizabeth Wilson.

Change of Patron

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu stands down as Patron of the Society upon ceasing to be Archbishop of York. I am pleased to record our gratitude to Archbishop Sentamu for all the support he has given the Society during his time as Patron. Sadly, the cancellation of the Society’s conference in March meant we were unable to enjoy his keynote address nor to say a formal farewell. We wish him a long and happy retirement, The Confirmation of Election of the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell as the next Archbishop of York will be on 9 July and we are delighted that he has agreed to serve as Patron of the Society, jointly with the Archbishop of Canterbury who continues in office as Patron. We wish Bishop Stephen well as he moves from Chelmsford to begin this next stage in his ministry.

New Officers     

The Society is continually looking for new Trustees to carry forward its work.  The Society relies on volunteers to a very large extent. In the coming year or so the officers are likely to stand down leaving the Society in need of Chairman, Treasurer and Vice Chairman. We have set up a small working group under Frances Godden to look at succession planning and recruitment more generally. If you have suggestions for any of the officer posts please contact Frances in confidence: Frances-Godden@birketts.co.uk.

Thanks and the future

As will be obvious, rather than allowing the activities of the Society to be put on hold during the current state of emergency, we have increased them considerably and found different and better ways of delivering on the Society’s charitable purpose. All the Trustees have worked together to achieve this, but I am particularly grateful to the Standing Committee – Darren Oliver, Elizabeth Wilson, Ben Harrison and Russell Dewhurst – for stepping up to the plate and to Bishop John Ford in his new role as Executive Secretary. Hitherto we have sought to communicate with members on a weekly basis, During June this will ease back to fortnightly as we move gradually towards the much-heralded ‘new normal’.

I want finally to thank each and every member for your continuing support. Ours may be a niche Society with a specialist subject matter at its heart, but as the growth in membership, activity and ambition clearly evidence, it is meeting a real need. Long may it continue to do so.

With my thanks and best wishes,

Mark Hill QC