Society’s 31st Annual Conference held on ‘Gospel and Law in Theological Education’

March 17, 2018

The Ecclesiastical Law Society’s 31st annual conference was held today at St Bride’s Foundation, Fleet Street, London, on the topic of Gospel and Law in Theological Education. There follows a brief report of the day, with more photos and information to follow soon.

The first business of the day was an magnificent keynote address delivered by Dr Andrea Russell, Tutor for Anglican Admissions and Director of Studies at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, on the topic of Church Law and Ministerial Education. Dr Russell talked about the challenges of teaching canon law to ordinands drawn from across the range of church traditions and cultures. She drew extensively on Richard Hooker’s teaching about order, suggesting that the legal order is one of the ways in which God is revealed to us, and that legal order is part of mutual accountability. Of particular interest were the examples by which Dr Russell demonstrated how she encouraged those ordinands who may be suspicious of the concept of canon law to engage with the material theologically and pastorally.

The Ven Simon Baker, Archdeacon of Lichfield, and the Revd Canon Norman Boakes, Archdeacons’ National Executive Officer, gave a paper on Good Practice in the Conduct of Ordained Ministry. The session began with a close reading of the Rule of St Benedict, on order as the framework for flourishing. The speakers then reflected on the many way in which the role of a Christian minister is unique, including the work situation and the relationships and roles which ministry involves.


At the Annual General Meeting of the Society, as well as election of officers and committee members, the main business was the proposal to convert the Society from an unincorporated association to a CIO. The relevant motions were passed unanimously. At the conclusion of the AGM, the fourth edition of our chairman Mark Hill’s book, Ecclesiastical Law, was launched.

After lunch, Stephen Borton, Ecclesiastical Manager at Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, demonstrated some of the training that is provided (in some dioceses) to curates at IME 5/6 in the forms of Training Materials on Marriage Law. Stephen also shared insights on recent developments of marriage law.

The Ven Peter Rouch, Archdeacon of Bournemouth, led our group work session, in which we discussed case studies that might arise in the Church of England. The case studies, all drawn from real life examples, ranged from the uncertain status of land used for a Garden of Remembrance, fees retained by a member of the clergy officiating at funerals in an allegedly private capacity, and the constitution of a PCC. The lively discussion demonstrated the importance of education in ecclesiastical law in the life of ministers and parishes.

The last presentation of the day saw Simon Baker and Stephen Borton return to the lectern, to explain some of the work of the Society’s Education sub-committee. Delegates’ attention was drawn in particular to the growing range of material, including training presentations and links to legal resources, now present on the ELS website Everyone present was encouraged to evangelise about the work of the Society to the church at large, to ensure that the availability of these resources should become better known.

After tea, the day conference concluded with Evening Prayer in St Bride’s Church.

Papers and other material will be posted to this website in due course.

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