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The Constitution of the Church in Wales

The internal rules governing the Church in Wales are to be found in its Constitution. The Constitution is binding on all members of the Church, its members being the serving clergy and those receiving a pension from the Representative Body (the body responsible for the assets of the Church) together with lay persons who have agreed to have their names entered on the electoral roll of a parish in Wales. Members of the Governing Body, the Representative Body and of their committees are also bound. Clergy agree to be bound by the Constitution when accepting any office within the Church, and lay persons agree to be bound by it when applying to have their names entered on an electoral roll. The Constitution is not part of the law of the land, but the terms of a contract which binds all members of the Church in Wales as an unincorporated association.

The Constitution is published in two volumes. Volume 1 consists of nine chapters dealing respectively with:

I. General Provisions, Definitions and Interpretation
II. The Governing Body
III. The Representative Body
IV. The Diocese (including Deaneries, Parish Administration and Territorial Arrangements)
V. The Archbishop and Diocesan Bishops (including elections to those offices)
VI. Appointments and Nominations
VII. Parsonages
VIII. Retirement
IX. The Tribunal and Courts of the Church in Wales.

Volume 2 consists of the Canons of the Church in Wales, and Rules and Regulations made either by or under the authority or with the consent of the Governing Body. These latter include:

  • Burial Ground Rules
  • Churchyard Rules
  • Gravestones Regulations
  • Church Sales Regulations
  • Chancel Repair Regulations
  • Lay Administration Regulation
  • Accounting Regulations
  • Church Fabric Regulations
  • Redundant Churches Regulations
  • Constitution of Diocesan Churches and Pastoral Committees
    Cathedral and Churches Commission Rules
  • Resources for Training for the Ordained Ministry Regulations
  • Maintenance of Ministry Scheme
  • Cathedral Schemes
  • Rules of the Courts of the Church in Wales (including the Provincial and Diocesan Courts, and including Faculty procedure).

Members are also bound by the ecclesiastical law of the Church of England as it existed in Wales on the eve of disestablishment, but only so far as it does not conflict with anything contained in the Constitution. The following items of English ecclesiastical law at disestablishment are not however included:

  • The Clergy Ordination Act 1804
  • The Church Discipline Act 1840
  • The Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act 1840
  • The Clerical Subscription Act 1865
  • The Clerical Disabilities Act 1870
  • The Colonial Clergy Act 1874
  • The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874
  • The Sales of Glebe Lands Act 1888
  • The Clergy Discipline Act 1892
  • The Benefices Act 1898
  • The Pluralities Acts
  • The Incumbents’ Resignation Acts.

The Governing Body has power to add to, alter, amend or abrogate any of the provisions of the Constitution. It can also make new or alter existing articles, doctrinal statements, rites, ceremonies and formularies, and can make provision or alter existing provisions for matters of faith and discipline, but these things can only be done by bill procedure. Bill procedure requires the proposal to be subjected to three readings, including a committee stage, before the Governing Body prior to a final vote in each of the three orders of bishops, clergy and laity, a two-thirds majority being required in each order for the bill to pass. An expedited version of this procedure is available where a bill is certified as not being controversial. A bill when enacted is promulgated as a Canon of the Church in Wales.

The Governing Body’s power to make regulations may be delegated by it to other bodies or to committees of its members, resulting in a form of delegated or subordinate legislation for the Church.

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