The Structure of the Church of England
The Church of England is divided into 43 dioceses (regional governing bodies, like local authorities), each of which has a Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF), a diocesan Bishop and a cathedral, as well as several other committees and decision-making bodies. The DBFs are legal entities (registered charities and companies) and the Cathedrals are separately registered too. You can see a map showing diocesan boundaries here: http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/dioceses.aspx .
The Church is further divided into around 13,000 parishes. Each parish is governed by a Parochial Church Council (PCC), and each PCC is a legal entity and a body corporate. PCC members are the trustees of the PCC. They are governed by the usual charity laws and also by Measures and Regulations enacted by the General Synod (the ‘parliament’ of the Church of England). The Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956 (as amended) is the governing document of PCCs, and PCCs must also comply with the Church Representation Rules amongst others. See http://www.parishresources.org.uk/charity/gds.htm.
Gifts in Will are usually left to PCCs, the most local level of the Church of England. The 13,000 PCCs making up the Church of England together receive between £40m and £50m in legacies each year, set against a total income of around £900m. Some PCCs (those with annual income over £100,000) are registered charities; others are still excepted charities.
These 13,000 parishes cover the whole geographical area of England; hence everybody in the country has a local parish and a local parish church. There are in fact around 16,000 church buildings since some parishes contain more than one church, and there are around 8,000 priests serving these parishes; many priests lead more than one parish and they are assisted by other ordained and lay ministers.
Parish names and boundaries do change over time as some churches are closed down and new ones opened up; that is why it is important to give as much information as possible about the intended church beneficiary of a gift, so that the proper recipient can be identified when the time comes. There will be records to help identify the intended beneficiaries where, for example, 2 parishes have merged, but the more information included in the Will clause to help identify the intended beneficiary, the better.
There are other legal entities which are part of the Church besides PCCs, DBFs and Cathedrals. For example, the Archbishops’ Council is a registered charity and company which co-ordinates the work of the Church at national level; the Church Commissioners are a registered charity managing the Church’s historic assets and direct them towards areas of greatest need and opportunity; there are Church mission agencies and development charities working in the UK and overseas, and many parishes have associated outreach charities, ‘Friends of’ charities etc. Any of these may also be recipients of gifts in Wills.
The Church Legacy Service may be of interest to clients who wish to leave gifts to a number of these bodies. Find out more here if you have any queries about it, feel free to contact us.
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Phone the Church Legacy Line for free information and resources: 08445 870875