The Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian Church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The British monarch still has the constitutional title of ‘Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. The Church of England is episcopally led and synodically governed.
The Church of England comprises two provinces: the Southern Province, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Northern Province, led by the Archbishop of York.
Each province is broken down into dioceses. Each English diocese is a territorial unit of administration – with boards and councils who have responsibility for different aspects of the Church’s work – under the pastoral care of one or more bishops, typically a diocesan bishop assisted by one or more suffragan bishops.
Dioceses are divided into archdeaconries, deaneries (a group of parishes forming a district within an archdeaconry) and parishes (overseen by a parish priest, also called a vicar or rector).
The General Synod is the legislative body of the Church of England. Elected from the laity and clergy of each diocese, it meets in London or York at least twice annually. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the joint presidents.
The General Synod consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy (these two houses join together the Convocations of Canterbury and York), and the House of Laity.
The House of Bishops consists of all diocesan bishops of the Church of England, the Bishop of Dover and seven suffragan bishops (four from the Province of Canterbury, three from York). The House of Bishops also meets separately from the Synod. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the presidents.
The House of Clergy comprises clergy (other than bishops) who have been elected, appointed or chosen, together with ex officio members and up to five co-opted members. The House of Laity consists of elected members from each diocese of the two Provinces, or those chosen by and from the lay members of religious communities, and ex officio members.
The General Synod considers and approves Church legislation, formulates new forms of worship, debates matters of religious or public interest and approves the annual Church budget. Legislation can be passed in two ways: by ‘measures’, which require approval by both Houses of Parliament and the receipt of Royal Assent, and by ‘Canon’, which are subject to Royal Licence and Assent.
This central executive body co-ordinates and leads the work of the Church. It comprises 19 members and seven directors; the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are the presidents.
The Church Commissioners manage the Church’s investments. They are accountable to the General Synod, Parliament and the Charity Commission. They are: the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; three Church Estates Commissioners (appointed by the Crown or the Archbishop of Canterbury); 11 elected from the General Synod (four bishops, three clergy, four lay people); two cathedral deans; nine appointed by the Crown and the archbishops; six holders of state office (the Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, Lord President of the Council, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker).
The Church of England’s Pension Board
This provides retirement services for those who have served or worked for the Church. There are 20 members of the Board, led by a chairman who is appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with the approval of the Synod.
The Church in Wales
The Church in Wales is a member of the Anglican Communion and, therefore, recognises the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. Unlike the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who are appointed by The Queen upon the advice of the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Wales is one of the six diocesan bishops of Wales, elected to hold this office in addition to his own diocese.
The Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is also a member of the Anglican Communion; it is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There are two Archbishops of the Church of Ireland: Armagh and Dublin.
Women have been ordained into the Church of England since 1994. On 14 July 2014 the General Synod gave final approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England.
Titled Members of the Clergy
Ordained clergymen of the Church of England, and other churches within the Anglican Communion, do not receive the accolade of knighthood, though the letters signifying an order of knighthood are placed after a name (for example, ‘The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Brompton, KCVO’). If a clergyman succeeds to a title or has a courtesy title or style, the ecclesiastical style precedes the temporal, eg ‘The Venerable Sir John Garrick, Bt’; ‘The Reverend the Hon John Brewer’.
Armed Forces and The Clergy
When it is desired to show that a clergyman has served in the armed forces – in a list of retired officers, for example – the following form is used: ‘The Reverend Nicholas Swallow, Commander, Royal Navy’.
Doctorate degrees are added on the envelope where appropriate.
Spouses of the clergy do not have any special form of address.
Use of the Forename
In reference to a member of the Anglican clergy or in starting a social letter or in speech, use the forename in place of initials.
‘The Reverend’ is often abbreviated to ‘The Rev’, although some clergymen prefer it to be written in full; others prefer the abbreviation ‘The Revd’. Where a personal preference is known, it is courteous and advisable to follow it.
When referring to an Anglican clergyman in letters or in speech, never use the form ‘The Reverend Hays’ or ‘Reverend Hays’ – this is an American style. If the forename or initials are unknown, use ‘The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss Swallow’ instead.
There is no universally accepted form of addressing an envelope to a married couple who are both in holy orders; ‘The Reverend Mark Brook and The Reverend Hazel Brook’ is acceptable.