Committees, Boards, and democratic structures

How the Church of England is organised

The Church of England has a system of governance with democratic elements.

Parishes and PCCs

At the "grass-roots" level, the whole of England is divided up into Parishes. This is so that every home in England has a Parish Church to which it can look to for spiritual care and the services of the Church. Each Parish has ChurchWardens who are elected every year; anyone who lives in the Parish is entitled to vote for them. The Wardens are responsible for the Church building, and for good order during worship, and are senior members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC). The PCC also has other members of the Church elected annually or every three years. The PCC choose their secretary and treasurer. The PCC, with the Vicar, make decisions about types and timing of services, raising and spending of money, and local Church life generally.

Deaneries and Deanery Synods

Parishes are grouped into Deaneries - typically perhaps a dozen parishes in each. In Cumbria there are 11 deaneries - coloured in different shades on the Diocesan map. Each Deanery has a Rural Dean, a priest who is first amongst equals in the Deanery. He or she has some pastoral care for the other clergy in the Deanery. Each Deanery also has a Deanery Synod consisting of representatives elected by the Parishes, and all the clergy. Deanery Synod is chaired by the Rural Dean or by the Deanery Lay Chairman, who is elected by the lay Deanery Synod members. Deanery Synods do not have a lot of statutory responsibilities. They sometimes function as fora for debating issues, and for cascading communication between national, Diocesan and parish levels. Because Parishes grouped together in Deaneries can sometimes tackle things which they could not tackle separately, Deaneries are becoming more influential in many parts of England.

Dioceses and Diocesan Synods

At roughly the scale of County, Parishes and Deaneries are grouped into Dioceses. Each Diocese is led by a Bishop. Suffragan Bishops assist the Diocesan Bishop, as do Archdeacons - who take particular responsibility for the legal side of Diocesan life. The principal church in each Diocese is its Cathedral, led by its Dean, and where the Bishop has his own special seat. Each Diocese is more or less autonomous except in matters relating to doctrine. Each Diocese has a Diocesan Synod, which consists of Bishops, the Dean, Archdeacons, and also clergy and laity elected by Deanery Synods. Diocesan Synod is chaired either by the Bishop or the Diocesan Lay Chairman. Diocesan Synods select Boards and Councils which take responsibility for specific areas of Church life. Overall, Diocesan Synod is responsible, amongst other things, for: raising and spending money to pay for all clergy in the Diocese, and all other staff as well - this is managed through the Board of Finance (click here for link to DBF) the numbers and deployment of clergy in the Diocese Church Schools in the Diocese - these are managed through the Board for Education (click here for link to DBE) Diocesan property including vicarages
Click here for a list of Diocesan Synod members

Provinces and General Synod

At national level there are two Provinces each with an Archbishop - Canterbury and York. In relation to the other Bishops, Archbishops are first amongst equals - rather like a Chairman of the Board. There is also General Synod, which consists of the Archbishops and all the Diocesan Bishops, and some Suffragan Bishops, and Deans, elected from their own number. There are also lay people elected as Diocesan representatives by all the laity who are members of Deanery Synods, and clergy elected similarly by clergy. General Synod has powers, delegated from Parliament, to decide on matters of doctrine, worship and discipline, and things like clergy training, with a nationwide dimension. Click here for the members of General Synod from Carlisle Diocese.
Click here for a list of General Synod members

Voting

Just as in national politics, it is important that Church members use your votes. If you don't like the decisions these bodies make, then get elected and change them!