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‘Legalists and moralists’ in the historic portrayal of the constitution of the Church of England

Doe, Norman ORCID: 2023. ‘Legalists and moralists’ in the historic portrayal of the constitution of the Church of England. Ecclesiastical Law Journal 25 (3) , pp. 330-354. 10.1017/S0956618X23000285

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The Enabling Act 1919 provided for a new National Church Assembly able to make Measures with the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament. The 1919 Act was without question a constitutional moment with far-reaching effects; and it was about law, not morals: legalists triumphed over moralists. However, it was just one stage in a much longer trajectory of thinking about the constitution of the Church of England. This article, which started life as a lecture to the Ecclesiastical Law Society's day conference on 2 April 2022, takes the story further back – and widens it. It presents the key elements of thinking about the constitution – accidents, continuity, change – in the works of English ecclesiastical lawyers – civilians, common lawyers and clerical jurists – from the Reformation to the Act of 1919. To what extent, if at all, in their understandings of the church constitution, were our historic ecclesiastical lawyers legalists, or moralists, or both? Was the ecclesiastical constitution itself simply a legal category, or did it, and its basics, also have a moral quality? This article explores these questions in relation to: (1) the nature, sources, and purposes of the constitution of the Church of England; (2) legislative, administrative and judicial power; and (3) the rights of the individual enforceable against the decisions of ecclesiastical government. This article is based on a paper delivered to the Ecclesiastical Law Society's 2022 day conference.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff Law & Politics
Centre for Law and Religion (CLR)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0956-618X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 November 2023
Date of Acceptance: 30 October 2023
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2023 11:00

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