The diocesan registry provides legal advice on a variety of matters relating to parish officers (such as clergy, churchwardens, PCCs, lay chairs), diocesan officers and bodies (such as bishops, archdeacons, boards, councils and committees) and members of the public (in relation to marriage, baptism, confirmation and burial).
This page contains some guidance notes on key topics. If you have a question, please check these notes in the first instance. If you need to contact a member of staff in the registry, please contact the relevant person based on the subject matter of your enquiry.
From the Commons Library:
In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, 147 16-17-year-olds entered into a legally binding marriage with a member of the opposite sex. This figure represents 0.06% of all marriages that took place in England and Wales in 2018. … UNICEF considers that child marriage is a violation of human rights. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, agreed to by world leaders, is, “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”.
The Government’s Explanatory Notes (PDF) to the Bill set out the full reasoning for the change in the law.
Timeframe for advice
We aim to provide a first response within 48 hours, though we might then need to check other records/sources of information or to ask you some further questions. In most cases, we will provide a full response within five working days. If your enquiry is time sensitive, please make this clear at the outset.
Advice topics and fees
The registry provides initial advice in relation to the following areas under a retainer paid by the diocese:
- Matters arising in connection with an ecclesiastical office, function or duty (eg clergy, lay chairs, churchwardens, PCCs);
- The faculty jurisdiction and work of the consistory court (not including advice in relation to particular applications, but including general advice in relation to churchyards, burials and memorial regulations);
- Matters relating to the church representation rules (eg parish governance, PCC membership, elections);
- Appointment of clergy (eg ordination, patronage process, licensings, resignations);
- Licensing or consecration of church buildings and church-owned burial grounds;
- The law relating to marriage, baptism, confirmation and burial;
- Records and registers held by the diocesan registry (eg pastoral schemes, churchyard consecrations, church land/building status, historic parish correspondence).
Additional fees are payable for applications for a faculty where the application is not being made for the PCC, applications for a common licence for marriage, and consecration of civil burial grounds.
Additional fees may also be necessary if enquiries or requested work/advice requires a higher level of time or detail, or becomes transactional. Fees will then become payable to the registrar’s firm Winckworth Sherwood LLP on a solicitor-and-client basis.
Other legal advice
For the avoidance of doubt, advice in relation to other areas is not covered by the diocesan retainer, and separate fees will be payable, including for:
- Property research (including boundary disputes);
- Conveyancing (sale/purchase of land or buildings) or drafting of other property documentation (such as licences, tenancies, or agreements);
- Litigation (including mediation, dispute resolution or other legal proceedings);
- Trusts (including matters related to schools, parochial charities and Charity Commission applications);
- Employment law.
The registrar’s firm Winckworth Sherwood LLP can provide advice on these and other matters and has expertise in advising ecclesiastical clients. If you would like to discuss engaging a solicitor please feel free to contact the registrar about this. The registrar advises the bishop in relation to complaints and disciplinary matters and cannot advise clergy, PCCs or complainants about that. Independent legal advice should always be sought.
- Marriage in the Church of England (guidance for the Diocese of Oxford)
- General Register Office guidebook for clergy
- Marriage registration changes (from May 2021)
- Marriage documents and schedules
- Marriage certificate fees 2019
- Marriage surrogates list (updated October 2021)
- Banns of marriage and how to avoid an emergency Common Licence
- House of Bishops guidance for marriage measure
- Marriage of foreign nationals without EU Settled or Pre-Settled status
- Letter to superintendent registrar for applications
- Guidance for letter to superintendent registrar for applications
- Marriage of EEA nationals from 1 July 2021
- Home Office Q&A – sham marriage changes (from 1 July 2021)
- Guidance where a British national does not have a valid passport
- Divorce guidance
- Marriage in church after divorce statement
- Filming weddings and baptisms in churches
Making an application
Registrar of the Diocese
01865 297 214
PA to the Registrar
Parish roles, governance, disciplinary & safeguarding
01865 297 214
01865 297 211
Marriage enquiries, clergy appointments & burial ground consecrations
Faculties & churchyards
01865 297 208