The Diocese in Europe Measure 1980

by Philip Jones

The 1980 Measure did not create the diocese in Europe.  The recital to the Measure refers to the Bishop of London’s ‘ecclesiastical jurisdiction’ over Church of England clergy (not laity) officiating in northern and central Europe, and the Bishop of Gibraltar’s similar jurisdiction over other areas of Europe.

The Bishop of London surrendered his jurisdiction to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in the exercise of his metropolitical jurisdiction formed the diocese in Europe from the areas formerly under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of London and Gibraltar.

The diocese of Gibraltar was created by letters patent of 1842, issued under the royal prerogative (Phillimore Ecclesiastical Law 2nd ed 1895, pp.1766-8).  The letters patent provided that the diocese and its Bishop were subject to the metropolitical jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The Bishop of London’s overseas jurisdiction dates from an order in council of King Charles I, also made under the royal prerogative.  The Bishop of London is subject to the metropolitical jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury by common law.

This narrative suggests that the surrender of the Bishop of London’s European  jurisdiction and the exercise of the Archbishop’s metropolitical jurisdiction in creating the new diocese both required royal assent, even if this was only implied rather than given expressly,  since both jurisdictions were conferred under the royal prerogative.

The 1980 Measure is very short and limited in scope.  It provides only for

(1)   representation of clergy and laity from the diocese in the General Synod and Convocation of Canterbury (ss.1-3)

(2)   the provision of an official residence, stipend and expenses for the Bishop and any suffragan

(3)   application of the Church of England pension scheme to the diocese and

(4)   clergy from the diocese to be treated as Church of England clergy, not as overseas clergy, for the purposes of the Overseas and Other Clergy Measure 1967.

Thus the Measure makes no provision for the administration of worship and doctrine in the diocese (neither does the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974), nor for the appointment of the Bishop or any other clergy, nor for pastoral reorganisation within the diocese.  Absent legislation, such matters can be regulated only within the limits of the common law and prerogative powers.

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