Ecclesiastical Commission

Ecclesiastical Commission in English law, is a standing body invested with very important powers, under the operations of which extensive changes have been made in the distribution of the revenues of the Church of England. In 1835 two committees were appointed "to consider the state of the several dioceses of England and Wales, with reference to the amount of their revenues and the more equal distribution of epist copal duties, and the prevention of the necessity of attaching by commendam to bishoprics certain benefices with cure of souls; and to consider also the state of the several cathedral and collegiate churches in England and Wales, with a view to the suggestion of such measures as might render them conducive to the efficiency of the Established Church, and to ascertain the best mode of providing for the cure of souls, with special reference to the residence of the clergy on their respective benefices." Upon the recommendation of these committees a permanent commission was appointed by 6 and 7 Will. IV, c. 77, for the purpose of preparing and laying before the king in council such schemes as should appear to them to be best adapted for carrying into effect the alterations suggested in the report of the original commission and recited in the act. The first members of this commission were the two archbishops and three bishops, the lord-chancellor and the principal officers of state, and three laymen named in the act. By a later act, (3 and 4 Vict. c. 113), all the bishops, the chiefs of the three courts at Westminster, the master of the rolls, the judges of the Prerogative Court and Court of Admiralty, and the deans of Canterbury, St. Paul's, and Westminster, were added to the commission; and power was given to the crown to appoint four and the archbishop of Canterbury to appoint two additional lay commissioners, who are required to be "members of the United Church of England and Ireland, and to subscribe a declaration to that effect." Five are a quorum; but two bishops at least must be present at any proceeding under the common seal of the commission, and if only two are present they can demand its postponement to a subsequent meeting. Paid commissioners, under the title of Church estates' commissioners, are also appointed — two by the crown and one by the archbishop of Canterbury. These three are the joint treasurers of the commission, and constitute, along with two members appointed by the commission, the Church estates' committee, charged with all business relating to the sale, purchase, exchange, letting, or management of any lands, tithes, or hereditaments. The schemes of the commission having, after due notice to persons affected thereby, been laid before the queen in council, may be ratified by orders, specifying the times when they shall take effect; and such orders, when published in the London Gazette, have the same force as acts of Parliament. See Encycl. Brit. (9th ed.) s.v.

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