Original Research - Special Collection: Graham Duncan Dedication

The regulation of Christian churches: Ecclesiology, law and polity

Mark Hill QC
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 1 | a3382 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3382 | © 2016 Mark Hill QC | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 February 2016 | Published: 23 November 2016

About the author(s)

Mark Hill QC, Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff Law School, Wales, UK; Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, London, UK; Department of Church History and Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, United Kingdom


This article examines the internal regulation of religious organisations in terms of their law, order or polity. It offers a systematic comparative analysis of how different Christian traditions structure and regulate themselves. The resultant legal frameworks are expressive of the institutional self-understanding of particular churches and, as such, are a form of applied ecclesiology. The paper draws upon two ongoing research studies: the Colloquium of Anglican and Roman Catholic Canon Lawyers and the Christian Law Panel of Experts, the latter having submitted a detailed submission to the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission giving a legal critique of its recent document ‘Towards a Common Vision’. Through a detailed methodical and comparative analysis of the various structural and regulatory formulae adopted by the different branches of the Christian family, profound similarities are discernible that are redolent with deeper theological significance. This research represents an emergent platform capable of being utilised within the ecumenical endeavour to give traction in the movement towards greater visible unity in the 21st century.


Ecclesiology; church polity; canon law; ecumenical; unity; Anglican; Roman Catholic


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