Smith, Michael G.
The late Rev. Michael G. Smith graduated from University College, Oxford, with BA, MA and BD degrees. Ordained a deacon in 1960 and a priest in 1961, he began his ministry as a curate in Exeter and Oxford before spending five years attached to the Episcopal Church in the United States, where he held both academic and pastoral appointments. On his return to England in 1970, he was successively chaplain to Queen Margaret’s School, Escrick Park and Pocklington School. Rev. Smith served as vicar of St. David’s and then as rector of Silverton and Butterleigh, from which he retired in 1995.2006 0-7734-5945-6
This book examines the development of the courts of the Church of England from 1680, William Sandcroft’s first year as Archbishop of Canterbury, to the Church Discipline Act of 1840. By illustrating the law and practice of the courts during this period, the author suggests that there was movement away from the traditional jurisprudence established by the canon law of the Church of England to regulation by Parliamentary legislation.
The author begins by looking at the ecclesiastical courts as they existed throughout much of the period. The procedures were regulated by the canon law, and the author examines these and the nature of the criminal proceedings that comprised the jurisdiction of these courts. He notes the origins and training of those who staffed these courts, the advocates and proctors, and finds them firmly rooted in the civil and canon law. The power of the church courts to censure and punish both the clergy and laity for spiritual offenses is explored in some detail. This leads inevitably to the particular issue of clerical discipline and the role of the bishop in trying to enforce canon law as it applied to his clergy. The legislative intervention of Parliament by Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 to prevent clandestine marriages might have been seen to have been an encroachment into an area traditionally within the cognisance of the church courts and the canon law. Even more directly, the Clergy Discipline Act of 1840 now sought to determine how the bishop might discipline his clergy.
There is much here about the ecclesiastical and canon law of the Church of England itself in this period, the courts in which it was administered, criminal procedure and its technicalities, including the power to punish and discipline. Individual cases and contemporary correspondence, frequently drawn from archival sources, are extensively used to exemplify the changes that were taking place in the courts over this period.