Occasional use of church buildings by churches of other denominations - 14 April 2003
1. The Use of Church Property Ordinance 1995 (the ordinance) regulates the use of Anglican church buildings by non-Anglican church groups. The ordinance has expanded the narrowly defined occasions for which a licensed church building could previously be used subject to appropriate safeguards.
2. Until recently the ordinance envisaged that any non-Anglican church group wishing to use a church building would do so on a regular basis. This was largely due to the requirement under the ordinance that the group enter into a formal agreement to use the building. This applied even if the proposed use was only occasional, for example, a wedding or a funeral.
3. Where a non-Anglican church group wished to use a church building on an occasional basis, the requirements of the ordinance and, in particular, the requirement for a formal agreement have generally been seen as unnecessarily bureaucratic.
4. At its meeting on 24 March 2003, the Standing Committee amended the ordinance to relax the requirements that apply to a non-Anglican church group using a church building on an occasional basis. For this purpose "occasional" means the use of a church building by a particular group on no more than 3 occasions in any 12 month period.
5. The main way in which the requirements of the ordinance have been relaxed is that it is now no longer necessary to enter into a formal licence agreement with a non-Anglican church group for the occasional use of a church building. However it is still necessary–
The approval of the Archbishop or assistant bishop may be subject to conditions. Any conditions must be fulfilled before the group is permitted to use the church building.
6. The amendments to the ordinance have also changed the requirement that a non-Anglican church group wishing to use a church building must have doctrine consistent with the 39 Articles. Instead non-Anglican church groups must be "Bible-based". This requirement applies to both occasional and non-occasional use of church buildings and is determined by the Archbishop or assistant bishop when considering his approval to such use. The terminology "Bible-based" reflects, among other things, the wording used by the Archbishop in his Presidential Address to the 2002 ordinary session of Synod and also the wording of the fundamental aim of the Diocesan Mission adopted by the Synod at that session.
7. Aside from the change to the doctrinal requirements of non-Anglican church groups, the requirements of the ordinance in relation to the non-occasional use of church buildings remain unchanged. In particular it will still be necessary to enter into an approved form of agreement with such groups for non-occasional use.
8. A copy of the ordinance, including the latest amendments, is enclosed for your information.
Please contact the Legal Officer at email@example.com or on 9265 1671 if you have any questions about this matter.
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