The use of church halls by other churches and Christian groups
A few recent experiences in the diocese have highlighted the need for every PCC to take great care when approached by Christian groups and independent churches wishing to hire church halls for worship, fellowship meetings or bible study.
It is important that we continue to develop good relationships with other churches whilst not giving any foothold to those groups which bring others into disrepute.
There have been several stories of difficult situations arising across the diocese including an extreme case in Willesden concerning a group known as the Gospelites (or ‘The Gospel’ or ‘GLiTS: Gospel Life in the Spirit’).
However, it is also important to recognise that we have many good news stories of the use of our church buildings by international churches with which we are actively developing more formal Anglican links. This is exciting and an important part of discovering more about what it means to be the Anglican Church in this world city.
Who can use our church halls?
There is no simple rule for deciding who should be allowed to use church halls.
However, one way is to check what networks, if any, these churches relate to, for example membership of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CCBI); the Evangelical Alliance; their own networks or denominational organisations such as Lighthouse, Latin American Pastors Group etc.
Occasionally some groups fall more into the category of NRMs (New Religious Movements) but describe themselves as Christian fellowships or Bible groups, precisely because you will think you know what you are getting.
What is of the utmost importance is that PCCs take time to explore a group’s origin, history and doctrine (particularly regarding the authority of the Pastor). It is also important to enquire if the group was previously meeting somewhere else (if so, contact the relevant Vicar or Pastor) and to make enquiries of colleagues in the deanery as to whether the group is known to them.
Hall hiring agreement
The PCC needs to obtain clarity on the exact use of the space e.g. worship, education, community service etc. It is then vital to ensure that there is a proper hall hiring agreement in place. PCCs should consult this article on Hall Hire. For further support, contact the Parish Property Support Administrator, Virginia Featherston.
PCCs have a duty of care to advise organisations of their responsibility for the welfare and safety of any children and adults at risk in their care.
Sadly, there have been instances of faith-based abuse of children, some within churches meeting in church halls. This once again highlights the importance of PCCs being vigilant about following the guidelines in Safeguarding in the Diocese of London.
Section 5.5.3 gives a clause suitable for inclusion in hiring agreements with outside groups.
The use of a church
Please note that it is not generally permissible for any other church or group to use the church building without the Bishop’s agreement and a license under faculty. Any PCC wishing to consider another group or church using the church building should have a discussion with the Archdeacon in the first instance.
Occasionally in instances of a genuine ecumenical relationship, a formal sharing agreement may need to be considered under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969.