The Channel Island were subject to Roman rule and it is most likely that Christianity became established to some degree by the middle of the fifth century. Legend has it that Helier, a monk who was a native of what is now modern-day Belgium, came over to the Island looking for solitude. Jersey (called Agna in those days), was virtually uninhabited due to pirate raids, but Helier settled on a rocky outcrop in the harbour and kept watch for the few local fishermen to keep them safe. Helier was martyred on one of these raids and is commemorated every year on July 16th with a pilgrimage across the causeway to his hermitage on the nearest Sunday to his feast day.
From that time on, the Islands were within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Coutances. Papal Bulls in 1496 and 1500 purported to transfer the Islands from Coutances respectively to Salisbury and Winchester. However, the islands remained in the Diocese of Coutances until 1568 when they were annexed to the Diocese of Winchester.
The islands remain legally under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester but on the 25th March 2014 the Bishop of Winchester delegated to the then Bishop of Dover the episcopal oversight and functions reserved or assigned to him in all ecclesiastical legislation, canons, customs and protocols as apply in the Deanery of Jersey. The Bishop exercises the episcopal functions delegated to him in canonical obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury and all clergy in the Deanery owe canonical obedience to the Archbishop.
The Church of England is the Established Church in Jersey.
The Dean of Jersey
The Very Reverend Mike Keirle has been the Dean of Jersey since September 2017. He is the senior Anglican priest in the Island and has responsibility for leading and supporting the mission and ministry of our parishes and developing and strengthening our link with the wider Church of England. Mike previously lived on Guernsey for 14 years where he was a Vice Dean and Rector of St. Martin’s.
The Dean of Jersey is an ex-officio member of the States of Jersey Assembly (Jersey’s parliament) and is able to speak in debates, although he does not have a vote. He is also Chaplain to the States Assembly members. He attends each sitting and opens the States Assembly with prayer (in French).
He is regarded as the Senior representative of the faith communities and, as part of the established Church in the Island, has a significant public and civic role in the public square. He is also titular Rector of St. Helier Parish Church, although this is largely delegated to an Associate Rector.
The Dean also presides over the Ecclesiastical Court, which is itself part of the Royal Court of Jersey. The Court deals with Ecclesiastical matters, swears in Notaries Public, issues faculties for work to the fabric in churches and deals with Clergy Discipline.
The Bishop of Dover
Episcopal care for the parishes in the Deanery of Jersey is provided by the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott, exercising his ministry as an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Winchester.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on the Relationship of the Channel Islands to the wider Church of England, chaired by the Rt Revd and Rt Hon the Lord Chartres of Wilton KCVO, recently published its report outlining seven recommendations for the future relationship with the wider Church, which included a proposal that Jersey and Guernsey should be attached to the Diocese of Salisbury. This is currently under discussion in the Island Synods and it is expected that a Measure will come to General Synod in 2020.
How we are Governed
The Church of England is governed by a series of assemblies of the Clergy and Laity, known as Synods. Until 1931 the churches in the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey were not directly represented in the national church institutions. The Channel Islands (Representation) Measure, 1931 provided that each of the Bailiwicks be entitled to send representatives to both the Church Assembly and the Winchester Diocesan Conference. Those two bodies became, respectively, the General Synod and the Winchester Diocesan Synod in 1970 by virtue of the Synodical Government (Channel Islands) Order, 1970. Since the 2014 transfer of episcopal oversight from the Bishop of Winchester to the Bishop of Dover, Jersey has not sent any delegates to the Winchester Diocesan Synod. Instead they attend meetings of the Canterbury Diocesan Synod in a non-voting capacity.
At local level, Jersey Deanery Synod exists to:
- Consider matters concerning the Church of England
- Make provision for such matters in relation to the Deanery and express its opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest;
- Bring together the views of the Benefices of the Deanery (Benefice includes Parishes, Districts and Proprietary Chapels.) on common problems, to discuss and formulate common policies on those problems, foster a sense of community and interdependence amongst those benefices and promote the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical within the Deanery
- Make known, as appropriate and put into effect any provision made by the Diocesan Synod; consider the business of the Diocesan Synod and particularly any matters referred to that Synod by the General Synod and sound out parochial opinion whenever it is appropriate to do so and to raise such matters as the Deanery Synod considers appropriate with the Diocesan Synod.
A link to the rules of Deanery Synod can be found here.