Davies v Presbyterian Church of Wales

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Keith of Kinkel,Lord Brandon of Oakbrook,Lord Brightman,Lord Templeman,Lord Mackay of Clashfern
Judgment Date06 March 1986
Judgment citation (vLex)[1986] UKHL J0306-1
Date06 March 1986
CourtHouse of Lords
Davies (A.P.)
Presbyterian Church of Wales

[1986] UKHL J0306-1

Lord Keith of Kinkel

Lord Brandon of Oakbrook

Lord Brightman

Lord Templeman

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

House of Lords

Lord Keith of Kinkel

My Lords,


I have had the benefit of reading in advance the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Templeman. I agree with it, and for the reasons there set out would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Brandon of Oakbrook

My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech prepared by my noble and learned friend, Lord Templeman. I agree with it, and for the reasons which he gives I would dismiss the appeal.

Lord Brightman

My Lords,


For the reasons given by my noble and learned friend Lord Templeman, whose speech I have had the advantage of reading in draft, I too would dismiss this appeal.

Lord Templeman

My Lords,


The problem raised by this appeal is whether a pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Wales is an employee under a contract of service.


The origins of the church have been traced to the Methodist revival of the 18th century. The constitution of the church was formalised by a deed poll, known as the constitutional deed, dated 10 August 1826 and executed by 150 persons described as ministers, preachers, elders and trustees nominated and appointed by meetings of members of the church. The church is thus an unincorporated body of persons who agree to bear witness to the same religious faith and to practise the same doctrinal principles by means of the organisation and in the manner set forth in the constitutional deed. The constitutional deed contains powers of amendment, save in respect of faith and doctrine. The present constitution of the church is to be found in the Book of Order and Rules which was published in 1978.


The book of rules makes provision for the admission of members by local churches, the election of elders by local congregations, the training, examination and ordination of ministers of the church, and the induction of pastors charged with the spiritual welfare of congregations attending local churches. The general supervision of the church is vested in the ministers and elders of the church meeting in the General Assembly. The church is divided geographically into three associations of the north, south and east of Wales. Each association is subdivided geographically into a number of presbyteries and each presbytery is divided into a number of districts. An association, a presbytery or a district meeting is comprised of ministers and elders of the Church within their respective boundaries.


The appellant was selected and trained to be a minister of the church in accordance with the book of rules and was ordained a minister in September 1974. The book of rules provides for the appointment and induction of an ordained minister to be a pastor to take charge of one local church or two or more local churches united in one pastorate. If three-quarters of the members present at a meeting of the congregation of the local church vote in favour of calling a minister to be their pastor, the vote is reported to presbytery "and if presbytery confirm the report, the minister concerned shall be considered to have been duly and regularly elected to have … charge" of the pastorate (book of rules p. 31). The minister is then inducted at a service conducted by the moderator of presbytery. At that service the congregation of the local church comprised in the pastorate stand witness to the fact that the minister has been called to be its minister in the Lord. The moderator puts to the minister the following questions, which are answered affirmatively by the minister (p.111):

  • "(i) Do you promise to apply yourself to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its richness and purity to the people of your charge?

  • (ii) Do you promise to administer the Sacraments with all reverence?

  • (iii) Do you promise to give religious instruction, and to make every provision, so far as it lies in you, for the nourishment and building up in the Faith of the people committed to your charge?

  • (iv) Do you promise to visit the sick and the bereaved who belong to this pastoral charge, together with those who neglect the means of grace?

  • (v) Do you promise to witness to the Gospel in word and deed to those who are without the church?"


The moderator then inducts the minister as minister of the pastoral charge and on behalf of the church delivers to the care of the pastor all its members and their children together with those who are associated with it. When a pastor wishes to retire or resign or to take another pastorate, he may be released by the moderator of presbytery at a formal service held for this purpose. (p. 113). A pastor may be dismissed by presbytery after enquiry into his conduct. But a pastor is not appointed for any particular period nor can his pastorate be determined by notice.


The appellant, Mr. Davies, was inducted pastor of the United Pastorate of Tabernacle, Whitchurch and Hermon, Tongwynlais in October 1974.


The general assembly is empowered by the book of rules (p. 23) to supervise all matters appertaining to the whole church "such as … financial matters, … the Sustentation Fund, the Pension and Grants Scheme," church property and any other matter that shall from time to time be entrusted to it. The general assembly is the final authority on all these matters. The general assembly is authorised to appoint officers and standing committees to carry out its functions.


The freehold and leasehold properties and endowment funds of the church are vested in the properties board, a body incorporated by a private Act of Parliament, the Calvinistic Methodist or Presbyterian Church of Wales Act 1933. (23 & 24 Geo. 5, Ch. xxxvii). The properties board was by this Act declared to be the custodian trustee of the property of the church. Management of the property of the church is vested in the managing trustees who, broadly speaking, in the case of local church properties are the ministers and elders for the time being of the local church. In all other cases the managing trustees are usually the officers of those bodies or the committees appointed by the general assembly or an association. Certain aspects of their powers of management cannot be exercised except with the consent, or under the direction of the presbytery, or the association, or the general assembly (p. 59). The Inland Revenue recognise that the property of the properties board is held on charitable trusts, and the church has exemption from registration and from any obligation to send audited accounts to the Charity Commissioners in respect of permanent endowments.


One of the committees of general assembly is "the sustentation fund committee" which consists of the treasurer and secretary and members appointd by the associations and the presbyteries. The committee is directed to administer the sustentation fund in accordance with the rules, to superintend the revenue of the fund and to ensure (as far as it is possible) that the fund attains its purpose (p. 79). The objects of the sustentation fund committee are expressed to be to secure "as far as resources permit" pastoral care for...

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72 cases
  • Diocese of Southwark and Others v Coker
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 11 July 1997
    ...recognised at the highest level that this was not a conclusive argument against the existence of a contract of service. In Davies v Presbyterian Church of Wales [1986] ICR 280 at 289C, Lord Templeman, with whom the other members of the Appellate Committee agreed, said: "It is possible for ......
  • Santokh Singh v Guru Nanak Gurdwara
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 5 December 1989
    ...of his vocation and religious duty. On that basis we consider the case to be on all fours with the principle set out by the House of Lords in Davies and the Court of Appeal in Parfitt and therefore this application is dismissed." 31 The appellant then appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribu......
  • Synaptek Ltd v Young (Inspector of Taxes)
    • United Kingdom
    • Chancery Division
    • 28 March 2003
    ...Act 1998), which was likely to be more familiar with the relevant background than a judge. But the opposite is the case: see Davies v Presbyterian Church of Wales [1986] 1 WLR 323. This rule may be part of the explanation for the otherwise remarkable fact that the Employment Appeal Tribunal......
  • Kapfunde v Abbey National Plc and Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 25 March 1998
    ...relationship is dependent solely upon the true construction of a written document it is regarded as a question of law: see Davies v Presbyterian Church of Wales (1986) 1 WLR 323. But where, as in the present case, the relationship has to be determined by an investigation and evaluation of t......
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3 books & journal articles
  • Discipline in Religious Institutions
    • Canada
    • Irwin Books Religious Institutions and The Law in Canada. Fourth Edition
    • 20 June 2017
    ...Methodist Conference v. Parf‌itt , [1984] Q.B. 368 (C.A.); and Preston , above note 52. 69 Davies v. Presbyterian Church of Wales , [1986] 1 All E.R. 705 (H.L.). Again, in Diocese of Southwark v. Coker , [1996] I.C.R. 913 (E.A.T.), a Church of England curate was not permitted to appeal a di......
  • Mutuality of Obligations and the Contract of Employment: Carmichael and Another v National Power plc
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    • The Modern Law Review No. 63-5, September 2000
    • 1 September 2000
    ...employment relationship).24 ibid 1231.25 Devlin, Trial by Jury, (London: Stevens, 1966).26 See eg Davies vPresbyterian Church of Wales [1986] ICR 280.27 Stephenson LJ in Nethermere (St. Neots) Ltd vTaverna and Gardiner [1984] ICR 612, 627.28 See O’Kelly vTrusthouse Forte plc [1983] ICR 728,......
  • The Precarious Employment Position of Ministers of Religion: Servants of God but not of the Church
    • South Africa
    • Stellenbosch Law Review No. , May 2019
    • 27 May 2019
    ...Methodist Conference v Preston (rev 1) UKSC 29 (15 May 2013).51 Diocese of S outhwark v Coker 1998 ICR 140 (CA) 147.52 146- 149.53 1986 1 All ER 705 (HL). 294 STELL LR 2017 2© Juta and Company (Pty) his manner of serving God is not acceptable to the Church, then his pastorate can be brought......

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