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Diocesan Chancellor
Home > Inside the Diocese > Governance > Chancellor

A variety of other commissions and committees support the work of the diocese, most in a non-governance capacity.  Some are canonical bodies, i.e. chartered via a canon in the Constitution and Canons, and others are non-canonical.

Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of El Camino Real

Canon 3.11 - Under Officers of the Diocese

"A Chancellor who shall be a communicant of the Church in this Diocese and shall be learned in the law shall be appointed by the Ecclesiastical Authority at each Annual Meeting of the Convention and shall serve until a successor is appointed. The Chancellor shall be the legal advisor to the Diocese."

Canon 21.5 Re Ecclesiastical Discipline

"The chancellor of the Diocese is the legal advisor to the Bishop, and shall have no other or further role in the investigation or hearing of matters under this canon."

The Constitution (6.9 and 9.1) gives seat, voice and vote to the chancellor at Convention and includes the chancellor with the secretary and treasurer as officers of the Diocese.


Practically, what does the chancellor do?

It's been said that being chancellor of the diocese is just like being general counsel of a company, only you don't get paid.

Note the difference in 3.11 and 21.5, above. Except in the case of ecclesiastical discipline, the chancellor is the advisor to the whole Diocese, not merely to the bishop, or the parishes, or the clergy. For ecclesiastical discipline, a church attorney is appointed to handle the matter and the chancellor advises the bishop. This would not be the case if the bishop were the subject of the discipline.

As advisor to the Diocese, the chancellor covers not only issues arising under church constitution and canons, but all the temporal matters that may arise. The range of subjects recently has included: 

Authority of Diocesan bodies Mediation
Clergy letters of agreement Parishioner exclusion
Constitution/canon revisions Promissory notes
Contracts Property
Division of assets Property water rights
Ecclesiastical discipline Rector displacement
Employment issues Regulation of health clinic
Endowment funds Taxation


How to seek help

Nancy Cohen is chancellor. Cynthia Maxwell is vice-chancellor. Cynthia deals especially with matters in her legal specialty - employment law. She travels a great deal so the best way to reach her is by email. Nancy deals with anything or finds the right person to do so. Both are volunteers and have limited capacity to deal with numerous issues. The principal client is the Diocese. We will, however, give initial direction on parish legal questions and help the parish get the appropriate help.

Nancy Cohen Cynthia Maxwell
ncohen@family.stanford.edu iecounselcem@msn.com

Additional contact information available from
Diocesan Office


Other Chancellors/Resources

Help is there for chancellors. A good network of diocesan chancellors exists. There is an internet workroom in which one can pose questions, peruse model agreements, and get help on specific legal issues. It is also easy to ask and answer questions by email. 

An internet site, Church Law Today, is available by subscription the Diocese of El Camino Real is a subscriber.