Holder of a Church of England parochial charge / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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In English ecclesiastical law, the term incumbent refers to the holder of a Church of England parochial charge or benefice. The term "benefice" originally denoted a grant of land for life in return for services. In church law, the duties were spiritual ("spiritualities") and some form of assets to generate revenue (the "temporalities") were permanently linked to the duties to ensure the support of the office holder. Historically, once in possession of the benefice, the holder had lifelong tenure unless he failed to provide the required minimum of spiritual services or committed a moral offence. With the passing of the "Pastoral Measure 1968" and subsequent legislation, this no longer applies, and many ancient benefices have been joined into a single new one.
At one time, an incumbent might choose to enjoy the income of the benefice and appoint an assistant curate to discharge all the spiritual duties of the office at a lesser salary. This was a breach of the canons of 1604, but the abuse was only brought under control with the passing in 1838 of the Pluralities Act (1&2 Victoria, ch. 106), which required residence unless the diocesan bishop granted a licence for non-residence for reasons specified in the same act and provided severe penalties for non-compliance.