David Faull

Ecclesiastical lawyer and diocesan registrar

At a wedding or ordination service it is very rare to hear a shout of "yes" when the priest asks if there are any objections. David Faull was the London Diocesan Registrar when Paul Williamson, the priest who recently lodged an objection to the Prince of Wales's marriage, stood up in St Paul's Cathedral to object during the first service where women were to be ordained to the priesthood.

David Wenlock Faull, solicitor: born Newquay, Devon 25 February 1929; Diocesan Registrar, St Albans 1960-79, Chelmsford 1960-89, Southwark 1960-93, London 1969-97, Rochester 1997-98; Legal Secretary, Bishop of Rochester 1960-98; Deputy Registrar, Diocese of Europe 1980; Chapter Clerk, and Solicitor to St Paul's Cathedral 1981-2000; senior partner, Winckworth & Pemberton 1985-90, consultant 1990-98; Treasurer, Ecclesiastical Law Society 1986-95; Chairman, Ecclesiastical Law Association 1988-90; Chairman, Christian Children's Fund (GB) 1992-98; OBE 1993; died Wells, Somerset 28 March 2005.

At a wedding or ordination service it is very rare to hear a shout of "yes" when the priest asks if there are any objections. David Faull was the London Diocesan Registrar when Paul Williamson, the priest who recently lodged an objection to the Prince of Wales's marriage, stood up in St Paul's Cathedral to object during the first service where women were to be ordained to the priesthood.

The objection lasted for three minutes until David Faull, in wig and gown, came forward to stand beneath the dome and declare that "the ordination is valid and can proceed".

Many at the service were joyful about the ordination of women but unaware that the service was very nearly cancelled. Earlier in the day Faull had been waiting for a decision at the High Court in the Strand following legal action by an opponent. Judgment was given just 75 minutes before the service was due to begin. Meanwhile, he was Legal Adviser to the Bishop of London, David Hope, an opponent of women priests although supportive of women's ministry, who was agonising about being present in the cathedral. In the end he attended as diocesan bishop sitting on his throne but taking no part in the ordinations.

An only child, Faull was born at Newquay in 1929 and attended Taunton School in Somerset. Instead of going to university after National Service, he followed his parents' advice and was articled to a City of London solicitor.

Faull later became churchwarden at St James's, Sussex Gardens, but claimed that his growing church work was an accident. He was invited to join Milles Day, a Westminster firm of solicitors, where the senior partner was a diocesan registrar. Ecclesiastical law gradually took more and more of Faull's time and in 1969 he was appointed Registrar of the London Diocese. He held a record by also being for about 20 years simultaneously Registrar of Chelmsford, St Albans and Southwark dioceses.

Although Faull could appear imposing and aloof on ceremonial occasions he was entertaining company and had a love of political intrigue. He was part of the cast when David Hope as Bishop of London caused a media frenzy by dramatically unmasking attempts by the militant gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to "out" him. This was the occasion when Hope, in reply to a question about his sexuality, declared that it was "a grey area". Faull, sitting alongside the bishop at the press conference, was reported to have "looked shocked" and indeed it was an answer which had not been rehearsed with him. However, Faull admired the bishop for both this reply and the stand he made.

He was at Southwark throughout Mervyn Stockwood's controversial episcopate and for most of the time had to act as a go-between. In 1961 the bishop and the Chancellor of the Diocese Garth Moore ceased to be on speaking terms following his advice publicly to unfrock a priest in the cathedral using the full bell, book and candle ritual. When the bishop discovered too late that this could have been avoided he fell into a deep depression and Faull had to spend much time during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land persuading Stockwood not to resign.

As a result of the disagreement, Stockwood started presiding at his consistory courts and often held disciplinary meetings at unusual hours. Once Faull was summoned to a late-night meeting to find the bishop dressed in purple pyjamas and sitting up in bed, with an archdeacon in attendance, ready to secure the resignation of a difficult priest.

Faull was again required to act as a friend and counsellor in 1974 when Stockwood was incredulous and distraught at not receiving an invitation to succeed Donald Coggan as Archbishop of York. Later Faull felt obliged to defend the bishop in The Times after he had caused a storm by writing without advice an impulsive article for the Communist Morning Star.

In 1981 Faull became Chapter Clerk and Solicitor to St Paul's Cathedral, a post unconnected to his other London appointments. In 1995 he was present as Chapter Clerk when, in response to the Queen's nomination, the Dean and Chapter elected the present Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. Later, at the Confirmation of Election, when Bishop Richard was declared Bishop of the Diocese in anticipation of his enthronement, Faull was present not as Diocesan Registrar but as Proxy for the Dean and Chapter. At the enthronement, his fourth in St Paul's, Faull was in the procession as Diocesan Registrar.

By this time he had completed six years as senior partner at Winckworth & Pemberton and become a consultant there. However, he was still Legal Secretary to the Bishop of Rochester and Deputy Registrar to the Diocese of Europe.

Not all Faull's work was a response to litigation or events. He was rather proud to have been in 1964 one of the founders of the Paddington Churches Housing Association. He was also Chairman of the Christian Children's Fund and served on the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal. "I could not have done it all if I had not been a bachelor and not had loyal staff and partners," he recalled.

In 1993 he was appointed OBE and in 1997 he was awarded a Lambeth MA by Archbishop George Carey. Retirement was spent at a new home in Wells, where he was involved in cathedral life.

Leigh Hatts

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