The UK's first Christian law charity has been set up to provide official legal advice specifically for Christian organisations.
Edward Connor Solicitors is linked to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) and describes its lawyers as 'Christians first, solicitors second'. It says they will offer specialised guidance where 'spiritual issues' merge into legal ones, giving the example 'where an employee's extra-marital affair conflicts with the employer's ethos'.
While there are law firms with a Christian basis or Christian charities with a legal focus, Edward Connor Solicitors is the first to bridge the divide and be both a fully regulated law firm and a Christian charity.
Headed by managing director Gemma Adam, previously head of a charity in-house legal team at the FIEC, its unique status means Edward Connor Solicitors can offer fully regulated legal advice as well as falling under equalities legislation as a religious charity that means it can only accept Christian clients and employees.
She said 'niche clients' such as churches as Christian groups want to know their lawyer understands the issues they will be facing.
She told Christian Today: 'For example in an employment situation: where an employee's extra-marital affair conflicts with the employer's ethos, tackling that in a way that is legally, biblically and pastorally appropriate; knowledge and experience of applying biblical principles of discipline within a church; understanding what the Bible says about conflicts between Christians and how to address them.'
She added: 'Prayer will be of fundamental importance in seeking God's will. They [Christian clients] will know they can pray with integrity about the situation with their adviser, seeking guidance and discernment. It is common for evangelical Christian lawyers at Edward Connor Solicitors to pray over the cases they are advising on, and clients will expect and see value in the lawyer not just being sympathetic to their religious convictions, but someone who will be praying about the issues involved, acknowledging their need for God's wisdom and guidance as they provide their service.
'They will benefit from a lawyer with Bible knowledge and experience of applying it in practice. Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is useful in all matters and the Christian lawyer may be able to direct the Christian client to Bible verses (as well as legislation) that will help as they go through the issue. They will bring value, for example by suggesting alternatives that may not have been considered and which are in line with the biblical principles the client will be wanting to apply.'
'We want to support Christian organisations to be more effective in serving Christ, by providing advice that is both legally robust and biblically faithful,' Adam told Christian Today. 'We see ourselves as gospel partners, not just business partners. We aim to ensure that our services are as cost-effective as possible, so that our clients can continue to invest well in their broader gospel activities,' she said.
'As well as being fully-regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we are also a Christian charity with the aim of advancing the gospel and seeing God's kingdom grow.'
The charity will be able to offer legal advice at a discounted price and is also funded through UK-based grants.
As a charity, the group cannot make any profit so income will go towards the running costs with any surplus profit going towards 'the advancement of the Evangelical Christian faith', Adam told Christian Today.
The group is regulated by the Solicitors Regularly Authority (SRA) and Adam said this means clients have 'the highest possible level of regulated service'.