Church and State

Thought I ought to blog on this subject, given the interest on my mentioning faith schools and a Sunday Times article I read yesterday about whether it is time for the UK to be a secular state!
Put simply, I have never really agreed with the idea of the Church of England being a state church! Whilst the relationship has some benefits, it can in theory compromise itself (esp with regard to where senior appointments are made by politicians who may or may not be Christian, depending on who is in the job), and indeed can be a vehicle for force feeding Christianity on others. Whilst I think this is miniscule in this day and age, it certainly wasn't the case in the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
Not only that but in other countries the Anglican/Episcopal Church tends to thrive, unfettered by state control. True it has it's drawbacks, like any other denomination, notably lack of money and the temptation to be dependent on wealthy benefactors, but it has thrived in other ways and the Christian faith has always been at it's admirable best when it allows itself to be vulnerable instead of trying to fight against it! Put simply, the Church is there to worship God and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, not to make idols out of insecurity.
An unfettered Church of England would be able to make it's own decisions, work out better ways to heal the evangelical/liberal divide (the bits that need healing anyway), and develop better relations with other denominations. It may also become more influential in it's dealings with the state, neither being compromised by the other and not depending on currently existing structures. It means having one's work cut out but that is no bad thing! Take a look at the US, where the churches (albeit making mistakes sometimes, and sometimes quite horrendous ones) wield a strong influence on political issues. One may say that in some cases the church is woefully misguided, but can one say that when they see the work done by Christians such as Martin Luther King, Jr and Jim Wallis.
In short, the womb may well be a warm place but perhaps it is time to cut the umbilical cord!


Anonymous said…
Bring on the secular state - in an age when people a large majority of people in this country are non-Christian, it is totally indefensible.
Anonymous said…
The Church of England has enjoyed significant privileges, particularly relating
to “establishment”, for many centuries. These have not been limited in line with
the other important developments that have carried our parliamentary
democracy forward into the modern world, particularly those reflecting the
increased importance afforded to Human Rights in our society.

These religious privileges have remained largely unchanged despite the
massive and continuing reduction in support for the Church in the UK. This
decline can be measured in terms of membership, attendance and – in the
wider context of what the Church describes as its “mission to the nation” – belief
in God or Christianity. The serious decline started around 75 years ago and has
become more precipitous in recent decades. Realistically, this trend is
irreversible for the foreseeable future.

The UK remains alone among Western democracies in granting seats in its
legislature to religious representatives as of right. Other democracies discarded
such practices centuries ago.

Astonishingly, the Government is bent on extending this archaic relic of
religious privilege under the guise of “modernisation”. The Government has
intimated that it would like to see representatives of other denominations and
faiths given ex-officio places in the Lords. To do so would be a significantly
retrograde step away from democracy and back towards the medieval origins
from which the bishops attained their right to sit.

There are many informed and independent projections, and background
statistics, to support our assertions on the long-term and continuing projected
numerical decline of the Church of England. These are summarised below and
cited in more detail in Section D of the Main Submission. But even the direst of
these projections ignores the further diminution that will result from the all-but
inevitable schisms over the induction of gay clergy and/or installation of women
bishops. In May 2006 the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Carey,
expressed his fears that a “serious and final schism destroys the Communion”.
In the latest emerging schism, the fundamental direction of the Church is
increasingly being decided through power struggles in which the main
antagonists come from other parts of the Anglican Communion – particularly in
the “global South”, as the Church calls it. The English hierarchy look on
powerlessly as reactionary clerics in Asia, Africa and the USA drag the Church
ever further from “Western” Human Rights values and British public opinion.
Any church controlled in this way should forfeit the right to be England’s
established church.

In addition to the important objections of principle of establishment, the
decline in support for the Church of England has already reached the
point where it can no longer justify being regarded as the nation’s church.
There is no justification for the State to be associated with a “mission to
the nation”. But even if there were a justification, the Church’s decline is
leading inexorably to it having insufficient personnel or buildings to
provide any credible Anglican “mission to the nation”.
rosegenie said…
Good post Paul! :) I'm having alot of issues right now with the so-called "modern" church and have to say I am now proud of my C of E roots!!!! I think the C of E preaches about personal responsibility and discipline, whereas some modern churches are just TOO laid back and cause problems amongst their members... I disagree with the Anon post here who says the large majority of this country is non-Christian - I think most people are very unhappy with modern life and would love to rediscover the security of Christian living!! x

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