(Observer) Church and state – an unhappy union?

How is it, they might wonder, in the 21st century, in a country where by every measure the number of people defining themselves as non-religious is growing and the number identifying with the C of E is shrinking, that we have a God-ordained monarchy pledging to preserve the privileges of a religious institution rejected by the vast majority of the population?

According to David Voas, professor of social science at University College London (UCL) and co-director of British Religion in Numbers, there are many ways of defining religious affiliation. “But, very clearly, we’re at a point where, under any definition, a minority of the population – in practice, single figures – is Anglican. There can no longer be a majoritarian argument for an established church.”

The most visible manifestation of establishment, which dates back to the reformation, is the monarch’s dual role as head of state and head of the church. But there are many elements: the 26 seats in the House of Lords reserved for Anglican bishops (the only other country to ringfence seats in its legislature for clerics is Iran); the formal appointment of bishops and archbishops by the monarch; the need for church laws to be approved by parliament; the requirement for the Church of England to minister to the whole population, with every inch of the country divided into C of E parishes; Anglican prayers at the start of parliamentary business each day; the legal requirement for every state school to hold an act of daily worship that is “broadly Christian in character”. The legal prohibition on the monarch marrying a Roman Catholic was lifted only five years ago.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

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