(Law & Religion UK) Frank Cranmer—Women as bishops: should Parliament intervene?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The key political and constitutional problem is that, although the Church of England now behaves largely as if it is a voluntary society, it remains nonetheless part of the state. The Queen as head of state is ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church, must be in communion with it, holds the title Fidei Defensor and – nominally – appoints its senior clergy. The Archbishop crowns and anoints the new sovereign, and the Church conducts important public ceremonies and rituals effectively in relation to the UK as a whole. The Church’s courts remain courts of the land, although they lost their public law jurisdictions in the 1850s. Twenty-six bishops continue to sit in the House of Lords – each nowadays actually appointed by a private, unaccountable committee of the Church itself.

These are high matters and could be addressed again by Parliament. However, whatever the degree of change made, none could procure the appointment of female bishops unless Parliament legislated directly to that end. In other words, disestablishment could not by itself resolve the particular question of female bishops. On the other hand, what disestablishment could do would be – a very different matter – to permit the state and Parliament to wash its hands of Church of England affairs altogether.

Since nothing so far suggests that Parliament contemplates such a rupture, it follows that the Church must be allowed to deal with the present crisis itself. Whether in doing so it strengthens the case for a radical review of remaining church/state ties is another question.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

2 Comments
Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Cennydd13 wrote:

I may not be a member of the Church of England, but my answer to this question is a most emphatic NO!

November 27, 11:46 am | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

A very sensible article that gives a good survey of the difficulties inherent in any Parliamentary intervention in affairs of the Church of England. 

It also illustrates how much rubbish is being spouted in the popular press and on liberal blogs:

“Only if Parliament decided to proceed without the Church’s consent would there be a case for its intervening. But if it did so, it would intervene in the interests presumably of the majority party and negative any possibility of holding all the parties together. Contemplating such a sequence is to remind why Parliament conceded the right of legislative initiative to the Church in the first place.”

As for repealing the exemption under anti-discrimination law, Frank Cranmer identifies the crux of the problem:

“If singling out the Church of England for the repeal alone, the Bill will itself be discriminatory: if the repeal is general, then it will be opposed by every other Christian denomination and all other religions as well.”

November 28, 4:17 am | [comment link]
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