Andrew Carey—A troubling year lies ahead for Church and State Matters in England

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A troubling year lies ahead for church and state relations. All the signs are that Members of Parliament are flexing their muscles over the General Synod vote on women bishops.

They would like nothing less than to bounce the Church of England into an early decision, and some are actively seeking to interfere with a decision-making process that uniquely ties the Church and State together. Many supporters of women bishops will welcome this support from Parliament for their cause. Many of us agree that the Church of England must act quickly to resolve a question that has already been settled, not least by the overwhelming support of diocesan Synods. But threats from Parliament are unhelpful for many reasons.

In particular, dispersed power and the separation of British institutions are fundamental to our constitution. If any British institution seeks greater powers over another the balance of the British state is upset. We should expect Members of Parliament to exercise great restraint when it comes to their power. An over-mighty Parliament is as much a danger as an over-mighty Church. Both have their own respective responsibilities and rights and to overstep these is to upset a balance that has been worked out over centuries.

Religious freedom is threatened by a state that seeks to impose its own thinking on the Church. This is why the government’s pretence that it can outlaw the Church of England and the Church in Wales from ‘opting-in’ to same-sex marriage is such a curious claim. It misunderstands the nature of marriage itself, which cannot be divided into civil and religious marriage. It forgets that canon law is also the law of the land. And it is an overreaching of government power.

The fourth element of the so-called quadruple lock is merely a recognition of the status quo, that only the churches can initiate change to their own canon law. Any move to compel the Church in one direction or another is completely unacceptable.

--Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2013 edition

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

1 Comments
Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Terry Tee wrote:

Not mentioned here is the obvious fact that members of parliament include atheists, agnostics, Jews, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Muslims, and so on.  Why should they opine on the Church of England?  More generally, it always astonished me to hear liberal Anglicans say that the power of the state should be brought to bear on the Church of England under the equality laws.  Pusey (and Newman) would be appalled.  There is fine, but important distinction between making the Church observe the law of the land, and not prescribing Christian doctrine which only the Church can undertake, in obedience to God who calls the Church into being.

January 4, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
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