christian think tank calls for disestablishment after prince's engagement - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 11, 2005

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Christian think tank calls for disestablishment after Prince's engagement

-11/02/05

Ekklesia, the UK Christian think tank, has become the first body publicly to call for moves towards the formal disestablishment of the Church of England in the wake of the engagement of Prince Charles and Ms Camilla Parker-Bowles, announced yesterday. It is asking for an ecumenical reconsideration of church-state relations.

ìThe circumstances of this engagement clearly illustrate how inappropriate it is that the Church of England should remain establishedî, says Ekklesiaís director, Jonathan Bartley. ìAs a state church it has no say over its Supreme Governor and its interests remain subject to those of the Crown.î

He continued: ìIn decision-making about the Royal wedding the Church of England has been shown to be little more than a bit-part in constitutional affairs. It is time to end this humiliation and set the Church free.î

Ekklesia points out that the Church is now in the anomalous position of having as its future Governor and Defender of the Faith a man who even the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot permit to re-marry in his own Church using the official liturgy he is meant to uphold.

The only reason Charles and Camilla can hold their civil wedding ceremony in the Chapel at Windsor is that it is a ëroyal peculiarí, wholly owned and run on behalf of the Queen. ìIt is an embarrassment that the Church can be franchised in this wayî, commented Mr Bartley.

Ekklesia believes that the case for disestablishment will be strengthened by the Churchís current plight, but it stresses that the theological case for ending the state link is paramount, and has nothing immediately to do with the Princeís wedding.

ìThe Church of England is the only state church in the worldwide Anglican Communionî, says Jonathan Bartley. ìThat the Church should be subject to the Crown compromises its ability to proclaim and live the Gospel free of state interests. It inhibits equal relations with other Christian churches. And it is also inappropriate in a plural society. Faith cannot be imposed. It must remain a free choice.î

Ekklesia points out that Christís message of equality, justice and special concern for the poor stands in contradiction to the principle of Monarchy, which is based on privilege for the few through heredity.

The think tank also says that the blatant anti-Catholic bias of the 1701 Act of Settlement is ìdeplorable and sectarianî. Were Ms Parker-Bowles a Catholic, the Prince of Wales and his heirs would automatically lose their right to accede to the Throne.

Ekklesia is suggesting that the Church of England should formally invite other denominations and church networks into ìa fair, equal and theologically-grounded conversation about church-state relations and about ways of moving beyond Establishmentî, says Mr Bartley.

The question of disestablishment has raised its head on a number of occasions in recent years. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was known to be uneasy about it when he took up his post, and was formerly head of the Church in Wales, which was disestablished many years ago.

The former Bishops of Birmingham and Woolwich are among the prominent supporters of disestablishment. Ekklesia associate Simon Barrow contributed to a recent volume of essays, ëSetting the Church of England Freeí (edited by Kenneth Leech, Jubilee Group) among whose authors was an Oxford Professor and other senior Anglicans, including the late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.

Find books now:

Christian think tank calls for disestablishment after Prince's engagement

-11/02/05

Ekklesia, the UK Christian think tank, has become the first body publicly to call for moves towards the formal disestablishment of the Church of England in the wake of the engagement of Prince Charles and Ms Camilla Parker-Bowles, announced yesterday. It is asking for an ecumenical reconsideration of church-state relations.

ìThe circumstances of this engagement clearly illustrate how inappropriate it is that the Church of England should remain establishedî, says Ekklesiaís director, Jonathan Bartley. ìAs a state church it has no say over its Supreme Governor and its interests remain subject to those of the Crown.î

He continued: ìIn decision-making about the Royal wedding the Church of England has been shown to be little more than a bit-part in constitutional affairs. It is time to end this humiliation and set the Church free.î

Ekklesia points out that the Church is now in the anomalous position of having as its future Governor and Defender of the Faith a man who even the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot permit to re-marry in his own Church using the official liturgy he is meant to uphold.

The only reason Charles and Camilla can hold their civil wedding ceremony in the Chapel at Windsor is that it is a ëroyal peculiarí, wholly owned and run on behalf of the Queen. ìIt is an embarrassment that the Church can be franchised in this wayî, commented Mr Bartley.

Ekklesia believes that the case for disestablishment will be strengthened by the Churchís current plight, but it stresses that the theological case for ending the state link is paramount, and has nothing immediately to do with the Princeís wedding.

ìThe Church of England is the only state church in the worldwide Anglican Communionî, says Jonathan Bartley. ìThat the Church should be subject to the Crown compromises its ability to proclaim and live the Gospel free of state interests. It inhibits equal relations with other Christian churches. And it is also inappropriate in a plural society. Faith cannot be imposed. It must remain a free choice.î

Ekklesia points out that Christís message of equality, justice and special concern for the poor stands in contradiction to the principle of Monarchy, which is based on privilege for the few through heredity.

The think tank also says that the blatant anti-Catholic bias of the 1701 Act of Settlement is ìdeplorable and sectarianî. Were Ms Parker-Bowles a Catholic, the Prince of Wales and his heirs would automatically lose their right to accede to the Throne.

Ekklesia is suggesting that the Church of England should formally invite other denominations and church networks into ìa fair, equal and theologically-grounded conversation about church-state relations and about ways of moving beyond Establishmentî, says Mr Bartley.

The question of disestablishment has raised its head on a number of occasions in recent years. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was known to be uneasy about it when he took up his post, and was formerly head of the Church in Wales, which was disestablished many years ago.

The former Bishops of Birmingham and Woolwich are among the prominent supporters of disestablishment. Ekklesia associate Simon Barrow contributed to a recent volume of essays, ëSetting the Church of England Freeí (edited by Kenneth Leech, Jubilee Group) among whose authors was an Oxford Professor and other senior Anglicans, including the late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.