Global leaders query Church of England state link - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 18, 2005

Global leaders query Church of England state link

-18/11/05

In a little-reported element of a controversial letter this week to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, 14 ëGlobal Southí Anglican archbishops have questioned the appropriateness of the Church of Englandís state link.

The Anglican Primates, nearly half of the worldwide archepiscopal leadership of 38, represent those in the Southern hemisphere critical of an affirmative stand towards faithful homosexual relationships, which others regard as a Gospel imperative.

As part of their objection to the Church of Englandís accommodation to the new UK Civil Partnerships law, which comes into operation in December 2005, they say that the Roman Catholic Church managed to negotiate a ìconscientious exception to the Act for the very reason that it was not part of the Establishment.î

Declare the Primates: ìThe willingness of the Government to override clear Christian teaching in an area of life where the church has a unique role raises a serious question whether the church-state relationship is obsolete and a hindrance to the Gospel.î

The challenge is another indication that the question of disestablishment will not go away. Its cause, which once had the sympathy of Dr Williams when he was leader of the disestablished Church in Wales, finds support from progressives and radicals in the church, as well as from conservatives.

It is also advocated by secularists who believe that the idea of a state religion is anachronistic and unfair in a plural age.

But disestablishment is opposed by some Anglican liberals who fear that it would play into the hands of those they see as sectarian, and who may cite the issue raised by the Southern Primates as an example.

Earlier this year the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia called for an ecumenical debate about the church-state link, and questioned it both on theological grounds ñ as a vestige of the passing Christendom era ñ and on grounds of fairness.

Writing in the Church of England Newspaper in February, Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley declared: ìEstablishment diminishes the Church of Englandís ability to proclaim and live the Gospel free of state sponsorship. It inhibits equal relations with other churches. And it habituates Christians to trust in earthly power rather than Godís disarming strength displayed in Jesus.î

However, the think tank has also given voice to those who take a positive view of lesbian and gay people in the church and who welcome civil partnerships.

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

It criticises the anti-Catholic bias of the 1701 Act of Settlement and says 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.

The letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams on 15 November from 14 Anglican primates has been interpreted by the media as a direct assault on his leadership, particularly over the contested sexuality issue.

But the Global South Anglican website which made it public denies this, saying that the document ìis not condemning anyone, certainly not the [Church of England] or Archbishop Rowan Williams.î

[Also on Ekklesia: Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay row (17 November 2005); Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Christian think tank calls for disestablishment; Make the institutional church history, says theologian; the case for disestablishing the Church of England; Post-Christendom - Church and Mission in A Strange New World, by Stuart Murray; Against establishment: An Anglican Polemic and Anarchy, Church and Utopia: Rowan Williams on Church, both by Theo Hobson]

Global leaders query Church of England state link

-18/11/05

In a little-reported element of a controversial letter this week to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, 14 ëGlobal South' Anglican archbishops have questioned the appropriateness of the Church of England's state link.

The Anglican Primates, nearly half of the worldwide archepiscopal leadership of 38, represent those in the Southern hemisphere critical of an affirmative stand towards faithful homosexual relationships, which others regard as a Gospel imperative.

As part of their objection to the Church of England's accommodation to the new UK Civil Partnerships law, which comes into operation in December 2005, they say that the Roman Catholic Church managed to negotiate a 'conscientious exception to the Act for the very reason that it was not part of the Establishment.'

Declare the Primates: 'The willingness of the Government to override clear Christian teaching in an area of life where the church has a unique role raises a serious question whether the church-state relationship is obsolete and a hindrance to the Gospel.'

The challenge is another indication that the question of disestablishment will not go away. Its cause, which once had the sympathy of Dr Williams when he was leader of the disestablished Church in Wales, finds support from progressives and radicals in the church, as well as from conservatives.

It is also advocated by secularists who believe that the idea of a state religion is anachronistic and unfair in a plural age.

But disestablishment is opposed by some Anglican liberals who fear that it would play into the hands of those they see as sectarian, and who may cite the issue raised by the Southern Primates as an example.

Earlier this year the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia called for an ecumenical debate about the church-state link, and questioned it both on theological grounds - as a vestige of the passing Christendom era - and on grounds of fairness.

Writing in the Church of England Newspaper in February, Ekklesia director Jonathan Bartley declared: 'Establishment diminishes the Church of England's ability to proclaim and live the Gospel free of state sponsorship. It inhibits equal relations with other churches. And it habituates Christians to trust in earthly power rather than God's disarming strength displayed in Jesus.'

However, the think tank has also given voice to those who take a positive view of lesbian and gay people in the church and who welcome civil partnerships.

Ekklesia points out that Christ's message of equality, justice and special concern for the poor stands in contradiction to the subjection of Church to Crown, which is based on privilege through heredity.

It criticises the anti-Catholic bias of the 1701 Act of Settlement and says that the Church of England should formally invite other denominations and church networks into 'a fair, equal and theologically-grounded conversation about church-state relations and about ways of moving beyond Establishment'.

The letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams on 15 November from 14 Anglican primates has been interpreted by the media as a direct assault on his leadership, particularly over the contested sexuality issue.

But the Global South Anglican website which made it public denies this, saying that the document 'is not condemning anyone, certainly not the [Church of England] or Archbishop Rowan Williams.'

[Also on Ekklesia: Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay row (17 November 2005); Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Christian think tank calls for disestablishment; Make the institutional church history, says theologian; the case for disestablishing the Church of England; Post-Christendom - Church and Mission in A Strange New World, by Stuart Murray; Against establishment: An Anglican Polemic and Anarchy, Church and Utopia: Rowan Williams on Church, both by Theo Hobson]

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