Speaking on BBC Radio 4's religion news programme 'Sunday' (17 Feb 08), Jonathan Bartley of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia has said that the Church of England would benefit from giving up its Established status.
Responding to Bishop James Jones of Liverpool, who spoke of the Church's "unique historic role" and its ability to speak on behalf of others because of its recognised presence in all sections of the community, Bartley pointed out that privileges like unelected Anglican bishops in the Lords have been used to defend its institutional interests and to thwart equalities in public service provision.
He said that Christians are already hugely represented by elected members and peers present in the chamber on other grounds - over-represented in terms of the numbers of active adherents.
"Why can't [the Church's members] use the 'normal channels' like everyone else?" rather than claiming to speak on behalf of others from a privileged position, he asked.
Ekklesia argues that the Church's special status under the Crown is unfair and unsustainable in a multi-conviction society, and that from a specifically Christian perspective it is out of keeping with the Gospel of Jesus' identification with those at the margins, rather than the rich and powerful.
The issue of disestablishment has come into the public arena again because of proposed changes to the senior clergy appointment system. PM Gordon Brown has surrendered the prime minister's right to choose between two names presented to him by the Church body responsible for selecting bishops, the Crown Nominations Commission.
See also news: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6771
Simon Barrow, 'Giving up Establishment for Lent' - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6774
Blog: 'Keeping up with the Joneses" - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6773