Disestablishment 'would make the church more Christian' says national newspaper

By staff writers
October 22, 2008

Disestablishment would make the Church of England more Christian, a national newspaper has said.

The comments came in an editorial for the Times newspaper, following the suggestion by a Government minister that a separation of church and state is inevitable in the years to come.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas waded into the disestablishment debate and contradicted official government policy over the position of the Church of England.

The outcome of the Government’s attempt to reform the House of Lords would be to strip the Church of its privileges, he said. Within 50 years the Church of England would have lost the special position it has held in English life since the Reformation.

His comments echo those of Christians, including the thinktank Ekklesia which has said that disestablishment is both inevitable and desirable for both church and state.

Mr Woolas told The Times: “Disestablishment – I think it will happen because it’s the way things are going. Once you open debate about reform of the House of Lords you open up debate about the make-up of the House. It will probably take 50 years, but a modern society is multifaith.”

An editorial in the Times welcomed the debate saying: "The debate is indeed right. Even so, there remains a powerful case for antidisestablishmentarianism.

"Disestablishment would in a sense allow the Church of England to be more Christian" it continued. "Its concerns would be less expansive, and a more distinctive voice might thereby emerge. Whether that is the right course for the Church and for the nation is a conversation worth holding."

Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia's co-director said: "Disestablishment is long overdue, and it would be better for it to occur sooner, rather than later. The Times is right to say that disestablishment would make the Church more Christian. The established status of the church contradicts ideas of equality, fairness and justice which Christianity is supposed to stand for. It also gives it special privileges over other Christian denominations, other religions and those of no religious belief."

"Moreover, with the Prime Minister giving up his powers in the appointment of bishops, the Church is left in the bizarre position of being an unaccountable institution which can effectively appoint its own candidates to the second chamber of Parliament. This is not only unjust, but profoundly undemocratic."

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.