The Church of England is to launch a nationwide consultation on changing its name.
The rebranding exercise, expected to take at least two years, and which will need to be approved by Parliament, follows widespread acknowledgement of the difficulties of continuing to claim to be The Church of England – rather than just one of the country’s denominations.
The church said yesterday that discussions had been going on behind the scenes for several months between Lambeth Palace and Buckingham Palace. The Queen is understood to be keen to get the process completed before Charles becomes Supreme Governor.
If the rebranding goes ahead, the monarch is rumoured to favour the name ‘Establisha’, to reflect the church’s status with regard to the Crown.
A spokesperson for the Church said: “Approaches have been made by other churches over the last few years, who have expressed concern that the Church’s name was misleading.
“After friendly discussions it was felt that all Christians would benefit from an updated brand. But this is a process that we want the whole country to be engaged in”.
It was emphasised that the name change would not alter the church’s established status, but it was not clear whether churchgoers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be consulted.
“The Church will still be the church of the nation. But this is a recognition that the existing name could be seen as a barrier", a spokesperson said. "The Church needs to be open to new ways of communicating and presenting itself. We hope that the result will be a fresh start and a new image which also reflects the changing place of religion in a plural society".
More details will be released in the next few months about how the consultation will take place. It will formally begin on Back to Church Sunday.
The Church said that the initiative would involve a new Facebook page and an interactive area on the Church of England website. People will be invited to make suggestions via text message and Twitter. Local churches will also be encouraged to hold public meetings.
Suggestions will be shortlisted at General Synod in 2011 through a deliberative process, similar to that employed recently by Democracy campaign Power2010. The country will then be encouraged to vote on the proposals in an X-factor style run off conducted under the Single Transferable Voting system.
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has also given his backing to the initiative.
[Additional note, 22.45: Yes, this was our contribution to All Fools' Day ]