Some clerics are Antidisestablishmentarians

Liberal readers will not be surprised that The Telegraph resists changes in the relationship between the Church of England and the state. In an article titled “Biggest change since Henry VIII and the Pope” Jonathan Petre writes

The decision by Gordon Brown to allow the Church of England to choose its own bishops for the first time since Henry VIII was broadly welcomed by Church leaders yesterday.

But the reform – one of the biggest changes in the relationship between Church and state since the Tudor king fell out with the Pope – will reopen the fraught issue of disestablishment.

It will also dismay many Anglicans that such a major reform could have been announced with so little consultation or public debate.

The row will surface next week when the General Synod meets in York as a debate on senior ecclesiastical appointments is already on the agenda.

Welcoming the proposals, Dr Sentamu said in his statement that Mr Brown had consulted both him and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, about his intentions.

He said he was “grateful” for the Prime Minister’s backing of the continuing role of the Queen and the “establishment by law of the Church of England.”

Petre made sure to include the voice of skepticism

But some clerics said that the removal of Downing Street from the process of choosing bishops and deans could further concentrate power in the hands of a few senior prelates.

Canon David Holding, a Synod member, said: “This goes to the heart of the Church/state relationship. It has huge implications.

“It will threaten the diversity of senior appointments, and could well lead to the old boy network running riot.”

The article is here. The Lead’s prior post on the Prime Minister’s announcement is here.

If a governance role by an democratically elected government did ensure against the concentration of power in the hands of a few in the church, then what does that say about the polity of provinces in the Anglican Communion? If the church is not established, for instance, should the polity be one where the laity and clergy have a large voice in the election of bishops and the provincial bishop as in the American model?

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