Whose church?

This month sees the coronation of King Charles III in Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. King Charles will have the title “Defender of the Faith” and be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England (He’s not the head of the church – that’s Jesus!).

Inevitably there will be all sorts of questions about the relationship between church and state. The Church of England is the only religion which has representatives in government – 26 bishops in the House of Lords. It’s difficult to disagree with the argument that that is unfair – what about the other Christian denominations, and what about other faiths? I have to concur that it would be better, if it were possible, to have a diversity of representation, but practically there are difficulties, because there are so many different religious groups. It’s not clear who would be asked, and there would inevitably be disagreements about who the representatives should be. For instance, the Chief Rabbi represents only one section of the Jewish people in the UK. The alternative to the present system is likely to be no religious representation at all. The bishops are there not because they have political points to make, but because they explicitly look at every piece of legislation from the point of view of values. They can stand back and look at the legislation in the light of compassion, truth, and justice. Universal values that all faith communities ascribe to.

Another objection comes from some Christians. They do not think it right that the King or parliament should have a say in the affairs of the church. There have not been any strong disagreements of late, although it has to be said that in the 1980’s Mrs Thatcher vetoed the appointment of bishops she considered too left wing. There may come a time when there is conflict and the system falls apart, but at the moment it seems to work fairly well.

But the thing I value about establishment is the parish system. Every single person in the UK, of any religion or none, can knock on their vicarage door and ask for help. And every vicar or rector has the spiritual care of everyone in their geographical parish. There are Church of England schools which have 90% of their pupils Muslim. The school serves the community, and the parents appreciate the spiritual and ethical foundations of the school. Most other faith schools exist to educate their own adherents. In a similar situation they would close the school and open another elsewhere. Village churches, like St George’s are particularly valued by the community. They know it is their church, even if they don’t go. It is, at least, a starting point for mission.

So on May 6th I will, on balance, be pleased that we are part of an established church and welcome King Charles as our Governor. And I am proud to serve the parish of St Margaret’s and St George’s, not just the congregations.

Rev Sue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s