Sean Gabb in “The Times”: Disestablish the Church
From The Times October 24, 2008
Should the Church be disestablished? Yes, says Dr Sean Gabb
Yes: Dr Sean Gabb Director of the Libertarian Alliance
“In the British Constitution, Church and State are joined. The Queen is head of both. There are 26 Anglican bishops in Parliament.
The weak argument for disestablishment is that only a minority of people in Britain are Anglicans. Why should Catholics or Jews or Muslims or atheists defer officially to an institution that does not represent their beliefs?
This is not in itself a good argument. Establishment is part of the Constitution. If I move to Pakistan or Ireland, I would have to put up with the existing establishments there. Why should it be different with us? If it should be different, it is because the Church of England has ceased to be either intellectually or theologically respectable.
Anglicanism used to mean Cranmer and Hooker and Tillotson and Warburton and Paley. Malthus and Sydney Smith were Anglican priests. These were men who combined distinction in theological and secular learning with a broadly tolerant outlook.
Nowadays, priests and bishops seem to be less interested in preaching the Gospel than in preaching an embarrassingly naïve socialism.
It may be arguable that the true message of Christ is socialist. It may also be argued that the laws of supply and demand are as much part of the Divine Order as the laws of motion and that Christians cannot validly pronounce on either without some study of the secular sciences that have uncovered them. If this is true, it is not enough for an Anglican priest to read The Guardian, announce that God is love and then make other than embarrassing pronouncements on interest rates and distribution of property.
Now, the problem here is not that so many Anglican spokesmen appear to be of the Left, but that they seem wholly unaware of any other theological perspective on economics and politics.
With this, I regret, goes their almost casual rejection of the Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in favour of new versions that are devoid of literary merit.
The Church should be disestablished because it has, in a sense, disestablished itself. It has made itself an object of derision where not of contempt. It should not be allowed to continue representing itself as England at prayer.
The practical argument against disestablishment is that the monarchy would be destabilised. Again, the monarchy has destabilised itself. The settlement by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was that we would regard the monarch as the Lord s anointed. The monarch would, in turn, safeguard our liberties. Without mentioning any other dereliction, Her Majesty this year allowed ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite its implications for how we govern ourselves, and despite the promise by the Government in 2005 that what became the treaty would not be ratified without a referendum.
Since the monarchy is at best on probation, therefore, and since the Church of England cannot be defended as it has become, the arguments for disestablishment strike me, however sadly, as too strong to be brushed aside.