Church and state ties not relevant in a modern society - GP Taylor

There is no doubt that most ordinary people pay little attention to any archbishop standing up in a pulpit, dressed like a character from Harry Potter and spouting pseudo left- wing gobbledygook on a political issue of the moment.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury before delivering his Easter Sermon at Canterbury Cathedral on April 17, 2022 in Canterbury, England. Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images.

Only a few weeks ago, Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury) did just that. This time it was about the Government’s plans to ship immigrants to Rwanda. It is the last in a long line of comments he has made that could be regarded as political.

Like 25 other priests, he has the right to sit as an unelected Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords. This is a position of great responsibility as he has direct access to the Queen, Prime Minister and other influential people, something that is out of sync with the modern post-Christian country in which we now live.

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The issue is that the Church of England is the established religion in this country.

As such it is given special privilege and status in our political structures and ceremonial events. When Charles is made king, he will swear to be Defender of the Faith and become the head of the Church. How can this be right in a multi-cultural society?

How can the Church hold such influence in the modern age when only 1.4 per cent of the population attend church?

The only other country in the world where clerics are given political status such as the C of E bishops is Iran and that speaks for itself. There has never been a more urgent cause than the disestablishment of the C of E before the next coronation. Something that a growing number of people agree with.

Church attendance has dropped significantly and its position as a moral compass in society is no more. Yet, bishops and archbishops are constantly commenting on politics and politicians.

In many cases, they show a distinct political bias unbecoming of a supposedly neutral priest.

Never a week goes by without a bishop commenting in the Lords on issues of government policy, gender, race or climate change even though a recent poll showed that 62 per cent of the population think they should be thrown out.

Keeping the vestigial right of 26 bishops to sit in the House of Lords is outrageous. Their main achievements have been to win legal exemptions which allow the Church to discriminate against women and gay people and evade duties that bind other public bodies.

No longer can the Church say it is the moral authority for the nation. Due to its catastrophic decline in attendance over recent years, it does not speak for the people. The C of E is riven with internal divisions and obsessions about the status of women and homosexuality and cannot claim to offer a coherent source of moral guidance. It certainly cannot speak for the nation about matters to do with the LGBTQ community.

The C of E is divided on this issue, with many Christians I know still believing it is a sin to be gay. With its triple locks and refusal to permit gay marriage anywhere near its premises the Church is out of step with the society it says it represents. It is supposed to be the national church that will marry anyone who asks. Anyone, except gay people. When the issue came before the House of Lords in 2013, it was the Anglican bishops who tried to scupper it.

At that time, the Archbishop of Canterbury, issued an apology to the gay community for the centuries of cruelty and injustice that his church has heaped on gay people. Then, he went and voted against a Bill that would have gone a long way to putting right those wrongs.

It is hypocritical to apologise for something and then stick the boot in. Surely if the bishops were really concerned about how the Church had treated gay people, they would have voted to allow them to be married in church.

However, there are many other valid reasons why the C of E should be disestablished and its links to the state cut.

This view is acknowledged by Rowan Williams, who says separation would give the C of E “a certain integrity”. That integrity is vital if the Church is to survive into the next century. Its links to the fabric of state are making it even more irrelevant.

As a Christian, I am one more in the number of growing voices that feel it is wrong to for the Church to be tied to the state. It is an echo of an ancient past that, like the Church itself, is no longer relevant in a modern society.

It is vital that bishops are removed from the House of Lords and that the Church has all of its political privileges taken away. Like the robes they wear, these archaic vestments of power are a symbol of an age long gone. There is no room in modern politics for the grumblings of meddlesome priests.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in East Yorkshire.

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