firestorm: the Economist weighs in

Updated Monday afternoon

The Economist has a brief news item: The gathering storm and then a leader, headed Church and state Sever them.

The news item concludes rather interestingly with these paragraphs:

…Schism has been looming over Anglicanism since 2003, when American liberals ordained a gay bishop, Gene Robinson. And—a sign of how far apart the camps are—the conservatives’ worry is not that Lambeth will endorse homosexual relations among the clergy or anybody else; it is rather that decisions there will not provide clearly enough for the expulsion of churches which stray in a liberal direction.

In the latest move, Drexel Gomez, the conservative Archbishop of the West Indies, has started drafting a compromise that would allow old-timers to attend the Lambeth meeting, on the understanding that proper arrangements will be made for disciplining gay-friendly liberals. To people who are neither Christian nor Muslim, it must all sound a bit like sharia law.

The leader draws this conclusion from it all:

…Faced with this anomaly, the archbishop proposes to expand the privileges of all religions. It would be better instead to curtail the entitlements of his one. It makes no sense in a pluralistic society to give one church special status. Nor does it make sense, in a largely secular country, to give special status to all faiths. The point of democracies is that the public arena is open to all groups—religious, humanist or football fans. The quality of the argument, not the quality of the access to power, is what matters. And citizens, not theocrats, choose.

Cut it free
Disestablishing the Church of England does not mean that it has no public role to play. America’s founders said there should be no established religion, but religion shapes public debate to a degree that many in Europe find incomprehensible. Let religion compete in the marketplace for ideas, not seek shelter behind special privileges. One law for all, with its enlightened insistence on tolerance and free speech, is not a “bit of a danger”. It is what underwrites the ability of all religions to go about their business unhindered.

Ekklesia which had already expressed a view on this in Disestablishment may be back on the agenda as church feels pressure has now commented directly on the Economist response in The Economist calls for cutting the cord that binds church and state.

And Simon Barrow wrote about Giving up Establishment for Lent.

Here is a link to the BBC Sunday item (7 minutes audio):

Disestablishment
Controversy has surrounded the comments Rowan Williams recently made about Sharia. The religious think tank Ekklesia has now weighed into the debate with the suggestion that the Archbishop’s speech demonstrates the need for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Jonathan Bartley, the co-director of Ekklesia, and the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, gave their views.

21
Leave a Reply

avatar
21 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
19 Comment authors
Simon BarrowtrueanglicanSpirit of Vatican IIPat O'NeillJohn Bassett Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
JCF
Guest
JCF

“The point of democracies is that the public arena is open to all groups—religious, humanist or football fans. The quality of the argument, not the quality of the access to power, is what matters.”

And, more’s the pity, I suspect that even *football fans” have a better quality argument these days, than does Rowan Cantuar (and too many of the LOUDER voices in the CofE: +Carlisle, +Durham, +Rochester, +Winchester, and the omnivocal Canon Dr. Sugden. Ack.).

As far at the leader goes: I couldn’t agree more! Cut ‘er loose!

John Omani
Guest
John Omani

It is fascinating to read this piece after Theo Hobson’s article in the Tablet: the anger in this archetype of classical liberal magazines suddenly becomes much more intelligible. Too bad that the Economist does not bother to examine the Tocqueville thesis, long a feature in British political thought: that establishments of religion can often work to restrain religious excess. But by emphasising the opposition of secular (not the same as atheist) interests and religion, and by supporting the agenda of orthodox Muslims rather than progressives, RW may well have done more to roll us towards disestablishment than any of his… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

It is quite rare for me to agree so wholeheartedly with The Economist, but I do now!

(Although I am puzzled about how one would go about disestablishing the C of E — the initiative would have to come from the government, no? And what about the fact that in Norway the liberals in the church are fighting to maintain establishment to protect the church from the fundamentalists?)

Counterlight
Guest
Counterlight

“To people who are neither Christian nor Muslim, it must all sound a bit like sharia law.” As far as I’m concerned, the only real difference between the mad mullahs and the Bible pounders is a shave. Disestablishment of the C of E would be the best thing that ever happened to it. But then, I’m an American. English bishops may talk to us Yanks with the tone of irritated headmasters, but when their backs are turned, we’re howling with laughter at them. That Lord Carey was picked to be ++Canterbury by Margaret Thatcher, a Methodist, was a real knee-slapper.… Read more »

Canon Ian Sherwood
Guest
Canon Ian Sherwood

The Economist’s promotion of the American model of religious freedom is hardly a useful one in England. Many of us love the USA, but the vaunting of the religious state of affairs in that country is unhelpful. The religious concept in the USA has produced many scholars and saints, as well as a scale of frightening gullible ignorance and superstition unrivalled by any developed society. The position of the English Church has an organic and living co-operation with the Christian crown and governance of a country that contributes to those liberties so desired beyond her shores. The American model is… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Please read David Nicholls, The Pluralist State, for the lowdown on all this. The idea that government should respect the principle of subsidiarity, instead of usurping all authority and power to itself, is in many ways not unattractive. Universities, schools, trade unions and churches should have a great say in running their own affairs and should be freed of undue government interference. The rule of law should not mean the reduction of society to one huge State, the Leviathan of Hobbes, and a lot of isolated individuals whose voice is registered only in the solitude of the polling booth.

david wh
Guest
david wh

If the CofE were disestablished in the way the Church in Wales was, it will be hamstrung for decades by debt and clegy pensions… as well as the unpaid job of maintaining the nation’s heritage of ancient religious buildings … While the government makes off with a few billion pounds in cash and property that they identify as national assets.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Many early columnists who begrudgingly admitted that Rowan was probably raising important questions went on to say that his “clumsy” mumblings had probably made it unlikely the debate would happen. Others argue even now that Rowan’s “unclarity” has fatally skewed any debate (in one way or another!) that might follow.

I think there are signs that the debate is happening, and that it will be wide ranging and certainly will include looking at a new constitutional settlement for England that will have major implications for the other Home Colonies.

Prior Aelred
Guest

Disestablishment has nothing to do with upkeep of church buildings — HM Government doesn’t do it now! OTOH, the secular governments of France & Germany DO help pay for church upkeep (historic buildings & all that). Best not to confuse the two.

ettu
Guest
ettu

Your sociopolitical system = your problem = your solution but, whatever happens will be generations in the making with a rocky, painful transition period. Eventually, something practicable and “better” will emerge but I doubt it will be within the time frame of any of us commenting in 2008.

Dirk Reinken
Guest
Dirk Reinken

I’m curious about this comment:

“In the latest move, Drexel Gomez, the conservative Archbishop of the West Indies, has started drafting a compromise that would allow old-timers to attend the Lambeth meeting, on the understanding that proper arrangements will be made for disciplining gay-friendly liberals. To people who are neither Christian nor Muslim, it must all sound a bit like sharia law.”

How is this something +Gomez can guarantee? Is he saying “We promise we’ll punish them if you come.”?

Dirk C. Reinken

Peter of Westminster
Guest
Peter of Westminster

“The religious concept in the USA has produced many scholars and saints, as well as a scale of frightening gullible ignorance and superstition unrivaled by any developed society.” American religious groups are unfettered (and unassisted) by the state and thus necessarily entrepreneurial — how else to get bodies in the pews and coin in the coffers? In the American republic, the free market has ruled in religion from the very beginning — the constitution of that republic was the first document ever to guarantee religious freedom, rather than mere religious toleration. This has meant that average people, who are indeed… Read more »

Jez
Guest
Jez

My instincts are to say I would like the CofE to be disestablished — except I am not sure exactly what I mean by that. Apparently it might be possible to do this piecemeal and for Parliament to first of all retract from its current involvement in church appointments, which is one of the things I find most odd about our situation. If the CofE were not the “established” church, I have a fantasy that all the people who currently pop in twice in a lifetime for a bit of folk religion would be equally likely to go elsewhere. When… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I don’t think you mean Parliament. What we are concerned with here is the way that Crown appointments are made. The role of the Prime Minister is being modified; but Parliament never was involved.

Cheryl Va. Clough
Guest

I quite liked the Economist article. Like others I am bemused at this proposal “”In the latest move, Drexel Gomez, the conservative Archbishop of the West Indies, has started drafting a compromise that would allow old-timers to attend the Lambeth meeting, on the understanding that proper arrangements will be made for disciplining gay-friendly liberals.” Consider the antics and posturing of the last few weeks. Along the lines of “We’re not coming to Lambeth because some people we don’t like might be there, and they might be able to talk, and we might hear some things we don’t want to hear.”… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

The mention of the de Tocqueville thesis seems pretty well sums things up as Christianity has developed in the USA. Any huckster with a piece of tax free property can set up a shack on it and call it a church. And very few it seems here can practice any sort of meaningful discernment and moderation. Although it is easy for me not being a UK taxpayer, my vote is to leave the CofE alone. It is in many ways, more healthy than TEC in a pragmatic sense and surely more impervious to individual power struggles than the American counterpart.

John Bassett
Guest
John Bassett

Well, what might be fascinating with disestablishment is to see if the Roman Catholic Church objects to a property settlement. I mean, all those cathedrals were built when the English Church supported the papacy, so I think that the Roman Catholics could have a good legal argument that they should be restored to that church – which is, apparently, now the largest in England anyhow, and so perhaps in the best position to take care of them. I am not advocating this, mind you, but I could definitely see this emerging as a potential issue. And it could make the… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

The New York Times published an analysis of the sharia controversy today, one that explores exactly how it works in various parts of the US:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/weekinreview/17liptak.html?_r=1&ref=weekinreview&oref=slogin

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Today’s Irish Times: … For the past five years, Imam Yahya has referred Muslims living in Ireland to the council. He says he has dealt with no more than 10 cases – involving Libyan, Iraqi, Pakistani and Nigerian Muslims – in that time. In one case, a woman sought a divorce from the council because her husband had disappeared; in another, a Dublin-based Muslim, whose husband was living in the Middle East, applied for divorce after her husband took a second wife. .. Sarah Filaih, an Irish woman who converted to Islam before meeting her Iraqi husband, applied for an… Read more »

trueanglican
Guest
trueanglican

I confess I write from the west side of the Atlantic, but beyond the government’s appointing of bishops and other senior clergy, I don’t know what it means for the Church of England to be “established.” The Church of Scotland is “established” north of the Tweed, but so far as I know neither the government in Edinburgh nor the government at Westminster exercise any control over the Church of Scotland at all.

Simon Barrow
Guest

It seems that there is continuing confusion about what Establishment means. It’s the constitutional arrangement by which the Church is subject to the Crown (in all matters, including spiritual) and the Crown upholds the official teaching of the Church. Issues of divestment, bishops in the Lords and other privileges are distinct from this arrangement, but flow from it. My objections to it are theological and spiritual, as my article referenced above makes plain. Incidentally, the notion that ending the Church’s relationship to the Crown somehow puts us into the US in religious terms is quite astonishing… why, for goodness sake?… Read more »