Comments: Governing the Church

Yes we need perennially to review the way we are governed. And it is time for the Church of England to do so - indeed, it probably now has the capacity to do so for the first time in its history. The blueprint of the present structures was thrashed out in the 1850s, with relatively minor tinkering since.

Some suggestions:
1) Turn the CofE into a membership organization in which members may - solely by right of membership - have a direct voice in its governance.

2) Elect bishops. This is hardly radical in Anglican terms. If the electorate included every member (whatever the detail of the process) then members may begin to be engaged and valued by those they ask to govern them.

3) Create communication systems which listen as well as preach - and thus begin to create a culture of dialogue (even polylogue) rather than monologue.

4) This implies the need for instruments of governance which are more lateral than hierarchical. Too much law, and the ethos that to govern is to make rules, militates against listening and gives too much power (and too many burdens) to church beaurocrats.

The Anglican Church is episcopal, but the detailed expression of episcopacy has changed over time and varies in different parts of the Communion. Democracy has been used too often as a boo-word in the church. What is important is the detail not the terms.

Theologically I would ask that we start to make real the affirmation that the church is the faithful company of all faithful Christians; I believe that (since the occlusion of the neo-Thomists) priests and bishops are no nearer God than the laity. I suggest that governance is a gift best exercised less hierarchically.

Posted by Paul at Saturday, 22 January 2005 at 2:10pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.