'There could be quite a change in the next 30 years'

The great divide: what religious leaders and experts think

Richard Harries

Bishop of Oxford

I feel strongly that at the next coronation the leaders of other faiths need to be significantly and symbolically present, and I am sure they will be. They need to be much more than guests; they need to be present in the sanctuary, at the centre of things. We are an evolving society. I do not think it is essential to the service that there should be a celebration of holy communion - on these occasions it is sometimes best not to have it in order that other people might not feel ill at ease. What's clear is that the nature of establishment has changed, is changing and will change. Having an established church is a symbolic statement that there is something more important in life than politics, that there's a standard to which all governments are ultimately accountable. But the church is not going to be desperately fighting our own corner because we offer the establishment link as a service to the nation if the nation wants it.

Kenneth Stevenson

Bishop of Portsmouth and one of the church's foremost liturgical historians

The coronation service was not invented by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; it's not set in stone. At the moment it has been for centuries set in the context of a communion service ... that may be regarded as unrealistic and go. A future coronation oath could also be changed. If it is thought that religious pluralism must be a dimension within a Christian monarch's remit that would be where a lot of us are. We are recognising the sincerity of other faiths without denigrating the sincerity of our own.

Robert Hardy

Bishop of Lincoln

There is a slow breaking up of the link between church and state and there could be quite a change over the next 30 years. Society is more secular in all sorts of ways. The coronation needs to bend without being broken. Charles wants to be representative of all his people and it is probably likely that the next ceremony will be less explicitly Protestant. There needs to be a spiritual element in the Lords but I'm not saying they all ought to be Anglican, most of us would reckon there would be a modest adjustment to the number of seats to make room for other faiths.

Colin Buchanan

Bishop of Woolwich

I believe in the disestablishment of the Church of England - that would release any future monarch from the obligation to be its Supreme Governor and remove the legal requirement that he or she should believe. Only a small proportion of the population adheres to it, so it is odd for the Church of England to be the state religion. This needs to be sorted out before the next coronation, but even if the church is not disestablished the ceremony should be reformed. The incoming monarch should have some say in the religious handling of the coronation. The heart of the ceremony is secular, although it has been very well dressed in Christian dress.

Vernon Bogdanor

Historian

The coronation is an Anglican service because the Church of England is the established church. Britain is a multicultural, multi-denominational nation and you may argue that if you keep the establishment, there should be representatives of other cultures and denominations included in the ceremony. While still defending establishment, Prince Charles has made a point of describing himself as a "defender of faith" and he definitely wants the coronation to be an inter-faith celebration. Just like the D- Day commemoration, it would be an Anglican service but with other faiths included, too. It would require a change to the law in order to change the nature of the coronation. But the Government should not do anything until there is a wide consensus among the bishops about what they really want.

Lord St John of Fawsley

Constitutional expert

We are a Christian country and, although you hear a lot of talk about it being a multi-faith society, our religious experience has come to us through the Christian tradition. The establishment of the Church of England recognises that fact and helps sustain Christian attitudes both in public and private life. It would be a great error to disestablish it. I would have no objection to other religious leaders taking part in the coronation but the monarch must not be saying that all religions are equally important or true.

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