Letter: Relations between the monarch and an established Church of England

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is no 'at last' about the Church of England debating its establishment (Andrew Brown, 'Whose nation, whose church?' 25 January). As the only established member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, we have been doing so for years. More important to the questions raised by Sunday night's Heart of the Matter on BBC 1 is that the coronation service is not set in tablets of stone - even if the sovereign sits over a Scottish one while being crowned.

First, all sovereigns from Mary Tudor to the present Queen (with one obvious 20th-century exception) have been crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. When the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland carried the Great Bible in the procession at the last coronation, this was a new feature, introduced as a sign of the age of ecumenicalism as well as an expression of the United Kingdom.

Second, what the sovereign promises has varied across the centuries. While the central oath concerning the Church of England has remained virtually unchanged since the Reformation, there was a preliminary declaration, from Queen Anne to George III, against transubstantiation, invocation of the saints, and the sacrifice of the Mass. From George IV to Edward VII, this was made, instead, to Parliament at the accession. George V found its anti-

Catholic thrust offensive and it was radically changed, with the enthusiastic support of Archbishop Davidson.

Seen in this wider context, the changes in the coronation service to embrace other churches - and even other faiths, as suggested by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, last night - might be but one more part of a natural evolution. Precisely what that evolution is going to be, of course, remains to be seen.

Yours sincerely,


Guildford, Surrey

25 January