Letter: Still a role for Church of England as church of all the nation

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article "Antidisestablishmentarianism Confounded" (11 September) does you no credit.

Your arguments for casting the Church for the English people adrift are made without regard for the consequences. There are some 16,000 churches; they are located in communities. The presence of the parish church is important to the community and the parish church is there and available by right of Establishment for all persons who live within the parish. The loss of those rights should not be underestimated. It is true of course that worshippers may not be the majority of the population. They probably never have been. Our Lord said his followers should be yeast or salt and the reality is you do not want too much of either.

You may also care to reflect upon the quite dramatic collision between the church and the government during the 1980s when, to all intents and purposes, the Church of England was the only real opposition to a government intent on policies that enthroned greed. It has yet to be seen whether, in the moral and social climate so encouraged by the media, yourselves included, the church will now find its courage and a fresh voice to speak against the growing chorus calling for a punitive and harsh response to social failure as well as the chastisement of the poor for being poor. This could be done from outside the framework of Establishment of course, but there are benefits from being within it.

The Church of England has a proud record of service to this nation and it will continue in God's name to be the catholic church of this land, declaring the good news of Christ. It will do it better within an accepted framework that includes rights and responsibilities to and from the state.

The Very Rev RICHARD LEWIS

Dean of Wells, Chairman of Deans and Provosts Conference

Wells, Somerset

Sir: As a retired parish priest I would warmly endorse your belief set out in your leading article that the Anglican establishment has had its day. It is manifestly inefficient and unrepresentative of the English people. More importantly, its organisation embraces state privilege and power and thereby denies the very truth that its Lord came to proclaim when He "made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a servant".

You mentioned John Wesley. Although he remained an Anglican to his dying day he had the vision and the courage to turn his back on the status quo. He rejected a cosy college fellowship or the security of a country living and took to the road. The world was to be his parish. Representatives of the Methodist and Anglican churches have recently concluded "talks about talks" and the way now seems open for serious progress towards a possible unity scheme. Hopefully this might start a healing process within English society and result in a disestablished church, more spiritually alive and better equipped to serve the world.

The Rev NORMAN BARGH

Grange over Sands, Cumbria

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