Bishops want end to state tie

By Jo Dillon,Political Correspondent
Wednesday 22 January 2014 02:43

Peers and bishops will demand this week that the next Archbishop of Canterbury should be the last to be appointed by the Prime Minister.

The first ever House of Lords debate on disestablishment of the Church of England, on Wednesday, will reflect a growing mood for links between Church and state to be severed.

Many believe that state religion no longer has a place in a multi-faith Britain and that the tie is merely another tool of Prime Ministerial patronage.

The most recent poll on the issue showed that 48 per cent of Britons were opposed to the Prime Minister choosing the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tony Blair will choose the replacement for Dr George Carey as Archbishop from a shortlist of two this summer.

Even among the candidates, a belief is thought to be growing that this should be the last time he does so.

A leading contender, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, said this year that the issue was "climbing the agenda" and that "renegotiation and reconsideration" would be needed.

Support for disestablishment is rising, at least in part. Some are uncertain about whether to challenge the Queen's role as head of the Church of England.

Dr Colin Buchanan, the Bishop of Woolwich, said: "My own view is that the Church of England should be separated from politics and the state – and that is for the sake of both parties.

"I am very unhappy about the control the state exercises over the Church and if the state is making senior appointments in the Church , there is something wrong."

The most senior Church of England cleric to back disestablishment is the Bishop of Birmingham, who will be taking prayers in the House of Lords this week.

Support is growing for the removal of bishops from the House of Lords.

Politicians also want change. Lord Maclennan of Rogart, the Liberal Democrat peer who will lead the debate, said: "It is about a major step forward in our constitution so that it reflects the changes in society that are required to secure equal treatment of all religious groups within it."

He also expressed concerns about the ability of the Prime Minister to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury.

There are also calls for disestablishment within the Labour party. Chris Bryant, the MP for the Rhondda, set out the case for ending the link between Church and state, stopping the practice of Prime Ministers appointing church leaders and promoting other faiths in a pamphlet for the Christian Socialist Movement.

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