A bill to formally separate the Church of England and the state is set to be introduced in the British Parliament on Wednesday (December 6). Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said his disestablishment bill was “long overdue” with the influence of Christianity “in sharp decline.” He added that the Church of England’s current status was “a historic quirk”.
Christian Today reports that: “As the established Church, the Church of England is bound up with the British state and its governing institutions. Twenty-six of its bishops have automatic seats in the House of Lords. The monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and also holds the title Defender of the Faith.”
At his coronation earlier this year, King Charles swore to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England”, and to “preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them”.
Establishment is also tied up with the legal requirement for schools to hold collective worship of a “broadly Christian” nature.
Calls for the separation of church and state have grown as believers drop off in successive Census results. The 2021 Census showed less than half (46%) the population of England and Wales identifying as Christian. According to Christian Today some Anglicans support disestablishment — arguing that it would give the Church greater autonomy.
Lord Scriven said: “In a modern and plural England, it is rather archaic and unacceptable that a privileged religious organisation is planted right at the centre of the way the state is organised and run. The separation of the Church of England and the state is long overdue. We need to reflect Britain as it is today, not what it was back in the 1500s.”
“No one will have their freedom and right to religion undermined, but my bill will ensure the Church of England is just one religious institution amongst many and not able to use the levers of state to force its beliefs on others who have different views. I look forward to arguing the case to finally change this historical quirk and separate religion and governance in our country,” he stated.
Christian Today writes that the bill is unlikely to pass as private members’ bills rarely become law, but they do generate publicity for their cause. Lord Scriven’s bill was selected to be introduced from the House of Lords private members’ bill ballot.