Senior clergy question 450-year link with state

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 January, 1999, 12:00am

Senior clergy in the Church of England have begun discussing ways to break its historic links with the state, under which the monarch is the head of the Church.

Some clerics see severing the 450-year-old ties between Church and state as vital to establishing a new alliance with other Protestant churches and winning the right to better govern itself.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, is known to be keen on retaining the status quo but others believe government should no longer have a say in senior appointments.

A recent meeting of senior clergy began discussing what form the Church should take in the next millennium.

Colin Buchanan, Bishop of Woolwich, is the leading advocate of the move to disestablish the Church. He said it was wrong for the state to interfere in the internal government of the Church and that independence would make it more effective. 'Holding the monarch to the Christian faith becomes more difficult and even embarrassing,' he said.

The Church of England has held its established status since 1533, when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church over its failure to annul his first marriage. Since then, monarchs have been supreme governors of the Church of England.

The Prime Minister, as the monarch's representative, has official responsibility for senior appointments made from a list submitted by the Church. But the General Synod has begun a review of the method of appointing bishops to try to avoid political interference in its work.

A Church of England spokesman denied there was any official move to cut links, but said: 'So much of what the Church does is legally defined you can't even change the name of a parish without an order in council from government. Some people are just looking at what the implications would be if we were less tied down by legal definitions.'