Should the Church of England be disestablished?

In a guest post, Jonathan Chaplin, a member of the Centre for Faith and Public Life at Wesley House, Cambridge and author of Faith in Democracy: Framing a Politics of Deep Diversity (SCM 2021), looks critically at the Establishment of the Church of England.

The national service of thanksgiving for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at St Paul’s Cathedral on 3 June reminds us of the powerful and intimate bonds still tying the British state to the Church of England. The Church again stepped forward to perform its well-rehearsed ‘chaplaincy’ function to the nation at a poignant moment of collective national celebration. Few noticed this, but the Church was not only celebrating the 70-year reign of the British monarch but also that of its longest-serving ‘Supreme Governor’, a constitutional status right at the heart of its established role.

The weekend’s joyous celebrations were hardly the moment to focus on the merits or demerits of Establishment. The question was entirely bypassed by most commentators, amounting to at least tacit endorsement. The Church Times’s Platinum Jubilee double issue gave pride of place to a robust defence of Establishment by a leading cleric but allowed not a peep of dissent on the matter across its entire 64 pages.

The question of the legitimacy of Establishment will, however, not go away any time soon. Continue reading