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Should the Church of England be disestablished?

The marriage of church and state has lasted five centuries, but is it now time for a divorce? Do Anglican bishops sitting in the House of Lords retain any political relevance in our national life? Might a split be better for both?

YES I never imagined I’d find myself arguing for the Church of England to be disestablished. I’m a committed member of the C of E and a champion of state churches. But I am also a realist: disestablishment has been happening for decades. It’s a process and in all essential respects the Church has already been disestablished. It’s time we woke up to the fact.

When establishment used to work, parliament was actively involved in Church affairs. Legislation was informed by Christian morality, and ordinary people had a say via their elected parliamentary representatives.

This relationship was gradually dismantled throughout the 20th century, with grisly consequences. The Church has drifted towards self-righteous clerical irrelevance, and its membership has plummeted—only 1.5 per cent of the population now attend church on an average Sunday and only 12 per cent of infants are baptised.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Sam Tanenhaus profiles Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party Presidential nomination and asks if Trump makes it to the Oval Office, what would he do? Stephen Glover, examines what is happening at the Guardian as the newspaper looks to cut costs. Ferdinand Mount says Tony Blair transformed Britain but he should have cared more about the Labour Party. Also in this issue: Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI5, says that Brexit would not damage the UK’s security and Christopher de Bellaigue questions whether France’s clampdown on radicals is having the right effect. Plus Miranda France looks at the legacy of Don Quixote and the Duel asks: “Should the Church of England be disestablished”?
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