If the Archbishop of Canterbury does not crown our next monarch, then who will? The president of Europe? A multi-faith collective? Nobody at all? In which case, what sort of country will we then be and where will ultimate authority and legitimacy come from? Perhaps the prior question is why there should now be serious doubt about the Archbishop’s role at the heart of our constitution.
It says something about the state of the worldwide Anglican Church that it seems more interested in homosexuality than in anything else. Last month we were entertained by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s U-turn on the appointment of a homosexual bishop. Now the Episcopalians have broken the taboo. It is probably safe to say that, as regular attenders at places of worship, Anglicans are now easily beaten in this country by both Muslims and Catholics. As they cast around for a solution, both the adherents of the Church, and, indeed, those who have no special love for it, have arrived at the same conclusion: disestablishment.
Some, such as the leader-writers of the Guardian, believe that it is wrong and discriminatory that one faith should take constitutional precedence over another. Some evangelicals talk increasingly of cutting the ‘corrupting’ link with the State, on the ground that no political arrangements or figureheads should mediate between themselves and God. Others believe that it is demeaning for the Queen to be associated with the unorthodox crowd that now governs the Church. Yet others think the Church would simply derive a new energy and charisma from its independence. They are all wrong.
Before we come to the effects of disestablishment on the country, and on our lives, let us consider the impact on the Church of England itself. Many of the arguments for making Anglicanism unofficial are based on the idea that it would be healthier and more vigorous on its own.