Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 5 July 2008

Charles Moore's reflections on the week

As the new Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans challenges the current running of the Church of England, where does this leave Gordon Brown? I ask because one of Mr Brown’s first acts as Prime Minister was to get rid of his office’s traditional role in the appointment of bishops. In that distant period a year ago when he announced ‘the work of change’, Mr Brown decided unilaterally to hand over all power of appointment to the Church itself. Very modern, very correct, you might think, to separate Church and state. But in fact he created an anomaly. So long as we have an Established Church, it has privileged legal status and parliamentary oversight. The Queen formally appoints bishops, deans etc, and she must do so only on the advice of ministers: now that advice is absent. By letting the C of E appoint whomever it likes, Mr Brown was actually doing something very unmodern — he was allowing an ancient estate of the realm the untrammelled opportunity to choose 26 legislators (that is the number of Anglican bishops in the House of Lords) for the whole nation. Most of the time, perhaps, this does not matter since people do not much mind. But if the Church of England is to be thrown into dispute and even schism, its appointments will become controversial. The rows will reach back to Downing Street, and there will be no one there to know what to do about them.

There was tremendous excitement when it was reported that Nelson Mandela had condemned Robert Mugabe. All that the living saint actually said was that there had been a ‘failure of leadership’ in Zimbabwe; he did not name Mugabe. For euphemism, it was almost in the class of the Emperor Hirohito’s surrender broadcast (‘The situation has developed, not necessarily to our advantage’).

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