Farewell to a great theologian: 9-12-17
Yes, the Exodus happened, but not that way: 9-14-17

Will England 'disestablish' its church? 9-13-17

One of the reasons many of the early settlers left England to come to what eventually became the United States was that they didn't want to be part of their country's established church, the Church of England.

Church-of-england-logoBut, of course, the idea of a state-approved church was so deeply embedded in European culture at the time that many of the eventual states here, before the adoption of our Constitution, actually had established churches.

In the end, however, the thinking of such leaders as Roger Williams won the day and the U.S. was created as a nation of religious freedom without an established church. And that has been a good thing. A very good thing.

But if we look back at England, we find the Church of England still enjoys (or, perhaps, suffers from) the status of being the established church there. And the monarch is the defender of the faith, though these days only about 15 percent of the English population identifies as being part of that church.

Which is why England is beginning to hear louder voices asking for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

For instance, this columnist in The Guardian says it's not just past time for disestablishment but that disestablishment is inevitable.

Speaking as a member of the church, columnist Giles Fraser writes this: "For too long we have been made content by feeding off the crumbs left out for us by the establishment. We have become its pet. And it has made us lazy. Housetrained. Safe. The Bible uses a different image: if salt has lost its saltiness, what use is it?"

He adds, rather ruefully, "I think something like this is unavoidable and that the established church has to get ahead of the situation by transforming itself, rather than play a continuous rearguard action against the inevitable."

In a de facto way, Protestantism has been the established church of the U.S. But now Protestants make up less than 50 percent of the population, and that percentage is shrinking almost weekly. In some ways that frees those of us who are Protestant to confront the powers that be about what needs fixing in our world because it's less likely that we Protestants are in charge of things and overseeing the maintenance of what needs reforming.

I don't know if England will go through disestablishment of the Church of England, but I think the English would find it enormously liberating, freeing them to be authentically Christian voices in a world that needs such voices uncompromised by the sinews of power.

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Those who deny climate change, says Pope Francis, are "stupid." That's the formal, highly technical theological term for them. The more colloquial term should get any kid's mouth washed out with soap.


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