A member of the House of Lords has asked the government to consider disestablishing the Church of England – after the Church helped ‘punish’ an Anglican Church that embraces equal marriage.
Christians reacted with shock last week as the Anglican Communion – the global conglomerate of churches headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury – voted overwhelmingly to sanction the US Episcopal Church for affirming same-sex marriage.
The US Episcopal Church has welcomed gay members for years, even appointing openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 – but provoked the wrath of hard-line and African churches within the Communion by its decision to embrace equal marriage.
After the vote to punish the Episcopal Church was announced, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England were singled out for criticism. Archbishop Justin Welby is reported to have allowed the punishment to go ahead to appease hard-liners and prevent a Anglican split.
Following the row, Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven submitted a written question to the Ministry of Justice on the issue.
He asked the government “whether they plan to set up a commission to look at the question of the disestablishment of the Church of England, in the light of the communiqué from Anglican Primates about homosexuality and same-sex marriage”.
As the established state church, the Church of England enjoys a number of special legal rights – as well as currently getting 26 reserved spots in the House of Lords for Bishops, known as the ‘Lords Spiritual’.
Lord Scriven told PinkNews that the Church’s actions are “institutionally homophobic” and that he “hopes the [government’s] answer is yes”.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told PinkNews last year that despite being a devout Christian, he does not believe the Church of England should be a state church.
He said: “The fundamental thing I say to the Archbishop of Canterbury – and I certainly said it to the last Archbishop – is the Church of England should be disestablished. That’s the simple answer to all this.
“I think the Church of England is compromised by being part of the furniture of the state. Although I’m a Christian myself, I do not believe I have any right to impose my faith on anybody else.
“I think it damages Christianity to have an established church, and it certainly it’s also illiberal to have a state church anyway.”