Disestablishment and fancy dress

Recently Labour MPs have launched a battle to disestablish the Church of England, stripping it of the special status it enjoys in British life. The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that Ministers are under mounting pressure from senior backbenchers to break the historic link between Church and State. Demands for the separation increased after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan
Williams, a Welshman, last week insisted that disestablishment was ‘by no means the end of the world’. Before he became archbishop, in 2002, Williams never had to pledge allegiance to the Queen, and was skeptical about the establishment Church of England. In 2000, two years before his appointment, he said: “I think that the notion of the monarch as supreme governor has outlived its usefulness. I believe increasingly that the church has to earn the right to be heard by the social world. Establishment is just one of those things that make it slightly harder.”

The arguments regarding church and state are mostly reserved to the history books now here in Wales. The Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920 and re-named, rather arrogantly, The Church of Wales, as if other Churches were not Churches! Interestingly it wasn’t the actually traditional theological issues and debates surrounding church and state that fueled the arguments towards disestablishment in Wales but rather the issue that an Anglican Church which was in a minority had privileges and legal superiority over the nonconformist Churches who were in the majority. It was a mater of the minority lording it over the majority. Injustice reigned.

Although disestablishment in Wales has been around since 1920 the Anglican Church, in my opinion, still enjoys privileges in Welsh public life. The Archbishop of Wales is regularly featured on BBC Wales’ news bulletins but i can’t remember the BBC ever running a story in connection with any nonconformist Church. I’m sure the Archbishop has a better PR and press team than the nonconformist denominations but I’m pretty sure that the BBC in Wales haven’t really grasped the difference between church and state in Wales and church and state at a British level.

Do you think this attire would look out of place at the Last Supper?

Do you think this attire would look out of place at the Last Supper?

But is it the Gospel that the BBC are really interested in when they run stories about the Anglican Church in Wales? I fear not. It is controversy that brings the Anglican Church to the public domain in Wales. All publicity is good publicity some would say, I would differ. I read this on another blog recently: “Interesting isn’t it, what this guy is being said to be clinging to. He’s given up on the Bible, and instead tradition and culture have become his guides. He wants to be culturally relevant, so he ignores what the Bible says about homosexuality, but right now, he’s walking round with a dog collar on. If he wants to be culturally relevant, he should drop the tradition, not the Bible.”


Although i don’t agree with “gay-bashing” i must admit that the quoted blogger has a point. How can the Archbishop of Wales on one hand call on the Church to drop traditional teaching on morality and then keep the silly tradition of dressing up as pimped up mini Popes to serve communion? The Archbishop in his full regalia would, to put it mildly, look like someone on the way to a fancy dress party if he were to drop in to say hi to Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper.

So to try and bring this post to a positive end i guess what I’m saying is that disestablishment is good but in reality a law passed in parliament is just the first step. Public perceivement takes much more time go change on the issue. How many years has it been since 1920? 88. Well there you have it, it takes at least 88 years for public perceivement to reflect the law on the subject.


2 Responses to “Disestablishment and fancy dress”

  1. N Doe Says:

    I struggle to see the connection between the Episcopal attire of an Archbishop and the relationship between the church and state. It seems to be nothing more that a kick below the belt. During the time of Jesus, it is assumed that most people would have worn a long garment similar to that of the Archbishop, or indeed any clergyman. Thus his Grace the Archbishop would probably have looked quite normal if he were at the Last Supper. It is unlikely that our Lord possessed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt! This is a tradition and has nothing to do with the issue of human sexuality.

    The church propagates the marriage of man with his wife, as the Bible teaches. This is a doctrinal issue and is not subject to any kind of tradition. The doctrine of the church, despite the controversial opinions of some radicals, is based on the Scripture. The Lambeth declaration on Human Sexuality reinforces the doctrine of marriage as a holy institution, instituted by God, for man and his wife.

    Your article also refers to the ‘Church of Wales’. This is wrong as the church is known as ‘The Church in Wales’. I would suggest that the archbishop enjoys a greater media profile, not because of a misconception of the relationship between church and state in Wales, but because he actually has something to say about things that matter to the people of Wales today. Not everybody agrees with him, but he continues to make his voice heard on issues like child poverty, alcoholism, housing and even devolution! Most nonconformist leaders, on the other hand, tend to sit back and say nothing as they struggle to cope with dwindling congregation numbers, a lack of ministers and the fact that they are becoming more irrelevant to those whom they not fail to serve!

  2. welshwilderness Says:

    Points taken. But my main point stands and that was that the Anglican Church must become reformissional if it is to connect with Wales today; Archbishop Barry’s comments on sexuality is not the way to reach out. It sounds like a cliche now but the Church must reach out without selling out.

    Your comments regarding the nonconformist churches are as ill-informed as my own comments about the Anglican Church! You think only of the historical nonconformist denomination and fail to see new nonconformist Churches and mission schemes. I have just returned from Souled Out, a brilliant new youth training program run under the Presbyterian Church of Wales: http://www.souledoutcymru.net/ There is also Dawn Cymru, a new training and discipleship initiative supported and run by the nonconformist Churches http://www.dawncymru.org/ And also Llanw, the new Welsh Christian festival, not a nonconformist festival per se but the idea came from nonconformist churches http://www.llanw.org if the Church in Wales has similar pioneering schemes fair enough, but i do not know of them, I would be very interested to hear about them if there are any.

    The fact remain that the most warm and fastest growing Churches within the Church in Wales are the low-church/evangelical ones like St. Mike’s in my hometown of Aberystwyth. High-church ceremonialism hinders mission in my opinion and that was my point when i asked questions about the Bishops attire.

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