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The Faustian Bargain of Being the State Church

The upside of that status was very much in evidence at the royal wedding yesterday, but every silver lining has a cloud.  We’ve discussed this issue before. One normally expects the chief objectors to be Evangelicals, but this comes from the Anglo-Catholic Herbert Luckock’s The Divine Liturgy:

Every thoughtful ecclesiastical ruler recognises the absence of a sound and wholesome system of discipline as a real hindrance to the well-being of the Church and it cannot be denied that without it the rubrics which form the prelude to her highest Service are little more than a dead letter. The Church and the State, though allied in theory, are antagonistic in practice, and the civil power is found to cripple the ecclesiastical in every attempt to revive her discipline. It may well be felt that to gain discipline at the price of disestablishment might form a disastrous bargain; but there is no denying the fact that the retention of the disciplinary rubrics in this Office is a bitter revelation of the pitiable degree of impotence to which the clergy are reduced through the action of the State.

Finding thoughtful ecclesiastical leaders is no mean feat these days.  We now have the sad spectacle of a church with a small proportion of the population (where a few choice expulsions would have little impact) which pretty much works to reflect the values coming from the government and the top of the society.

As an aside, Luckock also has an interesting observation regarding the effect of the removal of the requirement that officials in the government be communicating Anglicans, one which was long past in his day:

The abolition of religious disabilities, and the withdrawal of all temptation to qualify for civil offices by participation of the Sacrament, have removed one of the greatest dangers of irreverence. The strongest safeguard is really the exaltation of the ordinance.

Those disabilities were a source of irritation for many, including the mathematician Augustus de Morgan, who flatly stated that he would not confess his Lord openly because it might be taken opportunistically.  It is a strange juxtaposition of doing one unBiblical thing to avoid another, but that’s another thing that happens when you make the Faustian bargain of the state church.


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