Sunday, 10 April 2016

Church and State

For today, a piece from 1985 in “The Pilot”, written by Michael Halliwell, Rector of St Brelade, as part of his Parish notes.

It is interesting to note that the revised Canon Law didn’t get on the statute books until 14 March 2012, rather later than envisaged. Changes are in progress with the Law Officers to further change it, as it currently states:

“Nothing in this Canon shall make it lawful for a woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop.”

The General Synod voted in July 2014 in the UK to allow women to become Bishops, and the first woman Bishop, Libby Lane, was consecrated in January 2015. It will be interesting to see how many more have there are before they have the same rights under Jersey Canon Law.

It is true that “in Parochial appointments, which are nowadays frequently advertised, the laity today play their full part in the selection of their incumbent”, but I don’t know how much. The appointment process for at least one Parish recently, when the popular Ministre Desservant (whom the Parishioners were clearly happy with) was effectively turned down by the ecclesiastical hierarchy, suggests that there is still a long way to go.

Michael Halliwell himself wrote: “When I first came to St Brelade I introduced a Parochial Church Council, but until this has legal status, any successor of mine in office could easily disband it, or only use it when it suited him, and he would be perfectly entitled to do so.”

As far as I can ascertain, Jersey still does not have the equivalent of the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956, and while most Jersey Parish Churches have a PCC, this still has no legal status. It is another example of how Jersey has lagged behind the UK.

Two years before penning this piece for the Pilot, Michael Halliwell himself found himself in the unlikely situation of peacemaker when St Brelade’s Parish was divided over Constable Len Downer’s treatment of a Rating Officer, Donald Lucas, which had in fact ended in the Royal Court. This can be read here:

Church and State.
By Michael Halliwell

Writing in The Times last month, Clifford Longley, the religious correspondent, expressed the view that the Church of England was "straining at the bonds of State". He pointed to what he called the Church's "new role as a public critic of Government", but he overlooked the fact that, historically, this is no new role; distinguished churchmen, from Ambrose, to Becket, and Bonnhoeffer have found themselves at odds with government on matters of principle. However, Clifford Longley goes on to point to other aspects of the tie between Church and State which are irksome to today's Church.

Let's be clear that relations between Church and State will never be easy. Christianity took its origins in a highly explosive situation in which one man, Jesus Christ, challenged the religious establishment on fundamental points of faith and practice, and that religious establishment called in the State to its aid, on the pretext that Jesus' actions were a threat to the State, and had him executed on the charge that (amongst other things) he was "not a friend of Caesar."

The State will always have, and rightly so, a say in the demands and influence that religion has on its members; it would be failing in its duty if it did not. What has been disputable in history, is the type and extent of that influence. At the Reformation, the State, through Henry VIII, took a controlling hand in the life of the Church of England, and matters of doctrine, liturgy and major appointments were taken into the hands of the Crown.

After World War I, a movement was set in train to give the laity outside parliament a greater say in the life of their Church. Church Councils were established in England and the ancient office of Churchwarden was exercised in partnership with elected representatives of the worshipping congregation.

After the Second World War the Church acquired a say in making major appointments, and when a bishopric falls vacant, a Vacancy in See Committee is now set up to consider names to be put to the Sovereign. Though the Crown makes the final appointment, the Church has a say in the names to be considered. Likewise, in Parochial appointments, which are nowadays frequently advertised, the laity today play their full part in the selection of their incumbent.

At the Reformation the situation in Jersey was very chaotic, and ministers who spoke French but were not episcopally ordained, were appointed to Jersey Rectories. It is not therefore surprising that the Crown took a firm hand in the making of appointments, and was certainly not obliged in law to consult anyone. It so came about that Jersey, which, in so many matters retained its independence, came firmly under the heel of the Crown as regards its church iife. A situation which had been fluid, not to say chaotic, was settled with the codification of Jersey's Canon Law in 1623.

These Canons remain the law under which our Church life is to be run until this day. Just after World War II, and again in the sixties, attempts were made to revise our Canon Law, and the Legislation Committee of Deanery Synod has been charged with looking into this matter again. The process will of necessity be a slow one, but it looks likely that, within the next decade, the relationship between Church and State in this Island will be modified in such a manner as to give the whole Church a proper say in ordering its life.

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