I frequently invoke the example of the Church of Sweden and its long debilitating strife over WO as a kind of “Eram quod es, sum quod eris” (to quote a commonplace on medieval tomb inscriptions) mirror for the Church of England, but, in legal theory at least, the Erastian circumstances of the Church of England are far more thoroughgoing than those which prevailed in Sweden when the Church of Sweden was an established church (it was disestablished in 2000, but in way that left the liberal establishment totally in control of its governing structure). In Sweden, when the Church Assembly unexpectedly rejected WO in 1957 (with a majority of its bishops voting against it), the proponents were initially stymied, as Swedish law then required BOTH the Church Assembly AND the Swedish Parliament to approve any “ecclesiastical legislation” before it could become law. Not to worry, though: the Swedish Parliament rushed through legislation authorizing WO (which would apply to bishops as wellas to priests), and then called new elections for a Church Assembly session to meet in 1958. In those elections, Swedish political parties put forward their own candidates for election as lay delegates to the Church Assembly, and the election campaign was attended by threats to disestablish the church and confiscate its assets. The strategy worked: in 1958 WO was approved (a number of bishops switched sides from the previous year’s vote), and the first women were (purportedly) ordained in 1960.From here.
The legislation was attended by a “conscience clause” intended to benefit opponents of WO, but in 1983 that clause was revoked, and in 1994 (and since 2000 in the disestablished church) the ordination as deacons or priests of anyone opposed to WO has been forbidden, and the selection as bishops of any clergy opposed to WO likewise.
This could be the Church of England’s future as well, and, if I recall correctly, in England Parliament retains full authority to legislate “unilaterally” on church matters, should it choose to do so.
Those interested may wish to consult this legal case:
This 1997 case is a subsidiary to an earlier 1994 case, but I cannot find a report of the former case online. What is clear from it, however, is that it is still “settled law” in England that “the doctrine of the Church of England is whatever Parliament declares it to be.” So Erastianism rules okay.
The real parallel to England is Denmark, where the Danish Parliament legislated for WO in 1947 despite the opposition at the time to WO of eight of the ten bishops of the Danish State Church.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Shades of 1559?
This comment from Dr. Tighe is worth attention...