Dean defends establishment

07 December 2006

by Margaret Holness, Education Correspondent

by Margaret Holness, Education Correspondent

IN HIS first sermon as Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall has rebutted arguments for severing the link between Church and state. Preaching to a congregation of 1500 after his installation on Saturday, the new Dean described as “inseparable” the partnership between Church and state in England.

“The connection between Church and state is not unambiguous or unequivocal: neither Church nor state is in thrall to the other. In any case, the partnership changes and develops with time.

“But arguments from the Church that the gospel would be better served through the abandonment of establishment miss the point: a match is better influenced on the field of play than from the touchline. Similar arguments from some of the Fourth Estate for a secular public space miss the point.

“First, a truly secular state has never been achieved. . . Second, our rich and complex history makes us what we are as a nation. . . Third, human beings’ religious instinct properly affects all our lives, our work, our relationships, our public and private commitments.”

Dean Hall, who was for eight years chief education officer of the Church of England, and who oversaw a significant growth in the number of Anglican secondary schools, said the partnership between Church and state in education was particularly powerful. “It exemplifies an aspect of the role of the Church of England as the largest, but by no means the only partner with the state. I have worked as a close colleague with the Roman Catholic and other churches and faith communities with schools.

“The establishment of the Church of England means there is space for religious thought and action at the heart of our national life, and room for other denominations and faiths alongside the Church.”

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