BY MURRAY WHITE
THE CHURCH OF England this week voted to hold firm to its links with the State, ending speculation of a terminal rift caused by Prince Charles's recent comments about suceeding to the throne as a defender of all faiths.
The General Synod meeting in York voted by more than two to one not to disestablish, in a debate sparked by the Prince's statement that he would not want to become a king that is just a "Defender of the Faith" the established Church of England. Members also strongly rejected calls for a commission to consider the merits or otherwise of disestablishment.
The two most senior Anglican Churchmen, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, warned the Synod against disestablishment. Dr John Habgood reported that Prince Charles had told him that he has no wish to see the disestablishment of the Church when he becomes king.
Dr George Carey warned against the Church indulging in "years of navel-gazing". He said that tampering with the coronation oath could bring trouble, as such a move would require legislation, although he saw room for changing the tone of the coronation service "to reflect the multi-cultural society which we now live in".
Advocating an end to Church-State links, Bishop Colin Buchanan of Rochester said it was wrong that Downing Street still decides on the appointment of bishops and parliament has to approve Synod decisions.
A backbench constitutional committee of MPs last week gave their full backing to Prince Charles, saying that divorce should not be a barrier to his becoming king. Michael Alison, Parliamentary representative for the Church Commissioners, told the committee there would be no ecclesiastical bar to such arrangement, but added that there would be a problem if the Prince were to marry a Catholic in the future.
• The Synod also rejected evangelical moves to allow lay people to consecrate bread and wine in Communion services. Dr Carey, who led opposition to the plan for "lay celebration", said: "I would suggest it is un-Anglican because our Church has always recognised the importance of the ordained ministry as an essential sign of the Church."