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Religion in Britain

Religion in Britain

Реферат по лингвострановедению

Religion in Britain

Выполнил: студентка IV курса

Пискарева Т.В.

Проверил: к.п.н., Кулагина




Introduction 3

The Church of England 4-10

The Other Christian Churches 10-13

Other Religions 13-18

Conclusion 19

Literature 20


Barely 16 per cent of the adult population of Britain belongs to one

of the Christian churches, and this proportion continues to decline. Yet

the regional variation is revealing. In England only 12 per cent of the

adult population are members of a church. The further one travels from

London, however, the greater the attendance: in Wales 22 per cent, in

Scotland 36 per cent and in Northern Ireland no fewer than 75 per cent.

Today there is complete freedom of practice, regardless of religion or

sect. However, until the mid-nineteenth century, those who did not belong

to the Church of England, the official 'established' or state church, were

barred from some public offices. The established church still plays a

powerful role in national life, in spite of the relatively few people who

are active members of it.

The Church of England

There are two established or state churches in Britain: the Church of

England, or Anglican Church as it is also called, and the Church of

Scotland, or 'Kirk'. In 1533 the English king, Henry VIII, broke away from

Rome and declared himself head of the Church in England. His reason was

political: the Pope's refusal to allow him to divorce his wife, who had

failed to produce a son. Apart from this administrative break, the Church

at first remained more Catholic than Protestant. However, during the next

two centuries when religion was a vital political issue in Europe, the

Church of England became more Protestant in belief as well as organization.

Ever since 1534 the monarch has been Supreme Governor of the Church of

England. No one may take the throne who is not a member of the Church of

England. For any Protestant this would be unlikely to be a problem, since

the Church of England already includes a wide variety of Protestant belief.

However, if the monarch or the next in line to the throne decided to marry

a Roman Catholic or a divorcee, this might cause a constitutional crisis.

It has always been understood that if such a marriage went ahead, the

monarch or heir would have to give up their claim to the throne, and to

being Supreme Governor of the Church. In 1936 Edward VIII, who had only

just succeeded to the throne, abdicated in order to marry a divorcee. Today

it is more likely that the monarch or heir would marry the person he or she

loved, and would renounce the title of Supreme Governor of the Church. It

might pose a constitutional crisis, but is less likely to be one for the

Church. The senior Anglican cleric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, crowns

the monarch but if the monarch renounced Supreme Governorship of the

Church, this ceremony might be abandoned or radically changed.

As Head of the Church of England, the monarch appoints the

archbishops, bishops and deans of the Church, on the recommendation of the

Prime Minister, who might well not be an Anglican. The Prime Minister makes

a recommendation from two nominee candidates, put forward by a special

Crown Appointments Commission (composed of bishops, clergy and lay members

of the Church). All Anglican clergy must take an oath of allegiance to the

Crown, a difficult proposition for any priest who is a republican at heart.

Thus Church and Crown in England are closely entwined, with mutual bonds of


The most senior spiritual leaders of the Church of England are the

Archbishop of Canterbury, who is 'Primate of All England', and the

Archbishop of York, who is 'Primate of England'. They are head of the two

ecclesiastical provinces of England, Canterbury and York. Both provinces

are divided into dioceses, each under a bishop. Canterbury is the larger

province, containing 30 dioceses, while York contains only 14. The choice

of Canterbury and York is historical. Canterbury is the site of where St

Augustine reestablished the Christian church in England at the end of the

sixth century. The see of York was founded in the early seventh century by

an envoy of St Augustine to this capital of Northumbria. (The Celtic

churches which survived in Ireland and Scotland were well established two

centuries earlier.)

The senior bishops are those of London, Durham and Winchester, but

there is no guarantee of promotion according to seniority. George Carey,

for example, the present (103rd) Archbishop, was previously Bishop of Bath

and Wells, no longer considered a senior bishopric. Because of the growth

in population, some bishops are assisted by deputies assigned to a

geographical part of the diocese. These are 'suffragan' bishops. Each

diocese is composed of parishes, the basic unit of the Church's ministry.

Each parish has a vicar, or sometimes a team of vicars, if it includes more

than one church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is head of the Anglican 'Communion'. This

Communion is composed of the various independent churches which have grown

out of the Church of England in various parts of the world. In fact England

accounts for only two of the 28 provinces of the Anglican Church. In

theory, about 40 per cent of the English might say they were members of the

Church of England. Far fewer ever actually attend church and only one

million regularly attend, a drop of over 13 per cent since 1988. It is also

a small proportion of the 70 million active Anglicans worldwide. More

Nigerians, for example, than English are regular attenders of the Anglican

Church. Within the worldwide Anglican Communion are some famous people, for

example Desmond Tutu, head of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation

Commission and once Archbishop of Cape Town. It is said that most of the

'ruling establishment' of Washington belong to the Episcopal Church, the

Anglican Church of the United States. The Scottish Episcopal Church, the

Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland are members of the Anglican

Communion but are not 'established' churches and have memberships of not

more than about 100,000 each.

Once in every 10 years the Archbishop of Canterbury invites all the

bishops of the Anglican Communion to a conference at Lambeth in London to

exchange views and debate issues of concern. Rather like the Commonwealth

Conference, the Lambeth Conference provides an opportunity for the sister

churches from every continent to meet and share their different concerns

and perspectives.

The Church of England is frequently considered to be a 'broad' church

because it includes a wide variety of belief and practice. Traditionally

there have been two poles in membership, the Evangelicals and the Anglo-

Catholics. The Evangelicals, who have become proportionately stronger in

recent years, give greater emphasis to basing all faith and practice on the

Bible. There are over one million British evangelicals of different

Protestant churches belonging to an umbrella group, the Evangelical

Alliance. The Anglo-Catholics give greater weight to Church tradition and

Catholic practices, and do not feel the same level of disagreement as many

Evangelicals concerning the teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic

Church. There is an uneasy relationship between the two wings of the

Church, which sometimes breaks into open hostility.

Yet most Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are united in their deeper

dislike of the liberal theologians within the Church of England. These have

challenged the literal validity of several beliefs of the Church, and have

argued that reinterpretation must constantly take place, partly as a result

of recent biblical scholarship, but also because they maintain that

theological understanding changes as society itself changes and develops

over the years. In that sense, one can divide the Church of England in a

different way, into conservatives and modernists. It is estimated that 80

per cent of the Church of England are of evangelical persuasion, and the

balance is divided almost equally between Anglo-Catholics and liberals.

However, a large number of church-goers either feel no particular

loyalty to any of these traditions, or feel more comfortable somewhere

between these poles. Since most bishops are theologians, the liberals are

more strongly represented among the bishops than sheer numbers in church

membership justifies.

The Church of England is above all things a church of compromise. It

is, in the words of one journalist, 'a Church where there has traditionally

been space on the pew for heretics and unbelievers, doubters and sceptics'.

It takes a long view and distrusts zealous theological or ideological

certainty. It prefers to live with disagreements of belief rather than

apply authoritarian decisions. It fudges issues where it can, to keep its

broad body of believers together. Most of its members are happy with the

arrangement. In that sense the Church of England is profoundly typical of

the English character. It distrusts the rigid logic of a particular

tradition of theology and prefers the illogical but practical atmosphere of

'live and let live' within a broader church climate. Consequently there is

always a concern to ensure that all wings of the Church are represented

among the bishops, and that those appointed as archbishops shall be neither

too controversial in their theology, nor too committed to one particular

wing of the Church as to be unacceptable to others.

The Church is governed by its bishops. In that sense it is a

hierarchical organization. Nevertheless its regulating and legislative body

is the General Synod, made up of three 'Houses', the House of Bishops (53

diocesan and suffragan bishops), the House of Clergy (259 representatives

of the clergy) and the House of Laity (258 representatives of lay members

of the Church). The General Synod meets twice yearly with two functions:

(1) to consider matters concerning the Church of England, and to take any

necessary steps for its effective operation; (2) to consider and express

its opinion on any matters of religious or public interest. In order to

reach agreement on any issue, General Synod requires a majority in each

House, in the words of one religious commentator, 'a clumsy and largely

ineffective cross between a parliament and a democracy. It is a typical

Anglican compromise.'

This has been particularly true in the two areas of greatest

controversy within the Church since the mid-1980s: the ordination of women

and of homosexuals (and the acceptance of homosexuals already in the

priesthood). In both cases the modernists are ranged against the

conservatives. After a long and often contentious debate, the Church

finally accepted the ordination of women in 1992, and the first were

ordained in 1994, long after the practice had been adopted in other parts

of the Anglican Communion. Some 200 clergy, fewer than expected, chose to

leave the Church of England rather than accept women priests. They were

almost all Anglo-Catholic. While great passion was aroused among some

clergy and lay people on this issue, the large majority of church-goers did

not feel strongly enough, either way, to force a decision. It is unlikely

that any woman will become a bishop for some years. Having accepted women

priests, a fresh controversy arose over the question of homosexuality with,

if anything, even greater vehemence. This time the contest is primarily

between modernists and evangelicals, but the essence of the debate is the

same: biblical and traditional values versus contemporary social ones. The

director general of the Evangelical Alliance claims that 'a vast number of

churches stand by 2,000 years of biblical analysis which concludes that

homosexual sex is outside the will and purpose of God'. The modernists

argue that it is ludicrous to pick one out of many culturally specific

prohibitions in the Old Testament, and that a judgmental posture excludes

Christians who quite sincerely have a different sexual orientation and

perspective from heterosexuals. Modernists say the church should listen and

learn from them. It is a controversy likely to persist well into the twenty-

first century.

The Church of England was traditionally identified with the ruling

establishment and with authority, but it has been distancing itself over

the past 25 years or so, and may eventually disengage from the state.

'Disestablishment', as this is known, becomes a topic for discussion each

time the Church and state clash over some issue. Since 1979 the Church has

been ready to criticize aspects of official social policy.

Nevertheless, the Church of England remains overwhelmingly

conventional and middle class in its social composition, having been mainly

middle and upper class in character since the Industrial Revolution. Most

working-class people in England and Wales who are religious belong to the

nonconformist or 'Free' Churches, while others have joined the Catholic

Church in the past 140 years.

Because of its position, the Anglican Church has inherited a great

legacy of ancient cathedrals and parish churches. It is caught between the

value of these magnificent buildings as places of worship, and the enormous

cost of their upkeep. The state provides about 10 per cent of the cost of

maintaining the fabric of historic churches.

The other Christian churches

The Free or nonconformist churches are distinguished by having no

bishops, or 'episcopacy', and they all admit both women and men to their

ministry. The main ones today are: the Methodist Union (400,000 full adult

members); the Baptists (150,000); the United Reformed Church (110,000) and

the Salvation Army (50,000). These all tend towards strong evangelicalism.

In the case of the Methodists and Baptists, there are also smaller splinter

groups. In addition there are a considerable number of smaller sects. Most

of these churches are, like the Anglicans, in numerical decline.

In Scotland the Church, or Kirk, vehemently rejected the idea of

bishops, following a more Calvinist Protestant tradition. Its churches are

plain. There is no altar, only a table, and the emphasis is on the pulpit,

where the Gospel is preached. The Kirk is more democratic than the Anglican

Church. Although each kirk is assigned a minister, it also elects its own

'elders'. The minister and one of these elders represent the kirk at the

regional presbytery. Each of the 46 presbyteries of Scotland elects two

commissioners to represent it at the principal governing body of the

Church, the General Assembly. Each year the commissioners meet in the

General Assembly, and elect a Moderator to chair the General Assembly for

that year. Unlike the Church of England, the Church of Scotland is subject

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