RFI’s Paul Marshall Reviews New Book on Church-State Relations in England

September 25, 2023

RFI’s Paul Marshall recently reviewed Jonathan Chaplin’s new book, Beyond Establishment: Resetting Church-state Relations in England, for Providence. He calls the book “scholarly, thorough, and meticulous” and characterizes its core argument as “a principled theological one, particularly the principle of church autonomy and state impartiality.” Marshall writes:

For Jonathan Chaplin’s [new book] this last year has been the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times because few in England – it is, after all, an establishment of neither Britain nor the United Kingdom but England – have usually thought or cared little, or even known that much about it. Chaplin notes himself that “establishment hardly seems to be the most pressing issue at stake in the larger question of the place of faith in British Society.” In America, establishment is even less of an issue since the first clause in the First Amendment is “Congress shall make no law concerning an establishment of religion.”1 Few in the U.S. question this, though some Catholic integralists seem at times to do so. 

But, shortly after the book was published, Queen Elizabeth II died. Her personal integrity and dignity over so many decades drew many world leaders, including from very secular nations, to attend her funeral with great respect, and this event inaugurated a period of genuine national mourning. That occasion, and the lesser event of the coronation this year of her son Charles III, were deeply religious, especially Christian, and specifically Protestant, ceremonies conducted by the established Church of England.

While you can have a monarchy without establishment, in England these have been so intertwined for a millennium or more that it brought home to many otherwise unaware people that there is in fact an established church in the country. Hence, the topic of this book, which had previously been long ignored, has now come back to center stage.

Read the full article: “Review of Jonathan Chaplin’s Beyond Establishment.”