Seven out of ten Conservative Party members believe the Church of England is left-wing, according to a study by Conservative Home. The poll comes after a series of highly political acts by the Church leadership including an incident in February when 27 Anglican bishops wrote a letter claiming David Cameron’s welfare reforms had created for a “national crisis” in which 500,000 people visited food banks since the Easter before.
The Church was traditionally known as the “Tory Party at prayer” and the majority of parishioners are Conservatives but this is not always true of the leadership. In fact Breitbart London exposed the case of Dr Keith Hebden the vicar who organised the letter to David Cameron. Whilst he does not shout about his politics in the media he is an experienced left-wing activist who has been arrested twice.
Despite concerns about the behaviour of the Church many Conservatives are still opposed to the divorce of Church and state, a political view point known as antidisestablishmentarianism (also one of the English language’s longest words). Only 22 percent of Conservatives support a separation, whilst 72 percent support the link.
The British state still continues to exercise a great deal of control over the Church of England, the Queen is its head and the Prime Minister effectively picks the Bishops. In exchange the Church sends a delegation of senior Bishops to sit as full members of the House of Lords, this gives them the ability to speak and vote on legislation.
Confusingly whilst the government controls the Church of England, it does not control the Church of Scotland, Wales or Ireland. However, these Churches are much smaller that the Church of England and in the cases of Wales and Ireland they are not even the most popular religious denominations in their respective countries.
It is unclear what will happen to the Church in the long-term but there is increasing disquiet amongst Anglicans that their leadership are so out of touch with ordinary worshippers.
The most likely reason for the disconnect is the Prime Minister picking the Bishops. In recent years the big social issue facing the government was gay marriage and so successive Prime Ministers have chosen Bishops that are likely to support a more liberal stance, however these candidates are out of step with their parishioners on a broad range of issues.
In 2014 their is both a Conservative Prime Minister and a large number of vacancies, as Bishops chosen by the last Labour government start to retire. This may lead to a more Conservative crop of Church leaders being promoted:
Follow Andre Walker on Twitter: @AndreJPWalker