Monday, 31 January 2011

Challenging Magna Carta?

Only 3 of the 13th century Magna Carta's 63 clauses are still valid in English law.


One of these 3 is the first, which guarantees the freedom of the English Church.


The original charter was written in medieval Latin. An English translation of this clause (from the British Library) reads as follows:
"FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity."
I was startled to read Clayboy's suggestion in a post yesterday that Frank Field should "stop trying to overthrow Magna Carta" . It's what led me dip into the British Library website and check out exactly what Magna Carta does say about the english church. I'd already been alerted to what Frank Field is tabling in Parliament today, but I don't agree with the suggestion that it's a bullying tactic - probably more a means of expressing opionion.


So what's this all about? Here's what I understand. A group of UK Members of Parliament led by Frank Field has tabled an 'Early Day Motion" relating to the 'Women in the Episcopate: draft bishops and priests (consecration and ordination of women) Measure'. (Take a deep breath before trying to read that title aloud.) This Measure is being discussed in Church of England dioceses before returning to the General Synod of the Church of England in July 2012. I personally hope it will receive final approval then, providing it includes an adequate and strong Code of Practice for pastoral care for those unable to accept women in the episcopacy. The process has been slow and fraught with difficulties. I have blogged about this in Shark-Filled Chasm among other posts.


MP Frank Field et al commend the measure as currently drafted and then say something that looks like a threat. i.e. In the event that there's overwhelming support from the dioceses but the measure fails through a technicality to receive General Synod's final approval, Early Day Motion 1364 calls on 'Her Majesty's Government' to
"remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation".
Is this a threat that if General Synod doesn't approve the measure, then it will be forced to by Parliament? If Parliament voted for Frank Field's motion, it would mean that the Church of England is not free.  But then, as the established church, how free is it anyway? Even if this motion is debated, I assume there's unlikely to be a vote on it. The current coalition government has enough problems at present without attempting a head-to-head confrontation with the (so called?) 'freedom of the english church'. 


The Barons forced King John to agree to Magna Carta in 1215. Somehow I don't think Frank Field's motion is going to force the Church of England to do anything other than what the General Synod decides and has decided in relation to women bishops. Meanwhile I'm thinking that at least we no longer have services in medieval latin and we have Tudor Parliaments to thank for that. But how long before the church sheds some of its medieval attitudes to women?



No comments:

Post a Comment

ShareThis

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails