By the Rev Canon William Odom
The Church Bookroom (Published Prior to 1923)
Part IX - I am a Churchman because I approve the Union of Church and State.
What is meant by the cry “A Free Church in a Free State” we have yet to learn, but are sure that a far nobler cry is “A Christian Church in a Christian State.” As already said, the State did not create or establish the Church, but the Church assisted to make the State. At the Reformation no new Church was set up: the existing Church was reformed. The strange notion that at the Reformation period the State set aside the Church of Rome and founded a new Church will find no place in the minds of the well-instructed. The evidence for the continuity of the English Church is as convincing as it is abundant. In addition to the testimony of Acts of Parliament, Reports of Royal Commissions, and especially the Preface to the Prayer Book, we recall a host of witnesses—eminent historians and statesmen. It is an historical fallacy to say that the Church of England is an offshoot of the Church of Rome.
Mr. Gladstone wrote: “I can find no trace of that opinion, which is common in the mouths of unthinking persons, that the Roman Catholic Church was abolished in England at the time of the Reformation, and that a Protestant Church was put in its place” (Church and State.)
Professor Freeman writes: “It is certain that no English ruler, no English Parliament, thought of setting up a new Church, but simply of reforming the existing English Church. Nothing was further from the mind of Henry VIII. or of Elizabeth than the thought that either of them was doing anything new. Neither of them ever thought for a moment of establishing a new Church or of establishing anything at all. In their own eyes they were not establishing, but reforming; they were not pulling down or setting up, but putting to rights. The whole argument must assume, because the facts of history compel us to assume, the absolute identity of the Church of England after the Reformation with the Church of England before the Reformation.”
At times, either in ignorance or for party purposes, our Church is said to be endowed by the State, and the clergy are described as “State-paid.” One of many witnesses in disproof of this fallacy is Mr. Gladstone, who said: “The clergy of the Church of England are not State-paid.” In 1908 Mr. Asquith said: “With the exception of those in the direct employment of the State as chaplains, the stipends of the Bishops and the clergy of the Church of England are not paid out of public funds.” The Church is supported and the clergy paid out of its own rightful revenues, and by the voluntary offerings of its members.
The union of Church and State has grown up with the ages. Our Sovereign is solemnly pledged to maintain it. It is a Nation’s witness to Christ and His Truth. We believe it to be in agreement with Scripture, and of untold advantage to the people. Not only is it a National testimony of faith in God, but it guarantees, in a way which nothing else can, the Protestant succession to the Crown. Its maintenance is not a mere question of policy, but a solemn duty imposed upon all patriotic Englishmen.
>> Part X. - I am a Churchman because I believe the Parochial System to be an unspeakable blessing to the Nation.