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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 12:34 GMT
Bishop calls for end to 'state ties'
The Bishop of Birmingham, Mark Santer
The Bishop of Birmingham wants more independence
The Bishop of Birmingham has called for the Church of England to cut ties with parliament.

He also wants a re-examination of the Queen's role as the head of the Church.

The Right Reverend Mark Santer, who retires in May, made the controversial statement during his final speech to his diocese synod at St Cuthbert's Church in Castle Vale.

He said that if the Monarchy should end in the next 50 years, the Church needed to be more independent.

This could mean the Queen stepping down as its head.

'Parliament meddling'

He added that representatives from all religions should withdraw from politics.

This would include an end to bishops' sitting in the House of Lord's and an end to the involvement of the prime minister in the selection of bishops.

The Church of England ought to modify its relationship with the state

The Right Reverend Mark Santer

Mr Santer, 65, said: "Without in any way denying that we have served Parliament well in the past, we should now withdraw.

"After all, we have plenty to do in attending to our primary tasks in out dioceses, and by a sensible use of the media we can be at least as effective in making our views known on issues of public policy than we can by going to the House of Lords.

"Far more serious is the ability of Parliament to meddle in matters concerning the Church's internal discipline, in worship and in doctrine."

He questioned the continuing role of the Queen as the supreme governor of the Church saying that it should prepare for the possibility of the monarchy disappearing.

'Major upheaval'

"The Church of England ought to modify its relationship with the state as to be relatively independent of any changes in the constitution of the country as a whole.

"Any major change in the status of the monarchy would involve a major upheaval in the life of the Church.

"Should we not prepare for that possibility by already seeking to secure a position that is not so mixed up with the power of the Crown?"

Mr Santer went on to deny suggestions that the church would lose its place in society if his proposals went ahead.

"Birmingham is not a place where the Church has any great appearance in the matter of large Cathedrals and all that fling flang.

"We make our presence felt by doing the job properly in relation to city and various communities.

"We are valued by what we achieve, not for appearances."

Active role

Mr Santer has been Bishop of Birmingham for the past 15 years.

During that time, he has played an active role in city life.

He is known as the bishop who speaks his mind, not frightened to involve the church in the wider social and political issues of the day.

Mr Santer was part of the Longbridge Taskforce which helped to save the Rover factory in Longbridge.

He has also been a non-executive director of University Hospital's Trust.

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

25 Sep 01 | England
Bishop of Birmingham to retire
07 Jul 01 | UK
Charles's marriage dilemma
18 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Queen 'should not be head of church'
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