Church of England:
‘The established church in England since the 1530’s. Defence of establishment and the role of the Church in education lay at the root of the historic linkage between the Church of England and the Conservative Party. In 1900 there were seventeen bishops identified as Tories, six supported their Liberal Unionist allies, six the Liberals, and only four were without party labels. Episcopal partisanship was, however, to diminish rapidly in the early years of the century. The constitutional crisis of 1909 -11 encouraged the view that bishops should avoid party strife, although controversies over religion, particularly over the levels of public support for the large percentage of schools that were of religious foundation, continued to DOG legislation legislation until at least 1959, a trend also fostered by other developments early in the century. One was the effect of the Great War in reducing the social gulf between Anglicans and Nonconformists and in encouraging post-war ecumenism. The other was the rising importance of class-based issues in the inter-war period, which cut across religious communities. And in the post-1945 years busier bishops were to be much less active or influential in a House of Lords swollen by life peerages. The Church meanwhile changed its stance on a number of social issues. Attitudes to divorce were already being moderated by 1920 by a growing awareness of, and desire to minister to, the misery caused by marital breakdown. The 1930 Lambeth conference gave tentative approval to the use of contraceptives. And in the post-war years concern about backstreet abortionists led to support, in certain circumstances, for abortion. By the 1980’s, concern on the right that liberalisation was promoting social malaise and family breakdown led to criticism of the apparent failure of the Church to act as a moral guardian on these issues. Thatcherites condemned the willingness of the Church, rather, to comment on social or defence policy during a decade of confrontation with a Conservative government. At the time it was quipped that the Church had switched from being ’the *Conservative party at Prayer’ to ‘the social Social Democratic Party at prayer’. Whilst this may have been true of the clergy, however, it does not seem to hold true for the laity, who continued, as throughout the century, to be disproportionately Conservative. And although Anglican MPs can be found in all parties’ majority of them have usually been Tories’.
References: Peter Caterall, ‘The Party and Religion’, in A. Seldon & S. Ball (eds.) ‘Conservative Century’, Oxford, 1994.
References: G. I. T. Machin, ‘Churches and Social Issues in Twentieth-Century Britain’, Oxford, 1998.