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Civil religion in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth
Author: Norman Bonney

This book introduces a discussion of a fundamental paradox concerning contemporary society and government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). There is strong evidence of continuing trends towards a more secular and less religious society and pattern of social behaviour. At the same time, religious doctrines, rituals and institutions are central to the legitimacy, stability and continuity of key elements of the constitutional and political system. Outlining the thesis of secularization, the book attempts to account for the failure of secularisation theory. The oaths of the accession and of the coronation of the monarch are the central affirmative symbolic acts which legitimate the system of government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) and the place of the monarchy at the apex of the political system. The book explores some remote and dusty corners of the constitution of the UK that might be of some importance for the operation of the UK political system. The 1953 coronation ad many features of the 1937 coronation on which it was modelled. The religious rituals of the UK Parliament appear to be much more fixed and enduring than those devised in the context of devolution since 1999 to resolve tensions between the religious and political spheres in the 'Celtic' regions. A profound limitation of Anglican multifaithism as a doctrine for uniting the political community is its failure to connect with the large secular population.

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Civil religion in the making
Norman Bonney

The concept of civil religion applies an adjective in front of the term 'religion' to recognise that it is a species of a much wider phenomenon. Interestingly, scholars such as Robert Bellah and Wald and Calhoun who have given extended consideration to the idea of civil religion refer to 'nations' as the fundamental units of social and political organisation. This chapter explores the concept of civil religion and utilised it to shed light on the historic rituals of the coronation ceremony. The contemporary statutory basis of the constitutional element of the coronation ceremony is the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 which requires the monarch to swear certain oaths at the coronation. Despite the significant secular elements of the coronation service, most interpreters of the more recent coronations have invested them with extremely deep religious significance.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

This chapter examines the continuing traditional and official religious dimensions of the UK monarchy and Parliament and contrasts them with the newer forms of relationships with religion and belief that have emerged in the devolved UK legislature. It assesses what the relevant continuities and changes reveal about the perennial tensions between the religious and parliamentary spheres and contemporary pressures for new alignments between religion and state in the UK. In approaching these questions, there is value in utilising perspectives from the literature and debates on civil religion, ritual and power deriving from the classic work of Durkheim and related scholarship of writers such as Robert Bellah and Steven Lukes. The evolution of relationships between Christian denominations, other religions and the National Assembly of Wales which supervises the Welsh Assembly Government has followed an uncertain path, reflecting contemporary dilemmas of ordering the relationship between the spheres of government and religion.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
The coronation of 1953
Norman Bonney

E. Shils and M. Young's interpretation of the 1953 coronation is one of the best-known sociological essays about twentieth-century Britain and the nature of social integration and conflict in a large and complex industrial society. R. Bocock offered an interpretation which assessed both points of view and placed the coronation more broadly in the context of other national rituals such as Remembrance Sunday. Politico-religious ritual, involving purported contact with the transcendental, as exhibited in the coronation of 1953, could thus contribute to the maintenance and sustenance of a type of social order which Shils endorsed. E. Ratcliff saw the coronation as 'distinctively English and national in its principal features' and 'a rite celebrated by the Primate of All England according to the use of the Church of England by law established'.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

This chapter examines the evolution and development of the accession and coronation oaths of the monarchs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and then variously 'Ireland' and 'Northern Ireland'. It raises some issues about their continuing relevance in the twenty-first century and the need publicly and fundamentally to reassess them and evaluate their continuing suitability for the contemporary era. The coronation oaths are required by the Coronation Oath Act of 1688, the Act of Settlement of 1701 and the Accession Declaration Act of 1910. Unlike the declaration of Protestant faith, another early requirement for action by a new monarch, the oath for 'the security of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland' required by the Acts of Union of 1706-1707 has remained unchanged. The religions of the non-Christian populations in the dominions, India and the colonies were not of such a great concern.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

Despite its importance in the UK contemporary government, the monarchy does not seem to attract the attention from political scientists that it merits. This chapter examines the procedures that are invoked to install in office the successor to a monarch who has died. A review of the procedures of the installation of a new incumbent to the throne necessarily builds on the work of others. The benchmark source for any discussion has to be Vernon Bogdanor's The Monarchy and the Constitution. Bogdanor's emphasis on the role of Elizabeth II in several constitutional crises highlight the continuing significance of the monarch as a potential player at critical political and constitutional junctures. Elizabeth II was proclaimed as Head of the Common-wealth, a free association of fifty-four states, but which in 1952 comprised an Empire, independent dominions of which she was head of state, and a number of former colonies and possessions.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

This chapter introduces a discussion of a fundamental paradox concerning contemporary society and government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). It outlines the thesis of secularisation and the apparently strong evidence in its favour in relation to the personal behaviour of individuals and the culture of society. The resilience of the core institutions of UK state religion is despite predictions from a variety of sources of the contemporary eclipse of the religious beliefs, practices and institutions. Anglican doctrines and rituals still remain at the core of the state and monarchy, and religious influences are clearly major forces in UK politics. Sociologists of religion who have been dissatisfied with the explanatory adequacy of theories of secularisation have tried to redeem the role of religion in modern society by invoking the concept of 'vicarious religion'.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

This chapter offers a thorough examination and critique of the emergent phenomenon of what will be called UK state Anglican multifaithism. If the Church of England is conducting a religious coronation, the issue of the coronation oaths and the form that they would take would be central to the religious and constitutional formalities. An understanding of political context is essential to comprehending the changing religious posture of the UK monarchy and the Church of England in the twenty-first century. The continuance of the requirement for the declaration of Protestant faith can be construed as part of the overall package of the Protestant succession and the establishment of the Church of England. The termination of the establishment of the Church of England could be promoted by a decision that the monarch should not be required to swear the oaths in support of Protestantism and church establishment in Scotland and the UK.

in Monarchy, religion and the state
Norman Bonney

This chapter considers the appropriateness of an emergent 'civil religion' evident in the ceremonial of the Commonwealth as a possible model for collective secular or religious events for all the realms to mark the commencement a new reign. It demonstrates the diversity of religious identity and affiliation among the realms. The realms collectively constitute a population of subjects of the monarch that are predominantly Christian of unknown degrees of commitment but with a substantial minority with other religions, no recorded religion or no religion. The two largest Christian denominations, Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism, each have the attachment of about one-fifth of the combined population, but the Anglican support is heavily concentrated in the UK and Roman Catholicism is heavily concentrated in Canada and Australia. Multiculturalism had a more convincing appeal to the population of Canada since it was obviously more of a diverse immigrant society than the UK.

in Monarchy, religion and the state