From 17th to 19th November 2023, the “Junges Forum Anglikanismus” (“Young Forum Anglicanism”) took place for the third time. The Forum is sponsored by the “Konfessionskundliches Institut der EKD” in Bensheim, and organised by the Institute’s Advisor on Anglicanism, the Rev Dr Kai Funkschmidt, and a team of volunteers. It aims to be a platform for learning about and for sharing experiences with Anglicanism for young adults (students or at an early career stage) from a German Protestant background (mostly, but not exclusively).

The third Young Forum took place in Berlin under the heading ‘God save the King!’ Church and State in Anglicanism. That might have been a bit of a bold title since the relations of church and state are different in every country. Consequently, we could of course not take into account every single Anglican province and the state(s) they exist in. Thus, we were first and foremost concentrating on England and the CofE – as the title suggests which was of course inspired by the 2023 coronation. At least, however, we managed to regularly take a sideways look at the other parts of the UK and their respective Anglican church bodies, and we were trying to grasp the commonalties and differences compared to England/the CofE from our (mostly) German point of view. And so, we were very happy that we were able to convince some outstanding experts to be our guides through the at times tangled thicket of the British political system and its constitutional as well as practical links with the Anglican church(es).

The Rev Dr James Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, made a powerful serve when presenting us with A Theology of Monarchy for the 21st Century. It was a masterly and thought-provoking introduction into a field of theology which – due to the different nature of our political system – was frankly quite foreign to us Germans. Yet we soon realised that it touched upon fundamental questions about the Church’s role and function in society and about the basis of government which we, as well, – and in fact Christians everywhere – have to answer notwithstanding any differences in the systems of government.

After Jamie’s deep theological reflections, we then turned more to the practical side when Dr Anne Richards, National Public Policy Adviser for the CofE, gave us many insights into The Workings of Church and State in the United Kingdom. We learned a lot about the procedures of General Synod, the role of the bishops in the House of Lords, the ecumenical and interreligious dimensions, and current political debates.

After two voices that told us about the theory and practice of the established CofE, we had the opportunity to listen to Dr Jonathan Chaplin, Honorary Fellow of Wesley House Cambridge, from the Centre for Faith in Public Life, who was making The Case for Disestablishment. It was very illumining to follow his calm theological argumentation in favour of a separation of the CofE and the British state. Thereby, we did not just get an understanding of his position, but also of the advantages and the challenges of the current system.

Finally, Dr Patrick Roger Schnabel, “Oberkirchenrat bei der Bevollmächtigten des Rates der EKD bei der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und der Europäischen Union” (“Senior Church Councillor with the Representative of the Council of the EKD to the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union”), gave us a profound and rich overview over The relationship of Church and State across Europe which was extremely useful to contextualise what we had heard so far about the specific relations between church and state in the UK and to some extent in Germany.

These more academically oriented sessions were flanked by other sessions: An informal round of exchange about everybody’s ecumenical, especially Anglican, encounters, connections, or research interests, gave space for sharing more personal experiences and insights. A Bible study on Psalm 72 invited everybody to personally reflect on one’s understanding of the biblical vision of church and state. By watching the episode “The Bishop’s Gambit” from the iconic 1980s BBC series “Yes, Prime Minister”, we even managed to approach the whole topic in a more humorous way. And of course, we prayed about all of it. On Sunday, we were given a very warm welcome by the Rev Canon Christopher Jage-Bowler and the congregation at St George’s Anglican Church Berlin where we joined the Eucharist and thereby brought our conference to a worthy and joyful close.

The fourth “Junges Forum Anglikanismus” (“Young Forum Anglicanism”) will take place in Bonn from 15th to 17th November 2024. The topic will be The Anglican Communion and Ecumenism. All are cordially invited!

Sven Michael Gröger