Who are Church Schools For? Towards an Ecclesiology for Church of England Voluntary Aided Secondary Schools

Shepherd, Peter William (2004). Who are Church Schools For? Towards an Ecclesiology for Church of England Voluntary Aided Secondary Schools. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e8bb


There is a mismatch between the Church of England's own self-conception and the realities of modern post-Christian England, which consists in a failure to recognise the vestigial nature and redundancy of a 'church for the nation' ecclesiology in an age when the CE is clearly, in classical sociological terms, a denomination-type. This impacts on the practice and perceived function of Anglican Christianity, and although baptism is treated as illustrative, the principle focus is the role and purpose of CE secondary schools, viewed theoretically within a spectrum of ecclesiological modelling, and more practically as responding to recent ecclesio-political imperatives, notably the Dearing Report of 2001, and the rhetoric and debate surrounding its release and subsequent mutation.

The first section (Chapters 1 and 2) is diagnostic of the current state of the church, reviewing sociological and cultural theory, and arguing on ecclesiological grounds that the CE now has the status of one denomination among many, which implies a more modest and realistic role in its affairs, particularly in the education system, than the traditional ecclesia (church)/establishment model might have entailed. The second section (Chapters 3 - 6) traces the history of the CE's educational role, and examines the crucial issue for understanding the purpose of church schools: admissions policies. In this discussion the links between admission to the church (baptism) and admission to the church school are drawn out and explored. The framework established in the first section is used to illuminate the argument of the third section (Chapters 7 and 8) which provides a detailed account of the church's current role in education represented by the appearance and reception of the Dearing Report in 2001. The contention is that the attachment to the 'church for the nation' model has led to complicity with contemporary political expedients at the cost of a meaningful identity for church schools. The conclusion is that recognition of the more modest status of the CE would provide a clear rationale for its schools in particular, and Faith Schools in general. Chapter 8 offers an alternative voice to 'Dearing'. The final chapter, having investigated wider yet germane issues, provides an ecclesiological model of the 'single Faith nurture' school.

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