In 1979, on the day of the first of her three consecutive General Election victories, Margaret Thatcher quoted a famous prayer, traditionally attributed to St Francis of Assisi. The opening line of the quotation was: 'Where there is discord, may we bring harmony,' In fact, the political life of Britain during the ensuing decade was notable not for its harmony but for the depth and intensity of its divisions, conflicts and discordances. Moreover, the religious origins of her quotation notwithstanding, such discord and confrontation were nowhere more noticeable than in relations between the successive Conservative governments of the 1980s and prominent and influential leaders and groups within the Christian churches of Britain. Indeed, it has been suggested that at no previous point this century had the British churches and government been so sharply and consistently at odds with each other (Baker, 1991, p.91; see also Raban, 1989, p.21; Walker and Gallagher, 1990, p.105).