Thursday, 16 June 2011

Tony Baldry criticises Rowan Williams

Updated Friday morning

The Telegraph has a report about what the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry MP, has written in this week’s Church Times about the row following the article published last week in the New Statesman by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tim Ross wrote this: Baldry: Archbishop must stop ‘shouting’ at ministers

The Archbishop of Canterbury should stop “shouting” at the government like a noisy protester in Parliament Square if he wants Church of England bishops to keep their seats in the House of Lords, a senior Conservative MP has suggested.

Here’s an excerpt:

Writing in the Church Times newspaper, he said that “dismayed” Tory MPs and ministers “simply feel monumentally misunderstood by the Archbishop”, who they believe has failed to grasp the scale of the financial difficulties that the coalition inherited from Labour.

Mr Baldry said that when he was appointed to be commissioner last year, he hoped it would be possible to avoid the “disintegration” of the relationship between the Church and Parliament.

“I am disappointed that, less than a year into this Parliament – a Parliament almost certainly of a five-year term – the perception of many MPs sitting on the Coalition benches is that the Church of England is shouting at us from the other side of the street,” he said.

“Later in this Parliament, the Church of England is going to want the understanding of MPs, not least when they debate the place of the Church of England in a reformed, mainly elected Second Chamber.”

He suggested that a further source of friction could develop over plans to consecrate women bishops, which have already caused an internal rift and led hundreds of Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism in protest.

Some MPs want the government to strip the Church of its exemption from equality rules and force traditionalists to accept women bishops.

The original is now available to all subscriber-only for one week, but here is one sentence from it that may explain why it is not the substance of the NS article but the reporting of it that is the cause of this response:

They [government ministers] simply feel monumentally misunderstood by the Archbishop. Lambeth Palace took care to circu­late the full texts of the Archbishop’s New Statesman editorial to every MP; but, so far as my colleagues are concerned, it is no good responding to criticism by saying that that is not what the Archbishop said. In public life and politics, it is what is heard that matters.

Further update The full text of Baldry’s article is available via this page.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 8:44pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

As regards the Archbishop saying what he did, I think Mr Cameron and others in the government would be well-advised to pay attention to his carefully-written article. People are concerned. Some may well have felt driven to end their lives. More explanation is needed.

With regard to the women bishops issue, does the government really want to take on the Muslims, Jews and Catholics on this issue? Stripping the religious exemption from the equality legislation would impact on them as well. I am becoming increasingly convinced that we have a one-term government trying to turn a super-tanker in its own length. It won't work.

Posted by: Roger Stokes on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 9:24pm BST

I don't think the Second Church Estates commissioner has read the editorial in the New Statesman.

Posted by: Paul Barlow on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 9:44pm BST

If bishops are not supposed to address the nation on matters of morals--and government is certainly a matter of morals--then why on earth are they in the parliament to start with?

Posted by: JPM on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 9:53pm BST

My, my, reads like blackmail to me. Of course, I'm a U.S. American so what do I know.

Posted by: Lois Keen on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 9:56pm BST

Roger Stokes: Muslims, Jews and Roman Catholics don't, however, receive places ex officio in the Lords for their senior clergy. If C of E bishops are involved in passing legislation, as voting members of the Upper House of Parliament, it is difficult to argue that they alone of the members of that House should not be bound by it, isn't it?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 10:35pm BST

The sooner those bishops get out of the House of Lords, the better for the integrity of the Church of England.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 16 June 2011 at 11:46pm BST

"Some MPs want to strip the Church of its exemption from equality rules and force traditionalists to accept women bishops"

Presumably Parliament will also "force" the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well to accept "women bishops" - otherwise where's the equality in that?

While we are considering equality let's see Parliament "force" Islam to accept women Imams and Ayatollahs as well - I can't wait to see the reaction.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 5:35am BST

Writing in the Church Times newspaper, he said that “dismayed” Tory MPs and ministers “simply feel monumentally misunderstood by the Archbishop”

"Monumentally misunderstood" would be a good description of Archbishop Rowan's editorial. I suspect Mr Baldry, MP may have read the Telegraph's news coverage, rather than the NS editorial itself.

"Monumentally disingenuous" would be a fair summary of the preposterous claim that the Coalition finds itself forced into a corner by "the scale of the financial difficulties [...] inherited from Labour." But you know what they say about repeating a lie often enough.

Posted by: RJB on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 6:10am BST

Tony Baldry comes across as a nasty bully -- and if this is typical of the attention the Coalition gives to the worries of the people of Britain, I think they should be even more fearful than they already are.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 7:58am BST

If expelling the Bishops from the House of Lords is a consequence of a prophetic Church, bring it on.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 8:51am BST

To say "what is heard that matters" is rather ridiculous given the state of the press in this country and the inevitable desire to sensationalise everything to attract attention and play up conflict to sell newspapers. The sheer religious illiteracy amongst so many in the media doesnt help either...

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 9:51am BST

"Later in this Parliament, the Church of England is going to want the understanding of MPs, not least when they debate the place of the Church of England in a reformed, mainly elected Second Chamber.”
- Tony Baldry, M.P. -

While applauding the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his defence of The Poor; we might yet get a bonus out of his criticism by Mr. Tony Baldry: The Bishops may get less of a voice in the upper House.

In other words, conservative bishops may no longer have the privilege of stone-walling affirmative action towards the implementation of Justice in The Institution of the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 12:15pm BST

My! Never thought the revolution would get going this quickly...

Posted by: A J Barford on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 12:37pm BST

You are all forgetting that, unlike Roman Catholicism and Islam, the Church of England is Established by Parliament. Parliament has rejected a prayer book change in the 20th century. Under Cromwell Parliament abolished bishops and if they wanted to they could do it again. General Synod operates only on delegated authority. Unlike the US, where there is no established church, Parliamentary sovereignty over that church is in theory, if not practice, absolute. While it would never happen, of course, Parliament could decree that the official doctrine of the CofE was henceforth Unitarian or Buddhist & it would be so. The 39 Articles, after all, were created by Act of Parliament. Rowan may fancy that he is the head of the CofE, and Americans may imagine that the Queen is, but the truth is that Establishment means Parliament is the source of all authority in the CofE.

Posted by: Dennis Roberts on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 3:27pm BST

This natural bully has found his place as a this government which is now bullying the teachers. If he does not understand how moderate Rowan Williams article is I wonder if he understands that Jesus came to bring Good news to the poor. His threats show a lack of understanding of the constitutional position of the Church which means he is not qualified to be a church commissioner. If he had any integrity he would resign from synod and this position. It is time that the bishops dusted off their copies are the Barmen declaration.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 3:27pm BST

I advise those who are critical of Tony Baldry to read the full text of his article, now available at the link to his own website, given above.

It is quite clear that he has read the full text of the _New Statesman_ article. But his point is that it is an insufficient defence to simply refer to that. The way the article was reported in the Telegraph and the Mail is just as important, and those who choose to use the public press (which includes the NS) must recognise that as fact.

This is the second major episode this year that I know of when Lambeth Palace has had a serious failure of communication with Parliamentarians.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 4:34pm BST

Simon,

Mr Baldry writes "In public life it is what is heard that matters" Well I hear him via the Telegraph accusing Rowan Williams of "shouting" and threatening with the consequences.It is his article from behind the Church Times pay wall which is a serious failure of communication. Indeed what the furore that Rowan Williams' article shows is that The Conservatives have failed to communicate the need for their policies to the general public. Those who criticise Rowan Williams on this issue either have not taken the time to read his article or do not have the moral sensitivity to take his point.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 7:09pm BST

I thought the New Statesman article typical of the Archbishop and very different from the subsequent reporting. I do think Tony Baldry hits the nail on the head about not just writing the article, but taking some responsibility for how it is heard - like expecting some controversy, and having people set up with decent interviews where nuances could be explored and briefed with sharp positive points to make in support of the arguments advanced etc etc. Regardless of what was said, what people heard was not the article, but the messages some rather more media savvy people piggy-backed into the coverage of the article.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 7:26pm BST

This is a warning shot across the bows of Lambeth. I have some sympathy with Tony Baldry as he gets the flack from MPs and Peers alike. It is not enough for the Press Office to say that all MPs were circulated with the article. I'd like to know whether the House of Bishops were sent the article. Whether or not they were, I have a strong sense that there was little or no consultation with them in advance. What is going on here?

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 10:03pm BST

Having read Tony Baldry's article, I am still not sure what Rowan Williams could have done to avoid upsetting Conservative MPs other than refrain from criticising the government altogether. He offered a platform to Iain Duncan Smith (who probably does not get that many articles in the New Statesman)and criticised the opposition as well as the coalition.

Given that major NHS reorganisations tend to be very expensive, and that increased privatisation means that some resources will go to shareholders as well as to patient care, as well as increasing transaction costs, it is not immediately obvious why this is supposed to be a way of dealing with 'serious financial challenges'. Doctors, nurses, patients and academics have all raised concerns - Rowan is by no means the only one to have expressed doubt.

If some Conservative MPs' response to any questioning of their policies is to feel aggrieved and threaten to punish those responsible, one wonders what is in store for Macmillan Cancer Support (http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2011/jun/16/macmillan-cancer-support-reponds) and every other charity which has been less than wholehearted about some aspect of government reforms.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Friday, 17 June 2011 at 11:15pm BST

Dennis claims:- "Parliament is the source of all authority in the CofE" - in which case God help us! Doesn't Jesus get a look in there somewhere when it comes to thinking about "authority" within the Church?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 6:02am BST

" Doesn't Jesus get a look in there somewhere when it comes to thinking about 'authority'within the Church?"

In the defense of Mr. Baldry and others, you really couldn't tell from Rowan Williams' past performance that Jesus has anything to do with the CofE, at all!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 11:42am BST

There are two questions. One is what a church does within its own boundaries. The other is what a church does when it is an office bearer in another institution e.g. UK's parliament.

The privileges of office bring accountability and scrutiny. If the CofE want to dodge accountability for how they treat women and others, then they should not be office bearers in an institution that is responsible for all members of society. If they are, then they are accountable for how they themselves treat all members of society.

No point taking pot shots about parliament's mistreatment of one group, if they themselves (who are also office bearers) are collusively working to perpetuate the mistreatment of other groups (with many constituents often overlapping - thanks to their discriminatory practices hinder justice and dignity to some e.g. women and GLBTs).

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 1:48pm BST

Fr David: ""Parliament is the source of all authority in the CofE" - in which case God help us!"

The State exercising authority over the Church is nothing surprisingly new, is it? If one is a traditionalist, I suppose one should be in favour of it. Since the conversion of Constantine, it has ever been thus in Europe. One might recall the Austrian Emperor's veto of Cardinal Rampolla at the 1903 Conclave, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariano_Rampolla#Veto

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 10:29pm BST

Father Mark - When Constantine was converted to the Faith and Christianity became the Established religion of the Roman Empire - some say - that's when the rot set in

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 12:40pm BST

I know, Fr D, we've been going downhill all the way since the early 4th century... but I don't think many traditionalists (other than Unitarians) hark back to pre-Nicene theology when it comes to, for example, Christology, so one might imagine an accommodation with post-Constantinian ecclesiology might have also been made by now.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 8:58pm BST

Why don't critics of the A.of C., including Mr Baldry, read the Archbishop's article properly, and his criticism of both left and right, and read it in conjunction with Amos and the Gospels? If the churches do not speak up for the poor and the powerless and voiceless, who will? For too long the Tory party has seen the Churches, particularly the C of E and the RC church as its mouthpiece and the moral justifiers of its gospel of the god of the free market, and the right to oppress the feckless poor, and the Liberals and New Labour have followed in its wake. But the Gospel is much more counter-cultural and subversive than we can possibly imagine. It is interesting how we love to stand up for the poor and the voiceless abroad, where other "regimes" are seen as oppressive,but the poor and underpaid in this country are fair game, and are the ones who are paying for the expensive life styles of promoters of the free market. May God forgive us!

Posted by: Gerry Reilly on Monday, 20 June 2011 at 5:19pm BST

Gerry Reilly: "For too long the Tory party has seen the Churches, particularly the C of E and the RC church as its mouthpiece..."

Not at all: it was during Runcie's archiepiscopate in the 1980s that the C of E was frequently caricatured as the Liberal Party at prayer; and British Roman Catholics have long voted overwhelmingly for the Labour Party.

More of a problem is the naive assumption that some left-wing Christians (and I think Rowan Williams is one of them) make that being left-wing politically is somehow morally superior and more Christian than being on the right of the political centre in the UK. There are plenty of us (David Cameron being one, I think) who are faithful Anglicans, committed to a caring and compassionate society, yet who think it more moral that money has to be earnt by the country, rather than just borrowed, before it can be spent. This is a view which church leaders should also be able to honour.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 20 June 2011 at 7:49pm BST

Fr Mark, I think you will find that English RCs are on the whole middle class and not Labour voters as were their Irish counterparts. If being aware of social justice and of the dangers of wealth and wealth creation and the social and moral problems associated with it is considered left-wing, then I wear the gospel with pride. All of my ministry was spent in areas of urban deprivation, and i saw people sacrificed on the altar of Moloch, also called market forces. And to say that the policies being adopted by the present Tory-led administration are compassionate and caring is to live in a well-cushioned other planet, which is very much at odds with the Gospel.

Posted by: Gerry Reilly on Tuesday, 21 June 2011 at 12:30am BST

Mark. Thanks for the reality check! Agape.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 June 2011 at 1:17am BST
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