Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Durham on the BNP

Several press reports from North-East England about this:

Northern Echo Bishop’s warning over threat of BNP

Newcastle Journal Bishop joins fight against nationalists

Sunderland Echo Bishop warns people ‘giving up hope’ by voting BNP

Northumberland Gazette BNP voters disaffected with main parties – Bishop

Here is the full text of the email that Tom Wright sent to his clergy:

13 April 2008
Subject: Local elections and BNP from Bishop Tom

Dear Friends

With local elections coming up, we face again the unwelcome news of the BNP making potential inroads in our region. Splendid work has been done to counter this by several clergy working with local community leaders, for instance in distributing the pamphlet, ‘Hope Not Hate’. I want to urge all of you to get involved in this effort in whatever local sphere you can.

However, we should also be aware that the reason the BNP can even gain a foothold in people’s affections is because many people in our region feel so disaffected after the last thirty years of national politics that they are in danger of giving up hope in our regular main parties. This isn’t anybody’s fault in particular. But when a party like the BNP seems to be gaining ground we should all ask the question, Why is there a vacuum there that the other parties aren’t filling? What frustrations are there that the BNP are exploiting, and what are the wise ways of reacting to, or even meeting, those needs?

It is one thing to point out, as many have already done, the neo-Nazi tendencies of the BNP, and to warn with a shudder against our society even taking a small step in any such direction. It is another to say, How can we drain the swamp so that this kind of ideology won’t breed again?

None of us (in other words) can be complacent. Opposing the BNP isn’t simply a matter of saying ‘the status quo is working fine, so please reject these idiots’. It should be a matter of saying, What does a healthy society look like and how can we make it clear to our whole population that we are working in the best ways towards that goal? Part of the calling of the churches, following Jesus in his work of bringing God’s kingdom, must be to help communities ask that question and to work with them towards finding robust and positive answers.

Warm greetings and good wishes,
Bishop Tom

The Bishop of Durham, Auckland Castle.

41
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
41 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
Hugh of LincolnCharlotteMalcolm+Simon SarmientoRen Aguila Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Hypocritical little man. Given that much of his outlook would coincide with that of the BNP, he ought to keep his mouth shut. What does anyone care what a third rate theologian thinks, in any case?

In the substantive issue., there have always been extremists on the fringes taking advantage of disillusion – and that is nothing new either. Its how evangelicals recruit their victims!

Tim
Guest
Tim

As a member of the Anglican communion and a BNP activist,I can assure the Bishop that I am not,nor ever have been a “neo-nazi”.I joined the party primarily because it consists of men and women of integrity,determined to uphold the Christian values which have all but disappeared in our once-great land. The mainstream parties have shown their true colours by their support for same sex partnerships and their commitment to the politics of political correctness which have not only undermined family values but have made much of this country effectively no-go areas for indigenous British people . Contrary to the… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

_The mainstream parties have shown their true colours by their support for same sex partnerships_ (Tim) There you go – the company you keep! It rather makes Merseymike’s point for him. Obviously I would agree that we want an end to the BNP thinking it has any place in politics, but we do that with economic development and jobs, and education and participation that stop people feeling so alienated and going for easy answers – an economy (a political economy) where everything has value rather than a price. I would suggest that ending up voting for the BNP is evidence… Read more »

John Omani
Guest
John Omani

No Tim, I do not think that voting BNP is the duty of every British christian with a sense of morality. The party may have developed a more respectable face in recent years, but its policies still seem to be determined from a white nationalist standpoint. And it is not enough to say that there also exist black and asian nationalist organisations in Britain – all of these are racially divisive and contrary to the gospel message of unity in Christ. But you do raise an interesting point over the most disturbing facet of +Durham’s pronouncements. For with this most… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

The Northern Echo combox is scary — it seems that Islamophobia has the population in its grip. We can be thankful that the CofE is standing against it.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Interesting as an example of Infighting, only.

; = )

JCF
Guest
JCF

Got it, Tim: there’s nothing “neo” about you.

Lord have mercy!

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Tom Wright noting other people’s neo-Nazi tendencies – that’s a bit rich, isn’t it?

acb
Guest

oh come on, people. There is a huge difference between fascism and conservatism. Wright is a conservative by temperament and conviction. He’s nothing like a nazi, and anyone claiming otherwise just looks nasty and silly.

Walsingham
Guest
Walsingham

Good Lord. +Tom points out the blindingly obvious and asks people to do the right thing in working to oppose the BNP, and the knee-jerk reaction is to tar him as a neo-Nazi.

I disagree with +Tom on many things, and consider myself to be of a more liberal hue, but the level of hateful, spiteful rhetoric here has reached new lows.

acb is right. By taking (or actually creating and *then* taking) an opportunity to rip into +Tom on this issue, all you do is make yourself look vindictive and nasty. God forbid we might actually *agree* with him on something!

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I disagree, acb. I think that right-wing social conservatism is essentially authoritarian fascism. Read Adorno.

Graham Ward
Guest
Graham Ward

He may be conservative theologically, and the implication that the correct response to the BNP would be for the mainstream parties to adopt a more “moralistic” social platform may be wrong, but anyone who thinks Wright a fascist or a Conservative (large C) should read the interview with him in the New Statesman. On Margaret Thatcher’s policies: “They were wicked….A lot of people didn’t realise that you could perfectly easily put a Christian wash over the top of the ideologies Thatcher was buying in to, to make it look nice. But in fact they were every bit as atheist a… Read more »

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

whether you like their policies or not, the major parties don’t actually oppress or attack anyone. they favour one group at the expense of others, but that’s democracy. the bnp actually targets people and, given the chance, would oppress them. tom wright targets and disadvantages gay people. so, draw your own conclusions. in a venn diagram he’d overlap a lot with the bnp.

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

A simple answer to parties like this: Compulsory Voting. Australia has had it’s share of crackpot parties like this, but they never manage to secure and keep a solid electoral base. They tend to get a member or two into a state parliament, or the federal senate, and then disappear. Look at Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, for example, or the Democratic Labor Party (in resurgence, but only at state level). In neither case have these parties held a balance-of-power vote; an example of a *morals* party being in this position is Family First, but this (a) may not last long,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I suspect this is what in American politics has come to be called a “Sistah Souljah” moment. You pick out an extreme example of things on your own end of the political spectrum and denounce it…and then everybody talks about your courage in offending your own.

[For those out of touch with US politics, it’s named for an incident in the 1992 campaign when Bill Clinton spoke harshly about a relatively obscure rap singer.]

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Kieran: more than just “being entitled to vote,” more than half of the diocesan bishops of the C of E are also entitled to vote in the House of Lords, where, unfortunately, they have, as a group, tried to function as a brake on progressive human rights legislation, particularly with regard to gay people. I think the history of church leaders using their eccelsiastical position as a platform to wield influence in the wider society is probably one of the key factors in the decline of traditional institutional Christianity across Europe. Europeans nowadays don’t want to be told how to… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Bp Tom’s stance is exactly correct: (1) BNP is in many ways, even essentially, suspect and unpleasant; (2) it is true that fringe groups are no more or less intellectually respectable for being fringe. The term ‘fringe’ is of more interest to sociologists than to lovers of truth; (3) it is also a fact that the BNP’s stance on abortion is more humane and compassionate than that of even one of the so-called minstream parties. In all this we can be blinded by dogmatic stereotyping. It is quite possible that the BNP may be (and jolly well is) unacceptable in… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Nobody wishes to stop bishops or any other believer from having their two cents say in politics, economy, or other dimensions of our common secular and church life. But Wright is unwittingly demonstrating the great wisdom of the scriptural insights which advise us to look at the beam in our own eyes before we get too busy hunting for the splinter in other eyes. If there are any significant presuppositional framework differences between the bishop’s nasty views of queer folks and the BNP’s, then we might ask, what is that difference? In USA we have been talking about authoritarianisms of… Read more »

acb
Guest

(acb is actually me, Andrew Brown, for what it’s worth). Apart from anything else, the discussion here is quite as fixated on sex as the only measure of morality as anything on the religious right. Never mind which is the more Christian — ask yourself which is the more moral, to be anguished by the exploitation of the poor, who are very numerous and suffer horribly for their poverty, or to be anguished by the fact that some gay men can’t have the jobs they want in the church? I think +Tom is wrong about sex in general and gays… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

It is very sad that everyone is so worried about seeming racist, that people are afraid to raise the immigration isssue.

There goes Tom sitting in his medieval castle…aren’t there any rooms for asylum seekers at Auckland Castle?

However it was contraception and abortion that has opened up the western world to mass immigration. Some one has had to fill the shoes of the seven million souls lost. God is not easily mocked.

Graham Ward
Guest
Graham Ward

acb; well said.

Pluralist
Guest

I think tom Wright is more complex than any label gives him, actually, and I think he and others have become so obsessed about a found science of doing biblical texts that they forget that this involves excluding actual people, or at least cannot see the extent of the product of their activity. His complexity is that he is a political operator, and I think we are falling into a trap. He has said something that should be obvious and we should be able to agree with quite easily (except for the few, there are always a few) that the… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

It seems to me beyond doubt that Wright is an outstanding Christian leader, even if his take on Scripture is not to my taste. I do not think he has the schismatic tendencies or anti-gay venom found in others on the conservative side of the Anglican debate. He is a uniter, not a divider.

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

The discussion on this seems singularly ill-informed. This is an initiative that takes place every time there is a local election where fascist and/or racist groups are standing. It’s being co-ordinated by the Trades Unions. Local bishops are often involved in supporting and publicising this (I have signed a letter to my local papers as well). This is nothing to do with Tom grandstanding – you will find local papers throughout the country where Christian and other faith leaders are clearly stating that support for, and membership of, the BNP and similar groups is incompatible with Christian faith and adherence… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Pete is correct. Here for example is what the Archbishop of York said last year:
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/5191

And the Bishop of Blackburn also acted last year:
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/5150

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Yes, Simon, I agree – I think its the incongruity of Wright taking this stance which some of us find amusing.

RichardM
Guest
RichardM

To add to the list, this is what +Rowan said while he was my local Bishop (and Archbishop) in 2001: http://news.bbc.co.uk/vote2001/hi/english/wales/newsid_1345000/1345557.stm

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

pete,
it’s not just about him grandstanding, but about him being guilty of the same sort of prejudice as the bnp. he is in no moral position to take a stand here. he should keep his mouth shut and delegate this one to someone else in the diocese.

Pluralist
Guest

There’s the trap still to be jumped into (me too). So who else is speaking similarly this year?

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Just to note a couple of things: 1) that my original comment was not about the actual political views of the Bishop of Durham, but the quality of his rhetoric, which I found, and still find, troubling; 2) that the organicist views of the family and society, the nostalgia for pre-industrial societies, and the strongly anti-Enlightenment or anti-modernist stance that characterized the Bishop of Durham’s rhetoric have historically been associated with a variety of Fascist movements, in Spain, Argentina, and Italy, to name three examples. This is not, in the view of many competent historians, a chance association. Fascism arises… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

I don’t think that anything that he says about the BNP (as quoted above) can be construed in that way, Charlotte, and I was only commenting on what had been said in that thread. I suspect that I might take issue with you in your musings on his language. A quasi-semiotic approach to his means of expression could well still lead to the wrong conclusions about his ideological position. Pond differences account for part of your concern – it is quite common for Christians here to speak of usury and interest in the same breath as part of a critique… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Non of you address the fact that we need immmigrants because of the collapse in our birth rate and abortion. Few people realise the demographic catastrophe facing the west.

It was Lambeth 1930 which opened the flood gate to contraception, by changing it from a sin to an acceptable practice.

Tom Allen
Guest

Interesting input about the Bishops taking stands and good examples of those who have – and their predecessors did before them. Equally interesting is key Bishops (in terms of active BNP presence in their Diocese) who have failed to take such a stand – or indeed to offer public support for clergy that have. What would be really telling for the Tim’s of this world who have no sense of the BNP’s history or its leaderships contemporary intent, would be for the House of Bishops to issue a common statement. The BNP in its fundamental political philosophy have nothing to… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Exactly. And Fascism was hardly unsympathetic to conservative religionism.

Malcolm+
Guest

The suggestion that Tom Wright is sympathetic to fascism and that this utterance is somehow either hypocritical or a cynical tactic is simply bizarre and over the top.

You’ve got Tom Wright confused with some other bishops of that side of the question.

This is Thinking Anglicans, people, not a mirror image virtueonline or standfirm.

Walsingham
Guest
Walsingham

@Charlotte:

With that sort of expansive definition of supporting fascism, then practically anybody who isn’t on the bleeding edge of libertine progressivism is a fascist sympathizer.

I also hardly notice +Tom being “anti-Enlightenment”. I’m not even too sure just what you mean by that. And +Tom is hardly appealing to populism by asking people to oppose the BNP. Indeed he in a sense is *opposing* rank populism, which is just the sort of thing the BNP peddles.

If anything I get the impression from several posters that “anybody to my left is a commie, anybody to my right is a fascist”.

Ren Aguila
Guest
Ren Aguila

Thank you Malcolm! Sometimes, some of the activists here tend to go a little too far. It makes me wonder whether being “on the other side” is more reasonable. I often get that sense reading the more shrill comments on this and other threads. I think +Tom Wright has often taken positions contrary to those being advocated by the majority of the commenters and hence, in their view “deserves” to be tarred with the more rabid advocates of those positions, especially on that bear in the room. I think, of course, that this is unfair. Unlike the other rabid ones,… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Please limit comments on this thread to the BNP and what Tom Wright said about that. We seem to be having enough trouble understanding that without going off on tangents as well.

Malcolm+
Guest

What Tom Wright said about the BNP was spot on. We should give him credit for being right on this issue, whatever we may think of his views on other issues.

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Well, this is a response to Bishop Pete Broadbent, so it may not be posted. Actually, Bishop, Episcopalians in the US are very familiar with Evangelicals who make “scathing” comments about the Enlightenment project. A good source for such comments, because it is intelligently and thoughtfully written, is the Covenant website: http://covenant-communion.com. I’d add that much of the thinking on that website derives from the work of Stanley Hauerwas, who teaches at the divinity school of a well-known US university. Without going into all the variants, some much less reputable than the ones I have just referenced, I will say… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

Bishop Wright’s reference to “the last thirty years of national politics” should give us a clue. The Winter of Discontent preceded Mrs Thatcher’s brutal monetarism, trade union reform and miners’ strike which shattered the post-war consensus, causing distress in many communities. Ted Heath sulked, while the Gang of Four split the Left and gave birth to a new social democratic movement, later adopted by Blair and Brown. Eventually a liberal consensus was found across the three main parties with a combination of caring capitalism and socially progressive reforms. But the boom-bust policies of easy credit are beginning to turn nasty.… Read more »