First, there were several articles in the Church Times last week, that have only now become available to non-subscribers. Although events have moved on, I list them:
Richard Chartres Time for the Church to be heard
Arnold Hunt Lessons from history at St Paul’s
Paul Vallely Turn the debate back to the money
Andrew Brown Press: With the Express on their side
…FROM a PR point of view, there was a special difficulty with the whole story. The Church of England is widely misunderstood to be an organisation. Therefore, the man at the top is expected to be able to control his subordinates. Thus the wider Church, which largely disagreed with the Chapter’s line, was unable to say anything to criticise it.
But these difficulties are made to be overcome. The fact that the cathedral had outsourced its PR to the Revd Rob Marshall, a nice man but one based outside Hull, suggests that the Church is so used to being ignored that, when the country was, for a moment, interested in its opinions, it was almost entirely unable to handle it.
Now, turning to this week’s issue:
…Senior clerics this week expressed unease at the way that St Paul’s had initially responded to the protesters. The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, told Salisbury diocesan synod last Saturday that the threat to evict the protesters “showed the cathedral as willing to use the power of the City of London to protect itself, which is the very thing that worries the rest of us.
“Whilst it is not clear from the New Testament whether the Church is of, with, or for the poor, the Church isn’t credible if we don’t attempt something along one of those lines. St Paul’s seem not to have asked themselves that root question, and they lacked the instinct to respond to the great opportunity of a crisis.”
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, said this week that he “was not alone in being astonished that the decision was taken to close St Paul’s”. The decision to reopen the cathedral, and the high-profile resignations of the Dean and the Canon Fraser “increased the impressions of chaos”.
In an article published on his diocesan website, the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, wrote of the “irony of careful, professional, well-meaning advice on managing a potentially dangerous and threatening situation closing the doors on the gospel practices of hospitality, engagement and the patient building of trusting relationships.”
St Paul’s had, though, managed to realign itself, he said, “through some brave decisions, some courageous public contrition, and decisive leadership from the Bishop of London”. This helped to “open up an opportunity for real debate on the matters that really do count”.
…Seventy-six per cent of those surveyed in the report disagreed — most of them strongly — with the statement: “The City of London needs to listen more to the guidance of the Church.” In addition, 47 per cent said that they “never attend a religious service or meeting, apart from special occasions”, and 38 per cent said that they did not believe in God…
THERE are perhaps other interpretations, but it is reassuring that 76 per cent of the bankers interviewed for the St Paul’s Institute do not think that they should listen more to the guidance of the Church. Had they thought otherwise, and the present injustices of the City been practised by sermon-listening citizens, it would have pointed to a much more fundamental problem than the Church’s being just a bit feeble at putting its arguments across. Now, at least, its task is clear: to develop the sort of knowledge that professionals in the financial sector will respect, and use it to argue the case for the imposition of the checks and balances that will bring the City back in touch with some sort of moral code…