Thinking Anglicans

Church access: responses to criticism of the bishops

Yesterday Bishop Stephen Cottrell had a letter published in The Times. Text available here.

The following letter from Bishop Richard Llewellin appears in The Times today, in response.

SHIFTING THE BLAME
Sir, Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s letter (May 11) misses the point. The decision to close buildings for public worship was indeed made by the government, but the instruction (and it was an instruction, not advice) that even our clergy should not enter their own churches for prayer was given by our bishops. That instruction went well beyond what the government required of its citizens, and sent a signal that the C of E was closing down completely. Resourceful clergy have been making the best of it by streaming prayer and worship from their own homes and have, of course, offered ministry alongside their parishioners in many other ways. But kitchen table is not an altar, and living room not a church. These latter are not dispensable things of convenience, but symbols of God’s presence with us and His care for us in these dangerous and difficult times.
The Right Rev Richard Llewellin
Bishop at Lambeth 1999-2004; Canterbury

Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, Stephen Cottrell has written an article: The Church will emerge from the coronavirus crisis even stronger. For those unable to view directly, the Church of England has reproduced it in full on its Facebook page (albeit with a different headline: God is at work, even when our church buildings are closed) and also on the CofE website.

This is reported in a Telegraph news article: Clergy to start streaming services from churches this week, Archbishop designate confirms

…The guidance that churches must close completely was given on March 23 in response to the outbreak and has been reviewed “on an ongoing basis”, with the Bishops acting “within Government advice and in line with best public health practice”.

The policy attracted protests, including a letter published in The Times and signed by more than 600 clergy and laity.

Last month, The Telegraph reported that some vicars were rebelling against guidance issued  by the Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of the Easter weekend, warning clergy that they could not enter churches for solo prayer nor to film a service, despite provisions for this in the Government’s lockdown rules.

The Most Rev Justin Welby used a YouTube message to  echo the first Government slogan repeated during the daily ministerial press conferences on coronavirus, saying it was vital that the church “set an example” in following the guidance to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“By closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message,” he said. Some vicars responded by saying: “Now is the time to revolt.”

Yesterday’s post links to a detailed analysis of the various previous statements from the House of Bishops, which explains why the original “advice” of the House of Bishops, which was more stringent than the government regulations require, provoked criticism.

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Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
4 months ago

Good for Bishop Richard. Typical of a very good and pastoral bishop, who some of us had the privilege to serve with. Bishop Richard is stating what so many us feel. .Thank you Bishop Richard.

Fr John Emlyn

D John
D John
4 months ago

In his column in Saturday’s Times Matthew Parris wrote about those he felt had a “good or bad” war on Covid?
The Church he believed was in the bad category. “Its leaders, from Dr Welby down, have been feeble. They should have fought for everyone’s right to enter a tranquil and beautiful place of worship to pray or meditate alone. Social distancing was always possible. The Church has let down the laity.”
I agree and would also add that it has let down the parish clergy.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

What can one say other than that my sense of what makes a church a church rather than a Christian charity or study group is clearly very different to what Bishop Stephen is trying to defend as being an alive church?

Charles K
Charles K
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

OK – thats it! This has become a website absorbed by a vitriol against its senior leadership, so like a few others who have way more gravitas than me. I am done. And I am disgusted and betrayed by the one hope I was clinging onto. A generous, compassionate and thinking Anglican Church. But Ihave not found it here. So I am done. But let this be my last word… Bishop Stephen is one of the finest, most holy, most down to earth, most perceptive, most honest, most genuinely Good News Archbishop we could possibly wish for the church I… Read more »

Oliver Harrison
Oliver Harrison
4 months ago
Reply to  Charles K

” Bishop Stephen is one of the finest, most holy, most down to earth, most perceptive, most honest, most genuinely Good News” bishops in the C-of-E. Yes, he is. He was also wrong in what he wrote to The Times and/or disingenuously misleading. He said: “The decision to close churches for public worship was made by the Government”. That is true — and right and good in my opinion. But the decision to close churches to the clergy (in whom they are legally vested) was egregious episcopal overreach and almost certainly unlawful.

Stanley Monkhouse
4 months ago

The four TA contributors who have discharged themselves put me in mind of Grimm’s Folk Tale “The water of life” in which two brothers are stuck in a mountain pass on their high horses, unable to move forward or turn back because the pass is so narrow. People with their heads so far from the ground are likely to develop serious neck pain from having to look down on others. When you get a letter from bishops saying “do this”, then are threatened with CDM if you don’t, and are later told that it was only guidance – which it… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
4 months ago

Readers of TA will know that I am no acolyte of the two current holders of archiepiscopal office in the C of E; though, without putting too many burdens of expectation on one pair of shoulders, I am positively hopeful about the future here in the Northern Province after early June. Don’t expect a Yorkshireman to be any more effusive than that! Stephen Cottrell’s intervention, whilst hardly surprising (and probably orchestrated from Pyongyang), is an indication of his capacity for loyalty and his caring instinct to stand alongside his soon-to-be archiepiscopal colleague who had received a fairly comprehensive public admonition.… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
4 months ago

I have been distressed by the number of contributors who have felt it necessary to withdraw from TA over the last few days, including some whose contributions I have personally valued the most. I have been wondering what lies behind it, and to what extent I may have contributed to it. Firstly, I think that there is cause to believe that ‘cabin fever’ may be affecting us all. In the current lockdown we all, but especially those of us who have been self-isolating or shielding, have much time on our hands to read what is posted and to react to… Read more »

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