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.