Thinking Anglicans

Church Times leader criticises Bishops’ Brexit statement

Today’s Church Times carries three items relating to the Church of England bishops’ intervention in the Brexit debate.

There is a news story, Bishops defend statement in which they endorse Brexit

and there is the Press column Press: Bishops back Brexit — but no one reports it.

But more significantly there is a very long leader article, which is highly critical of the statement: The Bishops’ misplaced respect. Do read the whole of this critique, which starts out:

IT WAS a very Anglican betrayal. No Gove-like rush of blood to the head, stolid Johnsonian plotting, or Momentum bullying. Just a throwaway line at the start of the College of Bishops’ statement on the tenor of political discourse. It was a clearing of the throat, a testing of the microphone. “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.”

All three parts of this sentence deserve a closer look…

There are also some Letters to the Editor.

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Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
11 months ago

Maybe there is some hope for us (given the references to pre-Christian Rome as a source for norms of political leadership earlier in the year) in the persistent narrative of the Bible, evident in the Old Testament and made real in Jesus – often the leaders are wrong, often the people are wrong, but always God is faithful.

I would commend Psalm 146 as a psalm for our times.

Kate
Kate
11 months ago

The Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England seem to have just about perfected the art of getting negative press coverage for almost everything they do or say. Such one way press coverage suggests they are either getting everything spectacularly right (eg speaking truth to power) or spectacularly wrong.

It is hard not to conclude that something ought to change either in terms the composition of the College of Bishops or leadership.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

‘The Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England seem to have just about perfected the art of getting negative press coverage for almost everything they do or say.’ And what does that tell us Kate? It could be saying as much or more about the media. ‘Damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ is a more pragmatic, and perhaps kinder way of stating it. Oh I have my questions and disagreements like everyone else. But – an aside here – followers also have responsibilities too. How to lead in a church where we each, in our diverse… Read more »

Kate
Kate
11 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

If you surveyed the country and asked the public which moral issues the archbishops and bishops are taking a lead on, do you honestly believe anything would stand out? Not poverty. Not inclusion. Not divorce. Not abortion. Not contraception. Not knife crime. Not war. Not nuclear disarmament. Not climate change. Not mass extinction. Not pollution. Not immigration. Not prison reform.

The Church just isn’t acting as a leader of moral authority. It is becoming irrelevant. That’s the fault of archbishops and bishops.

Tim Chesterton
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Quite honestly, I don’t want ‘the Church’ to give a lead on climate change and mass extinction, if by ‘the Church’ you mean ‘the bishops’. Their advanced degrees are in theology, not climate science. The part of ‘the Church’ I look to, to give a lead on climate change, is the part represented in North America, for instance, by Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, evangelical Christian and well-known climate scientist, who is banging the drum for climate justice at every possible opportunity. And she’s spent years studying, writing and teaching on the issue, so she knows what she’s talking about. It doesn’t… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
11 months ago

Except, Simon, that I would expect that all bishops see (or would have their attention drawn to) the Church Times, including, this week, the critical leader and letters. What you say, though, does raise questions about the objectivity and ‘news management’ of the C of E Comms department.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
11 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Simon and David, you can be assured that the bishops know about this. If my information is correct, the comms unit at Church House went into overdrive yesterday. Pyongyang is not happy. Not happy at all. Someone has demolished their spin and they don’t like it. The senior command are used to the troops obeying every edict, and Mr Nye expects his orders to be obeyed – as do the occupants of Lambeth Palace and Bishopthorpe. When the editor of an independent newspaper, who cannot be controlled from within, starts deconstructing their carefully assembled house of cards, my goodness tempers… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago

I expect that most English bishops will take the ‘Church Times,’ and those who don’t will be made aware of the leader on Twitter or by their staff.

Given the pro-Brexit views of CoE congregants, I also expect that the bishops don’t much care about the strength of the criticism (it even accuses their graces of heresy!). They’ve ensured that donations will keep coming from the shires: the fact that the CoE’s now openly partisan for Bannonism’s a mere detail.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
11 months ago
Reply to  James Byron

The Shires? The Brexit-supporting faithful who lack intelligence and good judgment, you mean? The faithful who are giving up on a Church of England that looks more like a quasi-autonomous arm of socialist politics and appears to put the wisdom of Jeremy Corbyn well ahead of the gospels of Jesus? Donations to the bishops? Most PCC meetings in the ‘Shires’ are likely to be addressing the dire financial situation of the parish church due to decline in numbers and weekly giving and wondering how on earth they will pay the parish quota.

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago
Reply to  Jill Armstead

I’m sure their I.Q.’s a matter for them. I’m not interested, although I admit, the unsolicited Pavlovian impulse to preemptively defend smarts is mighty curious. Regardless, polls* suggest that 66% of Anglicans voted to secede from the E.U.

As for the CoE’s socialist credentials, it’s true, the bishops do tend to be more to the left than their congregants, but given that they’ve celebrated food banks and the Church Commissioners have invested as they do, these things are relative.

* https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/21/archbishop-odds-anglicans-brexit-welfare/

Jo B
Jo B
11 months ago
Reply to  Jill Armstead

@Jill Armstead: are you seriously suggesting that the policies of Nigel Farage are closer to the Gospel than those of Jeremy Corbyn?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 months ago

The statement was surely misguided. It is an affront to most Scots and Northern Irish. One can hardly shelter behind the fact that it is an official stance of the C of E only, with not much thought, or concern, for the other constituent nations of the UK.

Kate
Kate
11 months ago

The next coronation could become a flash point. The Archbishop of Canterbury will expect to officiate but he clearly no longer represents, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

David Exham
David Exham
11 months ago
Reply to  Kate

The Archbishop of Canterbury has never represented Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. He is, and always was, the Primate of All England.

Kennedy Fraser
Kennedy Fraser
11 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

Although, when the Pope arrived in the UK on his last visit (landing in Edinburgh) the greeting party at the Palace of Holyrood House was led by the ABC rather than the Moderator (or even the Primus) which I always thought was a bit strange.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
11 months ago

I am not sure that anyone outside the left-leaning, Guardian-favouring, liberal bubble of the Church of England reads the Church Times. For that matter, does anyone read it from cover to cover, or describe it as a good read or believe it is in any way influential or representative of the views of the (presumably) unthinking as well as ‘thinking’ Anglicans? Our hierarchy would possibly reach a wider audience if they fired their thoughts for the day off for inclusion in each and every parish and diocesan magazine – these local organs are more likely to be read by the… Read more »

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
11 months ago
Reply to  Jill Armstead

Jill I think you are allowing your argument to overreach itself. The Church Times is an excellent read and its editorial independence is incredibly important for the health of the Church of England…..but there again I am one of those “left leaning, Guardian reading, liberal bubble of the C of E”…..actually I am so left leaning that I sometimes fall over!

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Ellis

I rest my case, Robin!

David Exham
David Exham
11 months ago
Reply to  Jill Armstead

Jill, I wonder what is gained by your sweeping and dismissive comments about so many people. I read the Church Times weekly, though not every article, of course, and I know of others who do. I don’t tend to read the advertisements: as an elderly layman they don’t offer me much. But I would certainly describe it as a useful read. I like to believe I am ‘thinking’; I read the Times rather than the Guardian, and I am not a rabid Brexiteer. I live in Oxfordshire, so I suppose that counts as ‘The Shires’. The PCC and the church… Read more »

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
11 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

Good for you, David! But I am afraid I do not share your optimism.

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
11 months ago

Good for Paul Handley and the Church Times. This analysis of the Bishops’ statement points-up the intellectual vacuity in the current College of Bishops decisively, as well as the partisan nature of the Central Secretariat who obviously drafted and/or approved the statement. Coming from Ireland, I am particularly astonished by the lack of reference to the impact of Brexit on the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement (did the C of E bishops have the courtesy to consult their Irish colleagues?) not to say the failure to identify the root causes of poverty and vulnerability in current government policy. It tells me… Read more »

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
11 months ago

The Referendum was the wish of the people of the United Kingdom. The events that have followed have shown that folk have been right to have nothing to do with the administration and officers of the EU which has continually failed to listen to our elected Prime Ministers. In addition have in no way sought an understanding with us, but only their own views and ways. There has been no two way conversation. The previous Prime Minister simply went along with their views. The present Prime Minister has stood up for our nation, and at the same time given the… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago

“The Referendum was the wish of the people of the United Kingdom.” It categorically wasn’t, anymore than California’s vile Prop. 8 (also passed 52-48) was the will of the Golden State. Countries can’t have a collective “will,” that’s the slogan of Leninist dictatorships. Those not in hock to democratic centralism will recognize plurality, and seek to ensure that minority consent is achieved by persuasion and compromise, not brute force of numbers. If Christianity’s about anything, it’s about the perils of blind majoritarianism. Worse, when a supposed majority’s secured by an avalanche of lies, electoral malfeasance and gerrymandering, it’s worthless and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
11 months ago

“The Referendum was the wish of the people of the United Kingdom.” Well, it wasn’t the wish of the people of Scotland, so when the next independence vote takes place, many of us will know how to vote. The English bishops have taken an English stance, in favour of an English agenda. I suppose that’s consistent. However, the Referendum was not just about England, and yes, many people lost their lives for freedom in WWII, including my uncle in the Gordon Highlanders. They weren’t just English soldiers. Brexit is an English problem being visited on the other nations. I can… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Is it ever!

Given that the U.K.’s a child of English imperialism (Wales straight-up conquered; Ireland planted; Scotland’s elite bribed and bullied into union), this may be its time. Given demographics, Scottish independence and Irish reunification look inevitable. Brexit has merely hastened the process.

When the last of England’s colonies gain their liberty, she will, at long last, have to confront her past, reckon with it, and look to the future as a friend and partner, not a fallen conqueror. Call it spiritual regeneration on a mass scale.

John swanson
John swanson
11 months ago

The Referendum was the wish of the people of the United Kingdom.

As expressed at a particular point in time.

At a later point in time, the people of the UK expressed their more up-to-date opinion by electing the present House of Commons.

Would we not normally follow someone’s most recent expression of their wishes?

Alan Davies
Alan Davies
11 months ago

Forgive me for stating the obvious but, when Justin Welby was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013, the quality that was trumpeted abroad most loudly was his skill in facilitating reconciliation. Six years later, some of us are wondering whether Downing Street sent the envelope to the wrong address. Not only has the Brexit ‘debate’ (you’ll forgive the euphemism, I trust) shown him to be cynical and partisan; his unwillingness to speak truth to power demonstrates roundly how complicit he is with the divisive agenda of the Tory government and the chaos it is creating in our most stressed communities.… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago
Reply to  Alan Davies

I’m no fan of Welby, but his predecessors were just as bad: in statement after statement, it appeared that Williams rarely met a theocrat he wouldn’t appease, from homophobes to those who’d censor Rushdie; Carey’s antics are well known here; and even the beloved Runcie procrastinated over equal ordination and allowed the abysmal Higton motion to sail through Synod on a near-unanimous vote. Welby undoubtedly has his personal failings, as do we all, but the greatest issue is structural, not personal: Canterbury’s intimately bound to the British state, and inevitably ends up dancing to its tune. Seeking some Platonic archbishop… Read more »

Alan Davies
Alan Davies
11 months ago
Reply to  James Byron

That’s a fair point, James. But, it doesn’t explain Welby’s congenital inability to engage brain before opening mouth – and doing so in a way that makes him look completely inept. You could never say that of Rowan or Runcie – and, yes, saints both of them!

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago
Reply to  Alan Davies

Agreed — that’s entirely on him!

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago

“Nonetheless, I continue to be a fervent supporter of the European Union.” Your grace, you signed up to a letter demanding Brexit! The two stances are about as compatible as Al “Boris” Johnson’s irreconcilable claims that he’ll both obey English law and leave on Hallowe’en come-what-may. The episcopal backtracking’s so absurd I had to laugh, but as I reflect on where such Janus-esque equivocation has brought the Anglican Communion, the laughter dies. Still, the bishop has achieved what I thought impossible: by comparison with this hand-washing, I find myself preferring the company of the hardest of hard Brexiteers. At least… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 months ago
Reply to  James Byron

I don’t find the bishop’s stance in any way equivocal. It’s about the best, most lucid and caring thing on the subject which has emerged for some time – a shepherd genuinely concerned for his own flock (apologies, JB, for the arcane language, but it describes the situation) as well as those on ‘mainland UK’. It’s always worth looking deeper. Read the bishop’s earlier ‘letters’ on the diocesan website, and you will see that he has been consistently caring for both his own people and the wider church. Our present sorry state is entirely due to politicians.

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago

Yes, in this letter, it’s unequivocal: pro-E.U. In the bishops’ collective letter, it’s also unequivocal: pro-Brexit. The two are flatly contradictory, and irreconcilable. That conflict is ignored by the personal letter, as bishops in the Oxford diocese have ignored it by suddenly declaring themselves neutral.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 months ago
Reply to  James Byron

I don’t think I can really add much. The College of Bishops’ “Brexit statement” doesn’t have a list of signatures. It wasn’t put out in that format, being drafted, we are told, by a committee of senior bishops. We are led to believe that it was the unanimous statement of the bishops. I did wonder whether the Bishop in Europe consented to its terms. His is a diocese of the Church of England and, by implication, he should have been consulted. His position on his own diocesan website has been consistent.

James Byron
James Byron
11 months ago

If the College didn’t in fact agree the letter unanimously that of course changes everything, but I’ve yet to see an English bishop explicitly repudiate it. I realize how awkward that’d be for the hapless prelate, but hey, whoever said that donning the purple should be easy!

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