Text of letter to The Times
As the Bishops of the Church of England meet to consider their next steps in response to the pandemic, we call on them to change their current policy, which prevents clergy from visiting their churches to pray or broadcast a service. Bishop Peter Selby in The Tablet last week (‘Is Anglicanism going private?’, 30th April 2020), speaks for many laity and clergy about the Church of England’s current approach. We fear, like him, that ‘this may mark a decisive point in the retreat of the Church of England from the public to the private realm’. We regard what has happened to be a failure of the Church’s responsibility to the nation, stifling our prophetic witness and defence of the poor, and ask for open discussion and accountability through the Church’s structures and other forums regarding the processes and thinking which led to these decisions.
It is widely agreed that the temporary closure of churches for public worship is necessary in the current crisis. However, the broadcast of services from a closed church is explicitly permitted by government guidelines, yet unlike almost all other Churches in these isles, the Church of England has gone beyond this advice. Without detracting from the excellent worship offered by many clergy in their homes, domestic settings cannot replace the church buildings whose architecture, symbolism and history represent the consecration of our public life. Moreover, Church of England clergy have also been prevented from ministering in schools educating the children of key workers and to the sick and dying in hospitals.
As the government is talking about the hope of easing the national lockdown could the Church of England now offer similar hope to its people with this first step?
Full list of signatories (names are still being added)
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