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A priest’s lament for the Church of England he loved


THE Church into which I was baptised, confirmed and ordained and in which I have served all my life – the Church that has been my life – is dead. It has not been slaughtered by marauding barbarians and infidels. It has died by its own hand, a slow suicide over the last sixty years. This is how it happened . . .

In the mid-1960s, the Bishops and the General Synod decided to ditch the King James Bible (1611)and the Book of Common Prayer (1662) – those treasure-houses of rare devotion which had nurtured the souls of the English people and provided their Rites of Passage for 400 years. Their replacements – first the Alternative Service Book and currently Common Worship – are tin-eared collections of the most stultifying banality, illiterate and theologically vacuous. I could provide a hundred examples of their infelicities and desecrations, but you haven’t time; and anyway I don’t want to sicken you. Just one example will give you the flavour:

The BCP marriage service had the bridegroom say to his bride, ‘With this ring I thee wed.’ As a Priest, I have conducted almost 1,000 weddings and I have never ceased to marvel at the potency and beauty of those words. Six words of one syllable which exactly fill the sacramental moment of his profound promise as he slips the ring on her finger. This has been replaced by the eleven words, ‘I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage.’ A long-winded and complete aesthetic failure. The glory has departed. But worse, it is intellectual and syntactical gibberish. For consider: if he has to tell her the ring is a sign, it means the sign isn’t working. It’s as if every road sign were to bear the slogan, ‘This is a road sign’. The new books are stuffed full of such rubbish.

First kill the liturgy, then murder the theology. The enlightened and thoroughly modernised authorities of the late 20th century decided that the Christian faith as practised for 2,000 years is no longer believable. So the Virgin Birth is a myth, composed to tell us that Jesus was ‘a very special person’. He did not rise from the dead. The Resurrection is another myth to tell us that after the Crucifixion his disciples ‘experienced new life’. Though how, if Jesus remained dead, they didn’t stop to explain. The Miracles had to go as well. So the Feeding of the Five Thousand was not a wondrous act of Divine favour, but only a story about ‘sharing’ – a sort of socialist picnic.

Having abandoned its living tradition, the Church hierarchy had to find something to do. So progressively they accepted secular orthodoxy and told us that this is Christianity now. So this once great institution has espoused diversity, equality, the bogus doctrine of institutional racism and the insane dogma of unconscious racism along with the whole perverse ragbag of the LGBT+ agenda.

Archbishop Justin Welby has publicly ‘taken the knee’ to show his support for Black Lives Matter, that amalgamation of thugs, looters, arsonists and revolutionaries who have declared their aim is to ‘abolish this society’. Welby’s predecessor Rowan Williams, complete with beard and anti-Covid mask, recently marched through central London with the vandals of Extinction Rebellion in the cause of the pagan myth of global warming. Both Williams and Welby have repeatedly told us that ‘the Church has a lot of catching up to do with secular morality’. So much for St Paul’s ‘Be ye not conformed to this world’ – Romans 12:2.

Finally, size does matter. In 2020 there are nearly twice as many Bishops as there were in 1914 when five times as many people attended Church. And to apostasy and iconoclasm we must add spectacular incompetence. The Church Commissioners, one of the biggest landowners in the country with colossal historical assets, used to pay the stipends of the parish clergy. But in 1992 it was revealed that they had lost £500million – this at 1980s values – through foolish investments. The consequence is that the wages of the clergy must now be paid by the parishes and, when increasingly they become unable to do this, they are either amalgamated with other parishes or closed down.

Moreover, the administration of today’s Church is as cumbrous and costive as that of the NHS. It is also voluminous. When I was ordained to a Yorkshire curacy in 1970, the Diocese of Ripon was managed by Squadron Leader Driver and his assistant Elsie. In my last Cure of Souls at St Michael’s, Cornhill, I opened the Diocesan Handbook and discovered the names of ninety-three functionaries. So many accountants and so little money. And most of them are paid more than the parish clergy.

So now what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? The National Church – that ancient and diligent repository of practical faith where prayer had been valid – has been utterly destroyed by the very people who were appointed to be its custodians.

My friends of fifty years ask me, ‘Are you not sorry?’ Of course I am heartbroken when I see the Church to which I have given my life disappear in only half a century. But God speed the end of this blasphemous shambles.

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Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen
Peter Mullen is a Church of England clergyman, writer and broadcaster

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