THE Bishop of Leicester’s decision to weigh in against Home Secretary Suella Braverman over multiculturalism sadly exemplifies the spiritual, moral and intellectual plight of the Church of England.
Bishop Martyn Snow objected to Mrs Braverman’s speech in Washington on September 26 in which she cited Leicester as a city where multiculturalism was proving problematic because of the violence between Hindus and Muslims a year ago.
The day after her speech Bishop Snow, who in 2020 very conspicuously took the knee outside Leicester Cathedral, tweeted: ‘I profoundly disagree with the Home Secretary’s speech about asylum and multiculturalism, her characterisation of Leicester, and of those seeking refuge in the UK. I am immensely proud to be Bishop of this diverse, creative and vibrant city.’
It is noteworthy that he gave no rationale against Mrs Braverman’s argument and instead wheeled out his ‘pride’ at being the Bishop of Leicester.
At the time of the riots, Bishop Snow said: ‘This is a city that has always prided itself in strong community relations. We do not always see eye-to-eye, but have always found productive ways of handling our disagreements. We are united in our desire for there to be peace in our city, and for everyone to feel safe and be able to go about their lawful business.
‘We appeal for calm and commit ourselves to continue supporting healthy disagreement, being good neighbours to those who have different opinions in order to maintain the peaceful communities we have long been proud of in this city.’
Again, the refusal to engage intellectually with the profound cultural and religious differences between Islam and Hinduism, evident in his diocese, is noteworthy in a 21st century English bishop. Does not the behaviour in Leicester support Mrs Braverman’s argument, which she clarified later in broadcast interviews, that though this nation has ‘a great multi-ethnic society’ there are ‘communities living parallel lives’ in many towns and cities, people ‘not embracing British values’ and ‘not taking part in British life’?
Whilst it was good that Bishop Snow called for peaceful relations and for people to act as good neighbours, his appeal to ‘healthy disagreement’ seemed naive. Why did he not declare as a Lord Spiritual in the UK Parliament that everyone in Leicester, whatever their religious beliefs, should obey the law of the land and respect the fact that in Britain religious belief is not compelled but is a matter of personal choice? Why did he not make clear that the traditional British commitment to freedom under the rule of law is the reason why the behaviour in Leicester was morally unacceptable in this country under a Christian monarch?
The fact that Bishop Snow failed to make that kind of patriotic Christian argument is typical of the largely left-leaning House of Bishops. Commenting on Mrs Braverman’s reported refusal to meet Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over immigration policy, Chris Loder, Conservative MP for West Dorset, told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme on October 1 that he was not surprised that the Home Secretary had rebuffed the Archbishop.
He said: ‘We are seeing, I think for the first time in a very long time, a group of bishops in the House of Lords who, I would say, are politically biased. I should back up that statement by saying that, when I did a bit of research the other day, the House of Commons library confirmed to me that 96 per cent of all votes by bishops in the House of Lords were in opposition to the government and that’s since the 2017 Parliament.’
He asked: ‘What purpose is there for the Home Secretary to meet with, in effect, campaigners and commentators who happen to wear mitres?’
Mr Loder, a practising Anglican, called on the bishops to tackle the ‘on-the-ground parish issues’ in many dioceses, including Truro, Leicester and Winchester. Bishop Snow’s own diocese of Leicester has become the focus of particular controversy in the Church because of his push to cut clergy numbers through the creation of mega-parishes.
Now, in picking a fight with the Home Secretary, a bishop inclined to take the knee to neo-Marxist ideology has shown why the national Church is fast losing public credibility.
The Collect for today, the 18th Sunday after Trinity, is a call for Christian humility and faithfulness in the spiritual battle the Church faces in every age and society:
‘Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’