Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Lockdown-loving bishops, where is your remorse?


THE egregious failure of the Church of England’s bishops to question, let alone resist, the Covid dictatorship must not be overlooked in the focus on the nasty careerist behaviour of politicians, spin doctors and civil servants revealed in the Telegraph’s Lockdown Files.

It was clear that the C of E’s leadership was already inclined to leftist bossiness when on March 24, 2020, the day after Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown, the bishops wrote to clergy telling them to close all church buildings.

In the dark days of the lockdown in January 2021 when the government placed children under house arrest (or high-rise flat arrest for many) and prevented them from going to school for two months, churches were allowed to continue socially distanced Sunday worship with mask-wearing mandatory and congregational singing banned. Still, the C of E virtue-signalled its lockdown zeal, boasting in a press release that more than half of its 12,500 parishes had decided to keep their buildings closed.

Certainly the government put churches of all denominations in an impossible position. The consequences of disobeying the rules could be police raids and worshippers fined. But why did the bishops not encourage all their parish clergy to get Sunday worship going again as soon as they could in July 2020? Why did they not unite to speak out against the draconian rules requiring mask-wearing in churches and preventing congregational singing? Why did they not speak out against the abusive confinement of children during the lockdowns?

In April 2021, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admitted to the Financial Times that the strict closure of churches in 2020 had been a mistake: ‘I got quite a few things wrong at the beginning and I learnt quite quickly. I didn’t push hard enough to keep churches available for at least individual prayer in the first lockdown. We also said clergy couldn’t go in, and personally I feel I made a mistake with that . . . I can make all kinds of excuses. I still think I was too risk-averse.’ 

So why did he placidly accept the re-imposition of mask-wearing in churches in December 2021 when the government panicked over the Omicron variant?

In July 2021, when the government lifted the restriction on congregational singing, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, chair of the C of E’s Covid Recovery Group, typified the established Church’s acquiescence in the narrative. Rather than rejoicing that Christian people could once again sing out the great truths of their faith through such hymns as ‘Immortal, invisible, God only wise’, ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise’, and ‘Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King’, she intoned: ‘The vaccination programme has been an answer to prayer but, while it has transformed the outlook of the pandemic, it has not eliminated all risk. So it is right, as the Prime Minister has said, that we all must exercise personal responsibility and carefully manage the risks from Covid-19.’

A frequent cry from the hearts of anti-lockdown campaigners, scientists and journalists in the wake of the Lockdown Files has been: ‘This must never be allowed to happen again.’ They are right. This country should never again be subjected to Chinese-style Communist dictatorship as it was in 2020 and 2021. But the person convinced of Christian truth should realise that the Church has a more important role than any secular lockdown resister, vital though that job was and still is. 

According to the C of E’s Canons (rules), enshrined in English law, the bishop and the minister share ‘the cure of souls’ in every parish in the land. Where is the remorse and repentance from the Church’s senior pastors that they failed not only to stand up for people made in the image of God whose human dignity was violated during the lockdowns, but also for the proper corporate worship of the eternal Lord? Where is the heartfelt cry from the bishops that the spiritual abuse the lockdowns caused must never be allowed to happen again?

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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