TO many cradle Anglicans, clinging to the tenets of their faith, the latest pronouncement from the Archbishop of Canterbury denying sole blame for Covid church closures, arguing that he is not the Pope, is when the tendrils of that faith are stretched beyond endurance. In an apparent ‘not me guv’ moment, Justin Welby admitted that he would be ‘more cautious’ if any future lockdown restrictions were imposed.
Just where does he imagine the Anglican church’s buck will stop if not with the Primate of All England, spiritual leader of the Established church and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion?
Despite the valiant efforts of the vast majority of churches which continued to provide some form of social action during the lockdown, the Church of England went AWOL to those who needed it most with the hierarchy insisting on closing its doors. Instead, it provided an echo-chamber of risk-averse government policy, parroting the mantra of ‘safe spaces’, seemingly disregarding the traditional Christian message of hope and endurance in times of a national crisis. This from an organisation consisting mostly of Left-wing liberal types spending most of their time ranting against Brexit, fretting over the apocalyptic cult of climate change and obsessing about ethnic and diversity issues all but expunging Dr Martin Luther King’s message that people will be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, than promoting and defending Christianity and the Christian heritage of this country. Before Christmas, the Archbishop even appeared to condemn those who had chosen not to be vaccinated as somehow morally repugnant, admitting that he was going to ‘step on thin ice’ by saying so. To some of us he fell right through it.
Now we learn that Welby is to create a Cabinet of Bishops. ‘Behold the Bishop of Brexit’ declared The Times asthe church sets out to model itself on politics. When Nancy Mitford was asked why she wrote about aristocrats she said it was because she ‘knew them best’. To ask her to write about factory workers would be ‘like asking Jane Austen to write about Siberian peasants’. It’s a pity that Archbishop Welby doesn’t stick to his own spiritual script.
All this while parishes up and down the country struggle on without a vicar as the over-centralisation and groaning bureaucracy of the dioceses increases. Bath and Wells is advertising for a ‘Joint Head of Communications and Engagement’ at a salary of up to £55,000 whilst parishioners of Oare and Culbone in the same diocese (the setting for the novel Lorna Doone and Coleridge’s Kubla Khan) are trying to block the church from selling its vicarage. Where does the diocese imagine is the focal point of its ministry if not with the parishes and the people who live and work in them?
Under Welby the top-down one-size-fits-all church is continuing apace. The Church has lost connection with its origins; the use of the King James Bible and Cranmer’s Prayer Book has all but disappeared from worship. Instead parishioners are confronted with dumbing down, and nursery school liturgy presided over by PC pen-pushers. The total lack of leadership has further condemned the Church of England to being an irrelevance in national life, as illustrated by a report from Civitas last year, ‘Rotting from the Head: Radical progressive activism and the Church of England’.
It can come as no surprise that weekly church attendance has fallen when so many are given the impression that the church is not for them. The sacred spaces which their ancestors built, worshipped in and are buried in are being metaphorically and physically closed to them. The Church of England is withering on the vine under the insipid and uninspiring occupant of the See of Canterbury.