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Patriotism, last refuge of a Cottrell

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WHY do the words of the ruthless iconoclast Stephen Cottrell, by divine oversight Archbishop of York, put me in mind of the great Samuel Johnson? Because, in Saturday’s Telegraph, Cottrell claimed to be a patriot. Of course, we all know that Dr Johnson defined patriotism as ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’. However, it is necessary to point out what the good doctor meant by that phrase. He did not mean to suggest that there is anything reprehensible about being a patriot – far from it. He meant that there are some scoundrels so scoundrelly that, if it suits their interests, they will even pretend to be patriots. Well, Archbishop, if the cap fits . . .

A patriot is one who loves his country, loving and cherishing it as if it were his own flesh. A patriot therefore is necessarily a conservative. He wishes to preserve his native land: its territory, its wealth, its history and all its institutions. By these criteria, Stephen Cottrell is no more a patriot than I’m a chorus girl.

Cottrell rightly says that part of an Englishman’s patriotism is his allegiance to the Church of England. How, then, can he claim to be a patriot when he presides over a secularised, bureaucratised and sub-literary organisation which has disowned its greatest assets the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer and replaced this treasure house of rare devotion with unreadable, unprayable tosh?

If the soul of the English Church is to be discovered in the KJV and the BCP, then its beating heart is its 1,000-year-old parish system. But the parochial structure of the Church and its traditional form of ministry in the parish clergy has been wilfully neglected by the hierarchy, of which Cottrell is at the head, for the last 50 years. The parishes’ glebe was confiscated by the new ecclesiastical authorities in the biggest land grab since Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Clergy numbers have been allowed – encouraged – to reduce, to be replaced by a haphazard, amateurish outfit that will rapidly prove inadequate for that which is its responsibility: the spiritual nurturing of the English people.

Cottrell is quite explicit about his plans to ‘create 10,000 new Christian communities and 3,000 worshipping hubs for children and young people’.

The historic parishes will not all die, but they will be changed into a national network of house churches led by lay people, unpaid of course. So what, we ask, of the Sacraments? What of theological scholarship? What of biblical and spiritual teaching? These are now merely among the former things that have passed away – to be replaced by something new, brainless, soulless and unworkable.

Part of the whole heart, soul, mind and meaning of the Church for the 2,000 years of its history are the sacred offices of Baptism, Marriage and the Burial of the Dead: hatches, matches and dispatches. Let us see what is about to happen to marriage in the Church of England . . .

In about 18 months, the bishops and synod will announce that they intend to solemnise homosexual marriage. I have neither runes nor crystal ball, so how can I possibly know this? Because the Church has as good as announced it already in its recent publication Living in Love and Faith. Creditably there is no obfuscation here.

They have begun already with an apology ‘for the damage and hurt caused to the LGBT community’. They proceed with the launch of a programme of ‘discussions and learning about gender identity’ to be completed this year. The House of Bishops will then bring the process of ‘decision-making to a conclusion’ and their conclusions will be put to a vote in the General Synod. This procedure appears to be no more than a polite charade – for the presenter of LLF, Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, has already declared that the Church’s teaching on marriage is ‘ripe for development’. As they used to say on Monty Python, ‘Oh what a giveaway!’

When the huddling into groups has begun and the participants are embarked on their ‘decision-making’, they will find a great deal of historical matter to help them towards what LLF refers to as their ‘discernment’. For example, that both the Old and the New Testaments declare unambiguously that sexual relationships must be between one man and one woman for life. In particular, homosexual acts are prohibited: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind’ (Leviticus 18:22). And St Paul condemns ‘men who burn with lust one for the other’ (Romans 1:27). Those words are so plain as to be not beyond the understanding even of a modern archbishop.  

But Stephen Cottrell, who, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced LLF,claims to know better than the Bible: ‘What we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.’

In other words, our contemporary mores and fashions may annul and supersede the clear teaching of Scripture.

A wit once described the mentality of a foxhunter as perfectly expressed in the words, ‘It’s a lovely morning, so let us go out and kill something.’

Stephen Cottrell and the rest of his iconoclastic gang on the bench of bishops and in the synod are well advanced in the process of killing off the Church of England.

And they claim to be doing this out of patriotism!

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

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