WHEN someone arrived at my church and after a few Sundays told me his story, I appreciated the tragedy of closing churches. Had our door not been open, he said, he would have killed himself. How many people, I wondered, seeking basic Christian compassion found a locked door? How many decided not to go on?
This is but one story in over a year of failure on the part of the Church of England. Had there been contrition, a sense of the Church’s leadership listening and understanding, like many clergy I would have waited. As it is, nothing changes. The pandemic revealed a Church that has been led in the wrong direction for many years, and the ‘business as usual’ attitude, with the Archbishop of York advertising for a £90,000-a-year assistant as his previous diocese plans to cut clergy posts, says it all.
I have therefore written an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
St John’s Vicarage
London W10 4AA
May 7, 2021
I have been meaning to write to you for some time and I do so today to urge you to resign. Your immediate resignation would demonstrate something rarely glimpsed in you, but I hope a quality you might possess, genuine humility.
There has been much comment on your decision to think it wise to appear celebrating the Eucharist on Easter Day in your kitchen, but it was your appearance at the funeral of Prince Philip that spoke eloquently of your diminishment. That you fail to see your continuing in office is as detrimental to yourself as it is for the Church and nation is unfortunate.
The comments of a young youth worker, made to me recently, ring true: during the pandemic there was a total lack of Church leadership nationally, however he and many know what their local church did. It is to this level that I believe leadership has devolved. I can assure you that in my locality I know of none who would regret your resignation.
Your attempts to pretend that directing clergy to close their churches and stay at home was advice should bring shame on you. It is a lie and lies deserve exposing. You of course are not alone. I know of no diocesan bishop who can look back over the last year with anything but a sense of shame and failure.
Many of course are in place owing to you. You may well have seen comments by Laurence Fox, candidate for Mayor of London: ‘Many Christians around the country and around Great Britain must be looking at the Archbishop of Canterbury going, “you are actually working for the other bloke at the moment”.’ To suggest that there is something demonic in your leadership I would have at one time thought ridiculous. I do not today.
You have said that you wish to take a sabbatical, which many have noted is a diplomatic way of your leaving office after a period of well-paid leave. If you still intend this route I hope you will reflect on many things, not least the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. How many hungry and thirsty were failed because of your direction to close churches? Are you proud of those in prison who might say: did you visit me, there because of failings in the Post Office led at the time by someone you thought suitable to be interviewed to be Bishop of London? You have much to reflect on.
For your actions it is my view that you should be prosecuted for misconduct in public office. That will be for others to pursue, if they wish. I simply write to urge you to go, and go now.
David Ackerman (Rev)
This is an open letter and will appear in the public domain.