Rev Jules Gomes: Bishops choke on Brexit humble pie

What’s on the menu when bishops gather for a Brexit breakfast at Lambeth Palace following Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union? Egg on face. Mitres in sanctimonious sermon sauce. Burnt reputations on French toast. Honeyed Brussels rhetorical waffle. Side dish for guest invitee Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church—haggis with a dash of hogwash. Breakfast includes two archbishops’ specials: a Sentamu special—sausages stuffed with pious platitudes and a Welby special: Eton mess.

This is the most momentous decision in the recent history of the United Kingdom. And the bishops get it wrong. They are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the demographic divide. While Labour politicians weep rivers of crocodile tears and repent of the Westminster disconnect from vast swathes of the disenfranchised electorate—poor, elderly, working class white Britons—the bishops blinded by holy blinkers—move into overdrive and flood the Twittersphere with press statements dripping with the drivel of the Anglican gospel of niceness.

Why are the bishops so intoxicated by their own rhetoric? Why do the bishops feel so comfortably warmed-up by the hot air their verbiage generates? Why are the bishops so inebriated by the exuberance of their own verbosity? At least the political elite in Westminster cocooned from reality and now cast into outer darkness is wailing and gnashing its teeth saying it must ‘listen to the people’. When will the Lambeth elite recognise that the Tower of Babel project has come a tumblin’ down and they now have to listen to the Word of God in Scripture and hear what the ‘Spirit is saying to the churches’? When will they learn to discern God’s hand in history and in what Vatican II called the ‘signs of the times’?

The bishops en bloc were entrenched in the Remain camp. While the Archbishop of York John Sentamu blundered into the debate like a matador waving his cultural Marxist red flag—the most disingenuous intervention came from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The cognoscenti of this country have come to expect wild, publicity-seeking outbursts of shotgun fire from Sentamu—like an excited little boy at a clay pigeon shooting range. With Jeeves-like subtlest of smiles and a carefully calibrated raise of the eyebrow the cognoscenti look at one another as if to say, “This is what happens when you elevate Africans or Asians to the English episcopate! No tact, old boy and all that rot.”

Sentamu’s ‘contribution’ to the debate began with an appeal to his conscience. “My conscience tells me I must vote Remain,” he said. Most people from his own voting area of York and the Northern Province of York—poor, white, working class, pensioner and even Asian voters—were precisely those whose conscience told them they must vote Leave. Sentamu went on to elevate Britain’s treaty with the EU to the status of a biblical covenant. He quoted Psalm 15:4—a blessing for one who ‘stands by his oath even to his hurt’ to argue that Britain should remain in the EU because of past treaties. Even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose and the Archbishop should know that a ‘text out of context is pretext’. But then, given the decimation of biblical studies in most theological colleges, and the emphasis on sexy subjects like feminism and post-colonialism, most of the current cadre of bishops cannot exegete their way out of a paper bag. Moreover, a treaty is not a covenant. It is a contract that makes legal provisions for any country wishing to leave in the form of Article 50.

Welby took the high ground by devoutly declaring that there was no particular “correct Christian view” of the referendum. The Church of England nobly proclaimed that it would not takes sides. It even published a ‘Collect’—a prayer of political niceness—which, of course, would offend nobody. But then Welby dropped his feigned neutrality and joined hands with his fellow-Etonian, “Call me Dave.”

The chattering classes were delighted by “Wonga” Welby’s gushing torrent of Europhilia. Welby speaks fluent French and was Honorary French Consul while he was Dean of Liverpool. For five years Welby worked as an oil executive for the French oil company Elf Aquitaine based in Paris. Welby and his wife Caroline go regularly on holiday to France. He lists his hobbies as ‘most things French and sailing’. There’s nothing wrong with all this. The fact that he is one of the very few bishops who can speak a language other than English is to his credit. (Most of the bishops weren’t even taught Koine Greek or classical Hebrew at seminary—biblical languages that are compulsory during the first year at most theological colleges in India).

First, Welby appealed to universal virtues. “Sacrifice, generosity, vision beyond self-interest, suffering for others, helping the helpless, these are some of the deeply Christian principles that have shaped us.” ‘Duh? Who does he mean by “us”?’ replied your poor, marginalised, Northerner—fazed by Welby-speak. ‘Does he mean Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Commissioners and the 10,000 Eurocrats paid more than Dave Cameron? Or does Welby mean that we—the poor, working class, elderly, pensioners, from the North of England should be making the sacrifice and suffer for the glitterati in Brussels?’ Second, Welby attempted to co-opt Jesus into voting Remain and turn the Beatitudes into a pro-EU manifesto. In a passionate evangelistic altar call, his pal Nicky Gumbel at HTB would be proud of, Welby injected the final note of fear of the Brexit hell that would get people walking down the aisle to make a decision to Remain. The decision about which way to vote “should be about what we fear, fear is a valid emotion”, Welby said. Welby’s voting area of Canterbury bought none of this and voted in favour of Leave.

‘Fear not’ is one of the most frequently repeated phrases in the Bible. Fear mongering has been one of the major strategies used by the Remain side in the Brexit debate. The media is fuelling this fear. That the Archbishop of Canterbury stooped to play this card and frighten people by holding their future to ransom is a new low in ecclesiastical interventionism. The Bible counters fear by asking people to have faith in God.

Perhaps the bishops might consider discussing the theme of ‘faith’ over their Brexit breakfast. Perhaps the bishops might even consider inviting Jesus to join them for breakfast. This, of course, would be the same controversial Jesus who takes his stand against the religious and political establishment of his day. It might take a few hours for Jesus to get to Lambeth. That’s because Jesus would be announcing the good news of the Kingdom of God to people on the fringes of society in the deprived areas of Boston, Lincolnshire, rather than hobnobbing with the political elite in the glossy suburb of Islington, London.

Rev Jules Gomes

  • Bogbrush

    Not much to add to that!

    I’m still awaiting the Archbishop to point to his vindication by the currency traders. Still, he’d better get a move on – sterling is only a couple of % below it’s dollar level on 28th February.

    More seriously, I really hope they don’t come out endorsing the nonsense that there were 17m thick racists who voted Leave (in code of course, expressed as faith in defeating the spirit of hatred (meaning you, leavers) and stating as fact that of course the leavers didn’t vote against the EU but were making all sorts of other protest votes (they weren’t, all the leavers I know are tolerant people who knew exactly what they were voting for). I’d fully expect that from this guy.

    • TJB

      I agree with you. I’m waiting for the next round of coded insults from the various groups who backed remain. The delicious thing though is that they’ve called those that disagree with them thick or racist for so long now that it’s stopped having any impact.

      People have reached the stage where they happily fight back when called racist and the ‘progressives’ know it’s lost its once fearful power to silence. Worse for the progressives, with the explosion of news sources on the internet that don’t simply regurgitate their talking points and offer a more conservative – down to earth even – viewpoint; they can no longer rely on their preferred news agenda being the only one that people see.

      It’s great to see that there’s at least one member of the clergy happy to stand up and say what the majority of the voting public said so clearly last week; our leadership both political and theological are horribly out of touch.

  • Tricia

    Thank you for that breath of fresh air. I am a mere lay minister in the Cof E and I voted Leave along with the majority of people in the East Midlands. I was furious when the two Archbishops made statements in this vote. They should have been neural and prayed for God to guide the nation. I am fed up with platitudes and I want Godly order and doctrinal orthodoxy. The bending of the Church of England to accommodate the world is heresy and we need to understand that.

    • A real liberal

      May I suggest that the solution lies in your hands? You have allowed a generation of patriarchal left wing politicians (who don’t feel the need to bother the Demos, which is probably a bit too thick and right wing to recognise how it should vote) to occupy the leading clerical positions in your church. There’s not much I – or the majority of the rest of the country – can do about that. Other than to get pretty irritated by their patronising utterances from a falsely elevated lectern. But you can do something.

      • Vox Populi

        Agreed entirely. However, the mitred mafia is so strong and undemocratic that the selection process to the hierarchy of the church is carefully controlled–almost Orwellian. You have to subscribe to the liberal, left-wing, orthodox hegemony of the day to be appointed a bishop in the Church of England.

    • Vox Populi

      There is more of the world in the Church of England, than there is the church in the world of England. The C of E is an apostate church and if we take the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, it looks like the Lord Jesus will snuff the C of E candlestick out very soon. Keep holding to the faith handed down once and for all by the apostles and shun these doctrinal novelties.

      • Neil Ashley

        Not apostate, not a church but an heretical sect. BTW it may be masked by the honeyed words of “ecumenism” but that is still the actual doctrinal view of the Roman Catholic Church. It only recognises the Eastern Orthodox as churches rather than mere sects.

  • TRAV1S

    Rather than returning to Rome, the CofE wants to return to the Treaty of Rome. Now wonder the pews are empty the clergy do not represent the people.

  • The writers of the EU founding principles were theologically educated Christian politicians who would put their present Lordships to shame in agape, in caritas. Tragically, those who followed them are like our Anglican bishops: better versed in politics than Scripture and the search for deep truth. Christ had some rude names for such people.

    • Johnnydub

      I’m not sure about their probity. The likes of Jean Monnet were autocrats and liars of the very highest order.

  • James Chilton

    I agree with this critique of the bishops “intoxicated by their own rhetoric”. One quibble though: to claim that they are on the “wrong side of history” is daft. That judgment is only possible in retrospect when the winners and losers are apparent. We don’t know yet how the Brexit result will pan out.

    • Dominic Stockford

      We know what the cote was. We know the super-state that the EU has now declared it intends to be. You really think we’ll step back into that?

      • James Chilton

        Well, I know we don’t want to. But it’s not a done deal yet. Wait and see and hope for the best.

  • Allosaurus

    That struck home. The modern episcopate seems devoutly committed to the idiot vapourings of the Guardian editorial (why? the rag is violently anti-Christian), and wholly indifferent to the Gospel, mainstream Christianity, and even rationality.

    But they still have a use – to replace that infallible barometer of mistaken belief – the retiring Professor Sir Dame Baroness Shirley Williams, who has always been wrong, about everything, in every particular, on every occasion. The reliable anti-Cassandra is a most useful device : check what Welby says, and do the opposite. You won’t go far wrong.

    • Bogbrush

      They don’t object to people being anti-Christian, there’s a strong streak of low self-esteem and self-hatred in the “progressive” wing of the Church.

  • If their graces wish to continue to play politics, they should take off their robes and admit it by standing for election. Otherwise, I recommend they shut up.

    • geo

      gotta love the clergy in this country … its like watching a cross between the Borgias and the tellytubbies. power crazed yet oozing love, understanding and tubby custard with the same intellectual nous as that pre school tour de force.

  • barnacle bill

    I was visiting my mother the Sunday before the vote, as usual I accompanied her to her church, where they had a visiting vicar. My mother knew of him as he had been a regular visitor to the last school she taught in. Her only comment before we went into church was ” … we used to regard him as a bit of a progressive Church of England vicar … ”

    Well I very nearly walked out when he began his sermon, of course the subject was the forthcoming vote. Yet instead of just confining himself to spiritual guidance he promptly proceeded to tell them all to vote for “Remain”. Using all of Project Fear’s worse propaganda to justify this “command” from on high.

    It was only out of respect to my elderly mother, not from the place i was in, that I did not walk out. Nor that I call him out on some of the lies I knew he was preaching to this mostly elderly congregation. To say I felt he was the unacceptable face of the Establishment would not do my feelings justice.

    I’m glad I was able to escape through a side exit at the end of the service as I might have said something if I had had to meet with him upon leaving the church.

    However, it then meant Sunday lunch was a very lively debate as I tried to re-assure my mother over his lies. Whilst at the same time countering his claims that her partner obviously believed. The whole experience upset me as I had expected better of the Church!

    • MrVeryAngry

      I had a similar experience at a debate between in and out featuring Ben Gummer MP. Out of courtesy (and to a degree stunned by the level of deceit by BG) I did neither walk out nor stand up and object. I regret, more so since Out won, that I did not say or do anything at the time.

  • Dominic Stockford

    John Stephens, head of FIEC, also a remainer.

    Give credit where it’s due, Abp Peter Smith, RC, Southwark, a Leaver.
    Most independent free Bible church ministers, and EFCC church ministers I know all Leavers

    • morbidfascination

      And Giles Fraser,
      Indeed, finding myself in agreement with him did make me pause to wonder if Leave was right!

  • Odo Saunders

    An excellent article. What the bishops failed to realise was that the average church congregation represents all strands of political viewpoints, and therefore it would have been better if they had not publicly declared as to how they intended to vote on 23 May. The average Church of England congregation is already far too small to sustain a viable future for this organisation, and the bishops have thereby accelerated its further decline by this political outburst. It would have been far better if they had simply urged congregations to vote according to their conscience and to leave it at that, without declaring how they intended to vote. My local church is in such a parlous state, with most of the congregation aged over fifty and no new young members joining. I fear that in twenty years time the building will have been closed down and advertised for sale by a local estate agent. The church hierarchy have been responsible for this state of affairs through their involvement in mainly left-wing political causes, instead of concerning themselves with the spiritual welfare of their flock. My local church very rarely mentions the plight of oppressed Christians in the Middle East, Pakistan and elsewhere, and when I raised this issue with my local priest, she said that she was prepared to discuss the matter with me in private! Her fellow priest found my intervention in this matter rather amusing! I realised then that the Church of England was in deep trouble. There is currently talk about a realignment of political parties, and the same might possibly be true for organised religion in this country. I console myself with the thought that when I go to church, I am close to my Saviour, despite the best efforts of the church authorities to discourage me from going in the first place.

  • Rush_is_Right

    “The fact that he is one of the very few bishops who can speak a language other than English is to his credit.”

    True enough. However the tongue in which Welby shows the greatest fluency is Cant.

  • Bogbrush

    My old Dad best summed up the position of the Church with respect to real life experience.

    When challenged by by them over whether or not to spend some of his money (he was a self-employed builder who rented out a few properties he’d renovated himself, another property was owned by the CofE to accommodate some in the seminary) on a communal park area he said “well, yes, it is about money because I actually have to earn mine – you lot pass the plate around on Sunday and throw it up in the air – what stays up’s His, what fall’s down’s yours”.

    Dad’s always had a pretty direct way of explaining things!

  • Nick Booth

    Democracy died, so that the EU may live!

  • Gerardine Stockford

    what a brilliant article. Thank you!

  • blue2beak

    Established church agrees with the establishment.
    What a shocker!

  • Irene Elizabeth Brown

    ” The inhabitants of earth are of two sorts: Those with brains and no religion and those with religion and no brains” Abu’L – Ala’ al-Mu’orr’i. Poet of Mu’orra ( Syria) (973-1057 )

    • Allosaurus

      It doesn’t rhyme.

      • Aaron D Highside

        LOL!

  • Nockian

    Enjoyed that tremendously.

  • I am increasingly convinced that Justin Welby is not actually a real person at all, but is a fictional character based – rather accurately – on the late, great Peter Simple’s marvellously absurd character, Dr Spacely-Trellis, progressive Bishop of Bevindon in the Stretchford Conurbation.

  • Albiro

    Their whole existence is a lie. IMHO.

    • Bill

      Exactly.

  • SeeYouAnon

    Follow the money

    It’s always there

    http://www.comece.eu/site/en/whoweare

  • rbw152

    And people wonder why religion is declining in this country. Well Christianity is anyway.

  • Jeremiah Jones

    Wow. Clergyman gets seriously rude about bishops; well they deserve it. We had it from the Bishop of our diocese, and several political “sermons” from the pulpit in which they scarcely bothered to conceal the preacher’s own blazing prejudices – and explicit political preferences. The last (after the vote) even quoted from “the newspaper I read” which was immediately recognizable as the Guardian – nothing else could have generated the twaddle quoted. And they always pray that they may speak in the name of the Holy Trinity. God replaced by Guardian. I do wonder how bright these people are, whether they actually talk to any of their congregations, and whether the exercise of logic counts at all. Didn’t know about the language requirements at theological college, and maybe logic sounds a bit too much like maths, which might scare them off, but doesn’t philosophy come in anywhere ?

  • Michael McDermott

    Welby in relation to Farage, was guilty of the sin of Calumny and Detraction – except he could plead innocence through ignorance.

  • James Chilton

    Now that the Christian churches perform the duties of social engineers, teaching the gospel or even believing in God is optional.

  • Muttley

    I’m afraid they’re too self-righteous for any introspection. They’ll just do what all Remainers do: declare that the people got it wrong and need to be corrected.

    • NeoCon without the Con

      Yeah, pretty much all god botherers are like that

  • Lovesounds

    Proof that a dog collar is no barrier to a bitter, poorly researched, small minded little rant from another self obsessed remote Little Englander…

    Since when has York been poor, working class, Asian and pensioner dominated you utter clown…?

    • NeoCon without the Con

      This is a politicized religious view from the tax haven of the Isle of Man.

      One man’s drivel about other men’s drivel.

      Religion is like masturbation -it should only be done in private.

      • Ian Logan

        If masturbation should only be done in private, why are you doing it in public?

    • Vox Populi

      In case you hadn’t realised, the writer is an Indian. That does blow your “self-obsessed remote little Englander” rant, doesn’t it? Also, you apparently know nothing of the geographical positioning of the Northern Province of York, which covers the entire range of Northern England right to the Scottish border and contains most of the deprived areas of England. Your post exposes your own bias and reveals that what you lack in intellectual argument you make up for in idiotic bluster.

      • Lovesounds

        I’m well aware of who Jules Gomes is. In case it’s a step too far for your comprehension – “Little Englander” is a group classification. I also mentioned only York – as it was specifically mentioned in his article – not that you do detail though do you?

        • Vox Populi

          Yes, and you have used it as a term of abuse. Also, you do know what a co-ordinating conjunction is don’t you? ‘AND’ something that in the writer’s sentence connects ‘York’ to ‘the Province of York.’

  • RightwingBlogwatch

    Where do you dig these people up? Hardline uncaring Christian zealots from the Pinochet era, zzz.

    • NeoCon without the Con

      A surprisingly hateful piece.

      There are few things more bilious than a supposed Christian being hateful

      • Vox Populi

        Definition of ‘hate speech’: something a liberal has no intellectual arguments to refute.

        • Toast well done

          Beautifully said Vox

          Take a bow

          • Vox Populi

            Grazie! Danke! Merci!

        • NeoCon without the Con

          Definition of boneheaded, meaningless rhetoric: your comment.

          • Nemo

            Wow; you could be the dictionary definition of ‘Self-awareness, Lack Thereof’.

    • Bosun Higgs

      The Church will outlive the European Union, you know.

      • NeoCon without the Con

        Hopefully the kid’s hamster will outlive the European Union!

    • Allosaurus

      Ah, the pretence of the fascist Left to “care”. zzzzz. indeed.

      • RightwingBlogwatch

        Your guy threw pregnant women out of a plane, while Thatcher said nowt. What a wonderful con-woman she was.

  • GreatScot

    Sorry I can’t recall, what was the Bishops stance on the EU destroying Christian lives and hopes in Greece, Cyprus, Spain where was their public outrage at the massacre of Christians in North Africa or in the Middle East or the assaults in the refugee camps etc.
    Bleeding heart, progressive wets, the lot of them.

  • Dougie

    I ceased to care about what the Anglican bishops have to say many years ago, once I realised that few if any of them appeared to believe in God.

    • NeoCon without the Con

      Yeah, it’s funny isn’t it.

      Ironic though that failure to believe in something so unbelievable should damage anyone’s credibility.

    • Bill

      They’re quite right, Dougie. There IS no god.

      • richard

        In which case why don’t they resign and why do such hypocrites feel entitled to bestow their ruminations on the rest of us in the first place?

        • Bill

          The answer is simple. It’s an easy wicket. My father-in-law was an Anglican priest and spent his time doing the Times crossword, watching cricket, and sleeping in an arm-chair. He never did a day’s work in his life, unless writing essays at Cambridge counts as work.

      • Dougie

        You know that, I know that, but the bishops keep telling us there is, while never giving the impression of actually believing it themselves.

      • God

        There is no Bill.

  • Bosun Higgs

    Family’s always embarrassing, isn’t it? Most rank-and-file Anglican clergy are the salt of the earth, metaphorically and scripturally, but episcopate can usually be relied upon the put their feet in it.

  • Uusikaupunki

    Our “Most Reverends” and “Right Reverends” these days always seem to be suitable candidates for the job of The Vicar of Bray.

  • weirdvisions

    And yet they wonder why there are so many empty pews these days.

  • Terry

    For Christians or unbelievers interested in what slant Christians should have on this, may I commend prophecy today online (use google) which said very clearly that God was in favour of Brexit and not at all in favour of the EU.

  • Trojan

    After that dreadful sharia preaching hippy, lessons should have been learnt and his successor should have been assessed on his commitment to Christian theology.

  • Phil R

    This should not be a surprise to us.

    The liberal wing of the Anglican Church is desperately short of money.

    The poor do not have any money that will make much difference and anyway, wisely they are turning away. Liberals on the other hand are wealthy and will continue to support the Church financially as they see it as a engine of social change.

    Welby and others know that the money will stop if the Anglican Church ceases to become an engine of social change.

    In short from a Bishop’s perspective, the poor (never mind scripture) simply do not matter in the larger picture.

  • David

    Brilliant article, and thank you for it.
    This article has helped me put into context my local situation. For some months I was amused and then later irritated by our new bishop’s distinct habit of interpreting everything through the lens of the Guardian’s viewpoint. As a retired, recently licensed, politically of the right Anglican Reader, I found his comments somewhere between irrelevant, impractical and just plain silly. He is very badly informed concerning the international situation, and the plight of the working classes, over much of Europe.
    For over five years I worked hard for the Brexit case, as a campaigner on the streets and knocking on doors. I am well aware of the suffering of the working classes as I have talked to many of them whilst campaigning. His post-Brexit Newsletter to clergy and Readers, read like a short silly sermon on behalf of the far left. It was ridiculous. The referendum decision was, he said “unexpected”. That’s because the episcopate are so out of touch with normal working and middle class folk. What an admission of remoteness from their flock !
    So after taking a deep breath, and a walk to compose my thoughts, I wrote to him pointing out the many, pronounced disadvantages of the EU, and emphasising its harsh treatment of society’s least prosperous. I was as usual polite but plainly spoken. No doubt it will take some weeks before I receive a reply…..