AS our parish churches and Christian heritage disappear from the countryside, with the dolts who run the Church of England steering it towards oblivion, this is a letter I have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby …
Consider the English rural parish church. For many, the church building remains the central focus of their community everyday life, not only a place for reflection and solace, but a refuge for all faiths and none, irrespective of politics.
These buildings are etched into people’s sense of belonging and identity because they understand that they represent the fabric of their existence.
This is gradually being destroyed under your watch by the paucity of ordained priests, burgeoning bureaucracy, increasing and unnecessary centralisation, an obsession with identity politics, climate change – and, worse, obsequiousness before a cultural Marxist idolatry.
These buildings are a vital part of this country’s heritage and they belong to the people of England. Yet for how long will our precious parish churches survive as you indulge in a kind of ecclesiastical inverted snobbery, with a micro-managed one-size-fits-all ministry?
You may be aware of the movement called savetheparish.com for those of us who wish to be involved in a concerted effort to save the parish system of this country, as the Church of England inherited it – sadly it appears that you do not.
It has also escaped your notice that the majority of churchgoing folk couldn’t care less as to the gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation of their vicar, but believe in the simple Christian message of fundamental equal worth for all humanity.
The prevailing narrative is of a church that doesn’t actually like its traditional adherents very much and is wilfully tone deaf to the concerns of ordinary rural parishioners, who have committed the cardinal sin of being of a certain age and ethnicity, and are accused of living in a sort of fluffy time warp, but nevertheless serve their communities with humility and selflessness.
Now here we are, presented with the latest incarnation of ill-conceived plans in The Emerging Church of England, which consists of work to ‘review our strategic context, determine key strategic priorities for the next ten years, deliver simpler governance and transform our national operating model for the future’ and is the sort of management jargon usually reserved for bloated corporations.
It is overseen by a Co-ordinating Group chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, who was more concerned about the former Health Secretary’s breaking Covid rules than his having ‘a bit of a fling’.
We learn that the main function of the ‘Recovery Group’, led by the Bishop of London, is not only to respond to changing government advice on church buildings and services, but also includes supporting churches ‘in reaching out to existing and new worshippers through digital means; the Church of England’s response to social need, and the wellbeing of church communities’.
Transforming Effectiveness, led by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, focuses on ‘the practical ways in which the Church is organised and gets things done that enable the local church to flourish’. More worryingly, ‘the whole system will be looked at: What should continue as is, what should be changed and what should just stop’.
What good is that when the majority of rural churches are closing? It is nothing more than a veritable roll-call for the jobsworths, in place of their central mission to promote and defend Christianity in this country with its emphasis on spiritual and pastoral mission, especially in the light of the pandemic from which it has disgracefully absented itself from those who needed it most.
As you enjoy your sabbatical, the Archbishop of York asks us to liken his ‘vision’ of the church to believers clambering into Peter’s fishing boat along with Christ himself, as he invites us to ‘push out from the shore and prepare our nets for a catch’.
Some of us have already jumped overboard as you steer it on to the rocks. We feel badly let down by your weak and politicised leadership, and a church completely out of touch from the very people who instinctively want to support it.