Like Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows, the Archbishop of Canterbury is always ‘in the grip of a new craze’. Here is his latest fancy . . .
JUSTIN Welby has launched Faith in a Conflicted World, a film series in which he examines how Christians can help resolve conflicts and promote reconsillyation – sorry, that should be reconciliation. He says he wants to teach us ‘three habits based on the life and ministry of Jesus that reflect his call on us to be peacemakers’.
Welby is nothing if not ambitious and his new craze is what the newspapers would call a global initiative.Surely one man – even one as prodigiously talented as the Archbishop – cannot realise his ambitions all by himself? Indeed, he knows he cannot and so he has set up The Archbishop’s Reconciliation Ministry Team. How many are there in his team – ten and a goalie? This has not been made clear, but the team does have a captain: the Revd Canon Dr Flora Winfield with the new title Advisor (sic)for Reconciliation.
We are in safe hands for Flora, as she is referred to throughout Welby’s press release, is a mightily experienced bureaucrat who, since April 2018, has been the Archbishop’s Special Representative to the Commonwealth. Before that, she was the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Institutions in Geneva. She has served as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Relations, as Secretary for International Affairs at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and as Assistant Secretary General of the international quango Religions for Peace. I have yet to discover how much she is paid, but bureaucrats with Flora’s pedigree do not come cheap. Certainly, she speaks perfect bureaucratese:
‘In the present challenging global environment, we have a real opportunity to make a difference. In partnership with other churches and faiths, and with our exceptional reach into every community, we are called to live out Christ’s reconciling love, drawing together the global and the local. This task of reconciliation is also about recognising the interconnectedness of the challenges which face us all and resourcing the local church to respond with confidence and hope. I am both honoured and excited to have this opportunity to serve as the Archbishop’s Advisor for Reconciliation.’
Funny how the bosses of these Quangos for Jesus unfailingly declare that they are excited.
The press release continues:
‘Flora will oversee all the reconciliation-based programmes that Archbishop Justin has established since taking office in 2013, including:
‘Women on the Front Line which focusses (sic) on the specific contribution of women as peacebuilders in places of conflict. By offering retreats and practical skills, it enables women to find solidarity in sharing their experiences of conflict, helping them access the skills they need to support their communities in rebuilding peace.’
And then she will ‘. . . unpack the themes taught in The Difference Course, a five-session programme that explores following Jesus in a complex and divided world, seeing transformation through everyday encounters.
‘The first habit explored in the films is Be Curious – seeking deeper understanding by listening to the story we don’t know. The second is Be Present – engaging authentically in our encounters, even when this is different or difficult. And the third is Re-imagine – inviting God to deepen our hope and expand our vision, finding hope in the places we long to see change.’
Ah yes, change and decay in all around we see, we who pay the parsons in the good old C of E!
I was wondering what inspired the Archbishop to invent this exciting new venture? Happily, he supplies the answer himself. It all came about as a result of his visit in 2019 to the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar. Here Mr Welby ‘. . . prostrated himself on the ground on the site where hundreds of unarmed Indian civilians peacefully demonstrating for independence were shot and killed by British troops in 1919’.
In his own words, the Archbishop ‘. . . recalled the moment when he laid (sic) stretched out on the ground with his face downward.
‘As I went to the foot of the memorial, I really wanted to be anywhere else, because it was so shaming and so horrible. And I was a senior Brit in these circumstances and that was all focussed (sic) on in on me (sic) as a symbol of that history. And so the only thing to do was to lie down, prostrate myself before the memorial, as a symbol of sorrow and grief, of being present with those hundreds who were killed.’
Why? The killings were not his fault. They were an incident in a whole sequence of historical events in which it is notoriously difficult at this distance to identify causes and motives, let alone to attribute blame. Where does this sort of posturing stop? Should English Presbyterians and Independent Baptists lie face down on the earth in penitence for the execution of Charles I in 1649? I don’t think our local Baptist Pastor would take kindly to being held responsible for that act of regicide. Should Italian ice-cream sellers apologise for the excesses of the Roman Empire?
Instead of marching from one inanity to the next in an endless procession of gesture politics, gimmicks and attention-seeking, the Church of England leaders, appropriately led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, should rather apologise for those things which are their fault. These include creating nearly three times as many bishops as there were in 1911 when eight times as many people regularly attended church. And so thoroughly mismanaging the church’s massive financial and property assets that the Commissioners could no longer pay the clergy and so dumped this ever-increasing expense on hard-pressed local congregations. For their wholesale closure of churches. For their ever-growing army of pen-pushers. For setting aside £200million to resource their fatuous Safeguarding policy. And, lest I forget, by banishing The King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer.
If you must lie down in the dust and rub your nose in it, Mr Welby, do so instead for these derelictions of duty.