IN A Telegraph article, Simon Heffer observed that ‘too many institutions are now run by people who want to please a progressive agenda’.
None more so than the Church of England, whose unelected and unaccountable bishops see it as their pastoral mission to project their increasingly leftist political ideology both from the pulpit and the House of Lords. Presumably the majority of Anglicans expect the Church’s primary purpose is to promote Christianity and offer spiritual guidance in an increasingly secular society, improve clergy numbers and stop the rot of those Anglicans deserting the pews because they are fed up with the direction of travel under the uninspiring leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Not a bit of it.
Which brings us to the continuing struggles of parish churches in England. Traditionally the mainstay of local communities, they are now in grave danger of going under because of increasing politicisation and a lack of commitment to parish ministry. In my benefice in rural Somerset, our six churches have been without a vicar since the retirement of the previous incumbent over two and a half years ago. Despite an annual voluntary contribution paid to the Diocese of Bath and Wells known as the Common Fund, which more than covers the cost of a house for a duty priest, petitions to successive Archdeacons, the Area Dean, the newly appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells and even HM the King for permission for a replacement vicar have fallen on diocesan deaf ears. It is only the Herculean efforts of congregations that keep the six churches going at all. Pleading penury with the recent pandemic causing drastic reductions across the board, the diocese abruptly dissolved the post with an indefinite freezing of recruitment. As a solution, it proposes a reduction of clergy numbers with an amalgamation of a much larger benefice with a neighbouring town, leaving one solitary vicar for eight churches. Now a dwindling band of parishioners have to contend with reduced services, shrinking further the many fund-raising activities associated with a thriving parish community. It has now been decided to withhold voluntary payments to the diocese until a resolution is found. At the time of writing this looks far from certain.
Amid all this penny-pinching, while church buildings crumble around them, the diocese has confirmed an ‘obligation’ of a five-year ‘Action Plan’ to ‘support carbon reduction’ involving ‘practical changes’ and embracing ‘training and awareness’ in the collective madness of the General Synod’s commitment of a staggering £30million investment to achieve Net Zero by 2030. Anybody requiring help in this matter is advised to contact the diocese’s ‘Climate Justice & Environment Adviser’. Just what possesses the church to adopt these measures when ordinary people are struggling with the cost of living crisis is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable.
With the added insinuation that the majority white demographic in a predominantly rural area harbour repellent racist views, the diocese has appointed an ‘Inclusion and Diversity Adviser’ to ‘educate’ residents on the current state of race relations in this country. The church might want to obsess about skin tone, as if it is of any relevance whatsoever, but by impugning one section of society and patronising another, it continues to ignore a report that Britain has shown to be amongst the most welcoming and least racist countries in the world.
Nevertheless, the diocese supports the General Synod’s commitment of £100million to compensate for past wrongs associated with the appalling slave trade. This will last at least nine years apparently, whilst parishes are financially stretched at the coal-face. All in the name of supposed ‘white privilege’ to appease the so called ‘progressives’ at the helm of the majority of institutions in this country, busy trashing Britain’s past, promoting grievance through the myopia of 21st century values irrespective of objective historical analysis.
The Church of England boasts that it is a broad church. It appears to have slipped the notice of the present hierarchy that as well as being the established Church of England they are also custodians of the Christian heritage of England, which is rapidly diminishing under their watch. They can pull financial rabbits out of the ecclesiastical hat for PC causes, yet disregard the deep-rooted-parish system which has underpinned English identity for hundreds of years irrespective of ethnic mix or sociological background. The sad story of one small rural benefice in Somerset is one which could be replicated up and down the country, as nearly 1,000 churches have closed in just over 30 years.
The Church of England would do well to remember that in the end, ‘those who stand for nothing fall for everything’. To some of us it is tottering over the edge.