A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Monday, December 03, 2012

On Church and State and all that

Jeremy Paxman in his book The English : A Portrait of a People sums up the attitude of the English to the church as "they were not in any meaningful sense religious, the Church of England being a political invention which had elevated being 'a good chap' to something akin to canonization. On the occasions when bureaucracy demanded they admit an allegiance, they could write 'C of E' in the box and know they wouldn't be bothered by demands that they attend church or give all they had to the poor". Paxman once spoke to a Bishop of Oxford and asked about what one needed to believe to be a member of the church and he replied, with a slight look of bafflement on his face, that it was an intriguing question, as if it had not occurred to him before. Ralf Dahredorf said of religion in his adoptive country that 'a falling out with the Pope is not the same as a true Reformation'.

All this allows the modern English to have a say in church matters without having much regard to doctrine. It also allows the modern cleric to adapt according to the fancies of local folk without taking things too seriously. Faith in many churches has turned into a form of entertainment-cum-self-help-cum-social-services. Vast screens portray easy to read power point presentations with the notion that God can help the individual present. Not much mention of what the individual can do for God.

So it is little wonder confusion reigned supreme in the days after the synod vote. David Cameron got his ten pence worth in, followed by Tony Baldry leading the charge of vituperation against those that were once promised an "honoured place". Ann Widdecombe has an excellent piece in the Daily Express (which I have just noticed on account of not normally going in that newspaper's direction!). It reads -

THE vote on women bishops was sufficiently narrow to have gone either way and the hierarchy who are now bemoaning the outcome have only themselves to blame, having utterly failed to reassure dissenters that there would still be room for them in the Anglican Church. Oh, there were plenty of warm words, vague promises and sketchy arrangements but no detailed code of practice. That was quite enough to have made the difference precisely because some of those who opposed the 1992 decision to ordain women find they have been marginalised.

I received a letter last week from an ordinary C of E worshipper, who is theologically opposed to women priests but who has stayed loyal to his rural church despite the presence of a woman vicar. He hasn’t stomped off to another church but instead asked if from time to time communion could be given by one of the male retired assistant clergy.

And has anyone taken that seriously?

Nope. The bishop says go to another church, regardless of what that costs and the difficulty of travel. The rural dean does not reply. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office says go to the rural dean. So though their mitres bob up and down with indignation can they really wonder that waverers did not feel like taking the risk at the synod vote and relying on empty words?

It is instructive that the Prime Minister saw fit to rebuke the church for the decision of its synod. That should provide a clear warning of how seriously we may regard government promises on gay marriage.

Ministers insist that the churches will be protected but the PM regularly states what he thinks the churches should do so why will he go out of his way to protect them when they disagree with him?

Furthermore Mr Cameron voted for regulations that have obliged Roman Catholic adoption agencies to close, despite their looking after some of the hardest-to-place children, in the full knowledge that this would happen.

So if he is happy with no exemption for the church on homosexual adoption why would he preserve one on homosexual marriage?

It is actions not words that count.

That is why some members of the synod did not trust the assurances of the bishops and why we should not trust ministers on gay marriage. 

I find I concur with every word. Plus it was hard not to think that the Archbishop of Canterbury had been rather more zealous in his promotion of the Enough Waiting campaign and not enough in honouring the promises made to traditional believers. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet has a very good, measured response to the Measure!


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