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The Times Blasts Archbishop Justin Welby over Church Shutdown

The Times Blasts Archbishop Justin Welby over Church Shutdown
800 Priests rebel against church closures


By David W. Virtue, DD
May 11, 2020

The Archbishop of Canterbury found himself being ripped apart by both the secular media and some 800 of his priests for closing churches, a decision described by a Times editorial as "bizarre", castigating his Easter message as "underwhelming", declaring the performance of his duties as "poor" and said just when people needed the Church most, it and he was AWOL.

There are some, of course, who insist the churches never needed to lock their doors (at least to their own priests and vicars, who were, after all, classed as 'keyworkers'): the damage to the Church of England's mission and perceptions of its ministry has been immense. Instead of boldly witnessing to the nation and defiantly proclaiming the light of salvation from its parish pulpits (via the Internet), every church was darkened; every liturgical service banned. If you were equipped technologically to give remote succor to your flock, you had to do it from your kitchen or conservatory. 'Ready, Steady, God' (or 'Easter Bakeoff') will become the abiding image of Justin Welby's period as Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote Martin Sewell of Archbishop Cranmer blog.

In a crisis when its flock requires rather more spiritual succour and sustenance than usual, not least because many members wish to grieve in the traditional way for the loss of loved ones, the Church of England has been shockingly absent. In the commercial jargon that the CofE has recently and dismally embraced, a huge gap in the market opened up and it has signally failed to fill it, said the editorial.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, epitomizes the lacklustre response. Since his underwhelming Easter broadcast from his kitchen at Lambeth Palace, our national primate has barely been heard from."
His poor performance will resonate with a lot of people. Britain may have become a secular country in recent years, yet at the last census a majority still identified as Christian. On any given Sunday, close to a million attend church. That's in a population of 53 million! This begs the question what went wrong, why so few attendees? Many believe that technology and post-modernism, the dumbing down of morality from the pulpits, the imbibing of pansexual options made the church indistinguishable from society. Why then bother with church? No gospel, no salvation, no hope, all is lost.

One is reminded of 1 Peter 4:17, "For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

Jesus reserved his harshest judgements for the religious leaders of his day, calling them "whited sepulchers" and a "generation of vipers"; would he be any less harsh with several generations of Anglican vicars who no longer sound forth from their pulpits the "unsearchable riches of Christ," but the prevailing social and sexual whims of the moment.

Some 800 clergy signed a letter to The Times arguing that the excessive ecclesiastical lockdown represents "a failure of the Church's responsibility to the nation." Their congregations, these clergy protested at being robbed of their faith. "domestic settings cannot replace the church buildings whose architecture, symbolism and history represent the consecration of our public life."

Might Welby find himself getting a visit from the Queen to Lambeth Palace as Rowan Williams did, suggesting (as only the Queen can do over tea) that he seeks alternative employment!

After all, he has lost 80% of the Anglican Communion to GAFCON and the Global South; his own Church is seriously divided with the majority of his vicars heading in the same suicidal direction as the American Episcopal Church. American Anglican Archbishop Foley Beach has described his Church (and other western churches) as "neo-pagan" in their theology and sexuality issues. He has a point.

It has even been suggested by Egyptian bishop, Mouneer Anis that the Anglican Communion should seek for its leadership someone outside the Church of England! To have even stated that, would have been considered heresy a few short years ago. Not anymore.

The buildup of anger and hostility at the intransigence of Welby not to enforce Lambeth Resolution 1:10 makes him complicit in its continuing presence as a millstone around his neck. It is a perpetual prick to his conscience that he cannot ignore and it is why the leaders of GAFCON will hold their own conference, not as a "ginger group", but as a viable alternative to the Lambeth Conference.

Welby can stick his nose in the air and pretend they are not there, but when some 500 bishops and their spouses descend on Canterbury next year, they will represent barely 20% of the communion's laity and that's the real news.

As one theologian noted, "the spineless, muddling middle way that encourages a managerial mentality and inspires peace without principles," is to sound the death knell of Western Anglicanism.

Western Anglicanism is on a trajectory downwards and nothing short of a revival can save it; and that seems most unlikely with the birth of GAFCON. Welby's utter refusal as an evangelical (is he really one anymore) to sound forth the gospel of God's salvation instead of constantly apologizing over one issue or another, will bring about the Church of England's inevitable downfall. Now, it is only a matter of time.


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