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UK Anglican Primates: 'called to act justly and honestly'

UK Anglican Primates: 'called to act justly and honestly'

By Dr. Judi Sture
Special to Virtueonline
www.virtueonline.org
October 20, 2020

I've been trying to avoid bishop-bashing over the last few months of Covid, but there is only so much a person can stand before having to vent frustration again. Once more we find the Boys In Mitres speaking out on all the topics that they are attracted to, rather than the topics that they should address.

Specific helpful suggestions in Parliament to assist the poor, the hard-pressed and the weak of the UK? Nope. Politics? You bet. And always in an anti-Brexit, pro-left direction. In case you missed it, chaps, you lost the Brexit argument. Isn't it time you got over it?

How about speaking out instead like true representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ? He never missed a chance to support the weak effectively and addressed the politicians of his day with far more wit and accuracy that any of you can dream of.

Some hope, I fear.

So -- our primates (Canterbury, York, Wales, Armagh and the Scottish Church) have now put pen to paper to give the government and other Parliamentarians a good telling off over a Bill that is passing through Parliament currently. This letter was naturally published in the media, rather than keeping it within Parliament.

There's nothing wrong with writing letters expressing a Christian view on legislation, in general. But why publish this in the Financial Times? And are the signatories directly defending the needs and interests of the poor, the lonely, the sick and/or anyone else suffering hardships? Do we see a squadron of pigs flying over the Houses of Parliament? (For our non-British readers, we have a saying here that goes 'When pigs fly', meaning, something that will never happen).

Or are they simply expressing their political position?

Well -- their Lordships seem to have been mightily exercised by government proposals to change the inter-country trading relationships within the UK, post-Brexit (i.e. between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). They even have the brass neck to predict a loss of 'peace and stability' in the UK if this Bill is passed into legislation:

The Primates state that the Bill would also compromise "peace and stability" between the UK and Ireland. "The Bill is, of course, not just concerned with domestic law. It currently asks the country's highest law-making body to equip a government minister to break international law. This has enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences".

Ah yes, a leader breaking the law. Now there's something to think about. Here we have the supposedly most senior bishops/muppets in the UK pontificating against breaking the law. Let's come back to that in a moment. What else did they say?

"We believe this would create a disastrous precedent. It is particularly disturbing for all of us who feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement -- that international treaty on which peace and stability within and between the UK and Ireland depends."

Ah yes, the Irish situation again. Well that's a good one to hang your argument on, isn't it? Try to frighten opponents by the threat of a revival of the Troubles. Very responsible.

"Moreover, if the Bill is made law without consent from devolved legislatures (as will happen if it is not amended to address their concerns), this will further undermine trust and goodwill among those who govern the different parts of the United Kingdom."

So now their Lordships are concerned about devolved powers within the UK? And worried about the undermining of trust and goodwill? What about the 'devolved powers' in the C of E -- parishes, PPCs and parish priests -- under recent rule? Do our Muppets understand irony at all?

Not to be left out, the law-abiding leader of my own diocese (Leeds), Bishop Nick Baines -- a man who really ought to resign his post so he can stand as a Labour MP and be done with it -- pontificated that:

"Given the underlying ethic of this bill -- and it is absolutely right for archbishops to ask questions of such matters....Integrity and morality matter at the level of international relations and agreements -- unless, of course, we are now agreeing to reduce all our relations and transactions to some sort of utilitarian pragmatism. . .A decision to prefer short-term pragmatism over long-term ethics will lead to a future in which a question mark will hang over any statement by those whose word and adherence to the rule of law cannot be trusted. More is at stake here than economics".

Leaving aside his identification of the 'underlying ethic' of the Bill (care to explain in more detail how you identified that ethic, Bishop?), I find it hard to take anything Bishop Baines says in the House of Lords seriously. The waffle about 'integrity and morality' is a classic. This is a chap who actually said that the idea of the Church being silent over Brexit debate was like the Church:

'staying silent over the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany just because there was a "populist uprising" in favour of it at the time'.

Further, in the same interview in 2018, he stated that the the distrust of 'poor people in the north' of bishops and established politics was similar to the situation in the USSR in the 1970s.

Clearly a man who has a good grip on reality and perspective.

So let's consider the words of our Archmuppets et al in relation to what they should be defending. Shall we just amend their words into some other argument and see how they might read?

"The Motion in Synod is, of course, not just concerned with canon law. It currently asks the Church's highest law-making body to equip Archbishops, bishops and clergy to break the accepted tradition and law of the body of Christ as it has been laid out in the Bible and by the Church Fathers over 2000 years. This has enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences".

No kidding.

"We believe this would create a disastrous precedent.

You said it.

It is particularly disturbing for all of us who feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the Bible and to Church tradition, history and teaching -- that foundation on which peace and stability within the Church depends."

Hands up who thinks we are ever going to hear that from the mouths of our Muppets in Chief?

It appears that our moral leaders in the Lords are only willing to get their act together to speak out when it comes to matters of secular politics, rather than dealing openly and honestly with the issues facing the Church of England and Christians in general -- plus the rest of the populace -- in the UK. In their letter, they express disquiet with the notion of breaking national and/or international law. Yet they have had no qualms about breaking canon law recently, in banning clergy from entering their churches and offering Holy Communion daily. No problem with telling congregations they can't come to church on Sundays.

Wait.....oh yes, that was 'only guidance', wasn't it? Er, right.

We have seen clergy banned from ministering to the sick in hospital in case they get in the way. Not to mention all the cover-ups, incompetence and failures itemised in the recent IICSA report. Where was the law then?

And taking the words of Bishop Baines above, where do 'integrity and morality' sit in relation to the machinations seen in General Synod in recent years? What exactly is the foundation of integrity and morality on which the Church of England currently rests its massive nether regions?

Where is the evidence of the Church of England resisting and avoiding a reduction of 'all our relations and transactions to some sort of utilitarian pragmatism'? To paraphrase Bishop Baines' 2018 interview, 'Try asking that of traditionalists in the pews'. Just apply his words to the context of the traditionalist perspective in the C of E:

"We are now agreeing to reduce all our relations and transactions to some sort of utilitarian pragmatism. . .A decision to prefer short-term pragmatism over long-term ethics will lead to a future in which a question mark will hang over any statement by those whose word and adherence to the rule of law cannot be trusted. More is at stake here than economics".

Again, you said it, Bishop.

Let's finish with a quote from Canterbury on the issue of the Bill as he spoke about it in the Lords:

"What we are above all called to do in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly".

Ah yes, justly and honestly.

Ahem. Will we be seeing these characteristics in relation to Church governance any time soon?

Is that a porcine quadruped of the taxonomy Sus scrofa domesticus that I see soaring over Big Ben and the Thames?

Dr. Judi Sture is a biological anthropologist, biosecurity consultant and research ethics specialist. She is the author of the blog 'View From The Crows Nest' at https://viewfromthecrowsnest.net/2020/10/20/uk-anglican-primates-called-to-act-justly-and-honestly/ and of the book 'Living In The Lighthouse: How To Survive Daily Life As A Christian' (available from Amazon).

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