I confess to feeling a little bothered about the Church of England’s recent engagement with politics. My main source of information has been the Times Newspaper – not an entirely unbiased source of information about religion. Ruth Gledhill does like to talk up an argument!
In this report the Church complains about its treatment at the hands of the Government. In particular it is bothered about the misunderstanding of faith based organisations and their contribution to the life of the nation. The Bishop of Buckingham (whose blog is a great deal more popular than mine) is scathing about politicians accusing them of being out of touch.
‘The Government has focused so intensely on minority faiths that it has failed to develop a coherent evidence Base for the largest religious body in the UK – the Christian Church’ is the bold claim from Bishop Stephen Lowe.
I think much of this simply will not do for a number of reasons.
First – the tone of all this is so negative and whinging! Poor me and all that! The churches deserve no automatic privilege – they should earn it! Be very wary of individuals and groups who blame others while refusing to take responsibility for matters for themselves. The Church ought to be critically self reflective. Much of its difficulties are of its own making. Let us all work together to put our own house in order and demonstrate more integrity and honesty. This means articulating our weaknesses and owning up to the many contradictions within the Church of England and its life.
Second – following the Archbishops liberal defence of multiculturalism in a lecture about Islam and the law – how might a Muslim read this report? I cannot help but feel that there are some very contradictory attitudes here about society, Islam and what kind of society we might build.
Third – the report comes out of the established Church with its many rewards and opportunities. I can’t help but feel that a grown up church should not need the state – and the arguments for disestablishment become more compelling if the Church of England behaves in this way. So much of our attitudes reveal our being locked into a shrinking past – a fantasy land of what was rather than what is.
There are good churches and less good ones. There are probably too many – can Solihull really sustain the number of places of worship as effective connection with faith continues to decline? What is the future for my own church in Temple Balsall in ten or twenty or thirty years time? Of course there are many churches that operate with a social conscience – but others are just selective middle class boltholes – refuges from the world and its challenging shape.
I wonder what the reaction to this report has been? More care I say in the analysis – and a greater degree of humane critical reflection would do us all good.