28 Sep

There used to be a C. of E.

When I fancy a bit of excitement, which even at my ripe age I’m pleased to say is every day, I turn to the Church of England’s official website. Of course, the C. of E. being a dynamic, thrusting and very much up with the latest outfit, this is not called anything so dreary as Official Website: no, it’s called Top News Releases from the Church of England. This is the site which always sets my pulse racing. Take this morning for example. Today’s Top News Release simmers sexily for two or three pages, but I have space for only the scintillating opening sentence: 

“New research by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) on the cement and steel sectors shows that few of the largest companies in these sectors are well prepared for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI)? Now what does that remind me of? Why, of course, the Liverpool Care Pathway – the radical end of life treatment which denied sips of water to the dying. Happily, the LCP is now a thing of the past. One might hope a similar fate awaits the TPI

But really what most puzzles me is what the hell “the cement and steel sectors” of our industrial economy have to do with the C. of E.  – and that they should have so much to do with the C. of E. that the mention of them is first item on its website?

Think what might have appeared there instead: “Justin Welby urges people to repent of their sins.” No chance.

“Bishop blesses a bankers’ conference.” Are you kidding!”

But I do the church a disservice. The church still does think that sin and repentance are important, but in its new teaching there are only corporate sins. We don’t hear sermons on the wickedness of adultery, keeping the Sabbath day holy or the great wrong of coveting your neighbour’s new Jag.

But actually, the moral agent is the individual and acts of virtue or vice are products of the individual will. But for the modern C. of E. the individual has dropped out of its agenda altogether: it’s too reminiscent of Thatcherism and all that nastiness.

The C.of E. used to be known as the Tory party at prayer. Now it’s the Corbynistas on the picket line.

Sins are now only the politically incorrect acts of corporations – such as the corporations’ dealing in steel and cement. Good heavens – “They are not well-prepared for the transition to a low carbon economy”! That must score more on the Richter Sin Scale than sleeping with my neighbour’s wife.

The competence of the church to advise the steel and cement sectors must be in some doubt. Indeed the competence of the church in any area of management and administration is clearly in doubt. For example, the archbishops and bishops preside over an institution which has lost half its membership since the year 2000.

It is an institution whose leaders have so squandered its considerable assets that there is no money left…who sold off the old vicarages at the bottom of the property market…and its parish churches are closing almost as fast as the pubs

What to do in such a crisis? The bishops’ answer is displacement activity: think about something else. Their policy amounts to, “We can’t run our own affairs, so let us run someone else’s.”

It reminds me of when a previous Archbishop of Canterbury asked the prime minister if the church could mediate in the national coal strike. Stanley Baldwin replied, “Yes, if you’ll let the National Union of Mineworkers rewrite the Athansasian Creed.” 

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