Church of England praises 'strident' Conservative Party
There was a time when the Church of England loathed the Conservative Party: in its 1985 report 'Faith in the City', the Church was convinced that Thatcherism emanated from the darkest regions of gehenna, and was responsible for the demise of spirituality, the exaltation of Mammon, the deification of materialism, and the primary cause of all suffering and poverty. And bishops and archbishops appeared unanimous in this; or, at least, the Thatcherite ones became decidedly trappist.
But now, in what is undoubtedly a remarkable shift, the Church of England has issued a report which, according to The Daily Telegraph, carries the full backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury. And the Conservative Party is praised for its 'strident’ and ‘genuine thirst to understand and combat poverty’.
'Compassionate Conservatism' has arrived.
And this is no lightweight study; it is written by academics based at the Von Hugel Institute at Cambridge University. It states: ‘Despite many voices in the Church telling us, “there is no difference between any of the parties on these issues,” the reality is otherwise. Of all our interviewees, Conservative advisors and politicians were among the most comfortable and enthusiastic regarding involving faith groups in this renewal of the third sector, and believed that Christian churches had something “unique” to bring to the table as strong local leaders.’
This sort of comment must have the Christian Socialists profoundly disturbed, and ruing the day they ever exchanged their Methodism for Marxism.
The report upholds the concerns expressed by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Rochester, concluding that Christianity is 'discriminated against by Gordon Brown's Government'. And the beneficiaries are Islam and other minority faiths: ministers are only paying ‘lip service’ to the Anglican Church while ‘focusing intently’ on other religions. The report shows a Church heavily engaged in social welfare through its dioceses, cathedrals, bishops, priests and laity, but receiving little support and next to no recognition from the Government.
The Times points to research which shows that more than 50,000 churchgoers are regularly involved in church-based or church-backed social action, such as youthwork, and helping the poor, elderly or disabled. A similar number of churchgoers are involved in volunteering for secular charities. But the report observes: ‘We encountered on the part of the Government a significant lack of understanding, or interest in, the Church of England's current or potential contribution in the public sphere. Indeed we were told that Government had consciously decided to focus...almost exclusively on minority religions.’
The report claims Gordon Brown's Government is failing society and ‘lacks a moral vision’ for the country. While the Government has tried to improve social cohesion, it has failed to appreciate the potential contribution of Christian groups to the ‘civic health and wellbeing’ of society. And further: ‘The government is planning blind and failing parts of civil society. The government has good intentions, but is moral without a compass. Every participant in our study from the Church agreed that there was deep “religious illiteracy” on the part of the Government.’
And the solution, the academics suggest, is for the Government to appoint a ‘minister for religion’, who would serve as the Prime Minister's faith envoy and utilise the untapped reserves of volunteers in churches and charities.
No, no, no.
This would be disastrous for the Church of England. One only has to observe how such a role is fulfilled in, say, Serbia or Egypt to realise just how undesirable the development might be in a liberal representative democracy. Such a minister would necessarily have to be a multi-faith ecumenist who would have to be all things to all people and would be constrained from having any religious conviction or expressed adherence of his/her own. They would have to be spiritual, but God forbid that they might hold to any doctrine. Their role would be to develop and articulate government orthodoxy, and thereby elevate the State to making ex cathedra pronouncements on matters of faith. Rather like the Word in St John's Gospel, all things would be made by it. And the moment this minister sets foot in a church, the Muslims would demand visits to their mosques with increasingly-taller minarets, and then the Sikhs would want a visit to their shining new gurdwaras, and thence to mandirs, and viharas. And at some point the minister would have to make statements in the House about the status of Scientology, and feel obliged to celebrate Yoda's birthday at the House of Commons with the Jedi Knight fraternity, if only to win their endorsement and votes.
But the Government already has a ‘minister for religion’ – 26 of them, in fact. And they sit in the House of Lords. If they did their job, the Church of England would not be demanding a ‘minister for religion’, for such an appointment could only cause conflict between the faith groups as they all jockeyed to get their man/woman in there, and it would diminish the spiritual, political and historical significance of the Established Church. One can only imagine the national outcry and Western uproar if a Muslim were to be appointed to this position, and so they would be creating a government post which would be a cause of endless spiritual division and political strife. Religion cannot be conveniently compartmentalised by government diktat; it constitutes a worldview which underpins everything.
Yet Cranmer finds it ironic that at this time the Church of England should choose to issue a report entitled 'Moral, But No Compass’. While this is most probably a twist on Mr Brown's claim to have a ‘moral compass’, it has to be observed that the Church of England itself has trouble finding true north, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is manifestly incapable of distinguishing (middle) east from west, preferring instead to dwell in Middle Earth.