Ministers who live by the smear
The Not-So-Very Reverend Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, has publicly attacked the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, accusing him of
Well, the Increasingly-Less Reverend Colin ought to heed the warnings of the Exceedingly Reverend Michael, because the Bishop is supported not only by Evangelicals and orthodox Anglicans, but also by a good many Roman Catholics and quite a few of no professed religious adherence at all. But this is not a question of democratic majorities, but of obedience to Scripture, adherence to Church tradition, and the pursuit of the common good. There is, of course, nothing new in the unvarnished tensions between the traditional and liberal wings of the Church of England, but the Dean’s broadside was inappropriately launched on Easter Sunday in Southwark Cathedral. While worshippers thought they were gathering to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus they witnessed instead the crucifixion of Bishop Michael.
The Not-Remotely Reverend Colin chose the occasion to deride Bishop Michael for being a member of the ‘Puritan fringe’, for establishing a ‘bullying’ and ‘sectarian alternative church’, and for living ‘like a cuckoo' in the 'nest of a generous and accommodating Anglican tradition'. These are precisely the sorts of smears and innuendos favoured by Labour’s attack dogs and deployed to destroy some of the most able people within the Labour Party. And while this testosterone-soaked approach worked for Gordon Brown for 12 years, it now shows his party to be riddled with scandal, corruption and division.
One expects no mercy in political assassination. Whenever Gordon Brown’s orthodoxy was challenged or his character crossed, rumours were planted in various gossipy diary columns which questioned the ‘mental stability’ of the offender. It is a dark pursuit, and the human cost is concealed. The victim has no chance of a riposte, for to do so would be to manifest the precise delusional paranoia from which one is rumoured to suffer.
Accusations of ‘sectarianism’, ‘extremism’ or ‘bigotry’ are the favoured insults of those who wish to dismiss Anglican orthodoxy but have neither the intellectual capacity nor the theological learning to engage with the issues. And neither do they appear to possess the spiritual integrity nor the Christian generosity to express their views with humility and love.
The Bishop of Rochester declined to be drawn on the Dean’s comments. He said: "I have said what I want to do and they have nothing to do with these issues at all. The Dean has a right to say what he feels, I am sure about that."
Is it not interesting that professing Christians who seek to silence views with which they happen to disagree by hurling puerile insults are invariably the ones who manifest the very ‘sectarianism’ ‘bigotry’ and ‘intolerance’ they project upon their supposed adversaries?