Church of England’s guilty silence on Fatherhood
Jesus taught his followers to pray to 'Our Father which art in heaven' (Mt 6:9). It is therefore incongruous that the Church of England is not more vociferous and assiduous in speaking up for fatherhood.
In the wake of the August riots, secular politicians, such as Tottenham MP David Lammy , have spoken of the social problems caused by the absence of fathers. Well before the riots, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, a lay Anglican, warned of the unfolding social disaster resulting from the growth of the fatherless family. Mr Hitchens has long warned of the devastating impact especially on boys of the lack of a father's authority, a prediction that came devastatingly true in that explosion of evil in August.
But the institutional Church, despite its willingness to pronounce on a range of other socio-political issues, has not entered the fray.
Whilst social stability may not be an absolute requirement for the spread of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary. Evangelism does suffer when societies become disordered. Also, the Church is or should be concerned about the general well-being of all people.
So why isn't the Church of the nation contending for fatherhood when Britain is broken because dad is either absent without leave or has been sent to the dog-house?
Cranmer's Curate was born in 1964. Think tank Civitas kindly provided him with a snap-shot of what has happened to the moral fabric of his beloved country roughly during his life-time. In 1960, there were three violent crimes against the person per 10,000 people in England and Wales. By 2010 that had risen to around 73 violent crimes against the person per 10,000 of population. During that period, the proportion of children growing up in a home with a resident father and mother fell dramatically – see Civitas's important 2002 publication Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family.
The latest figures of course exclude the huge number of violent crimes that go unreported, a fact to which any objective observer of the goings-on in an accident and emergency department in any UK hospital on a Friday or Saturday night will testify.
In contrast to the reticence of its clerical expositors, the Christian Bible is very far from silent about the crucial leadership role of fathers. According to the New Testament, fathers have the primary role in instructing their children in the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul addresses father not mothers when he says: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Eph 6:4).
The production by the Mothers' Union of their What Dads Add cards (to be given to fathers when their children are baptised) is a welcome initiative. But it is a pastoral rather than a prophetic move. Far better, and of much greater impact, would be a clear statement by the Church of England, endorsed by the MU, about the crucial leadership role of fathers in both the Church and the family and an explanation of the appalling spiritual, moral and social consequences of sidelining them.
The guilty silence of the institutional Church can only be explained by a spiritual and moral capitulation to the permissive society. A Church that was being prophetic for Christ against the cultural flow would have the recovery of fatherhood at the top of the agenda for its next General Synod rather than the innovation of women bishops.
Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge. He is an occasional columnist for Christian Today.