Where are the Tory Bishops?
The former Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Rev David Walker, was confirmed yesterday as the 12th Bishop of Manchester. He lists his interests as social housing, equalities, monasticism and cricket.
You don't get many Church of England bishops listing their interests as small state, sound money, free markets, home ownership, liberty, morality and croquet, do you?
Bishop David Walker may be a perfectly charming man - given to prayer, compassion and good works. He may infuse all of his interests with the teachings of Jesus - even the cricket. It is also a very safe bet that he votes Labour, because that best reflects his theo-political worldview. Like the vast majority of bishops, he is theologically liberal and politically left. You don't get very far in today's Church of England if you're theologically conservative and politically Thatcherite.
This feeds the media narrative leitmotif of the Church of England being ‘at war’ with the Government (which, let us remember, is not some extreme, right-wing, arch-Thatcherite group, but a mild and moderate coalition of ‘progressive’ Tories collaborating with ultra-enlightened Liberal Democrats). Over recent years this 'war' has been expressed against inter alia the Government's housing policy, EU policy, child benefit, disability benefit, unemployment benefit, NHS 'cuts' and the blanket prohibition on same-sex marriages in Anglican churches.
His Grace has observed this before, but it merits repeating over and over. The vast majority of CofE bishops are paid up (or very sympathetic ex-) members of the Christian Socialist Movement who pore over The Guardian every morning with their mint tea and muesli and intercede fervently for the amelioration of the fortunes of Ed Miliband. “O God, let justice flow like a river,” they pray, hoping desperately for the Thames to turn red and for the Tories to be consumed by a plague of UKIP swivel-eyed loons. The 'Right', they aver, is simply arrogant.
His Grace sometimes feels that he’s going round in circles on this, principally because lefty-liberal bishops often cannot think beyond their religio-political predisposition, firmly convinced that Jesus, were he to walk our green and pleasant land, would vote Labour. Those who are so persuaded tend to believe that everything that the Conservative Party stands for and does is lacking in compassion, immoral or regressive, if not evil.
While society must always protect the weak and vulnerable, adults must also take personal responsibility for their choices, including the bad ones. Those who refuse to work should not eat; those who apply themselves industriously should enjoy the fruits of their labours. Margaret Thatcher warned against merely professing faith for social reforms. Instead, she thought, faith should look to the “sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ expressed so well in the hymn: 'When I survey the wondrous Cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride'”. The Bible, she said, offers a “view of the universe, a proper attitude to work, and principles to shape economic and social life.” It counsels hard work, creating wealth, and using wealth not selfishly but to glorify God.
“So when you’ve relieved poverty and ignorance and disease, if you are not a Christian you think that sorts out the problems of the world,” she later explained. “You and I know it doesn’t, because there is still the real religious problem in the choice between good and evil.”
You don't hear many bishops preaching like that these days, do you?
Perhaps, instead of obsessing about matters of gender, sexuality and equality, one or two might have the courage of their convictions to come out as Tory, and proudly boast of their Thatcherite interests in their Twitter profiles.