Trials, tribulations and … Establishment

Oct 20, 2016 by

From the letters page of Church of England Newspaper, 21st October.


Anthony Archer (‘Trials, tribulations and Establishment’, 13 October) asks “How should a national Church react when it finds itself at odds with the law of the land it is committed to serve?” He goes on to answer his own question by stating that the Church needs to “play catch up” and align its beliefs and practices with society and Government, otherwise the division “strikes at the root of Establishment”. He assumes that disestablishment (the Church asserting complete independence from society’s structures of power), would be bad for mission.

I wonder whether Anthony Archer realises that the actual argument he is deploying is disturbingly similar to one used by many Lutheran Christians who did not oppose Nazism in the 1930’s, or the Dutch Reformed Church who supported apartheid in South Africa, or some Orthodox leaders who are fully behind Russia’s President Putin. These are all examples of the Church believing that their continued mission somehow depends on cosying up to the State in order to keep a privileged position in society.

But if there is a growing gap between the beliefs of the elites and the laws of the nation on one hand, and the Christian Church on the other, then the Bible and church history give clear guidance: the Church’s responsibility is to do precisely the opposite of what Mr Archer suggests, and stick to its principles courageously, compassionately and prophetically, as for example the Anglican Church did in South Africa, otherwise it becomes a puppet of the State and a religious cipher in society.

Mr Archer goes on to predict, with approval,  that Parliament will in time act to “urge” the Church of England to change its official teaching and practice regarding sexual ethics and marriage. He may be right, and readers should not be surprised in the coming months to see influential leaders such as Mr Archer siding with Government and media to put pressure on the Church in this way.

Yours sincerely,

Revd Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream

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