My own relationship with the Anglican faith ended in 2003 when, seriously ill with a heart condition and depression, a member of the senior clergy said he was too busy to pray for me and had I thought about retiring?
It turned out that it was cheaper for the Church if I died as a retired vicar than one still in service.
Neither was the Church supportive through my divorce. The only pastoral visit I got was from a member of the church whose questioning was more about my current sex life than any concerns over my mental wellbeing.
Since that time, I have watched the C of E become increasingly woke and even more distant from the people who are vanishing from the pews.
As he quite rightly said, Dr Nazir-Ali, previously accused the Church of “jumping on to every faddish bandwagon about identity politics, cultural correctness and mea culpas about Britain’s imperial past”.
He said this week: “This apparent terror of getting on the wrong side of the prevailing liberal orthodoxy weakens the Church. People no longer know what it stands for when it seems to be straining to be all things to all people.”
Church leaders appear to have been far too busy searching out statues to pull down, gravestones to cover and churches to be renamed.
Guidance issued by the Church encourages its 12,500 parishes and 42 cathedrals to scrutinise buildings and grounds for evidence of contested heritage, and consult local communities on what action to take.
The problem is that the Church of England is devoid of senior clergy with a deep theological understanding or holiness, capable of exercising moral authority in what they believe. Its leadership has become dominated by middle class, politically correct public-sector managers. They do not understand that you cannot run a spiritual institution as if it is Marks & Spencer. The leaders of the Church are quickly losing the concept of Biblical Christianity and turning it into a protest movement supporting Black Lives Matter and climate warriors blocking motorways.
If the C of E is so worried about climate change, then tell the congregations to stop flying off on skiing holidays and trips to the Maldives. I have stopped flying to do my bit to save the planet. It is the least I can do for the catastrophe about to befall humanity.
Archbishop Justin Welby also appears to be on the ‘‘white privilege’’ bandwagon. He tweeted recently: “I pray that those of us who are white Christians repent of our own prejudices, and do the urgent work of becoming better allies to our brothers and sisters of colour.”
I deplore racism, yet, growing up to poor parents on a council estate the words ‘‘white privilege’’ stick in my throat. There was no privilege on my street, just poverty.
I also have to ask where are the words of condemnation for the perpetrators of the murders of gay and trans people in Muslim countries? Where is the anger with China over the treatment of Uyghurs? Those issues appear not to be on the woke agenda.
The saying, ‘‘go woke, go broke’’, rings true. Church attendance is falling, there is talk of cuts to clergy and the closure of parishes and centres of worship.
The Church of England’s own figures published in 2016, show attendance falling relentlessly by one per cent a year, and funerals declining even faster – down 30 per cent since 2005. Only about one per cent of the population (750,000) are in one of its churches on Sunday, and fewer than one in three have an Anglican funeral.
The pandemic did nothing to put the leaders of the Church back on the centre stage of public life. There were no real words of comfort, no expression of solace and no hope. All that came forth was an echo chamber of government policy – lock up the churches and stay home.
Church leaders have to realise that those in search of spirituality want to have pastors that are holy, different and set apart from woke issues. They want people of faith and not hangers-on to whatever cause is trending on social media. Going woke and encouraging parish clergy to do likewise, betrays the heart of the Christian faith.
It also betrays the many hard working clergy who sacrifice so much to care for those in need.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.
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