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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Church of England

Lord Carey says he feels ashamed to be an Anglican. Count me in, and add a little extra shame at having taken my eye off the ball – something to do with some cartoons, for heaven’s sake – so that I am now reacting retrospectively to General Synod’s vote to disinvest from Caterpillar.

I don’t have much to add to what I said last year when the Anglican Consultative Council paved the way for this decision (here is my initial reaction and here is my open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury). Though we have moved on from the ACC resolution, appalling as that was: now there is not even a pro forma allusion to ‘violence against innocent Israelis’. Israeli house demolitions have become totally contextless acts of gratuitous beastliness.

Can anyone explain to me what is going on inside the Archbishop’s head? He showers sympathy and solidarity on Muslims faced with assault by cartoon. Jews under attack from terrorist murderers get exactly the reverse of sympathy and solidarity: an attempt to make life easier for the people who want to kill them.

Well, today is the last day of business, and it’s wall-to-wall navel-gazing: ‘Women in the Episcopate’ and ‘The Church’s Built Heritage’ So I think I am safe in predicting that the following will not have emerged by close of play:-

  • An equivalent gesture of practical opposition to Palestinian terrorism.

  • Any interest in finding out who provided Robert Mugabe with technical backup for a house demolition campaign which dwarfed all the Israelis’ efforts. That’s Africa, and any condemnation of a black African ruler by General Synod would be neo-colonialism, a revival of the attitudes which led to the export of the vile Hymns Ancient and Modern. Our role in relation to Africa is strictly limited to banging on about unfair trade rules, and forking out for humanitarian assistance after Mugabe and Co. have screwed up sufficiently to leave their subjects facing starvation.

  • Any move to complement the apology for the slave trade with disinvestment from countries in which Africans are still being enslaved by other Africans. Or any concrete measures whatsoever to put pressure on their governments. Or even the naming of the countries concerned. See above remarks re Africa.

  • Any resolution, even of the purely hand-wringing variety, on the human rights catastrophe in Sudan. See above remarks re Africa, and add concern to avoid Islamophobia.

Oliver Kamm has a quote from the late Canon Ronald Preston:

“It is impossible to conceive of any particular moral or Christian responsibility in politics . . . without involving ourselves in technical problems which are rarely simple and clear.”

Are there still people in the C of E who understand this? The most optimistic view one can take is that they just don’t make it to Synod. It’s the old Labour Party Conference syndrome, of course: who volunteers to sit through four solid days of tedious speeches? There tends, let us say, to be an over-representation of self-righteous souls eager to peddle their simple and clear solutions to the world’s problems. Cue T S Eliot quote, ‘The best lack all conviction’ etc. etc.

The gloomy view is that on Monday the C of E definitively ceased to be either a national or a catholic church - that the ‘broad’ church I thought I had joined has turned into a narrow sect for Guardian Readers who like their political certitudes laced with a little spirituality. On that reading, the Church richly deserves to be split in two over gay priests, and split again over women bishops. As an institution it is not worth defending.

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