Saturday, 5 July 2014

Archbishops, bishops and statements of 'personal' political opinion ...

I don't have a great deal of patience with the widely expressed view that the Church (and by extension) churchmen (or do I mean clergy persons?) should keep out of politics. 

My recollection is that in the 1980s  the late (and then) Bishop Graham Leonard came out strongly in favour of the role of nuclear deterrence in preserving the values of freedom and peace  - a very brave thing to do, given opinion in the upper reaches of the clerical hierarchy then, as now.
It's no secret that the occupants of Anglican episcopal thrones and archidiaconal and decanal stalls (les enfants de 1968) are almost to a man / woman Guardian-reading and instinctive left-liberal sympathisers, long gone are the days when the Church of England (particularly) was regarded as 'the Tory Party at prayer' - nowadays a more accurate description would be the Labour Party (or in Wales more probably the left-nationalist Plaid Cymru) agonising over the value of intercession.

So, what are we to make of the Archbishop of Wales' recent championing of the somewhat agitprop 'No Nato Newport' campaign? 
Of course, as a statement of opinion, given its source, it's no more surprising than the sun rising in the east. 
We all have political views and, with a certain degree of self-restraint,  the right to express them. There are times (usually - up to now, at least - relatively rare occasions in a representative democracy based on a broadly Christian cultural tradition) when that right becomes a religious duty. 
However, many of us would have considerable difficulty if a senior cleric were tempted to use his or her authority to give the impression that 'their' political opinion constituted the only acceptable Christian (or Anglican) theological position. That I am sure - in this instance - the Archbishop of Wales would be very eager to avoid.

This is part of a report from the South Wales Argus:
 "A Church in Wales spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the archbishop had signed the No Nato Newport “statement of opposition.”
However she said the archbishop wouldn’t be taking part in protests themselves, due to take place in the days leading to the September event.
Prominent anti-Nato activist, Welsh Green party leader Pippa Bartolotti, says the archbishop signed up “very early” to the statement which reads “No to NATO, No to War, No to Austerity.”
“We are a broad church, literally,” she said, saying she didn’t know the Archbishop’s motivation for joining in.
“It’s all about helping magnify the voices of the little people that are being bombed and droned,” she added.
As well as the archbishop, signatories include prominent Plaid AMs Simon Thomas, Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Bethan Jenkins, and MEP Jill Evans." [here]

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