Church of England is a Holy Joke and Justin Welby epitomises a Brahmin caste which gratuitously ignores ordinary folk, says Colin Brazier
In the late 500s a Holy Man was sent from Rome to help save the English. He was called Augustine and his mission was a roaring success
He converted the Pagan King to Christianity and founded Canterbury Cathedral.
He died, on this day, in the year 604.
This morning, a millennium and a half later, the papers carry a story about Augustine’s successor.
Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, whose unhappy job it is to manage the decline of an institution once, famously, known as the Conservative Party at prayer.
How hollow that joke now rings, at least if you’re Boris Johnson.
In a tweet republished in the papers today, Archbishop Welby wrote: “Sue Gray’s report shows that culture, behaviour and standards in public life really matter.
"We need to be able to trust our national institutions.”
This is the same Justin Welby whose church recently stopped my GB News colleague, Calvin Robinson, from becoming a priest.
Calvin’s heresy, as many of you will know, is that he won’t kneel down before BLM, doesn’t believe in the creed of identity politics and – as a black man – refuses to accept that being born white is somehow a sin.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is reputed to have said that we should Render unto God what is due to God and give to Caesar what is due to Caesar.
As with many Biblical quotations, someone, somewhere, right now, is arguing about precisely what that means.
But it’s often cited by those who think the church should keep its nose out of politics.
Welby obviously reads it differently.
And if he wades into politics, a notoriously rough trade, he can’t expect people to play nice with him.
So I won’t.
In his tweet, Welby says we need to be able to trust our national institutions.
So then, a question: If you’re one of the 850,000 Anglicans who goes to church every week, do you trust your boss?
Let’s start with some pictures.
We’ll begin in Kent, where Augustine arrived in the 500s.
What would Augustine have made of Rochester Cathedral, installing a crazy golf course in its nave?
I know you have to try something when congregations are dwindling, but really?
The crazy golf came in 2019, just before Covid struck.
And the Church of England’s response to coronavirus was crazier still.
As the Anglican friend who sent me a picture of communion bread and wine wrapped in plastic suggested, nobody should have to die for their faith, but was it really necessary for the Archbishop to go along quite so compliantly with the lockdown of churches?
But of course the truth is that Welby exemplifies the ideological capture of what we once called The Establishment.
He epitomises a Brahmin caste which routinely and gratuitously ignores the values of ordinary folk, or what the church would call ‘the laity’.
No longer is the Church of England the Conservative Party at prayer.
It’s not even the Green Party at prayer, though the Anglican I interviewed a few years ago who’d avoided having children to save the planet, suggested otherwise.
No, the Church of England is a Holy Joke.
It has fallen to what another Italian, not Augustine, but Antonio – the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci – called the slow march through the institutions.
So, I’ll end with another picture and some words from someone who puts it rather better than I could.
The photograph is Amiens Cathedral in World War 1, defended by British soldiers and with sandbags, not crazy golf, in the nave, to protect a congregation – so devout – that not even German bombs could stop communion.
And the words? From Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold who wrote them not far from where Augustine landed to claim the English for Christianity.
The Victorian poet lamented the retreat of religion and likened it to the sea, with: “It’s melancholy, long withdrawing roar.”
Of course, the bit that people really remember from the poem is how it ends.
With a terrible warning of a world without faith. Which: Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.