Woke Power Grab in the C of E Reflects Corporate Obsession With ‘Diversity’

This week the Church of England unveiled proposals for a shake-up of its national governance structure in what critics have called “a coup by Archbishops to take control of everything”.

I won’t bore you with the details (you can read the full report here, headed-up by the anti-Brexit Bishop Nick Baines) but what stood out to me was the barely concealed aim of replacing the organic accountability of democracy with a sterile rule by a woke technocracy. One purpose of this is, inevitably, to increase ‘diversity’, but it’s not hard to see that the real agenda is to impose a woke uniformity of political ideology on a church already infamous for being led by a clerisy out of touch with ordinary churchgoers and the country as a whole.

At the heart of the takeover is the all-powerful Nominations Committee, which is tasked with establishing “a community of diverse, appropriately skilled and appropriately knowledgeable people from which panels would be convened to oversee appointments and ensure eligibility for election”. Anglican blogger Archbishop Cranmer puts his finger on the problem here.

Note “appropriately skilled”, “relevant knowledge”, “suitable to stand”, “talent pipeline”, and “appropriate.. behaviours”. It will fall to the Nominations Committee to ‘sift’ all applicants to all Church of England boards, committees and governing bodies. It will be for them to discern and define what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘relevant’, who is ‘suitable’ and has ‘talent’, and whether or not they manifest appropriate ‘behaviours’.

Has it not occurred to the Review Group that this Nominations Committee will have the power to create a church in its own image, and that the Chair of the Nominations Committee will have more executive power than the Archbishop of Canterbury? Or perhaps that’s the idea. It isn’t clear, however, which committee will ‘sift’ nominations to the Nominations Committee, but you can be sure that the process will be the antithesis of transparency and accountability.

He sees parallels with the notorious Cameroonian ‘A-list’ for Tory candidates:

Clause 200 is designed to be the safety valve, the check or balance on the abuse of power, but it is a bit of verbal chicanery. In what sense is pre-election ‘rigorous sifting’ not a negation of of [sic] democracy? If candidates may not emerge organically and appeal to their electorates directly, but instead may be weeded out by the Anglican Conclave compliance committee to ensure theological conformity and gender/ethnicity diversity, then democracy is indeed removed. The proposal apes the process adopted by the Conservative Party under David Cameron and his ‘A-list‘ for candidates, which caused such outrage among Party members with its social engineering of removal of democracy that it was eventually abolished – but not really: it is still very much in place to ensure the ‘right’ candidates are nominated to the ‘right’ seats, and are seen to be. But the Conservative Party’s Candidates Committee doesn’t operate with transparency and accountability. If it did, it would be subject to democracy, and that would hinder the political objective.

The Church of England’s ‘sifting’ people for the ‘talent pipeline’ is also a mechanism for seeming: to ensure the ‘right’ women and ethnic minorities are appointed to the ‘right’  boards, committees and governing bodies of the Church of England, in order that they might in turn select the ‘right’ candidates from the list ‘sifted’ by the Nominations Committee, who, you can be sure, will sift some more than others.

The report is clear that it regards democracy as an inadequate mechanism for ensuring sufficiently diverse governance.

In the Church of England, a significant number of appointments to governance bodies are made through the electoral process. In our view, this does not deliver what the Church needs from its governing bodies. …

The Church bodies which either elect or nominate people onto the Church of England’s governance bodies are themselves not very diverse bodies, meaning that the people they elect or nominate onto governance bodies tend not to supply the diversity which is one of the requirements of the Charity Commission’s Seven Principles of Governance.

Christian Leaders Warn Against the Introduction of “Medical Apartheid” under a Vaccine Passport Scheme

Over 1,000 of the UK’s Christian leaders have signed an open letter to Boris Johnson warning against the introduction of vaccine passports, which would “risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life”. Its signatories also state that there are “no circumstances” in which they would close their church doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport. The letter has been sent to the Prime Minister, along with all MPs and devolved assembly members, and has been published in today’s Scottish Daily Express. It reads as follows:

Dear Prime Minister,

As Christian leaders across a range of denominations, we continue to pray at this time for your Government “and all in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

However, we write to you concerning an area of the most serious concern, namely the potential introduction into our society of so-called “vaccine passports” which have also been referred to as “Covid-status certificates” and “freedom passes”. We are wholly opposed to this suggestion and wish to make three points about the potential consideration of any scheme of this type.

Firstly, to make vaccination the basis of whether someone is allowed entry to a venue, or participation in an activity, makes no logical sense in terms of protecting others. If the vaccines are highly effective in preventing significant disease, as seems to be the evidence from trial results to date, then those who have been vaccinated have already received protection; there is no benefit to them of other people being vaccinated. Further, since vaccines do not prevent infection per se even a vaccinated person could in theory carry and potentially pass on the virus, so to decide someone’s “safe non-spreader” status on the basis of proof of their immunity to disease is spurious.

Secondly, the introduction of vaccine passports would constitute an unethical form of coercion and violation of the principle of informed consent. People may have various reasons for being unable or unwilling to receive vaccines currently available including, for some Christians, serious issues of conscience related to the ethics of vaccine manufacture or testing. We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life. There is also a legitimate fear that this scheme would be the thin end of the wedge leading to a permanent state of affairs in which Covid vaccine status could be expanded to encompass other forms of medical treatment and perhaps even other criteria beyond that. This scheme has the potential to bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives. As such, this constitutes one of the most dangerous policy proposals ever to be made in the history of British politics.

Finally, as Christian leaders we wish to state that we envisage no circumstances in which we could close our doors to those who do not have a vaccine passport, negative test certificate, or any other “proof of health”. For the Church of Jesus Christ to shut out those deemed by the state to be social undesirables would be anathema to us and a denial of the truth of the Gospel. The message we preach is given by God for all people and consists in nothing other than the free gift of grace offered in Christ Jesus, with the universal call to repentance and faith in him. To deny people entry to hear this life-giving message and to receive this life-giving ministry would be a fundamental betrayal of Christ and the Gospel. Sincere Christian churches and organisations could not do this, and as Christian leaders we would be compelled to resist any such Act of Parliament vigorously.

We draw your attention to the recent Judicial Review overturning the Scottish Government’s ban on public worship, which demonstrates that such disproportionate prevention of the right to worship is a clear infringement under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. We cannot see how any attempt to prevent people from gathering for worship on the basis of either testing or non-vaccination would not similarly be ruled to be a breach. We agree with those members of Parliament who have already voiced opposition to this proposal: that it would be divisive, discriminatory and destructive to introduce any such mandatory health certification into British society. We call on the Government to assert strongly and clearly that it will not contemplate this illiberal and dangerous plan, not now and not ever.

Find the full list of signatories – which continues to grow – here.

Stop Press: This open letter has now been signed by over 1,200 of the UK’s Christian leaders.

I Was “Too Risk-Averse” on Church Closures in First Lockdown, Says Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that he made a number of mistakes when it came to the closure of churches during the first lockdown. He admits to having been “too risk-averse” on matters such as keeping churches open for at least individual prayer. The Telegraph has the story.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted he “got quite a few things wrong” on the closure of churches during the first Covid lockdown, saying he was “too risk-averse”.

The Church of England came under fire as churches remained closed last Easter, with many parishioners frustrated that the Archbishop did not fight harder to keep them open and the Church’s rules going beyond those of the Government in barring clergy from their church buildings. 

“I got quite a few things wrong at the beginning and I learnt quite quickly,” the Most Rev Justin Welby said in an interview with the Financial Times. 

“I didn’t push hard enough to keep churches available for at least individual prayer in the first lockdown. We also said clergy couldn’t go in, and personally, I feel I made a mistake with that.

“I can make all kinds of excuses. I still think I was too risk-averse.” Asked when he had realised that, he said: “May, June. May.”

In April last year, the Most Rev Welby warned clergy not to go into their churches over Easter in a video message. The warning sparked revolt among some vicars, who defied the rules to hold services in their churches. 

In July, he told members of the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, that he stood by the decision. 

Last month, the Court of Sessions ruled that the Scottish Government acted unlawfully in closing churches under coronavirus regulations. Unfortunately, the ruling came just two days before communal worship was already due to resume.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Police Shut Down Good Friday Church Service and Threaten Worshippers With £200 Fines for Breaking Covid Rules

Police interrupted a Good Friday church service yesterday, threatening worshipers with £200 fines for breaking Covid rules. Standing behind the lectern, one officer said the service was “unlawful”, adding: “You need to go home.” The Sun has the story.

Cops shut down a Good Friday church service and threatened the congregation with fines.

Two officers were filming striding up to the lectern yesterday to tell worshippers to go home.

They said there were too many people in Christ the King Church, which serves a Polish congregation, in Balham, South London, at 6pm yesterday.

One officer said: “At this moment in time you need to go home.

“Failure to comply with this direction to leave and go to your home address, ultimately could lead you to be fined £200 or, if you fail to give your details, to you being arrested.

“It’s Good Friday and I appreciate you would like to worship, but it is unlawful.”

Police officers stand at the lectern order the congregation to go home

 The church has responded, saying that the police “brutally exceeded their powers”.

We believe… that the police brutally exceeded their powers by issuing their warrant for no good reason, as all Government requirements were met.

We believe municipal police officials have been misinformed about the current place of worship guidelines, claiming that the reason for their intervention is the continued ban on public celebration in places of worship in London due to the lockdown on January 4th, 2021.

We regret that the rights of the faithful have been wronged on such an important day for every believer and that our worship has been profaned.

The Sun highlights that “current guidelines do allow worshiping in churches to go ahead, with proper safety reviews and social distancing in place”.

Worth reading in full.

A video recording of this events has been posted on Twitter, and can be watched here.

Scottish Church Closure Deemed Unlawful

The Scottish Government acted unlawfully in closing churches under coronavirus regulations, the Court of Sessions has ruled – just two days before communal worship is due to resume. The BBC has the story.

Coronavirus regulations that forced the closure of churches in Scotland have been deemed unlawful.

A group of 27 church leaders launched a judicial review at the Court of Session arguing the Scottish Government acted beyond their powers under emergency legislation.

Lord Braid agreed the regulations went further than was lawfully allowed. 

The Scottish Government said it would carefully consider the findings and its implications.

The ruling comes two days before communal worship is due to resume.

But Lord Braid said those who brought the judicial review were entitled to have the regulations declared unlawful.

He said the Scottish Government regulations disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights.

He added: “It is impossible to measure the effect of those restrictions on those who hold religious beliefs.

“It goes beyond mere loss of companionship and an inability to attend a lunch club.”

Earlier this month, the QC who raised this judicial review made the point that communal worship is needed now more than ever.

The petitioners would say that faith is a matter of hope in life and in death and it’s more than mere obedience and that it is essential particularly at a time of national crisis.

Lord Braid has emphasised that his ruling has no bearing on whether or not communal worship is safe, but rather is a comment on the legality of the decision made by the Scottish Government.

I have not decided that all churches must immediately open or that it is safe for them to do so, or even that no restrictions at all are justified.

All I have decided is that the regulations which are challenged in this petition went further than they were lawfully able to do, in the circumstances which existed when they were made.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Christian Concern has hailed this victory for Scottish church leaders, noting that the criminalisation of corporate worship must never happen again.

In an historic judgment, today a judge has ruled that the Scottish Ministers’ decision to ban and criminalise gathered church worship during the current lockdown was unconstitutional and a disproportionate interference of Article 9 ECHR rights.

The ruling is believed to be the first successful legal case against Covid regulations in the UK. 

Handing down judgment, Lord Braid also ruled that online worship is not real Christian worship, stating that it is not for the Scottish Ministers to: “Dictate to the petitioners or to the additional party, that, henceforth, or even for the duration of the pandemic, worship is to be conducted online. That might be an alternative to worship but it is not worship. At very best for the respondents, in modern parlance, it is worship-lite.”

Responding to the ruling, Rev. Dr William Philip, Senior Minister at the Tron Church in Glasgow, said: “We are very pleased that Lord Braid has recognised how essential gathered church worship is to our communities and to Scotland as a whole.

“From the outset we have recognised the serious decisions the Scottish Ministers had to take in response to the pandemic. However, its approach to banning and criminalising gathered church worship was clearly an over-reach and disproportionate and if this had gone unchallenged it would have set a very dangerous precedent.

“However well intentioned, criminalising corporate worship has been both damaging and dangerous for Scotland, and must never happen again.

Worth reading in full.

Church Closures “Unfair to Christians”, Scottish Court Hears

A Scottish court heard today that Nicola Sturgeon acted outside of her constitutional powers by closing churches, and that her Government should not have involved itself in questioning “the legitimacy of beliefs or the manner in which they are expressed”. The Times has the story.

The pandemic has highlighted Christians’ “irreconcilable conflict” between obeying the state and God, a QC has said as she argued that Nicola Sturgeon acted outwith her constitutional powers by closing churches.

Lord Braid heard today that this tension had caused 27 church ministers to instruct Advocate Janys Scott, QC to raise a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The ministers believe that the Scottish Government’s decision to close churches earlier this year was unlawful and breached their right to religious freedom under human rights legislation.

They also believe that the Scottish Government has breached the obligations placed on it by the British constitution.

The ministers are seeking an order declaring the decision to be unlawful and a declarator which would allow people to attend church should the tier system be reintroduced . The order being sought would allow a person living in a “Tier 4” – the most restrictive tier – to go to church.

The message of the ministers was clear:

“The petitioners would say that faith is a matter of hope in life and in death and it’s more than mere obedience and that it is essential particularly at a time of national crisis.”

Last month, a Glaswegian priest also took legal action against the closing of churches during lockdown. He said that churches need to be open “to be able to support [parish members] best in their hour of need”. Hearings are ongoing in both cases.

Worth reading in full.