Published in the Church of England Newspaper 6 Feb 2015
The Times has reported that the Church of England is to rewrite the Catechism “for a secular age.” Impossible. The church leaders have already emptied English Christianity of all Christian content. You think I exaggerate? Well, please read on…
First they ditched all the ancient dogmas which were good enough for St Augustine and Lancelot Andrewes but very clearly not good enough for the likes of J.A.T. Robinson, David Jenkins and John Hick. The Virgin Birth, they said, was based on a misunderstanding of a verse in Isaiah. Besides, for thoroughly paid up scientistic modern types such as Robinson, the Virgin Birth was just one of those things “I can’t believe.”
Same with the Resurrection: it’s a made up story to express the disciples’ “experience of new life” after Our Lord’s crucifixion. Never mind that there’s no possible accounting for new life if Jesus remained dead. Then the miracles went as well. Only “acted parables,” that’s all. The feeding of the five thousand was a lesson on – wait for that drippy, churchy word – “sharing.” A socialist picnic provided by Jesus who was not the Son of God but, as Malcolm Muggeridge once said, only “the Labour party member for Galilee South.”
Are you looking forward to your reward in heaven? Don’t bother: eternal life is not a continuation of Christian life after death but only “a superior quality of life in the here and now.”
Then they turned their attention to our traditional texts: the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. These were frankly offensive to the politically-correct modern ears of our terrifically progressive House of Bishops and General Synod who abolished sin and replaced it with self-esteem. So they gave the push to “the devil and all his works” because they don’t believe in the devil. We’re all far too “come of age” to dwell on the uncomfortable fact that we’re “miserable sinners.”
At the wedding there’s no caution against “fornication” and “carnal lusts.” Men are no longer “brute beasts with no understanding.” And the modernisers have even managed to work a miracle of their own: they have removed “vile bodies” and “worms” from the funeral. They probably think we’re none of us going to die anyhow. Death is so last millennium.
Doctrine cast aside. The real Bible and the real Prayer Book discarded and dismissed in a protracted fit of contempt for beauty and truth. What remained then for them to destroy? Christian morality, that’s what. The Ten Commandments were simply “too judgemental” and so they had to be replaced by act utilitarianism, situation ethics, which means that you decide what’s good on the hoof, on the spur of the moment.
This was excitedly described as “the new morality” when it first appeared in the 1960s. It was no new morality, but only the old immorality in a miniskirt. So there’s no sin, no devil, nothing to acknowledge, nothing to bewail. There really was no need for the Son of God to come and redeem us then, was there – except to transform us into sentimental egalitarians and diversity mongers?
I love Reinhold Niebuhr’s description of our contemporary “liberal” Christianity: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Why should anyone pay any heed to the tosh they teach now?
I said “liberal” Christianity, but its practitioners are a very long way from the display of liberality. They agree only with those who agree with them, and anyone who affirms traditional Christianity is effectually unchurched. The liberal ascendancy began in the 1960s when the modernisers in the episcopate first out- gunned the traditionalists, and they have simply promoted themselves and their own sort ever since.
The liberals operate a form of bureaucratic demagogy chiefly through the General Synod. This is how it works…
“Progressive” motions are brought before Synod and, when these do not receive the required majorities for their implementation, they are simply brought back again and again until the liberals get the results they desire.
In the late 1980s, there was one outstanding example of this. The vote for women priests was defeated. When the numbers were announced, the then Archbishop of York, John Habgood, spoke. He said, “The motion has been lost. Now we must consider how to proceed.” Of course, if the Synod were the democracy it pretends to be, someone would have pointed out to the Archbishop that, in cases where a motion has been defeated, you don’t proceed. In fact the liberals’ tactical performance in Synod is a sort of ecclesiastical Trotskyism.
Now that the process of the church’s secularisation has been completed, one man at least will be pleased. That man is Rowan Williams [the previous Archbishop of Canterbury] who, in one of his last speeches before his retirement, told us that the church had a lot of catching up to do with secular mores. In other words, be ye not transformed by the renewing of your mind, but be ye conformed to this world.
So the result of all this is that the church which was for centuries pretty representative of the nation, governed by hierarchs who were High, Low or Broad, is now a secularised hegemony. It resembles an elite society for ethical experiments, its policies and pronouncements indistinguishable from those of the soft Left; and very occasionally of a harder Left.
So what is there left for the archbishops and bishops to do? To preach their adolescent politics and their infantile economics and, from their palaces or perhaps a quiet corner in the House of Lords, write nagging letters to the coalition government.
Our liberal hierarchy has given up believing in Scriptural authority, thrown out the English Bible and the English Prayer Book, trivialised the liturgy and revolutionised the historic services which were our rites of passage to reflect the diktats of politically-correct and thoroughly secularised personal and social morality.
Is there anything which they have not given up? Yes. They have not given up those other things that belong to their traditional role: their seats in the House of Lords and, of course, their palaces.
I suppose we should at least be thankful for that.
By Rev Dr Peter Mullen
NOTE: This systematic and continuing self-destruction by the CoE was not just a local sideshow - because the Church of England was the dominant and founding unit of the Anglican Communion, which was (after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and due to the British Empire) the third largest Christian denomination in the world.