In a hard-hitting article in The Tablet, Peter Selby, former Anglican Bishop of Worcester, warns that post coronavirus:
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have been memorably characterised by Melvin Tinker, Vicar of St John’s, Newland, Hull, as ‘Muppet Bishops’. I remember the Muppet Show as very popular, whereas Justin Welby and John Sentamu have alienated people of all churchmanships.
There has been the unfounded besmirching of Bishop George Bell – dead for over sixty years – while recent safeguarding lapses remain unresolved.
The Primate of All England has deeply offended many of his flock by denigrating their Church as ‘deeply institutionally racist’.
When the CofE’s Independent Reviewer blatantly subverted solemn assurances on mutual flourishing in the case of St George’s, Headstone, Harrow, their Graces the archbishops failed to respond to a single point formally referred to them.
Justin Welby’s description, in a television interview, of the archbishops’ and bishops’ instruction to clergy not to pray in their own churches during the lockdown as no more than ‘guidance’ was another rapid retreat.
Bishop Peter Selby draws attention to many laity and clergy feeling let down by the CofE’s official response to the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Telegraph, however, has drawn attention to clergy – Melvin Tinker among them – who are in revolt ‘out of good conscience over and against the craven fear of the Muppet Bishops’.
The practice of parochial clergy insuring themselves for legal cover in the event of disciplinary action is increasing. The legal status of the ‘guidance’ dispensed as commands by the Established Church’s archbishops and bishops is, ultimately, determined by the courts. It will be interesting to see whether bishops still stridently forbidding their clergy to pray in church have the stomach for a fight, or the constitution of glove puppets.