Mere Anglicanism

Publisher pulls expose of Church of England in face of legal threats

A history of the Church of England since the Second World War has been withdrawn by its publisher, who has requested all review copies be returned, after a legal complaint was made.

On 21 Jan 2016 the publicity agent for Bloomsbury Publishing sent an email to those who had been given a copy to review before publication: “Please note that following the receipt of a legal complaint Bloomsbury are recalling all review copies of this book and ask you to IMMEDIATELY return the copy received … “

Entitled: “That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People” by Andrew Brown of the Guardian and Prof. Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University, the publisher’s advertisement for the book, set for release on 11 Feb 2016, states:

The Church of England still seemed an essential part of Englishness, and even of the British state, when Mrs Thatcher was elected in 1979. The decades which followed saw a seismic shift in the foundations of the C of E, leading to the loss of more than half its members and much of its influence. In England today ‘religion’ has become a toxic brand, and Anglicanism something done by other people. How did this happen? Is there any way back?

This ‘relentlessly honest’ and surprisingly entertaining book tells the dramatic and contentious story of the disappearance of the Church of England from the centre of public life. The authors – religious correspondent Andrew Brown and academic Linda Woodhead – watched this closely, one from the inside and one from the outside. That Was the Church, That Was shows what happened and explains why.

Those familiar with the contents of the book report it recounts episodes in the life of the Church of England from the controversy over the preface to the 1988 edition of Crockford’s Clerical Directory, which excoriated Archbishop Robert Runcie and the leadership of the Church of England as “wicked” and intolerant — the fury of the church establishment in response is believed to have led to the suicide of the preface’s author, the Rev. Gareth  Bennett, to salacious claims about the sexual peccadilloes of leading churchmen.  

The late John Stott is claimed to have been gay and to have penned an anonymous book in 1970 supporting homosexuality. Claims that a former Justice of the Peace and member of General Synod, Barnaby Miln, ran a gay prostitute ring from a flat he shared with the general secretary of the Church of England, Sir Derek Pattinson, are also advanced. In 2003 the tabloid newspaper The People ran an expose of Miln with the headline “GAY SEX DEN IN CHURCH BOSS’S ‎£1m FLAT; Kinky friend of royals runs orgies yards from Westminster Abbey.”

Writing in the Independent in 1995 about General Synod’s debates on homosexuality Brown wrote:”Only one man, a JP from Hereford named Barnaby Miln, admitted to being a homosexual. Later, he was to live with the Secretary-General of the General Synod, the Rev Sir Derek Pattinson, after the couple had been on a tour of southern Africa partially paid for by SPCK, the oldest missionary society in the Church of England. Mr Miln was last heard of in Hereford jail, serving six months for defrauding the inmates of an old people’s home.”

References to Miln’s imprisonment have been removed over the past few months from his entry on Wikipedia. Anglican Ink has not been able to verify the veracity of the Independent’s claim that Miln had been imprisoned — and it has not seen the letter detailing the grounds for the threatened libel action.

Asked to comment on the reasons for the recall and for the grounds upon which a libel action was laid, Bloomsbury’s publicity agent responded: “ I only know that there’s been a legal complaint.”

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