Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Anglican infallibility – Why the Bishops of the Church of England are never wrong

Brexit-bashing bishop says he’s prophetic even if prejudiced or wrong

Seek first the kingdom of Brussels and all the rest will be added unto you. Repent and return to the European Union, for Brexit is at hand. We, your bishops, are prophets speaking truth to power. We “must not be silent” even though “we might be wrong”, “prejudiced” or “we might simply be misguided”.

This is the “word of the Lord” spoken through Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds. Baines is lead bishop for Europe in the House of Lords. In this week’s Church Times, he leads the charge of the anti-Brexit brigade with a cavalry of Remainers flashing their sabres bare and battling us Brexiteers, who according to Baines, are volleying and thundering with “visceral, emotional, and simplistic” arguments.
I counted 12 articles in the 10-page special Brexit-edition. Every single piece launches its own little blitzkrieg against Brexit. There is a time for bias and there is a time for balance. In this edition, Church Timesgives balance gets the bum’s rush. They’ve conscripted a token black theologian for whom “the Brexit vote was a nationalistic, white-centred event”, but I couldn’t find a single token Leaver among the phalanx of Brexit-bashers. Even Bishop Mark Rylands, the sole Brexiteer bishop in the Church of England, is cast into outer darkness. 

But apart from its apocalyptic fear of the sun turning into darkness, and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of Brexit, why has the leftwing Church Times suddenly resumed its proselytizing of the proletariat? What has really stung the House of Bishops like a swarm of unhinged wasps is the recently published research demonstrating the significant “values gap” between ordinary Anglicans and the men in mitres when it comes to the European Union (EU).

“The majority of Anglicans in England, churchgoing or not, favour Brexit” — Greg Smith and Linda Woodhead.

The research by Greg Smith and Linda Woodhead shows that lay Anglicans are more enthusiastically pro-Brexit than affiliates of other major religions. Exactly two-thirds (66%) of the Anglicans in England voted to leave the EU. This is much higher than the numbers for England as a whole, where just over half of voters (53%) chose Leave. Non-Christian voters tended to favour Remain over Leave, while people of no faith also favoured Remain (53% Remain, 47% Leave). “The majority of Anglicans in England, churchgoing or not, favour Brexit,” conclude Smith and Woodhead.

Anglican sheep want a fence to hedge them from the EU wolf. What they object to most can be summed up in one word: sovereignty. They are fed up of EU rules and regulations, the EU overruling the British Parliament, weak borders and unchecked immigration. Economic objections are secondary. “Sovereignty” was the main reason I supported Brexit. After all, even though my ancestors in the Portuguese colony of Goa benefited economically and politically from Portuguese rule, many of them wanted the right to self-determination, as did Indians under British colonial rule.

“By contrast, none of these concerns figure highly in the statements of the Archbishops,” observe Smith and Woodhead. Welby and Sentamu are dogmatic Remainers. Just months ago, a whirlwind of contempt smacked the Archbishop of Canterbury in the face when in an inane rhetorical ejaculation he heralded the EU as “the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Roman Empire”. 

The bishops are desperate not to be pegged into the category of elitist, upper crust snobs, completely out of touch with the demos, especially the indigenous, English working classes, who voted for Brexit. But the disconnect of the bishops from their flock is paralleled only by that of Members of Parliament (MPs). Only 156 MPs campaigned for an outcome that was supported by a majority of people in 401 seats. Around 75 per cent of MPs voted to Remain in the EU.

The Church of England also lost face this month after Archbishop Welby’s Amazon and Wonga double cock-ups. Welby was snubbed by his own Church Commissioners after grandstanding on Wonga and suggesting that the Church of England would take it over. So the spin-doctors send in the light lefty brigade to fight the Battle of Brexit and Balaclava led by Bishop-Brigadier Nick Baines. 

Baines contends that the church led by the bishops should not shut up but speak up on controversial matters like Brexit, “whatever might have been the dominant vote in their particular diocese”. He’s right. God’s people, not just bishops, have a responsibility to stand in the public square and address the nation (and other nations, just as the biblical prophets did).

This is why a group from St Augustine’s Church, which I am privileged to pastor, demonstrates tirelessly outside the Parliament of Tynwaldagainst the recent Abortion Reform Bill. Abortion is a controversial issue and my congregation and I have spoken out in the media on the sanctity of life. Will Bishop Baines explain why he and his brave bishops have been silent on almost all other controversial issues ranging from abortion and family breakdown to the industrial scalerape of white underclass girls by Muslim rape gangs across Britain?

Baines is correct when he insists, “bishops are called to tell the truth, regardless of what people think they want to hear.” But bishops can tell the truth, only if they speak from the Bible. Bishops must speak the logos. Tragically, however, the biblical case for Remain has yet to be made. Apart from vacuous platitudes, the Bible does not feature in Baines’ defence of EU membership. Worse, the articles that do quote the Bible in the Church Times Brexit-edition, mangle the biblical texts so severely—a first-year seminary student would fail his exegesis class if he submitted the pieces as essays.

Will Bishop Baines explain why he and his bishops have been silent on almost all other controversial issues? 

The nearest an Anglican Remainer gets to the Bible is a 2017 piece written by Angela Tilby called “Brexit’s biblical parallels”. Tilby, Canon Emeritus at Christ Church, Oxford, draws a parallel between the Exodus and Brexit—an escape from the Egyptian tyranny of the EU. Only Brexiteers can rejoice in this freedom, though. For Remainers, it is more appropriate to talk of an internal exile. 

Tilby, nevertheless, turns the Exodus—the central motif of the entire Bible—on its head. “The Exodus ended in savage warfare, the Promised Land was not taken without cost, and stability took years to establish and was arguably always fragile,” she writes. Would Tilby have preferred Pharaoh’s Egyptian army to win and the Israelites consigned to genocide? Doesn’t she see how “freedom” from foreign rule is at the heart of the Exodus and central to Brexit? 

Instead, how about the Tower of Babel as a biblical archetype signalling the Orwellian threat of a superstate where “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech”, as I wrote in a previouscolumn

Eva Alcock, 22, the token “yoof” writer in this edition, President of the University of Bath Students’ Union, recruits Paul and Jesus as Remainers. Alcock quotes Paul addressing the “Roman colony in (sic) Philippi” and asking them to have a bit of humility. “The narcissistic notion that we can “go it alone”, the nostalgia for British supremacy, and the intolerance and prejudice surfacing daily are precisely what the life and teachings of Jesus warned us about,” she moans

Paul wasn’t addressing the Roman colony of Philippi—he was addressing a small group of new believers to imitate the self-emptying humility of Christ by having “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus”. We don’t want to “go it alone”—on the contrary, we want to forge trade relationships with the Commonwealth and the whole world.

“The EU’s commitment to its member states means it can be a bad neighbour to outsiders… Jesus teaches us that our neighbour is not just our next door neighbour but everyone,” Bishop Mark Rylands wrote in a 2106 letter to the Church Times, after which his fellow-bishops “gently mocked” him. 

We are not asking for “British supremacy”; we want British sovereignty. Since when did sovereignty become a “narcissistic notion”? But for Bishop Rylands, I have yet to come across a single argument from an Anglican bishop or theologian that raises and defends our national sovereignty. Rather, a number of articles in this edition deride this notion as toxic rhetoric, xenophobia, white supremacy, nostalgia, a desire to Make Britain Great Again, anti-immigrant, and a caricature of how the EU really works!

Such cursory dismissal of sovereignty is hugely ironic given that it was the English Church who instigated the first Brexit through the English Reformation and broke free from the shackles of papal control and Roman bureaucracy. In reverse, when Britain’s Parliament passed the European Communities Act 1972 it implicitly recognised the primacy of EU law over UK law. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) extended this principle. 

Embedded in the “deep state” as cult prophets or court prophets, the false prophets spoke power to truth.

Damian Chalmers, professor of European Union law at the London School of Economics, says that EU law now takes precedence “unless Parliament expressly says this is not the case or British courts believe that the EU has exceeded its powers”. The EU’s powers “can be intrusive, unaccountable and extensive”.

Dr Martin Parsons compares the European Court of Human Rights to a Federal Shariah court in Pakistan, which has the authority to strike down any Parliamentary law it deems incompatible with Shariah. This is fundamentally antithetical to the tradition of English common law with its roots in Canon Law and the Bible, the Church Fathers and Roman jurisprudence.

The surrender of sovereignty in terms of legislation means that we are now disconnected from centuries of Judeo-Christian ethics and tied to the secular humanistic ethos on which the European Commission, an unelected body, initiates its legislation. 

That the Church of England which was birthed in the Brexit of the English Reformation should want to surrender the nation’s sovereignty to a superstate and that its lead bishop should defend this move as “prophetic” shows how far the bishops have capitulated to the power of Pilate and the lust of Empire.

Bishop Baines is only half correct when he defines “prophetic” as not predicting the future. On many occasions, the prophets did foretell the future. However, the main job description of the true prophets was “forthtelling”—speaking truth to power by speaking the Word of the Lord to the powers of their day. The false prophets did the opposite. Comfortably embedded in the “deep state” as cult prophets or court prophets, they spoke power to truth.

Far from speaking truth to power, the bishops are hell-bent on defending the most powerful and oppressive European institution of our day. By failing to use or even misusing the Word of the Lord in Scripture, and by speaking power to truth, they are in danger of replicating the ministry of the false prophets.

“They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. … I have not sent them, says the Lord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name,” declares the prophet Jeremiah.

(Originally published in Republic Standard)


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