In a hard-hitting article in The Tablet, Peter Selby, former Anglican Bishop of Worcester, warns that post coronavirus: 

The CofE bishops will surely seem to have accepted the idea that Christianity is a matter for the domestic realm, that our cathedrals and parish churches are just optional when useful and available, no longer the eloquent signs of the consecration of our public life and public spaces. The conviction that the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the places of beauty set apart is an ‘essential work’ undertaken by ‘key workers’ will have become a wistful memory.

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.

It is not long since their apology for having just re-affirmed basic Christian ethical teaching.

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 Anglican bishops chose to go beyond government advice and declare church buildings closed for private prayer or even for clergy to livestream worship. While Mass is being livestreamed from Catholic churches, Anglican clergy have had to do so from their homes.

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.