The complaint by William Nye, the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, about the article in The Spectator – ‘Holy Relic: What will be left of the Church of England after the pandemic?’ – is very revealing of the mindset of the CofE’s mandarins.
It was on a website headed ‘The Church of England’ that Mr Nye made his complaint against the article, highlighted on the cover of the February 6th Spectator, about the threats to the national Church’s local ministry from bureaucratic centralism: ‘No one from the Spectator called the Church of England to ask whether any of these things were true.’
In practice, ‘calling the Church of England’ would have involved The Spectator contacting the Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. Does Mr Nye seriously expect any British journal, newspaper or broadcaster, which analyses current trends in the Church by law established, to allow its copy to be vetted by spin doctors? If there are elements in the British media that are prepared to pander to power like that, it is to The Spectator’s credit that it is not among them.
Furthermore, why does Mr Nye assume that its Westminster office constitutes ‘the Church of England’? Emma Thompson, the author of the ‘Holy Relic’ piece, is a frontline parish volunteer. The Revd Marcus Walker, who wrote a supporting piece – ‘The misguided priorities of the church authorities’ – next to Ms Thompson’s, is a frontline vicar. Surely they are just as much part of the Church of England as the people on the Church House payroll?
Ms Thompson did not reveal her source for her report that ‘this month the CofE’s elected governing body, the General Synod, will hear the Archbishop of York’s plan to impose a management system on its parishes nationally’. After her article, it is extremely unlikely that this month’s General Synod will hear of such a plan. Right though it is to accept that Mr Nye is telling the truth when he says he knows of no national plan to impose frontline clergy cuts across the CofE, the possibility of one being aired in a few Synods’ time cannot be ruled out if Ms Thompson’s source is reliable.
Mr Walker reported that ‘there is increasing outrage at the explosion of central positions while parish posts are being cut and at the church’s prioritising of trendy causes over actual parish ministry. Southwark (Diocese), for instance, has got rid of 30 parish priests’ posts in the past decade, but still managed to find room in the budget for a “Director of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation”. They are not alone in this’.