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Why is the Church so woke? Something has gone wrong when the clergy don't represent the flock

The Labour Party at prayer. Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

The Labour Party at prayer. Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images


February 12, 2021   4 mins

It was in 1917 that the high-born suffragette Maude Royden coined that oft-quoted phrase linking the Church of England and the Tories: “The Church should go forward along the path of progress and be no longer satisfied only to represent the Conservative Party at prayer.” Over a century later, one might imagine the very opposite complaint: that the Church should no longer be satisfied to be only the Labour Party at prayer. That little world “only” being rather important in both cases, for if the Church of England is to be, in any credible sense, the church of the English people, there is something highly troubling about it having been captured so thoroughly by one political perspective.

A survey just out reveals only 6% of Church of England clergy admitted to voting Tory at the last election, whereas a whopping 40% voted Labour, believing that Jeremy Corbyn would make a better prime minister. Yes, it is a very small survey, but even accounting for a considerable margin of error, this is a remarkable finding. Indeed, what is also fascinating is how the number for Pentecostal church leaders was so dramatically different: among this group 49% voted Conservative whereas just 12% voted Labour.

This is especially interesting given that Pentecostal churches are predominantly made up of black Christians. Yes, IPSOS found that only 20% of BAME voters in general went for the Tories, but of that 20%, I’d bet a very high percentage were what the press likes to call “very religious”. And even disregarding that, it seems that minority voters are over three times as likely to vote Tory than the clergy of the Church of England.

As a recently Tory-voting clergyman in a black-majority, inner-city parish in the Church of England, I am unsurprised at these figures — both by the voting patterns of my fellow Anglicans and by those of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters, some of whom we share our church building with. It is clearly now the Pentecostal churches that have become the Tory party at prayer.

But what on earth happened to the C of E?

Historically, the Tory Party and the established Church were joined at the hip. But the sort of vision that once united them — a kind of gentle, originally rural, communitarianism, under God and the Queen — has been abandoned by both sides, the Tories becoming more libertarian, the Church more progressive. Whereas both were once brought together by the idea of human beings flourishing when rooted in community, over time both progressives and libertarians came to agree with each other that this was little more than some fusty bogus nostalgia, with one side exiting stage Left, the other stage Right.

That the Church should lean to the Left makes a certain kind of sense. It quite rightly recognises a Gospel imperative to care for the poor. But what makes less sense, to me at least, is that this imperative can best be realised by abandoning the idea of human rootedness in community and replacing it with an issues-based identity politics that can be achieved by campaigns run from head office. This is the core of what is behind the current debates within the Church about the role of the parish. Perhaps this is also why I think of myself as a Tory Socialist — a strange beast admittedly, but one put together by what I take to be the internal and historical logic of the Church that I love and serve.

If these new figures are anything to go by, the majority of the clergy of the Church of England must surely find the people who sit in the pews, listening to their sermons, a considerable disappointment to them. For whereas it seems that only a handful of clergy voted Tory at the last election, over 47% of the population did. And while there is no breakdown for how Church of England members themselves voted in 2019, two years earlier some 58% of them voted Tory — and that is quite some disconnect. (And similarly, churchgoing Anglicans supported Brexit in large numbers, something not true of most of the men and women giving them Communion.)

The idea of the establishment was once of an alliance between the state and the Church, both supporting each other in the best interests of the country. Before the constitutional reforms of New Labour, the prime minister was able to influence the appointment of bishops. Although many bishops and clergy hated it, this did allow an elected government to bring to bear on the Church something of the perspective of the country as a whole. In 2007, the Presbyterian-minded Gordon Brown gave up the right of prime ministers to influence the appointment of bishops, making No. 10 simply a post box between the Church and the Crown. Looking back, this may well have been the point at which the establishment began to fall apart.

Though the Church and the state would have often furious rows — Bishop of Durham, Faith in the City etc. — the constitutional ties between them meant that they were forced to find a way to come back together. After the Brown Reforms, this was no longer so true. No more could a Tory PM like Margaret Thatcher encourage the Church to think outside of its progressive clerical bubble through her influence over episcopal appointments. And indeed, when the next coronation comes round, who knows what reforms there will be — to the coronation oath, for instance — that will weaken the Church’s relationship with the state?

Traditionally, the maintenance of this balance of interests was at the heart of what it was to be a Tory. Personally, I don’t really give two hoots about the constitutional machinery of the establishment. I am a parish priest and all that stuff operates well above my pay grade. At least, that is what I used to think. But now I have come — albeit a little grudgingly — to regard the establishment as a necessary part of the plumbing that links the Church with the people it serves. It is a way of stopping us retreating into our own echo chambers of narrowly construed moral virtue.

Among those I have described as progressive, I too believe that the clergy of the Church of England should reflect the sort of people who sit in our pews. It must do so in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexuality. Also, unless you believe that the clergy are somehow more morally enlightened than the laity — and I don’t — then it needs better to reflect their politics as well.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

When the church of England has more to say about George Floyd in America than a Christian teacher beheaded in France by a Islamic terrorist, that sums up your Marxist, woke, middle class outlook to a tee.
Your congregations are disappearing, your influence on the working class gone, your input to our cultural lives gone.
As Terry Thomas would say, an absolute shower

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

…. and then add in a trainee priest using social media to turn the sad demise of Captain Tom Moore into a race issue.

Traditional hard working clergy must be deeply saddened, wondering if the CoE is becoming beyond redemption.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Let’s call him what he is: a disgusting woke racist.

myles king
myles king
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

The problem is compounded those who are emboldened by this behaviour.
Sad to read in this mornings news of the defacing of a tribute to Capt Sir Tom Moore. It is sickening to see but these incidents are happening with increasing frequency. BTW The BBC are not reporting this story (yet?) or the ‘Jarel’ story. You can get this news in the New York Post and everywhere else instead. I despair.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

The words disgusting and woke are redundant in that.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Absolutely.

Richard Brown
Richard Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

The man apologised, but not for what he had said. Apparently, he had violated some C of E Digital Code. That’s the problem with apologies – they don’t change anybody’s mind.
Another apology – for my user name. I don’t seem to be able to change it.

Chris Casey
Chris Casey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

As one of those clergy Ian, I can tell you that if we kept our eyes on our peers, or any other person, seeking encouragement we would soon be disillusioned. The best exhortation is to ‘fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith’ Hebrews 12:2

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Marx is class struggle. Identitarianism is not marxist.

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Woke progressivism merely substitutes identity for class. Tactics, policies, and outcomes (horriffic) are the same.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

It also looks to concretise identity rather than extinguish it, as Marx hoped to with class.
Which is to say that while it is clearly influenced by Marxism, it’s something new.

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago

I could be entirely wrong, but my perception is that some in the church are attracted by the “moral imperative” presented by woke / progressive movement. It’s a chance to feel (rather than be) relevant and important on a world stage rather than be relevant and important at the congregation level.

myles king
myles king
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Jayne

The road to hell is so busy these days that virtue signalling had to be introduced to keep the traffic flowing quickly.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

Immediately following the referendum, I attended church, and during the sermon, the priest referred to it with disproval, although I don’t now remember the details. This gave me quite a shock. As I left the church after the service, I was in the company of someone who voted to remain, whereas I voted to leave. He was as outraged as I was for introducing politics into the sermon.
Our parish has a constant worry about money, and the bulk of it is paid to the diocese, although in living memory, its substantial assets were transferred to the Church Commissioners. The rector is undoubtedly poorly paid, and now covers five parishes, so the parishes are being stripped of resources.
I am therefore not pleased whenever I read or hear of the existence of several bishops in the area, or of other centralised positions.
When archbishops or bishops make political statements, I want to remind them what Christ said; “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”.
All the services I attend seem puerile. Some of the hymns are those with which I grew up, but many are unfamiliar and seem trite. There are no psalms, and one now has to do a ‘peace greeting’, which I find excruciating.
I believe that the C of E should make services for parish congregations their priority, and try saying NOTHING about topical political subjects other than to preach tolerance and charity without involvement of the state; we have elections for state policies. Move resources from bureaucrats to clergy in the parishes.

Geoff Cooper
Geoff Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

My 8 year old daughter returned from her primary school one afternoon in June 2016 announcing that we should vote remain!
And yes, isn’t ‘the peace’ the most cringe making, un-English ghastliness ever? I’m seriously thinking of becoming an RC for all sorts of reasons but that’s definitely one of them.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cooper

I though the Catholic Church got the peace greeting from the C of E.
Sorry but there is no escape.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Val Cox

Think its the other way round..C to CofE.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cooper

Sorry to tell you&will stand corrected if Im wrong, but the ‘peace’ thing originated in Catholic churches over 30years ago..

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cooper

Presbyterian might suit you better!

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

I too have been put off attending church because of the peace greeting. Such things should come from the heart – not by diktat.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

This is a curious phenomenon of the modern age: institutions that are meant to conserve things and maintain traditions – not only the Church, but museums and art galleries, concert halls and opera houses, public libraries and stately homes, schools and universities… have all been captured by people assertively committed to radicalism. This often creates a strange disconnection between them and their parishioners, audiences, supporters, etc, etc.

However, I think the Revd Mr Whittock below is right to say that Christianity is inevitably political. What it shouldn’t be is party political. I think most believers would acknowledge that there are Christian ways of being a Tory and Christian ways of being a socialist, as well as ways of being both which are definitely unchristian.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago

It is because to get ahead in such organisations the most important thing is to say the right things and fail in the right way. Failure is fine as long as you don’t rock the boat. Just spout the party line and the party will reward you. There is absolutely zero reward for doing otherwise.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
3 years ago

Spot on when you differentiate political from party political. The church has always been a political organisation. It should stay out of party politics though.

Stewart Slater
Stewart Slater
3 years ago

Isn’t the Church of England now really the Lib Dems at prayers? They share the same woolly belief in the EU, are prone to performative handwringing to display their “niceness” and attract approximately similar amounts of the populace.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It seems to me that most of the CoE’s remaining congregation – all six of them – should decamp to the Pentecostal Church. Apart from anything else the Pentecostalists dress very smartly and the music, I believe, is more joyous and upbeat. Also, they still believe in Jesus and a Christian God and all that malarkey.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

When the Pentecostal tradition produces a hymn tune as inspiring as those of Ralph Vaughan Williams, let me know. Meanwhile, the most smartly dressed Christians can be found in Sicily most Sundays, and on Palm Sunday in Beirut.

john freeman
john freeman
3 years ago

“Come down, O Love Divine” Tune “Down Ampney” by RVW. A dull dirge, with two weary sighs in the middle. Good words – but I hope never to have to sing that tune again.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  john freeman

Why does Whitsun have the worst hymns ?
And Ascension and Epiphany the best ?

Charles Rae
Charles Rae
3 years ago
Reply to  john freeman

That is urely due to bad renditions of one of the best of the ( many excellent) hymns set to music by RVW.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Rae

Fr Niven of blessed memory halted the singing by loudly smacking his hymn book shut if the hymn had more than a couple of verses. My heart sinks when faced with multiple verse hymns that drag on and on and on.

Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago

Most woke people I’m aware of are anti-religion and non-believers. As are the Church of England…

myles king
myles king
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Is it not the prodigal son for whom the calf is fatted?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  myles king

The prodigal woke wouldn’t thank you for a fatter calf. It’s soy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Soon they will be courting devil worshippers

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Absurd idea of ‘woke people’. Are they an untouchable tribe? Says much about your ‘Christianity’

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
3 years ago

BBC Radio 4 has a similar problem: they are aware that most of their listeners are grumpy old gits like me, but they couldn’t care less. They want to attract younger listeners and they believe that the only way that they can do this is to out-woke the competition. Similarly, the C of E hierarchy are aware that the number of grumpy old gits they will lose by embracing woke-dom is larger than the numbers that wokefulness will attract, but the hierarchy considers this to be worthwhile because of the younger average age of the potential recruits.

markpetercarter
markpetercarter
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

In commercial media, Woke makes sense, because while there are more old gits than wide-eyed young wokies, it’s the latter group that spends money on the things advertisers pay to display. They are more impressionable. The Beeb situation is about survival within the organisation. Promoting this stuff is busy work for management, it make themselves appear relevant and important – that is their real long term objective. Dissent is discouraged among creatives (none of who believe a word of it btw) as it’s so hard to win commissions from the powers that be.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

The BBC obsession with yoof is oddly short-sighted.
The dim managers don’t seem to realise that people age as they get older, so keeping the core audience nicely refreshed.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

I loved the observation by a Russian Orthodox priest during Communist days. A visitor noted all the babushkas in the church and asked him what would happen once the devout elderly died off. “There will be another generation of old women”, he serenely replied.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Yes, but you should not fall into the trap which says they will just follow the same pattern as before. For a long time now youth has leaned to the Left, got married, had kids, got a mortgage, leaned to the Right in order to preserve what has been accumulated.
Today, if you live on maxed-out credit cards, you don’t get married and you probably never own anything. This sort of negates the later nudge to the right.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

I used to listen to R4 when I was younger, we’ve both changed too much since then.
Also happy to sacrifice their older and more conservative members in order to attract younger lefties is the Tory party. For the Tories this is particularly stupid, they’re chasing the votes of people who hate them and have plenty of alternatives.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

What Tory party? It hasn’t existed since Major and was certainly destroyed by Cameron & co

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

What is interesting about this is that often the opposite seems true. Growth in traditional parishes generally outpaces that elsewhere, and young people are often attracted to that. I’ve heard the same from traditionalist Catholic friends, their parishes are growing. (And I think the same may be true for radio as well though I haven’t as much observation behind it. But it’s interesting to look at what kinds of podcasts are popular compared to the public radio content.)

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
3 years ago

Why is the church so woke? Just look at the people who have been leading it for the last few decades.

The Anglican church has lost its way so completely that it is hard to see how it can ever again have any significance or even relevance in this country. I was confirmed into it as a teenager. It has alienated me so thoroughly that all I want to see remain of it are the buildings. My faith has long since developed elsewhere.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

The church leaders are lost but, like most senior managers I guess they spend their time thinking about accounts. At the grass roots level they are still holding things together. My wife is a church warden and the local people together with the vicar talk about real community issues. The Arch-Deacon appears from time to time but only when they talk about money.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago

Which part of the establishment doesn’t have a left wing bias? Media? Arts? Medicine? Science? Academia? Judiciary? Even the Bankers but I recon that’s just a PR stunt..

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago

It doesn’t surprise me that the clergy were in favour of Corbyn. Let’s face it, in another life that man could have been a slightly too sanctimonious old vicar.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

I have a lot of time for Corbyn and think that is a brilliant description of him.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

Thank you! I can speak from experience of several parishes in the south-west of England, in Truro Diocese, and from being a Licensed Lay Minister (or Reader) in the Church of England. This timely article reinforces issues being pondered upon, and discussed openly.

Rev Fraser says he can understand some of the reasons why the clergy have become increasingly left-leaning. He also says:

But what makes less sense, to me at least, is that this imperative can best be realised by abandoning the idea of human rootedness in community and replacing it with an issues-based identity politics that can be achieved by campaigns run from head office.

This is a part of the nub of the matter, though rarely recognised as such. I find it perplexing that so many Christians swallow the concepts and language of identity politics, for it is a worldview premised on concepts utterly opposed to those of Christian orthodoxy. It ostensibly cares for the oppressed and therefore for the individuals affected by the oppression; but it denies individual agency and subsumes individual responsibility and distinctiveness under the identity of the group. It presents a false concept of community. And it gives license to those who value rights more highly than responsibilities ” all presented under the label of love, but in reality driven by a tragic drive towards the unmooring of an individual’s identity in place and social community. And those are only the start of its non-Christian precepts.

I cannot understand why, within the CoE, these reprehensible shifts of political thought have been accompanied by the rise of managerialism that Rev Fraser rightly identifies. But it is clear to me that there is a growing gulf between those making decisions at the top end of the CoE and, at the other end, the men and women in the pew and many of the clergy. In the past that gulf was wide, but based more on privilege than on belief. Now the archbishops and bishops, almost to a man and most certainly to every single woman, are preoccupied with ideas far, far removed from the concerns of most parishes ” parishioners and clergy alike. Many parishes are thriving. But the institution is in a bad way.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Yes, indeed. A vapid, heretical cofe has jettisoned all vestige of Biblical Christian orthodoxy for a contemporary rendering of a lifestyle. The photograph says it all.

Pierre Whalon
Pierre Whalon
3 years ago

When I became bishop in Europe for the (American) Episcopal Church, I was convinced along with many of my ilk that the CofE would only survive if it were3 disestablished. Today, twenty years later, I am a thorough-going royalist! To attack the Church is to attack the Crown, and the Crown is what makes Britain that unique, massively frustrating and wonderfully delightful country. Moreover, the CofE as the church of the nation does many things a disestablished church could not. I remember for instance the role it played during the disastrous hoof-and-mouth disease, when farmers were shooting themselves in their fields.
It is not for me, a French and American citizen, to judge Tory vs. Labo(u)r. But few things dispirit me more than imagining Britain as a republic. Quelle horreur !

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Whalon

Britain need not become a republic. The English people could for once perhaps begin to think outside their cosy, constitutional box. Could there be a way to preserve a link between the crown and church without ‘the state’ having to control everything? Could there be a new relationship articulated between monarch and people, between the monarchy and the papacy? Who knows, maybe both crown and church will be saved in the process?

The same thing has struck me recently over the Brexit thing, and the now looming crisis in the union with Scotland. Exactly the same, patronizing, ‘it’s all-or-nothing’ threats are currently being thrown at the Scots as they were at the EU over the last four years, or as were thrown at the Irish a century ago. And they certainly didn’t work then and don’t work now. Perhaps, the answer to these issues may lie not in cries of republic or revolution, but in a bit of constitutionally creative thinking on the part of the English people and state themselves? Compromise is a two-way street.

Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Whalon

I wish Her Majesty, as the head of the C of E, would pull rank on all the wokes in it.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
3 years ago
Reply to  Pamela Booker

I don’t think she cares. A true, committed head of the cofe would have called for a national day of prayer in a time of crisis, just as Geo VI did – to great effect. We shouldn’t have won that war, given the might of the enemy.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

“Historically, the Tory Party and the established Church were joined at the hip. But the sort of vision that once united them ” a kind of gentle, originally rural, communitarianism, under God and the Queen ” has been abandoned by both sides, the Tories becoming more libertarian, the Church more progressive.”

Incisive comment.

David Sherman
David Sherman
3 years ago

You need to understand the mentality of our bishops. Jesus talked about the wealthy giving their money to the poor if it got in the way of their faith. Virtually every bishop went to public school and will have family wealth. This must trouble their consciences. Therefore, if they displace their personal misgivings by being heroic champions of the underdogs (the poor, racial minorities or whatever) then their consciences are salved and they can live with their family trusts and tax accountants far more easily. Look at the psychology, not the theology.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

I too believe that the clergy of the Church of England should reflect the sort of people who sit in our pews. It must do so in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexuality.
and it is precisely this sort of head counting that leads to the multi-hued group think that the rest of the article criticizes. Having people who look different in a group is no guarantee that they also think differently.

A newsroom or college classroom qualifies by today’s definition of “diverse,” except for how most such places are versions of an ideological Borg that tolerates no dissent. And it might be nice to add “age” to the mix of race and sex; it is amazing how often pictures of allegedly diverse groups wind up looking very much like they were taken from college yearbooks.

alanschenk
alanschenk
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Agreed. It was the statement you highlighted that encapsulates the reason I departed from the SDP. It has been captured by people like Giles, purporting to be conservative, but under the covers, there is a leftie progressive trying to get out and insisting on quotas based upon gender (sensible people know this as sex, male or female), skin colour and minority forms of sexual behaviour.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

The answer lies in the Soviet Union and the European Union, via the Destabilisation Plan of the KGB/GRU, which aimed to continue the Leninist revolution throughout Europe by trashing all Europe’s traditions and institutions. Making the Church into a laughing stock was one of its objectives, the plan included the use of naff pop music, women priests, turning away from biblical texts, and on and on. Everything that is cringeworthy, revoltingly naff, right on, woke etc about the C of E was dreamed up by Communists decades ago and has been put in place by the useful idiots as well as those on board with the strategy.

https://www.ukcolumn.org/ar

James Lowe
James Lowe
3 years ago

I think the last thing the clergy should be doing is reflecting the people who sit in our pews. Since when has that been the gospel? The job of the clergy is to reflect the goodness of God and what he’s done through the sacrifice of his son Jesus and the job of the people who sit in the pews is to gaze in wonder and humility at this amazing truth that lifts us out of our filthy mire. Long sentence my bad.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  James Lowe

Our last parson and I had a standing joke at the Rite of Coffee. I would tell him what in his sermon I disagreed with which had brought me to a closer understanding of Scripture, Truth etc..

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago

‘replacing it with an issues-based identity politics’

This is indeed the big problem “”identity politics which the liberal wing of the church has adopted unthinkingly, when it might be making the case for alternatives to the (limiting)
definition of who one is according to gender, race and sexuality. I may have
got this wrong, but I always thought the identity of a Christian was defined by
a lived relation to the person of Christ, the only and absolute ground of who
they are. All else is contingent, a function of when and where they happen to
live. The C of E is being torn apart by these issues, especially with respect
to homosexuality. Members of the conservative evangelical wing who still hold
to what is the official C of E teaching that heterosexuality was God’s design
for human beings, are now being hounded, bullied and threatened by liberals
within the Church and their progressive allies outside. In the wider community
teachers and (recently) actors are losing their jobs for holding these beliefs
which, it is worth remarking, are also held by devote Muslims. This last is an
awkward fact for those liberals who like to display their progressive
credentials by claiming that they are engaged in conversation with Muslims.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago

Depends what it means to say “heterosexuality is God’s design”? If it means it’s not ok to be gay and being gay should somehow limit your occupational options, then this is clearly not good. If it just means that Gays can’t marry in church, for example – no problem.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
3 years ago

Far be it from me to disagree with a gentleman of the cloth on a point of theology, but I was always under the impression that the role of the clergy was not to represent their flock, but to represent God.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

That obvious point seems to have escaped the new religious populism that Giles endorses. Certainly no better than the woke rainbow tribe.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Re: “woke rainbow tribe”-my sister, outraged at the co-opting of the rainbow by the qwerty mob, considered starting an organization: “Take Back the Rainbow”. It was once for children…

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

And is God an SJW then? How do you know?

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

The Sermon on the Mount, Good Samaritan, “what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me”, …nso on.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

True, but that implies humility, which isn’t generally the SJW stance.
“Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls”.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Humility towards the leper, outcast, despised, weak and poor, …as in Jesus’ most famous quote that he never said, “Let he who is without sin….” But not toward the “white’d sepulchres”, “herd of vipers”, etc.

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
3 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

I would not presume to speak for God either. It’s just that the strapline of this article seems, to me, to be missing an important point.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

In matters of theology, yes. But the problem is they get involved in politics, stepping outside their domain expertise and becoming just another political voice. At that point, the flock is free to disagree with them and vote with their feet. They then compound the issue by failing to face up to their own issues about paedophilia. One wonders why one needs to listen to moral lectures from an institution that tolerated paedophiles.

charles.reese
charles.reese
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

The pope might think of himself as God’s representative on earth, but most clergy represent their flock and assist them on their path to God. I don’t think God needs representing.

David J
David J
3 years ago

So the CoE has joined the halls of academe.
An East Anglian university lecturer dismissed this MOR voter as “so right-wing” after a couple of minutes’ cocktail-party chat.
My assessment of that little cherry was that the tertiary educational world’s political centre of gravity has shifted sharply left over the years.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

In another post on another matter, I lamented that we no longer seem to be able to enjoy and argue sport together, regardless of our politics…when I go to a church, I go to worship with others-whether at Notre Dame (I am not Catholic), or the most humble village or small town church: it does not matter how we vote. It is doctrine that has always divided the Christian community, and this new woke plague is nothing but political doctrine posing as a moral imperative.

Edward Noble
Edward Noble
3 years ago

I can’t explain exactly why, but that picture at the top of the article tells me why few people find the CofE an attractive place to worship.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Noble

Yes, I was thinking something similar. ‘Clappy Happy people’, as REM almost sang. More like a cult than a Church.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Noble

It’s certainly not dominated by ‘white males’.

Frank Mills
Frank Mills
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Noble

They all look like Lib Dems.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

So many people, myself included, are conducting debate on public issues outside the mainstream media and other institutions, because they simply no longer reflect opinion (I would suggest small ‘c’ conservativism) in the country at large. This may be a ‘London vs The Rest of the Country’ syndrome, which drives so much else, but the CofE seems similarly gripped by a militant metropolitan mind-set and is held rigid in its wake (or woke).

Jay Williamson
Jay Williamson
3 years ago

Giles, a big part of the problem lies with the Archbishop of Canterbury – not just the present incumbent, but Welby is the one talking about touring OUR Churces, Cathedrals and Abbeys to determine what should be removed to appease a Marxist cult who have seized on the sad death of an American to further their Marxist cause.
Personally, I stopped going to church years ago when the Scottish equivalent of a vicar decided to go full-on pro-Palestine and anti-Israel in his sermons.
I now pray to God and talk to Jesus in my own way and in my own home. However, I still love to visit Churches, Cathderals and Abbeys!

#GilesFraserArchbisopOfCanterbury

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
3 years ago

Might I suggest two things:
1. This problem goes back to Henry VIII. You remember, he is the egotist and adulterer who decided that the king, i.e., “Caesar” could be the head of the Church, i.e., the Body of Christ. All consequences following on from that usurpation were predictable, including your present dilemma.
2. The Church was never meant to “represent the people”. That is a political concept usually associated with democracies and republics. The Church was meant to represent God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the message of the kingdom to the people, and demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

You see, this is not a demographic problem, not a political issue, but a spiritual one. A theological one. Sir Thomas More pointed that out in Henry’s time.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Very interesting Giles.

Regarding the CoE’s Woke transition from parish communitarianism to identity politics, it is becoming clearer by the day that identity politics is just a convenient term for the catharsis of hate and prejudism. In other words, the enthusiastic promotion of socially constructed identities is a front by which to attack anyone who disagrees with these arbitrary constructions. So much so that I can bet that if cultural or social conservatives accepted these biological aberrations, the woke Left would simply proceed to create even more outlandish hybridisations.

Mark my words, if non binary is accepted, the woke will be moving on to human/animal hybridisations since what is more important to these fanatics is the opportunity to carthart hate and prejudism.

Now that the CoE has openly condoned the formation of a sect within it’s Anglican midst, commonly known as the Cult of the Black Race, then it won’t be too long before there is a Cult of Humanimalism too!

terry.hicks2
terry.hicks2
3 years ago

If the church is “trying to appeal” to the community then it’s NOT doing it’s job is it?
The church is here to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons.
Trying to fit into “the world” ain’t gonna work folks. For sure Jesus didn’t try and fit in, but people never the less followed him because they recognised that He had something that no one else could give.
The apostle Paul said, “do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds”. For anyone reading this, then I recommend that you repent of your sins and humble yourself before The Lord. Let Him transform you because all the world will do is deceive you.

philipthood
philipthood
3 years ago

When our vicar retired to the country a year or so ago he told me with all sincerity that he would have to adapt to the ways of country folk, as that must be where all the Brexiters are hiding as he had yet to meet one. I know that his congregation had a pretty healthy number of leavers, but they kept quiet in order to maintain the peace. Those congregants not of the left have experience of ignoring the left wing words of the clergy, whilst enjoying the words about God.

Chris Casey
Chris Casey
3 years ago

This piece gives an eloquent account of how the church, operating in a vacuum created by a crisis of identity, merely ends up baptising an agenda that so many feel they have to support to appear relevant. The recent, and profoundly controversial/offensive Tweet concerning the nations response to Sir Tom merely illustrated the point. We have to be held in the grip of the Christ of scripture rather than the ‘christ’ we use as a prop to buttress the ‘devices and desires’ of our own hearts.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
3 years ago

“The Tories becoming more libertarian”.

If only. This Govt is not Conservative let alone Libertarian.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

Christianity is a desert weed that doesn’t do well in lush environments.

Penelope Newsome
Penelope Newsome
3 years ago

Well, I’m not sure. It sometimes seems as if the clergy from Archbishops down are predominantly woke lefties but I suspect the majority of the congregation in my church are too. Most people who don’t know much think that BLM really is about black lives and do not know it is about the destruction of society as they know it- for example. Clergy and congregation in my church think they’re really virtuous and support BLM.

Daniel Björkman
Daniel Björkman
3 years ago

unless you believe that the clergy are somehow more morally enlightened than the laity ” and I don’t

In that case, quite frankly, what’s the point of you? If regular people are as wise and virtuous as priests, then why should they sit and listen to sermons? If they are already good enough, they might as well sleep in on Sundays. They might as well make it one of those hippie-dippie modern religions with no clergy at all, where everyone just goes around trying to be generally good, however they personally define goodness.

I mean, what you seem to be proposing is some kind of religion by democracy. Vote on what you think God should be like. Go listen to a priest telling you what you have told him in advance to tell you. And, you know, fine, if that makes you feel better. But it does kind of reveal the whole thing as an act of spiritual masturbation.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

What’s the purpose of any church?
To preach actual Christianity to people or to promote whatever political views are in vogue amongst the elites at the time?

The cynics like Machiavelli believe its to promote certain views for the benefit of the elites – they have zero belief in any actual God or morality.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

The church (small ‘c’) actually does a lot of good work in the community and acts as a sort of backstop for social services. The Church (hierarchy) is pathetic – worse than useless because they get paid.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Not the Mendicants!

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
3 years ago

The point of being part of a religious community — or any community — is the community. There is no community in ‘sleeping in’.

The question I have for Giles Fraser is whether he thinks that the CoE clergy consider themselves members of their parish communities. From this article, it sure doesn’t sound like it.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

“If regular people are as wise and virtuous as priests, then why should they sit and listen to sermons?”

I think the Revd Mr Fraser may be implying the reverse: that priests too are imperfect sinners. That is the orthodox Christian position. Here’s G.K. Chesterton:

“When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward ““ in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

Thank you, especially for Chesterton’s pearl of wisdom.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

Come off it Basil, it’s only been around for two millennia, plenty of time for total failure yet!

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
3 years ago

I have to respectfully disagree with the learned sage, (whose last sentence is ecumenically illogical) – Christ, Divine Man, is His Church’s capstone and cornerstone (Ps118:22; Job 38:6 etc), no-one else. Mt16:18-19 has been stretched & pummelled to fit a narrative that turns Scriptural soul medicine into pontifical poison. The One Foundation, the Scriptural Rock from which little rock Peter was hewn points to Christ, not Peter. Undoubtedly blessed v17 – as all true believers are – nevertheless was a stumbling block v23, not someone to deify. Undoubtedly a builder of the early church, under Christ’s direction (1Pet2:5-), undoubtedly given specific gifts, as all the Apostles were, nevertheless his followers have robbed the keys for their own ends.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
3 years ago

I love the description ‘Socialist Tory’, it fits me, and probably a lot more in the Conservative party than the usual outdated image of the right-wing Tory. I’m saddened by the way that the clergy and the C of E hierarchy have drifted off to the woke left, leaving their congregations without sensible spiritual support. The less woke denominations who can still perceive their vocation as more spiritual than politically educational, should step into the gap. The C of E no longer fulfils its purpose of ministering to the whole nation.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago

“a whopping 40% voted Labour, believing that Jeremy Corbyn would make a better prime minister.”

Given that the average C of E clergyman believes all sorts of improbable and unlikely things, I do not find that surprising.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

This article raises matters which are really non-issues except for the metropolitan chattering class. They also give yet another opportunity for the anti-church ranters to show their prejudice and ignorance of what is really going on in the Church today.
The laity-right wing/ clergy-left wing dichotomy is such a wide generalisation as to be meaningless except perhaps for London and some areas south of the M4. I was a parish priest in Liverpool and Yorkshire for 28 years – huge council estates, mining village and old mill town. In so far as I was privy to any party political views of my people they were traditional Labour which suited me fine.
” No party politics from the pulpit” is a maxim which,I think, most clergy accept. However no priest who is faithfully preaching and teaching the Bible can avoid moral/political issues. Justice, righteousness and integrity in private and public life, the sanctity of human life from conception to grave, God’s judgement on the nations etc. are unavoidable subjects.
So you’ve become an antidisestablishmentarian Giles. Whether the Church remains established or not will make very little difference to the life, mission and ministry of the local church. It made very little difference to the Church in Wales which is now often the only church presence for miles due to the implosion of the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. I think it also has more “street-cred” as an authentic Church of the Welsh now it is institutionally free from Canterbury.
For mainly spiritual reasons the Church of England is amazingly resilient. It is used to going through crises such as the Reformation, the violent changes of the 17th.century, and the intellectual challenges of the 18th.and 19th.centuries and being renewed and changed by them whilst remaining true to the Gospel and Word of God.
In the next 10-20 years the Church of England will play its part, under God, in the spiritual revival and reconversion of England.

Sarah H
Sarah H
3 years ago

Just another ‘nothing to see here, Giles’ gaslighting piece which is only too common nowadays. ‘Storm in a teacup. Fuss about nothing.’ While the woke turnover continues.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago

Bizarre rewriting of history. The CofE is used to going through crisis such as the Reformation? err, it was created by the Reformation, it didn’t go through it and survive, that would be the Catholic church. Violent changes of the 17th century, you mean the glorious revolution to create the protestant supremacy? Again that supported the CofE’s supremacy. “For mainly spiritual reasons the CofE is amazingly resilient”? err no, it is being the state-supported church and having stolen everything from the Catholic church which gives it its financial and political resiliency. You may have noticed but there is nothing in the bible saying that each nation state should have its own official state-sanctioned church.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  G Matthews

The Roman Catholic Church was introduced into England in 1851. The Church of England is the historic church of the English, which is why in many places it continues to worship in buildings erected by mediaeval English Christians.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

I don’t think that is quite correct…..And shows no understanding of the fundamental differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Or indeed the history of these United Kingdoms.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It is entirely correct.
1) Cardinal Wiseman introduced a Roman Catholic mission to England in 1851 from out the Flaminian Gate.
2) The Church of England, being both Catholic and Reformed, retains the character (and until very recently) the Orders in direct succession from the church of the 6th century (and not implausibly from that of the 3rd century).
3) I am not concerned with the other bits of the United Kingdom. I deliberately wrote “England”.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

I think what you mean is the Roman Catholic Church was re-established in 1851, not “introduced”.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

No I do not.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

England was a Roman Catholic country until the Reformation in the 16th century. Our medieval cathedrals, minsters and churches were built by Catholics.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

They were built by Christian Englishmen (and in some cases, I doubt not, Christian women), and the descendants of these same Christian men and women continue to employ them for worship. Whether or not these men and women did or did not pay Peter’s Pence and owe allegiance to Rome is irrelevant to the fact that they maintained quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum est – Catholic faith and order. The Roman Catholic hierarchy was introduced in 1851.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

I agree with you, they were built by Christian Englishmen but prior to the Reformation those Christian Englishmen (and women) were Catholics not Anglicans, the Church of England did not exist until the 1530s when Henry VIII seperated from Rome.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Hi Claire. Not my business but in the mail above he is saying that ‘The Roman Catholic hierarchy’ was introduced in 1851. This is playing with words a bit because I think it means that people before could have been Catholics but called themselves Christians. Or they could have been Catholics/Christians without a formal Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Hi Chris, his original reply to G Matthews above says “The Roman Catholic Church was introduced into England in 1851”, which is incorrect, it was “re-established” after 300 years of being first banned after the Reformation and then barely tolerated. Facts.
I do recognise your point about words though, you are right with regard to his later comments.
And of course it’s your business as much as anybody else’s on here, we’re all in it together.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

Have I seen you hollering at the Anglo Catholics at the Walsingham National Pilgrimage procession?

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

The Catholic hierarchy was restored, not introduced, in 1850, not 1851. Before that (going back to 1688) there was also a hierarchy, with the country divided into districts and overseen by Vicars Apostolic, in effect bishops.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Yes, and of our approximately 55 Great Churches in say 1535, (Cathedrals, Abbeys, Priories, and Collegiate Churches of a length of 300′ or more) a mere 22 survive, or put another way 60% have been destroyed. A catastrophic architectural and artistic loss by any standards.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
3 years ago

Michael can you say a bit more about how the C of E will play its part in the spiritual revival and reconversion of England?

vince porter
vince porter
3 years ago

Interesting… 6% of CofE clergy voted Tory. About 6% of of the UK’s population still attend church regularly. What influence!

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
3 years ago

https://www.statista.com/st… Attendance figures over the nine years to 2018 down 19.5% or about 2% pa. That’s all you need to know about what they peddle and how attractive it is to the audience. 870,000 attendees is equivalent to about 1.5% of the adult population. Strange how so many Bishops sit in judgement over us all in the House of Lords based on their voter cohort.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

OK, I know the article is called, “Why is the Church so woke?” but to me we have a further problem. About 6 weeks ago I started to read UnHerd comments and quite a lot were about ‘wokes’. My wife is part of a large family of all ages, she has worked locally in several factories and she is an active member of the church. I asked her to do a straw poll with all of her (seemingly) thousands of contacts to ask simply, “Have you heard of the word, ‘Woke'”. She said that only one person knew what it meant and he lives in Canada.

So there could be a danger in arguing about ‘wokes’ rather than talking about specific issues. I believe that ‘wokes’ have taken over the 1st World with many people not actually knowing the word. That is a takeover by stealth and it seems to be successful.

Mike Rieveley
Mike Rieveley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I wholly agree. “Woke” is a word that has little or no defined meaning or usefulness. It main use seems to be an attempt by those wishing to insult or infer that their particular point of view is in some way superior to those they accuse of being “woke”.
Indeed one wonders why the Reverend Mr Fraser chose to employ its use. Maybe to signal his conversion from a left wing perspective to his adoption of the more traditional “Conservative Party at prayer” notion of Anglicanism or perhaps he has chosen to follow his flock in a wish to associate himself with the so called “Red Wall” that deserted their traditional Labour roots to vote for Boris Johnson. One wonders whether Giles Frazer may himself be about to abandon his long held Christian beliefs for fear that having them may open himself up to accusations of wokeness.

David Ford
David Ford
3 years ago

The CoE strikes me as a hierarchy rather like the WW1 army. The diocesan level are the senior officers with their strategies and maps, distant from the realities on the ground. They make occasional visits to the frontline to patronise ‘the men’ and pep talk the lieutenants. The parish priests are the junior officers. They lead the troops on a day to day basis but keep a social/class distance as it wouldn’t be proper to be seen closely fraternalising with ‘the men’.

On this model it’s unsurprising there’s a disconnect between clergy and parishoners. They actually inhabit two different worlds. The just occasionally collide by being in the same building on a Sunday.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago

It is curious that mosques don’t suffer from this malady. They preach religion, and yet manage to be both nationalist (at the level of the Ummah rather than nation state) and conservative, and definintely not “woke”. Looking at the attendance, it would appear to be a winning combination. Does the CofE ever do any competitor analysis I wonder?

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  G Matthews

… the parallels are limited … the goings on at the multitude of mosques seems less religious – as the term is understood in the West – and more an all embracing politicised, cultic, clannish life style … at low social stratum gathering centres things get distinctly dodgy and the clan is the focus of all … cousin marriage is a disgraceful blight ( and drains the NHS of a remarkable amount ) … and then too : Rochdale .

Sue Blanchard
Sue Blanchard
3 years ago

Speaking from the US here. I’ve noticed this phenomenon increasing in my local Congregational church who are 98% white members and vote overwhelmingly (I’m sure) democrat. It tipped into insanity after George Floyd. I could deal with the pride flag proudly displayed over the church entrance but a new webpage dedicated to educating their flock on anti racism, unconscious bias, and systematic racism was the last straw for me. I’m planning to leave. Because people who don’t think like they do are really not welcome. Sad.

Sue Blanchard
Sue Blanchard
3 years ago

Speaking from the US here. I’ve noticed this phenomenon increasing in my local Congregational church who are 98% white members and vote overwhelmingly (I’m sure) democrat. It tipped into insanity after George Floyd. I could deal with the pride flag proudly displayed over the church entrance but a new webpage dedicated to educating their flock on anti racism, unconscious bias, and systematic racism was the last straw for me. I’m planning to leave. Because people who don’t think like they do are really not welcome. Sad.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago

It could be a moot point in the not too distant future. Following the current trajectory of things, the good folk of SAGE will show us a model that says God has no scientific basis, churches and other places of worship are science deniers and should therefore remain closed.

Theresa May has expressed concern over the State’s ability to arbitrarily close places of worship.

Nick Palmer
Nick Palmer
3 years ago

I kinda think the sub-head question is a bit off. The “church” (admittedly, I’m a papist…) is the Body of Christ on Earth. As such, it “represents” Our Lord. It does not, or should not “represent the flock.”

In fact, that attempt at “representation” may lie at the root of the problems in today’s CoE and Catholic Church. Clergy more concerned with the opinions of man, and less with embodying Christ.

Tongue now in cheek: (having recently watched Upstart Crow), perhaps the CoE is merely following in its history by representing the warped personal views of those in power?

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Palmer

As a fellow papist I broadly agree with you.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Palmer

Check your ecclesiology? The Body of Christ is “the flock”, is the Church. But doctrinal authority ensues from Scripture & Tradition transmitted by scholars and inculcated for the particular time and place by the Pastors, …not opinion sampling.

In any event, though “war” is maybe inapt, social justice has always been an essential imperative of the Church, …if at times (as these) overwhelmed by “o tempora, o mores”.

Tom Griffiths
Tom Griffiths
3 years ago

Perhaps William Wilberforce was a similarly unwelcome ‘woke’ churchman? Great changes can sometimes come against the flow.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

The CoE has lost its way and is now loosing the parishioners.

Frank Mills
Frank Mills
3 years ago

The only decent C of E churches these days are the Anglo-Catholic, High Church ones, I wish they’d leave the C of E behind but they probably can’t afford it.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago

One would think that the fate of “Sodom and Gomorrah” would have been a salutary lesson to them?

Tom Adams
Tom Adams
3 years ago

More joy in Heaven and all that, Giles.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Adams

Its amazing how often this one sentence in the bible is referred to, whereas God deciding to wipe humans from the face of the earth (the flood in Genesis) because they annoyed him/her/it with their human frailty never seems to get the same attention. Surely actions speak louder than words? The God of genesis basically seems to think that no human is worthy of his kingdom, rich or poor, and that in fact they have lost the right to exist as a species.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  G Matthews

He also set a rainbow in the sky afterwards.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  opn

How very nice of him.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

“the majority of the clergy of the Church of England must surely find the people who sit in the pews, listening to their sermons, a considerable disappointment to them”. Not many listening.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
3 years ago

Also, unless you believe that the clergy are somehow more morally
enlightened than the laity “” and I don’t “” then it needs better to
reflect their politics as well.

Wow! I didn’t expect to see the “had enough of experts” attitude manifest in this context too. At least not explicitly.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hayes

You don’t understand theology. A member of the clergy is called to serve the Christian community in a particular way. It doesn’t make him/her a better person than the others. No Christian denomination would claim that it does.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
3 years ago

Sure, but my understanding or lack thereof of theology isn’t relevant. Nor is the personal success of any member of the clergy in practicing Christianity. It’s the proposition that they shouldn’t be expected even to know more about Christian ethics than the average member of their flock – and God forbid that they should go so far as to advocate adherence to them – that’s the cause of my surprise.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
3 years ago

What is true of the CofE is true of plenty of other institutions. Almost by definition the demographic of a large organisation like a university say, is going to be broadly similar to that nationally. But don’t expect its Equality and Diversity department to issue broadly representative missives in the internal communications.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Except that universities most certainly aren’t politically representative if their public statements are any guide

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Robert Hutchins, ’50’s president of U. of Chicago, asked if he was anti-Semitic, archly replied: “I consider all races pretty despicable” (roughly recalled). Identity politics/ woke-ness is just another petit bourgeois idealism, morally and politically specious.

In Genesis, “the fall”, locates man in a morally damaged state, torn between nature and transcendence. And that metaphor has never been improved upon. The Church, acknowledging our fallenness, has ever exhorted us to do “justice & mercy all the days of our lives”, forming the catholic brotherhood.

Newspeak PC sets up antipathies on the basis of scientific, socio-economic, race & class, metrics; blithely dismisses the virtues (recognizes no such thing as transcendence) and, disintegrates community.

At bottom the problem is (grace a CP Snow) The Two Cultures, with the religious distinctly recessive in these times of the secular city. The foundation book of the Civilization goes untaught and unread; and, the great mass of what remains of religion, illiterate. And even speaking of or teaching the idea of The Xtian Community seems a kind of solecism in progressive (woke) society.

Chandra C
Chandra C
3 years ago

Pentecostal church members also watch a lot of tely evangelism from US. Could this be an influencing factor in being more right wing when it comes to voting.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

I am totally unqualified to comment on this ( being totally without any religious beliefs ) but I can’t but help think that there is something wrong and also circular about the final para. taken to its logical conclusion it would mean that e.g city churches would probably have Labour voting ‘woke’ members and clergy, whereas those in leafy English shires would be Brexit voting, ardent Tory supporters with completely different outlooks on the role of the Church and its links to State. Similarly it would only take another politician like Thatcher or Blair to change the outlook of the ‘sort of people who sit in the pews’.

I think it would be best if the Church stuck to finding its core messages of Christianity and relating them in meaningful ways to the current world.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
3 years ago

The woke church is not a pretty sight, but the Tory Party have now had many years of imposing nasty and vicious policies on the poor and the low-paid. Bedroom taxes, universal credit and the emergence of food banks are rightly shocking to Christian clergy.

Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
3 years ago

To add to his impossibly nostalgic and deluded view of the Church of England of old, Giles Fraser now adds some seriously dodgy statistics. “Over 47% of the population” voted Tory at the last general election? Really? Official results show that of those voting, the Conservative Party received 43.6% of the votes. Since the turnout was 67.3%, that means of all those registered to vote, only 29.3% voted Tory. And since the population of the UK is approximately 66 million, whereas registered voters were 47.6 million, then just 21.16% of the POPULATION voted Conservative. Some way from 47% wouldn’t you say, Giles?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

I don’t know about Fraser’s statistics, but I can see that yours are dodgy.

Zigurds Kronbergs
Zigurds Kronbergs
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Easy to follow. I just demonstrated that Giles’s assertion was false. Try the maths for yourself.

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Aren’t they just. his percentage not voting Tory include the approx. 15.5 million of the population (Statista) who are under 19 and therefore mainly not eligible to vote along with foreign nationals, also not eligible to vote.

Elaine Hunt
Elaine Hunt
3 years ago

It always amuses me how this sort of argument ( c.f. Remaining in EU) presumes that all the people who couldn’t be bothered to vote actually supported the defeated side.

Though what that implies about their commitment is interesting….

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
3 years ago

‘The idea of the establishment was once of an alliance between the state and the Church, both supporting each other in the best interests of the country.’ Not so, it always was, and in many places still is, a pact to support each others’ powerbases and is entirely self-serving. The Church gave the ruling elite divine approval to rule – the divine right of kings, the rich man in his castle, and so on, – and the rulers gave the Church power over marriage, divorce, children’s education, contraception, in fact whatever it needed to develop and perpetuate its power. The CofE, unlike the more fundamentalist religions, has more or less abandoned its supernatural beliefs, to become a do-gooding movement with religious trappings.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Much of the problem arises from political illiteracy in the clergy as elsewhere. If you ask a Tory Pentecostalist or a happy clappy lefty CofE bod where they stood on the balance of equality v liberty to earn, or balancing rehabilitation with deterrence when punishing crime they’d probably be much closer than say Priti Patel and Ed Millerband. The overall thrust of Christianity now is toward meekness and moderation as it was in AD31 & a short while thereafter. Although their voting records look distinct its hardly Palestine-v-Isreal, or even Mods-v-Rockers. Identifying 40% CofE Clerics as voting for Corbyn taints them with the stench of antisemitism, internet bullying and all the other Momentum stuff. Its possible they voted knowing the PM’s influence doesn’t reach far.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago

The irony of this piece is it is full of ‘identity issues’ just not the ‘woke’ ones. As far as I can see Giles is no better than all those rainbow flag wavers. As bad as each other.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago

I think I might be a conservative socialist too, or perhaps a communitarian

Steve Kendrick
Steve Kendrick
3 years ago

Just wanted to say, not being CofE or at all religious, what a fascinating discussion this has been. Polite and illuminating exchange of views. Just what Unherd is for!

Majalli Fatah
Majalli Fatah
3 years ago

This tells us as much (or more) about the conservatism and ideological bent of the ideologies that now fly under the “left-wing” and “progressive” flags than it does about a transformed religion. Woke, fake left-wing politics is just religious conservatism, re-branded. The church hasn’t changed at all. It is the left that have been transformed and redefined.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago

So the vicar reads the Guardian and his flock the Mail..I believe the bishops should be elected by the clergy and the archbishops by the bishops

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
3 years ago

Libertarians do not oppose community – on the contrary libertarians believe that one of the reasons that state interventionism is so harmful is that it undermines community. A community being voluntary cooperation and mutual aid – not force and fear, which is what taxes and regulations are based upon, sometimes force and fear may be necessary, but they should be limited as much as possible.
As for the Conservative Party – if we consult the late Professor Greenleaf’s work on the British Political Tradition the “libertarian strand” in British politics has indeed always been represented within the Conservative Party (indeed one of Professor Greenleaf’s key points is that there were at least as many libertarian minded people in the Conservative Party as in the Liberal Party – going back as far as the 19th century), but there is no evidence that the libertarian strand in the Conservative Party is more influential now than in the past (I wish it was – as I am part of it), if one looks at the “lockdown” policy of the last year it is hard to think of a time when libertarians within the Conservative Party had LESS influence, indeed even before the lockdown policy both government spending and regulations were going up (not down).

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

Take a leaf from the Pentecostal’s book. How can one take seriously an analysis of a Christian church that spends more time discussing it’s relations with the Tory Party and nowhere mentions its relations with Jesus Christ. For believing Christians, a certain overlap with the political is inevitable, but it should always be a wary one, of arm’s length. Disestablish the Church of England, return to Jesus Christ and preach his Gospel. If nostalgia and continuity (the ‘cosy conservativism’ of Anglican childhoods) are the issue, then perhaps it is time to rejoin the Catholic Church. As far as I’m aware, Rome has even recently established a clear ‘lifeboat’ back to the mothership for Anglican congregations (one I believe that ensures the continuance of the distinct Anglican patrimony, prayerbook and liturgy, you can’t get much more inviting or accommodating than that). Political parties may at times agree with aspects of the faith, at other times they will bitterly oppose us. Such is the Gospel.

Ted Brennan
Ted Brennan
3 years ago
Reply to  Spiro Spero

The Catholic Church is fast catching up in the ‘woke’ stakes.

lizzie.lepton
lizzie.lepton
3 years ago

I’m a soon-to-be vicar who worked a for a good while in East London, one of the refreshing things about the parish I used to work in was the big spread of political and ethical views in the congregation. Surely if there’s a point to the parish church in the 20th century (as opposed to us all travelling to the nearest church with the ‘right’ theology) then it’s to bring together the diverse perspectives of its people, and teach us all forbearance and openness to one another’s ideas- I think St Paul had some things to say on that subject!

Ted Brennan
Ted Brennan
3 years ago

It’s no different in the Catholic Church nowadays…I get more advice on recycling than spirituality. Traditionalists have all but vanished from the pews.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago

When I speak to leaders in the Anglican churches in western countries, one of the things that always strikes me is that a really significant percentage of them seem to be completely unimaginative, and also class-pet types who always do what those in charge tell them (their bishops, the political leaders of the right-on parties, etc), while simultaneously thinking they are counter-cultural and anti-authoritarian.
I’d no more expect an exciting or relevant or profound theological or spiritual idea to come out of them than I would from a turnip.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago

Just don’t get this at all. As if the world divides into woke and non-woke. The likes of Giles and fellow conservatives (with a small c) just love going on about ‘Wokness’ as if it’s a clear definable set of ideas – it’s not. It smacks of the Daily Mail. I believe moves to reduce racism and sexism and in this country are good, although accept that in many respects this country is not too bad on that front- my ethnic minority friends who have travelled the world assure of that. I have trouble with the simplistic attitudes to the issue of trans-rights – and completely understand how many women feel like their rights are being ignored. On the other hand I think trans people have every right to be treated with respect and dignity. Am I woke? The likes of Giles just talk in generalities about identity issues without any reference to detail. It might be an idea to stop using the term woke altogether. It is just an awful way of dividing the world into them and us – the last thing we need right now.

As for the idea that clergy should reflect the politics of their ‘flock’ – isn’t that a bit like saying an MP should reflect the views of his/her constituents? Burke (who I’m sure Giles is a fan of) made the powerful case that MPs should use their own judgment – they are not delegates. A similar point could be made about clergy.

Lastly, does anyone believe that human beings rooted in settled communities is a bad thing? If you are ‘woke’ is this something you’re suppose to be against? Talk about straw men!

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Butler

Being Woke is much more about using Equality to attack others and cathart hate and prejudism.

Rights are not absolute and neither is the right of a man self identifying as a women to have unrestricted access to places reserved only for biological women.

This Rights Opportunism provides the woke with the necessary platform by which to carthart their true intent, to hate others that disagree with them.

In other words, the woke are psychologically deranged and must be given no opportunity whatsoever to hold the levers of power.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
3 years ago