Last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized for the Anglican Church’s “historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery,” and the Church of England set aside £100 million in reparations for “communities impacted by slavery.” The Church is right to engage in these conversations, but is doing so in a destructive manner.
For one thing, the Church seems more interested in virtue-signaling than in addressing the modern-day slavery that is covered up by the very establishment she is part of. If the Church is looking for communities in England affected by slavery, might I recommend Rochdale, Telford, Blackpool, Oldham, Rotherham, and many similar towns across the country where young girls have been and continue to be groomed and abused by Pakistani Muslim rape gangs?
The era of the British slave trade was a horrific period of our history, but it is well and truly over. We have repented as a nation, our government has apologized, and our monarch has expressed sorrow. It is time to move on. If we truly are the Christian nation we profess to be, the step following repentance is forgiveness. The Church should remind the nation that it was Christians who initiated and organized the abolition movement and successfully terminated the transatlantic slave trade. William Wilberforce was motivated by a desire to put Christian principles into action and to serve God in public life. In his diary, Wilberforce wrote, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and Reformation of Morals.”
It is sad to see the Church fall into the trap of victimhood and virtue-signaling, but not at all surprising. The Church released two reports following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020: “From Lament to Action” and “Contested Heritage in Cathedrals and Churches.” Both were steeped in the un-Christian, neo-Marxist idiom of critical race theory, condemning—without evidence—Church and country alike as institutionally racist. “From Lament to Action” called for affirmative action (otherwise known as positive discrimination), requesting unrealistic quotas of ethnic minorities in every leadership position in the Church, and denigrated theology and Christian teaching as too “Eurocentric” and “white normative.” “Contested Heritage” proposed that churches remove monuments and statues of anyone with a less-than-perfect past, forgetting that we are all sinners, even the saints among us.
Moreover, while the Church of England is spending £100 million on its latest virtue-signaling project, it is neglecting its core role. Rates of church attendance are rapidly declining, and Christianity has become a minority faith in England for the first time. One could argue that this is because the Church has spent far too much time worrying about secular issues instead of spreading the gospel. The Church of England claims to be “Christ centered, Jesus shaped,” but not only does she no longer practice what she preaches, she rarely even preaches it.
The Anglican parochial system has been a godsend to the common Englishman for centuries. The system's commitment to the “cure of souls” means that every person in the Church of England belongs to a parish, and whether he attends church or not, his parish priest is praying for him on a daily basis. However, the Church has spent the past few years closing parishes and sacking parish priests. The decreasing number of clergymen responsible for the benefices of dozens of parish churches is unsustainable, and yet the Church elects to shell out such an astonishing amount for reparations.
One vicar pointed out to me that £100 million could fund 100 priests for 20 years. Another said it could fund 2,000 curacy stipends. At a time when we are in dire need of curates, priests, and parish maintenance, why are these things not the Church’s priority? A recent newspaper article compared statistics from 1959 to 2022. It showed that stipendiary clergy numbered 13,075 in 1959; in 2022, there were just 7,210. In 1959 there were only 250 support staff; in 2022, there were 6,500. Is it any wonder that the number of congregations has fallen from 2 million to 700,000 during the same time frame?
Gone are the days when theologians and pastors led the Church. Now, we are shepherded by bureaucrats and managerial types. Those in the upper echelons of the Church of England, entrusted with the care of Christ’s body, seem content instead to oversee her transformation into an embalmed liberal corpse.
Christ instructed us in the Great Commission to disciple the nation. We are fortunate to have an established Church in England, and a parochial system in place for the cure of souls. It is high time the Church of England returned her focus to Christ and to caring for his body.
The Rev. Calvin Robinson is a British broadcaster, political adviser, and commentator.
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