The Church of England’s new Book of Common Prayer: The Social Services Guidelines

Margaret McCartney, a GP, has written a moving article  in which she despairingly stated, “Bureaucracy and bean-counting are taking the joy out of being a doctor.” The worst of it, she said, is that ”stifling bureaucratic burden.” As I read the piece, I knew I could write the same article, but about the life of today’s parish priest. Diocesan returns. A new “procedure” announced every week as part of the “system.” But the purblind pen-pushers who devise this nightmare entirely fail to see that “system” and “pastoral care” are phrases that don’t belong in the same sentence

Owing to the Great Paedophile Panic (GPP) which has been raging for some years now, anyone who has anything to do with the care of children is obliged to attend safeguarding courses which are designed to help us spot the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of children or adults. Accordingly, I was summoned to Hailsham Parish Church to do my bit. But of course it was nothing like a parish church. Fifty years ago there would have been pews, copies of The Book of Common Prayer and other unmistakeable signs of traditional country town Anglicanism. Not these days. The pews had been wrenched out, there were no Prayer Books, only copies of some awful modern version of Holy Writ – a sort of Bad News Bible. Colour posters everywhere. Slogans. Pictures of the parish clergy – only you couldn’t tell they were clergy. They wore jeans, t-shirts, polo necks and other emblems of today’s ecclesiastical with-it-ness. Banana-split grins and pasty faces, as if they had spent too long in the crypt coffee bar.

About thirty of us sat in small groups at tables set out where the pews used to be. There was a screen and there was about to be a presentation by our safeguarding tutor, a retired schoolmistress of forbidding countenance and stentorian insistence. Think Fairy Hardcastle in C.S Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.  When she spoke, she used words – but not as we speak in the street: “Vulnerable…mechanisms…sharing” and others from the whole glossary of politically correct psychobabble. Our tutor was not without religion and she began with a prayer in which she helpfully informed the Almighty that we were meeting to discuss “very serious matters.” When she had finished putting God in the picture, she moved on to tell us things we perhaps had not noticed hitherto: “Children talk to one another.” So we might usefully listen to them in order to pick up any suggestions from the subject of their talk which betrayed evidence of abuse.

Cut to the screen and a video of children talking to – and shouting and screaming at – one another. It reminded me of accidental glimpses I occasionally used to catch of such television shows as EastEnders or Grange Hill. The children used phrases such as “You’re doin’ mi ‘ead in!” and, whispered, “This is going to be our secret.” By these signs, we were instructed, we might suspect that the children were using the argot they had picked up from abusive adults. The sentimental film-maker Ken Loach would have rejoiced to observe that video’s raw actualite.

When incidents of abuse are suspected and reported, the Social Services might get involved. Our tutor surprised some of us by saying, “Social Services don’t barge in and remove children from the family home.” What then is the substance of the frequent newspaper reports we read of their doing exactly that? What then of the cases I had come across myself in the course of my work in the parish? I wondered whether, in any particular case, the effects of calling in the Social Services might make a bad situation worse. But the tutor told us that such a decision was not our responsibility. All that was required of us was to report the matter to our safeguarding officer, “Then you’ve done your job.” Clearly, in the safeguarding “mechanism,” ethics is replaced by process, and moral problems are effectually demoralised as the system takes over and I am not deemed capable of forming my own judgement about what to do. Just report it to the safeguarding officer. Job done. The war criminals’ excuse, “I was only obeying orders” comes to mind.

And what an all-encompassing system it is! There is a full-time safeguarding supremo and he supervises many assistants throughout the area. No one is allowed to claim exemption from the system. Even my taxi driver said he was obliged to attend a safeguarding course and he was asked, particularly regarding his women passengers, to “keep my eyes open for signs of abuse.” The image is of a ubiquitous, paranoid network in which everyone is spying on everyone else and watching his own back at the same time – just as they did for decades in the USSR. Indeed, our tutor told us: “Safeguarding includes safeguarding yourself.” As with all bureaucratic systems – especially in what are now called “the caring professions” – there is that uneasy combination of callous abstractedness and sentimentality.

Naturally, we were given infantilised exercises: small bits of card with “typical signs of abuse” itemised and we were invited to assess whether a woman’s bruises were caused accidentally or by her “partner’s” violence; or a child’s sleeplessness might suggest sexual abuse. “Watch out for changes in eating habits. What would you conclude from observing that a young person was constantly hungry and even scavenging waste bins for food?”

The remark that immediately sprang to mind was: “I would have imagined I’d woken up to find that Labour were in power and well-embarked on their programme of turning Britain into Venezuela.” But I kept my mouth shut for, in the safeguarding workshop’s pervading atmosphere of political-correctness and menace, jokes are no laughing matter.

“Some suspected/reported incidents of abuse give rise to grave concerns,” said Fairy Hardcastle. (As if other incidents of abuse might be just a bit of a laugh). For example, we were told of a teacher who had sent what was alleged to be an ambiguous email message to a pupil. Did it contain sexual references? The recipient didn’t think so, but others did and so they called the police. No charges were brought against the teacher but, because an official complaint had been made, he was put on the register of sex offenders. This is scandalously unjust: the teacher was neither convicted nor even charged with any offence, and yet he was punished as if he had been proven guilty. How does he even begin to go about trying to remove that stain on his reputation, let alone delete the inevitable reference to it in his record with the Education Department? By such outrageous injustices a teacher might find it impossible to gain promotion, move to another school – or even keep his job at the school where he is currently working.

There are many such abuses of natural justice in the paranoid, surveillance-driven society which safeguarding has created. The worst of these arise from the safeguarding dogma that the “victim” is always to be believed. But the so called “victim” is not a victim until a perpetrator has been identified and the fact of an offence proven. Fairy Hardcastle gave us the opportunity to ask questions. I asked, “Would I be allowed to ask someone who claimed to have been abused whether she was telling the truth.” The Fairy went tomato red, twitched and screamed: “No – that is the one question you must never ask!” I ventured, “But what if my aim was to get at the truth? It is at least possible that the supposed victim might be lying. People have been known to lie on occasions, you know.” Whereupon I feared I was about to be chucked out of the meeting. For clearly, whatever sort of process safeguarding is, it has nothing to do with truth

Currently in the diocese of Chichester there is being played out one case involving such a spectacular injustice that it is scarcely believable in a free and open society. George Bell, Bishop of Chichester during the Second World War, was recently accused of committing a sexual offence against a woman. This would be particularly difficult to prove since Bishop Bell died in 1958. That presents no problem for the Church of England authorities. In keeping with safeguarding’s article of faith that the “victim” must always be believed, they have removed all memorials to Bishop Bell so that in effect he has become what in the Soviet regime was called a non-person.

There has been no trial. The word of his accuser has been accepted as the truth concerning an incident which, it is alleged, took place at least sixty years ago! She has been allowed to retain her anonymity. And the Church of England has paid her an undisclosed amount of money in compensation.

Palpable injustices such as that visited upon the memory of George Bell are the signature behaviour of totalitarian states. 

Having made this catalogue of infelicities and desecrations, I must add that, while all these are bad enough, the real reason for the existence of the safeguarding racket is even more sinister: the whole process and system has been devised as a means of intimidation, command and control. And the bishops and their massive bureaucratic infrastructure are loving every minute of it. Such power as they never dreamed of!

Now they are able to employ threats and violence to clergy who – while entirely innocent of child-molesting – are, for any reason or none, disapproved by the politically-correct hierarchy. A common reason is that the accused priest’s political or doctrinal views are unacceptable to the secularized, left-wing ecclesiastical commissariat which can and does turn those clergy of whom it disapproves into non-persons.  To earn the hierarchy’s displeasure takes very little effort: a priest might be a supporter of the Conservative Party, a devotee of The Book of Common Prayer or a denier of the climate change swindle The hierarchy can ruin a priest’s life without evidence, formal accusation, the due process of a trial or even the giving of a reason for their action

Justin Welby may have the wobbly chin of Charles Hawtrey but he has, beautifully camouflaged by a limp handshake, the iron fist of Joseph Stalin

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20 Comments on The Church of England’s new Book of Common Prayer: The Social Services Guidelines

  1. This was a genuinely wonderful article. However, it compels me to say a few things that might not be quite pleasant to hear.

    I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. So I must begin by confessing ignorance of English ecclesiastical and religious history. I have, of course, read St. Bede and the sermons of Lancelot Andrews. I know some of the works of some of the English mystics. I have some fragmentary knowledge of the theories of the ecclesiastical polity from Richard Hooker to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. And I know a bit about Laud and the Oxford Movement and the Cambridge Platonist and a few other things. But, taken together, all my knowledge still amounts to ignorance of your Church.

    So what do I have to say? First, hopefully without sounding unduly chauvinistic, I must say that Orthodoxy knows nothing of the type of problems found in the Anglican Church. Really. They simply don’t exist among us. Our woman come to Liturgy with heads covered and don’t talk in Church (as St. Paul directed). And nobody, including the woman, grumble about it. No gay priests. And there is not even a whisper about adulterating the Liturgy (which has been handed down, almost totally unmolested, since Chrysostom. And before that, had a living continuity with the Temple in Christ’s day).

    But this not an exercise in self praise. Why should the English care how great Orthodoxy is? This is why:

    For half a millennium, your country was in communion with the rest of Christendom. Not till William the Bastard changed the Old English monarchy was the close contacts with the rest of Orthodoxy broken. England was totally Orthodox and one of its sainted archbishops – Theodore of Tarsus – was even a Greek. Yet despite Papal reforms and blows from King Henry and Cromwell, Orthodoxy still impregnated the common life of the people. And Kings like Alfred and Harold were, without question, thoroughly English Orthodox.

    Regrettably, it seems many of the problems of the Anglican Church today – a loss of spiritual culture, deformation of liturgical tradition, etc- are caused within the Church itself.

    (It is, incidentally, astounding though how many Orthodox traditions remained, especially amongst farming families, all the way up to the time of Hitler’s War. Vestiges of popular piety made it through the rationalist speculations happening up above. (The Julian Calendar was called the “English style,” as opposed to the “Roman style,” until well past 1750s when it was changed- causing riots! “Old Christmas” was kept by rural folks right up to WWII. (English pudding had 13 ingredients – one for Christ and the rest for his 12 pals). I could go on, but perhaps it’s not as interesting to others as it all is for me. But I can’t resist saying that England herself was called “Our Lady’s Dowry.” )

    Today, two of England’s best theologians: Kallistos Ware and Andrew Louth are Orthodox. And I’m told Prince Charles frequently visits Mt. Athos. The monks consider him “one of us.”

    So what am I getting at? I think one solution to the problems facing Anglicanism would be for the “good” Anglicans to come over to Orthodoxy. The others can stay behind and continue to deteriorate. I do not pretend to know how this might be managed. But I feel certain such a move wouldn’t mean tossing out the rich hymnody, Noble traditions, sacerdotal practices and priceless prayers developed since 1066.

    Finally, and just to be clear, I argued ferociously in favor of England leaving the EU. I love and venerate the English tradition and land. So this is not an Ecclesiastical version of the pro EU party. I may be dead wrong in my view. And there may be much I don’t understand. But I can say with absolute good faith that my proposal that the English Church join Orthodoxy comes from a desire to preserve all that is great in England.

    • I apologise for being so slow to reply. You raise some fascinating issues. I remember reading that back in the sixteenth century, in the early years after the Church of England’s break with Rome, there were some clerics who investigated the possibility of formal communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. It didn’t come to anything official; but I know of a number of Anglicans who have joined the Orthodox Church, when they could not countenance joining the Roman Catholic Church, typically on grounds of sacramentalism and ecclesiology. (Those would be my grounds too.)

      I think one of the crucial points about the Church of England — and I cannot speak for Anglican churches in other countries — is that the parish structure is unusually strong, even though it is under pressure from a number of external and internal forces. Every square inch of British soil is in one parish or another, and the structures generally go back to Norman times — i.e. nearly a thousand years. This means that the Anglican Parish Church, as a building, often has a community importance far greater than would be the case if one simply based its importance on the number of people who worship there.

      Also, the parish is far more independent of central authority than is the case with the Roman Catholic Church, and even many of the Protestant churches. This means that while I am utterly exasperated by the pronouncements from the Archbishops of the Church of England — or by the lack of pronouncements — I don’t look to them for definition or direction in my life as a Christian, even though I am a lay minister in the church. Rather I look locally, to my own parish, my parish’s rector, and a few other people nearby who are reliable and don’t go down the heretical roads you are describing. Fortunately, that includes our diocesian bishop. If I lived somewhere else I might not be involved in an Anglican community — it would all depend on who’s in the community and what they preach and practice.

      I do understand the attraction of Orthodox liturgy and theology, and I have seen at first hand the truth of what you say about the behaviour of congregations. I also understand the historical issues that you raise and their relationship to keeping the faith over the last 2000 years. But I live here in Cornwall, I live with the Christians who are around me (many of them very faithful, serious disciples), and attending another church with my parish’s concern for historic orthodoxy would require quite a long journey. There is just one Greek Orthodox church building in Cornwall.

      I cannot answer for any of the other Anglican folk who might read these exchanges or Fr. Mullen’s article; but I suspect that the points I’ve raised would be relevant to many of them.

      Wishing you many blessings from Cornwall.

  2. Great piece Peter. I agree with it all and I’m not Robinson Crusoe around here, and in my parish. The ideological assault of it all would never have got near our trenches of course, if it hadn’t been for the weakness of our supposedly protective guns, which have been turned on us , i.e. our politicians, courts and church leadership etc. with the Archbishop of Canterbury sadly the most egregious example at the end of a pretty long, ongoing list. The sort of thinking of these ideologue types was captured for me in a passage from Kenneth Minogue, where he writes of a feminist remarking that it was interesting how many women did not recognise themselves as discriminated against and how no better proof could be found of ‘the totality of their conditioning’. Minogue comments that a better proof than this ought certainly to be found, since the conclusion of the argument is taken for granted in the premises, and we thus have a ‘petitio principii’, a fallacy commonly committed in the service of a dogmatism.

  3. Martin Adams (25th June 2020 at 6:55 pm): (I can’t attach my comment directly to yours.)

    I hope you don’t think I’m guilty of false modesty. Your opinions carry more authority than mine, and Fr Mullen’s carry more authority than yours. If we could find a Christian bishop in the Church of England, his authority would trump us all.

    My confessor is an Orthodox bishop in the USA who is too polite to state plainly that he thinks I’m a twit.

    So I don’t want to be a prophet. I have some of the rhetorical skills of a prophet, but, like Jonah, I’d rather not take any risks. I have a nice house, a nice garden and nice friends. Surely God doesn’t want to spoil my peaceful retirement. Shut up, God! I have my fingers in my ears!

    • HeeHee! I know what you mean, PJR; and I certainly don’t think you’re guilty of false modesty. It’s just that I think that having authority within an institution, even a Christian one, does not inevitably imbue one’s pronouncements with the authority that position implies. (Is that not a major implication of Fr Mulllen’s article?)

      It’s a complicated area; and I have to confess that I don’t really know what I think on some issues surrounding priesthood, episcopacy and so forth. I’ve been round the block, having been involved in just about every kind of church group you could think of (including some pretty dodgy ones); I know the Bible very well; I know church history; I adhere strongly to orthodox doctrine. Given that background, I keep feeling I ought to be clearer about what I believe in this area. But I’m not there yet, and it’s not troubling me.

      I know exactly what you mean by your last paragraph. I’d love a peaceful, quiet retirement. But God seems determined that I shall not have it. But there’s another, greater kind of peace, isn’t there . . . . .

      Thank you, and wishing you many blessings.

  4. Martin Adams and PJR and Peter Mullen.
    I have followed your conversation with interest, though I’m what a writer recently typed as an apatheist (apathy + theist, geddit?)

    The Vichy analogy rings a bell (pardon). It seems impossible for religious and moral teachings to take root in barren human soil. Malign forces have no difficulty whatever in stepping into the shoes of so many ‘upright’ citizens and their pastors. As you have encountered with your ‘safeguarding’ trainers, precepts are as ineffective as they would be in urging an acorn to grow in gravel. Christopher Browning’s study of a death squad operating in Poland, all of them Christians, found few who refused to do evil and even one who said it ‘soothed his conscience to redeem (shoot) children’ whose parents had been shot by his companions. Beware of redeemers.

    I believe there’s a fashion for what is called Aristotelian character education in schools at the moment – though he had a restricted view of who might achieve eudaimonia (leisured toffs who were born lucky like himself). My pessimistic opinion is that he was right: by the time a child can talk, it’s possibly too late to influence their character.

    • Michael McManus:

      1. Christians are as wicked as non-Christians. The only difference is that Christians lack the excuse that “they know not what they do”. When Peter Simple’s Dr Heinz Kiosk proclaimed that “we are all guilty”, he spoke truer than he knew, because his words were almost the words of St Paul. Christianity is uniquely a religion not of morals and merits but of forgiveness.

      2. Aristotle combined the logic of Plato (which he improved) with the common sense of Xenophon (which I think, probably controversially, that he transmitted almost unchanged). He was the orphaned son of a successful physician, at a time when many physicians started their careers as slaves, so he was probably middle-class at best rather than aristocratic. And he spent twenty years as a student, thus reminding me of Peter Simple’s Royston Vibes. And his guess that good children tend to result from the union of good parents seems to be confirmed by modern science.

      3. I’d prefer “apathotheist” to “apatheist”. The ancient Greeks sometimes omitted a syllable for the sake of euphony, but the repeated “th” isn’t very ugly, and “apatheist” looks like a compound of the prefix “apo'” (“moving away”) with “atheist”, giving the impression that an apatheist is an atheist on the way to becoming a theist. (And “anthopopause” is preferable to “anthropause” for similar reasons.)

      4. Thank you for keeping a potentially useful discussion alive.

      • PJR – I’m taken aback by your saying that Christianity is not a religion of morals which I take to be a synonym for virtues. The Sermon on the Mount? And Moses’ set of rules? If philosophy is footnotes to Plato then ethics is footnotes to those two. No?

        A distinguishing feature of Islam, by contrast, seems to be an absence of ethics altogether. If you google Islamic Virtues you’ll likely get something Ayatollah Khomeini on permitting sexual pleasure with newborn infants. (Not a hoax as I thought when I first encountered it.)

        • Michael McManus: I’m delighted when the paradoxes of Christianity take people aback. They take me aback every day!

          With one exception, nobody who has ever lived has perfectly obeyed the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. We are commanded to try to be “moral” and “virtuous”, but we’re not expected to succeed. Even the best of us don’t get significantly closer to goodness than the worst of us. The crimes of Mao and Pol Pot are similar to the crimes that every well-behaved Christian has envisaged in the secrecy of his heart.

          This is why Christians are exhorted to pray not only for themselves but also for Mao and Pol Pot. Their sins are the same sins as ours.

          But please note that I’m neither a licenced Reader like Martin Adams nor an ordained Priest like Fr Mullen. I’m just an opinionated layman.

          • HeeHee.
            Being “neither a licenced Reader like Martin Adams nor an ordained Priest like Fr Mullen” has no effect whatsoever on the truth or authority of what you might say. Francis of Assisi was “just an opinionated layman.” — at first anyway. I don’t think the prophets of the Old Testament were licensed to preach by the Temple authorities. Good job they didn’t worry too much about those niceties!
            Keep going, PJR!

    • Michael McManus,

      Thank you for your very thoughtful contribution. PJR has just beaten me to a reply, and just about everything he says chimes with what I would wish to say — though he says it better than I could.

      There is one thing you raise which is perhaps worth considering further than we have done thus far. You mention Christopher Browning’s book, and I presume you are referring to “Ordinary Men”. I’ve read it; and I remember being struck by the issues you raise — few refused to do evil, even though they were, as you put it, “all of them Christians.”

      This relates to PJR’s point 1: ‘Christians are as wicked as non-Christians. The only difference is that Christians lack the excuse that “they know not what they do”.’ It also relates to a question related to that — who is a Christian?

      I became a Christian in my late ’20s, out of a background that was decidedly NOT Christian. (A friend has said “Martin’s family was New Age before the New Age had even started.) It was a conversion; and the difference between my life before and after that conversion, and the experience of countless others across history, raises questions about the universal applicability of your point “by the time a child can talk, it’s possibly too late to influence their character.”

      We know that Christians cannot earn merit — to which PJR’s point relates. But equally one can wonder if someone who commits great evil, and seems to find that evil acceptable, can be a Christian. Are they perhaps Christian in the sense that I encountered so often in the 40 years I lived in Ireland? Being a Christian of this ilk or that (Protestant or Catholic in that case) has little or nothing to do with living as a follower of Jesus Christ, and everything to do with social identity and human tribalism. Lutheran friends of mine have told me that Lutheran Germany can be like that, Kierkegaard complained in the same way about religion in Denmark; and I suppose that could be true of any nation in which social identity is closely allied with religion.

      Jesus said, most notably in Matthew 7, that not all those who say they are his disciples will be recognised as such on the final day. And that reinforces the point that we might hold opinions on the subject; but we cannot and must not judge. (That is one of the main thrusts of Matthew 7 — that judgement belongs to God alone.)

      So it is not up to me to decide the spiritual condition of those men who performed unspeakable deeds during World War II, and who returned to ordinary life afterwards. But we know what we should do, were we in a similar position. If we fail to do that, we are accountable for it before God.

      I feel as if I have not expressed these ideas as adequately or as succinctly as they should be expressed. But I join with PJR in thanking you for keeping this discussion alive.

  5. if anybody thinks Fr Mullen is exaggerating, think on this: Is there a pulpit in the UK from which this magnificent sermon could be preached without intervention from the Airstrip One Constabulary?

    “Owing to the Great Paedophile Panic (GPP) which has been raging for some years now…”

    Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, has been suspended, and George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has had his license to preach revoked, not for being paedophiles but for failing to “safeguard” the souls under their care from paedophiles. I assume that anybody who’s ever shaken hands with either of those criminals will soon be similarly punished for guilt by association.

    The case of Bishop Bell shows that all Christians are assumed to be paedophiles unless there’s strong evidence to the contrary. The case of Cardinal Pell in Australia is also relevant. (But meanwhile the devil-worshipping Mahometans are assumed to be incapable of paedophilia, no matter how many non-Mahometan children they rape.)

    The New Testament teaches Christians to be kind to each other and to avoid backbiting. St Paul grinds out the lesson over and over again, almost as if he thought it might be a particularly difficult (but important) lesson to learn. But “nous avons changé tout cela!” If your local vicar seems a bit too fond of Cranmer’s Prayers and King James’s Bible, remember how he once INAPPROPRIATELY patted you on the knee, the evil bastard!

  6. The Church of England’s frightened and corporate stance when dealing with Covid and Lockdown, has come from the top, the frighteningly corporate Archbishop Welby.
    Locking country churches which has prevented folk living in often crowded houses, having the chance to find a moment’s grace, a link with our ancestors, and maybe to connect with God. This is just one of several stupid thing’s the head of the Anglican Church has done, recently.

  7. This is interesting.
    Many years ago, some time around 1978, I wrote to the Reverend Mullen to complain about an article in a mainstream newspaper. I cannot remember which paper it was, but the article was a complaint against Billy Graham and his brand of evangelism — vulgar and suspiciously populist to Guardianista and Times of London Christians alike, and based on theological presuppositions that Rev. Mullen found thoroughly objectionable. I specifically complained about the way Rev. Mullen wrote about the York-based clergyman, David Watson, whom he regarded as a proxy for Billy Graham’s kind of evengelicalism.

    I was especially wound up about that issue because I had some direct experience of David Watson. At time I lived in Leeds, where I became a Christian partly through the ministry of David Watson.

    After posting my stern letter, I was surprised to receive a personal reply from the Reverend Mullen, and even more surprised to find that his tone was so courteous and balanced; though neither then nor now do I agree with the theological and other doctrinal points he raised. I’ve often pondered on that, especially since I’ve encountered this author’s writings frequently over the last few years. (I lived in Ireland between 1979 and 2016, and never expected to return to the UK. However, within the last 12 months I have been licensed as a lay minister, Reader, to my local parish of the Church of England.)

    This present article reinforces something I was aware of even in the anti-Graham article, which I still regard as a grievous error — not what a Christian should present to a world that needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the midst of all the negative diatribes, the inclination towards smart-aleck language (not made more acceptable by the excellent command of English), and the overt anger, there are truths to which we should pay attention.

    I’d like to think that Peter Mullen is a present-day Amos — though I’m not sure that I have the most apt prophet there. I’m not sure what to conclude from his inclination towards hyperbole and his obvious anger. Maybe he is just willing, like the prophet Amos, to say things about which others kept quiet because the implications or facts are uncomfortable. Certainly he does not care what others think of him — not necessarily a virtue (think Hitler), but better than the CoE Bishops’ eagerness to please.
    When I lay aside all those things about style, tone and language, there is very little in this article with which I can disagree.

    • Martin Adams: Do you read the church fathers? Compared with St John Chrysostom or St Ambrose of Milan, Fr Mullen is a fluffy little kitten.

      There are times when ferocious rhetoric is necessary. I think we live in such times today. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ brings not peace (or “equality of opportunity” or “social justice” or “black lives matter”) but a sword.

      I think Fr Mullen is more a Jeremiah than an Amos, but what we need is an Elijah. Compared with the greatest ever reformer of religion, even St John Chrysostom and St Ambrose were fluffy little kittens.

      • Thank you, PJR.

        I was hoping for some firm responses to what I’ve written, partly because, as I think you’ll understand, this issue has been on my mind intermittently ever since that exchange with Rev. Mullen back in the late ’70s.

        So thank you!

        Yes, I’ve read quite a lot of the Church Fathers; and I know exactly what you mean about invective. Father Mullen is indeed a pussy cat compared with some of them. Invective is needed where appropriate; and I loath the tendency (especially evident in the Church of England) towards the Gospel of Nice Manners, or whatever you want to call it. Further translation not needed, I’m sure!

        My concern was and still is, about presenting such invective in a forum where many or probably most of the readers are not committed believers, and where the forum (i.e. the newspaper or whatever) is not interested in the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Chrst. For that reason I was especially bothered (and still am) about the attack on David Watson, and on others of his ilk. They are fellow believers; and differences of doctrine and theology between us should not be the primary issues to be paraded before a world that is perishing.

        Nevertheless, I find myself in complete agreement with the substance of what Rev. Mullen writes here. I am a Reader in the Church of England (a parish in Cornwall), and made myself unpopular by asking awkward questions at the Safeguarding sessions that Fr Mullen describes so well. I mentioned Bishop George Bell (of sainted memory, but of whom the “trainer” knew nothing), and raised an analogy to which none of the 40 or so people in the room had a response — that we were being expected to behave like the police in France during the Nazi occupation — to follow the law, regardless of the ethics and consequences.

        That comparison went down like a lead balloon. But I stand by it.

        Yes, I wondered if Jeremiah was a better analogy than Amos. And yes. We need another Elijah to put barrels of gunpowder under the church hierarchies — and I’m not just talking of the Church of England. So that can be our constant prayer — for “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

        Thank you again.

        • Martin Adams: Are you a participant in the “charismatic movement” yourself, or was your defence of David Watson merely a very British defence of the underdog? I know nothing about the circumstances, but if Fr Mullen was excessively nasty to Mr Watson, the reason is probably that Fr Mullen was and is a sinner, like you and me. We are forbidden to hold grudges against our fellow sinners.

          Circa 1983, I had a letter published in the Radio Times in which I defended the ebullient evangelist Luis Palau against the BBC’s sneering, not because I approved of Señor Palau, but because I disliked the BBC’s sneering. (As a result, the BBC has never dared to sneer at Christians since. Ha ha.)

          Luis Palau would probably be beneath Fr Mullen’s notice, but if filthy misanthropic hermits like St Anthony can be saints, perhaps smart-suited misanthropic ranters can be saints too.

          St Gregory of Nyssa hoped that even the devil himself might one day become a saint. Perhaps even David Lammy and Laura Künßberg will one day become saints.

          Meanwhile, please pray for me as I’ll pray for you.

          Lighten our unprecedented darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord…

          • Thank you, PJR.

            I have never thought of myself as a participant in the “charismatic movement”. The church in Leeds where I became a Christian was impeccably orthodox, and had a kind of conservative, soft pentecostalism. It fitted pretty comfortably within the general frame of charismatic theology and worship, of which David Watson was one of the most notable leaders at that time.

            But it wasn’t that which led me to defend David Watson. Like you defending Luis Palau, I objected to the attack itself; and as I’ve said, I objected partly because I thought it was not the right thing for one Christian to do to another in a public context.

            And, for all my carping about the tone of Rev Mullen’s writing in that article and in others since, I fully accept the truth of what you say — that we are all sinners, and that “we are forbidden to hold grudges against our fellow sinners.” And, ” if filthy misanthropic hermits like St Anthony can be saints, perhaps smart-suited misanthropic ranters can be saints too.”

            I so appreciated the tone and substance of what you have said. I will indeed pray for you as you’ll pray for me — for which thank you. And I’ll ask as you do — “Lighten our unprecedented darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.”

  8. All this safeguarding didn’t do the victims of the rape gangs any good and the perpetrators are still being protected from the scale of their crimes being made public. For that reason nothing will ever be done about Islamic attitudes to females and even babies in the Shia sect. There are other protected groups who can do or say no wrong like the racist BLM and the professional Islamist victims (who have been strangely silent about slavery – not ignorant of history then).

    Muslims believe that one day they will own the world and given the fools we have at the top of every pile I’m quite certain they are right.

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