Politics, compatibility and ministry.

I've just seen a report about a clergyman, the Vicar of Parkend in the Forest of Dean who proposes to stand for Parliament for the Brexit Party.

The Church of England does not allow clergy, under resolutions of Synod of 2009 and 2012 to be overtly involved in the National Front or the BNP (British National Party). The actual wording from the Guidelines for clergy conduct (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong) is,

"9.6 Ministers must not be members or active supporters of any political party or other organization whose constitution, policies, objectives, activities or public statements are incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England, as defined by the House of Bishops, in relation to the equality of persons or groups of different races."

So far, I think it's only the NF and BNP that have been condemned by the House of Bishops.

I suppose I've got the following two questions for discussion, with some subsidiaries.

1. It used to be the case that irrespective of party or ideology, clergy could not stand for Parliament. This was changed as recently as 2001. Some will, and have, argued that the previous limitation unduly limited a clergy person's civil rights. Hitherto, though, most of the instances have been people who aren't active in ministry and do not hold cures of souls. Irrespective of party or ideology, how compatible is this level of overt political action with active ministry, particularly pastoral ministry?

2. What about the Brexit Party specifically?

Technically, the Brexit Party, and its supporters, would almost certainly maintain that it and they don't come within the prohibition in the Guidelines as it does not specifically advocate racial inequality. Indeed, as many have pointed out publicly, it seems to have no policies apart from Brexit, to resist any pressure to disclose what apart from that it stands for, and to have no real existence as a party in the normal sense, rather than to be whatever Mr Farage says it is. Given that, should it be condemned as being structurally racist unless it can demonstrate convincingly otherwise, or should it be given the benefit of the doubt?

Besides, they haven't been specifically named by the House of Bishops. So does that let their candidates and supporters off the moral hook.

And these are the subsidiaries:-

3. Is there a difference between racism and xenophobia, or should each be condemned as implicitly including the other?

4. His bishop is reported as making a somewhat bland response and does not appear to have invoked this policy. Do you think his bishop should have been more ready to intervene? e.g. to have said, 'it's either/or.; if you want to stand, then surrender your living.'?

5. Do we suspect that the bishops wouldn't have the guts to name the Brexit Party anyway, because they're too afraid of upsetting too many of the people in their pews? Canon Paul Oestreicher rather implied this in a letter to the Church Times a fortnight ago. If you can access this, here's a link under the heading "The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns"

6. Does some of this look completely different if you're not CofE or live in another country?

7. Doubtless there will be some shipmates who will disagree, but in all normal circumstances, I reckon it is up to individual Christians to decide who to vote for. Each individual, and they alone, is entitled to balance the policies, competence, credibility and integrity of the parties, their leaders and their key personnel, and reach his or her own conclusion. It is wrong for clergy or other Christians expressly or impliedly to tell us how to vote, or to suggest 'how could you?' if we vote differently from the way they want us to.

The only exception in respect of a major I can think of hitherto in my lifetime was the last US Presidential election. It's easy for me to say this. I have no vote there. But objectively, I do think voting for Mr Trump would have been a sinful act, not on policy grounds but because of his personal qualities - or lack of them. If there is a UK election now, have we now reached that position here?
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Comments

  • I've long considered voting tory to be a moral crime, and that goes just as much for their fellow travellers in the Brexit Party and UKIP. You can't look at the last 9 years, or really the last 40, and not conclude that conservative ideology is antithetical to the Gospel.
  • Speaking as an outsider, I'd say allowing clergy to run for office was a bad idea to begin with. Apart from that, specifying particular parties as antithetical to the gospel seems to me a tricky business. I mean, NF and BNP are blatantly abhorrent and I would be scandalized to have a priest sharing their views, but one could reasonably argue that key parts of most or all major parties' platforms are also un-Christian. On the other hand, it is a good thing that the CofE bishops can come to the consensus at least that overt racism and fascism are unacceptable. That is more than can be said of certain other communions.

    The problem is, racism nowadays is seldom overt. That is, a lot of people will deny being racist up and down, "I have black friends," etc but nonetheless advocate policies that are, in intention and effect, racist.



  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Speaking as an outsider, I'd say allowing clergy to run for office was a bad idea to begin with. Apart from that, specifying particular parties as antithetical to the gospel seems to me a tricky business. I mean, NF and BNP are blatantly abhorrent and I would be scandalized to have a priest sharing their views, but one could reasonably argue that key parts of most or all major parties' platforms are also un-Christian. On the other hand, it is a good thing that the CofE bishops can come to the consensus at least that overt racism and fascism are unacceptable. That is more than can be said of certain other communions.

    The problem is, racism nowadays is seldom overt. That is, a lot of people will deny being racist up and down, "I have black friends," etc but nonetheless advocate policies that are, in intention and effect, racist.

    Right. Banning clergy from running for the NF or BNP is like the old joke about the drunk who loses his keys by the bushes, but looks for them by the sidewalk, because the light is better. It's an easier but totally ineffective way to deal with the problem: the vast majority of racists these days have no involvement with anything like neo-nazism.

    That said, I guess if a cleric DOES join one of those groups, it could call into serious question his ability to minister to members of racialized groups, or people who are anti-racist, or, well, pretty much anyone of decency and goodwill. But I would think that 's something that could be dealt with on an as-it-comes basis, not requiring a formally laid-out rule.

  • I've long considered voting tory to be a moral crime, and that goes just as much for their fellow travellers in the Brexit Party and UKIP. You can't look at the last 9 years, or really the last 40, and not conclude that conservative ideology is antithetical to the Gospel.

    What, loyalty, authority, family, sanctity, tradition, liberty are not good news, are anti-Christ?
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    I've long considered voting tory to be a moral crime, and that goes just as much for their fellow travellers in the Brexit Party and UKIP. You can't look at the last 9 years, or really the last 40, and not conclude that conservative ideology is antithetical to the Gospel.

    What, loyalty, authority, family, sanctity, tradition, liberty are not good news, are anti-Christ?

    I'd question whether 'authority' and 'tradition' are in and of themselves good, and the issue with the other attributes is that they tend in practice to be undermined by conservative economics.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited August 2019
    Enoch wrote: »
    4. His bishop is reported as making a somewhat bland response and does not appear to have invoked this policy. Do you think his bishop should have been more ready to intervene? e.g. to have said, 'it's either/or.; if you want to stand, then surrender your living.'?

    Can the bishop do this? Does the vicar have freehold? (AIUI, if the guy has freehold, then unless he does something actually criminal he's practically impossible to get rid of.)
  • Authority and tradition are human normal. Conservative. The other attributes are supported for such groups by such economics.
  • In the Church of Scotland you would have to give up your parish ministry (or other paid ministry) if you were to be elected to either parliament, or to local government. Not sure at what point though - on election or on standing.
  • I'm with Cathscat. That seems sensible to me.

    I don't think an employee of an Established church should stand for Parliament for any party. Most civil servants and members of the armend forces are not allowed to: I believe they have to resign when they are nominated and ask to be reinstated if they are not elected. If they say some damnfool things while campaigning they might not be reinstated.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    4. His bishop is reported as making a somewhat bland response and does not appear to have invoked this policy. Do you think his bishop should have been more ready to intervene? e.g. to have said, 'it's either/or.; if you want to stand, then surrender your living.'?

    Can the bishop do this? Does the vicar have freehold? (AIUI, if the guy has freehold, then unless he does something actually criminal he's practically impossible to get rid of.)

    Local experience suggests that even if he does something criminal, the getting rid of process can take a while!
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    4. His bishop is reported as making a somewhat bland response and does not appear to have invoked this policy. Do you think his bishop should have been more ready to intervene? e.g. to have said, 'it's either/or.; if you want to stand, then surrender your living.'?

    Can the bishop do this? Does the vicar have freehold? (AIUI, if the guy has freehold, then unless he does something actually criminal he's practically impossible to get rid of.)

    Local experience suggests that even if he does something criminal, the getting rid of process can take a while!

    If he does have freehold does that extend to preaching? Could he remain in place physically but be put on "gardening leave" indefinitly?
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I've just seen a report about a clergyman, the Vicar of Parkend in the Forest of Dean who proposes to stand for Parliament for the Brexit Party.

    The Church of England does not allow clergy, under resolutions of Synod of 2009 and 2012 to be overtly involved in the National Front or the BNP (British National Party). The actual wording from the Guidelines for clergy conduct (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong) is,

    "9.6 Ministers must not be members or active supporters of any political party or other organization whose constitution, policies, objectives, activities or public statements are incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England, as defined by the House of Bishops, in relation to the equality of persons or groups of different races."

    So far, I think it's only the NF and BNP that have been condemned by the House of Bishops.

    I suppose I've got the following two questions for discussion, with some subsidiaries.

    1. It used to be the case that irrespective of party or ideology, clergy could not stand for Parliament. This was changed as recently as 2001. Some will, and have, argued that the previous limitation unduly limited a clergy person's civil rights. Hitherto, though, most of the instances have been people who aren't active in ministry and do not hold cures of souls. Irrespective of party or ideology, how compatible is this level of overt political action with active ministry, particularly pastoral ministry?
    I don't think it is appropriate for any minister of religion to be overtly party-political in any circumstances. If that means that the civil rights of the minister are deemed to be being infringed so be it - it is incompatible with ministering to the whole people of God in a parish for the pastor of said parish to openly support any one particular party.
    2. What about the Brexit Party specifically?

    Technically, the Brexit Party, and its supporters, would almost certainly maintain that it and they don't come within the prohibition in the Guidelines as it does not specifically advocate racial inequality. Indeed, as many have pointed out publicly, it seems to have no policies apart from Brexit, to resist any pressure to disclose what apart from that it stands for, and to have no real existence as a party in the normal sense, rather than to be whatever Mr Farage says it is. Given that, should it be condemned as being structurally racist unless it can demonstrate convincingly otherwise, or should it be given the benefit of the doubt?

    Besides, they haven't been specifically named by the House of Bishops. So does that let their candidates and supporters off the moral hook.
    I do not think that the Brexit Party falls into the category mentioned in the Canon. To be blunt, when I first read the letter from Canon Oestreicher I was gobsmacked that he thought it in any way, shape or form the equivalent of the brown shirt of 1920/30s Germany's NSDAP - and a Jewish friend who fled Berlin in the 1930s as a child agrees with me. Regardless of whether or not one supports the idea of the UK leaving the EEC, there is a massive difference between wishing to have a properly working immigration policy and the persecution of a racial/ religious group. Frankly, I find some of the pronouncements made by sitting Labour MPs more easily reconcilable with those of the Nazi Party than those of the Brexit Party.
    3. Is there a difference between racism and xenophobia, or should each be condemned as implicitly including the other?
    Not sure about this. Receiving regular "only a joke" put downs about being Welsh while living in England, where do you start in the UK? I think there is a fair amount of casual racism in the UK, not all of it from older people, and I also think that we need to address the racism and anti-semitism in some of our immigrant communities before we start wondering whether the Brexit Party should be lumped in with the EDL, BNP, etc.
    4. His bishop is reported as making a somewhat bland response and does not appear to have invoked this policy. Do you think his bishop should have been more ready to intervene? e.g. to have said, 'it's either/or.; if you want to stand, then surrender your living.'?
    I'd imagine that Rachel Treweek is anxious not to make more of this than is necessary. She must also be aware that if the incumbent of Parkend is Brexit supporting then he reflects the views of roughly 60% of the electorate of the Forest of Dean - and knowing Parkend I suspect the majority for Leave there was rather higher than in other, wealthier parts of the Forest.
    5. Do we suspect that the bishops wouldn't have the guts to name the Brexit Party anyway, because they're too afraid of upsetting too many of the people in their pews? Canon Paul Oestreicher rather implied this in a letter to the Church Times a fortnight ago. If you can access this, here's a link under the heading "The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns"
    I suspect the bishops haven't, and won't, name the Brexit Party because they are all too aware that a majority of regular churchgoers in certain parts of the country voted Leave. Frankly I'm surprised that they've seen sense on this one - but of course there is still time for them to make yet another foolish pronouncement...
    6. Does some of this look completely different if you're not CofE or live in another country?
    Don't know - I'm CofE and live in the UK.
    7. Doubtless there will be some shipmates who will disagree, but in all normal circumstances, I reckon it is up to individual Christians to decide who to vote for. Each individual, and they alone, is entitled to balance the policies, competence, credibility and integrity of the parties, their leaders and their key personnel, and reach his or her own conclusion. It is wrong for clergy or other Christians expressly or impliedly to tell us how to vote, or to suggest 'how could you?' if we vote differently from the way they want us to.
    I'm with you on that. The vote is called a secret ballot and should be treated as such.

    As for a minister climbing into a pulpit to advise or exhort his flock to vote a particular way, I would be appalled.
    The only exception in respect of a major I can think of hitherto in my lifetime was the last US Presidential election. It's easy for me to say this. I have no vote there. But objectively, I do think voting for Mr Trump would have been a sinful act, not on policy grounds but because of his personal qualities - or lack of them. If there is a UK election now, have we now reached that position here?
    Much though it pains me to say this, I think the principle of the vote being secret has to stand even in this case. I think it might be acceptable for a pastor to make a general statement along the lines of Our Lord being on the side of the marginalised, oppressed, etc, and that the principle of who is my neighbour should be at the forefront of the voter's mind - perhaps something about discerning the truth in election materials - but I think that is as far as it goes.

  • Enoch wrote: »
    1. It used to be the case that irrespective of party or ideology, clergy could not stand for Parliament. This was changed as recently as 2001. ... Irrespective of party or ideology, how compatible is this level of overt political action with active ministry, particularly pastoral ministry?
    Australia had a well-known Anglican priest -- who proclaims political and social justice messages from the church billboard -- stand for parliament. I voted for him, to be upfront. He did not get in. He stood as an independent. I was a bit conflicted at first, but I came around to thinking why should clergy not be able to stand? Of course, we don't have a state church.

    This goes to your #7: in the church of my early 20s a state "Christian" party running for the upper and lower house was given time for promotion during services. That was too far for me -- though I would never have voted for them anyway, I would have been equally concerned if the Greens were given such an exclusive platform.
    2. What about the Brexit Party specifically?
    I'm not following the goings-on of this party as closely as you are, but TheOrganist's post was wise to me. A party could contain racist, sexist, etc. elements, but I think some concern should be given to its purpose, manifesto, etc. Of course there may reach a point where an "acceptable" party tips over. I think an adherence to the spirit of the law rather than the letter (i.e. if a new racist party arose it would do clergy well not to join in rather than state it has not been explicitly verboten yet by the powers that be) would be wise.
    3. Is there a difference between racism and xenophobia, or should each be condemned as implicitly including the other?
    UNESCO, among others, makes a distinction :
    Xenophobia and racism often overlap, but are distinct phenomena. Whereas racism usually entails distinction based on physical characteristic differences, such as skin colour, hair type, facial features, etc, xenophobia implies behaviour based on the idea that the other is foreign to or originates from outside the community or nation.

    Because differences in physical characteristics are often taken to distinguish the 'other' from the common community, it is often difficult to differentiate between racism and xenophobia as motivations for behaviour. At the same time, expression of xenophobia may occur against people of identical physical characteristics when such people arrive, return or migrate to States or areas where occupants consider them outsiders.
    I see benefit in distinguishing them, even if xenophobia may not be a well-known word (while I have no time for Hanson, I doubt she was the only Australian not to know the word), but, as is the case for all words, English speakers from around the world will decide if we keep the meanings separate or conflate them. If I hear "xenophobia" I do tend to think of different physical characteristics first. Or perhaps a new word will arise. As long as hatred and prejudice is called out, and we are called to look to our own behaviour, the noun, adjective, ... does not worry me.
    But objectively, I do think voting for Mr Trump would have been a sinful act, not on policy grounds but because of his personal qualities - or lack of them.
    It is my view also. But if you want clergy to have a platform you have to also allow for those who would disagree and hold the alternate view, for I am sure there are such persons. I regularly was told, or it was heavily hinted, that I could not vote Labor as the Liberals (conservative party) held the monopoly on Christian values (people in church clearly saw me as a lefty). If you are comfortable with that, so be it. TheOrganist's comments on preaching to a behaviour/mindset which may inform voting rather than to a party seems to be the better way. But I can see merit in your comment...I just have some concerns around where it may lead. But I may be wrong.
  • The Brexit Party doesn't have a manifesto, it runs entirely on the Fuhrerprinzip. If you can't see the similarities with past fascist movements you're either not paying attention or are so far to the right you can't see the mainstream with a telescope.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    edited August 2019
    sionisais wrote: »

    If he does have freehold does that extend to preaching? Could he remain in place physically but be put on "gardening leave" indefinitly?

    If he has freehold, he can’t be put on gardening leave. He could only be suspended if he stood accused of something illegal.

    I was a member of the Synod that voted through the motion mentioned in the OP. The BNP & NF are banned organisations, hence the ability to name and prohibit them. The Brexit Party has former members of both of those organisations in its ranks. It’s still a private company, has no members, just affiliates, and no facility to elect the leader or officers. It allegedly has policies, but is refusing to share them. Candidates have been selected to stand in a snap election but not named, only presented to a private gathering of the ‘party faithful’. They protest they’re not racists, but show overtly on social media that they are. The concerted attack on Sadiq Khan is an illustration of how they pretend to talk about policy, but are clearly targeting him for his racial and religious background. If the CofE has any guts, it would name the BP as a banned organisation and take a stand. Sadly, it has become a flaccid, introspective institution that is only interested in its own existence and can’t even manage that properly (see the recent IICSA report). I am ashamed of my church. The relevant bishop should take him to one side and tell him plainly that he will be condemned for taking this course of action, and if he persists, speak out publicly and show some spine and integrity.
  • Thanks McMaverick for the information. And I am sorry you feel ashamed of your church.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited August 2019
    Returning to the OP's questions ...
    Enoch wrote: »
    1. It used to be the case that irrespective of party or ideology, clergy could not stand for Parliament. This was changed as recently as 2001. Some will, and have, argued that the previous limitation unduly limited a clergy person's civil rights. Hitherto, though, most of the instances have been people who aren't active in ministry and do not hold cures of souls. Irrespective of party or ideology, how compatible is this level of overt political action with active ministry, particularly pastoral ministry?

    Are you asking whether it should be prevented as a matter of civil law or canon law? AIUI, the civil argument against clergy involvement in politics is that they could abuse their spiritual influence to get people to vote the way they wanted (qv Lutfur Rahman). But ISTM that argument applies a fortiori to professions like counsellor, therapist, perhaps even GP, who I suspect have more power over people's perceptions than clergy these days.
    3. What about the Brexit Party specifically?

    Technically, the Brexit Party, and its supporters, would almost certainly maintain that it and they don't come within the prohibition in the Guidelines as it does not specifically advocate racial inequality. Indeed, as many have pointed out publicly, it seems to have no policies apart from Brexit, to resist any pressure to disclose what apart from that it stands for, and to have no real existence as a party in the normal sense, rather than to be whatever Mr Farage says it is. Given that, should it be condemned as being structurally racist unless it can demonstrate convincingly otherwise, or should it be given the benefit of the doubt?

    Supporting the Brexit Party is giving a blank cheque to Mr Farage, which seems to me a sin against prudence at the very least. Put not one's trust in princes and all that. I'm not sure how you'd translate that into policy though.
    Is there a difference between racism and xenophobia, or should each be condemned as implicitly including the other?

    I think our most recent PMs demonstrate the difference. I would say Mrs May was xenophobic, and Mr Johnson's piccaninny / watermelon / letterbox comments give the impression he doesn't mind if he's seen as racist.

    Mrs May, AFAICT, did not have a colour problem, but she really wanted to make life difficult for immigrants who aren't citizens. Granted, the hostile environment tends to penalise brown people more than white people, but she was doing her best to ensure that post-Brexit it would apply to white Europeans as well. IOW, in her mind the distinction is between citizen and non-citizen, not between black or white.

    Mr Johnson is more liberal about immigration, i.e. less bothered about non-citizens. OTOH, he has made a bunch of comments that suggest, at the least, he doesn't really care if they are perceived as hostile by non-white people.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited August 2019
    Enoch wrote: »
    It used to be the case that irrespective of party or ideology, clergy could not stand for Parliament.
    Of course, this has never applied to Nonconformist ministers. Historically quite a few were very active politically, usually in the Liberal cause - indeed, they would have seen it as part of their Christian duty.

    (Enoch made the point that the legislation specifically referred to the CofE - I wonder what the situation was in the disestablished Church in Wales or Scottish Episcopal Church?)

    FWIW, as long ago as 1978 the United Reformed Church decided, "We believe that racial policies and racial activities of the National Front, and other similar bodies, are entirely contrary to the truth of the Gospel and contrary to the true integrity of this nation".

  • Ricardus wrote: »
    AIUI, the civil argument against clergy involvement in politics is that they could abuse their spiritual influence to get people to vote the way they wanted (qv Lutfur Rahman). But ISTM that argument applies a fortiori to professions like counsellor, therapist, perhaps even GP, who I suspect have more power over people's perceptions than clergy these days.

    Abuse of power is not just a civil concern but a religious concern. Denying or ignoring this has gotten the Catholic Church into a hell of a lot of trouble, and damaged a hell of a lot of people.

    Whatever those other professions do, the church needs to police its own, and keep clergy out of politics.
  • Climacus wrote: »
    3. Is there a difference between racism and xenophobia, or should each be condemned as implicitly including the other?
    UNESCO, among others, makes a distinction :
    Xenophobia and racism often overlap, but are distinct phenomena. Whereas racism usually entails distinction based on physical characteristic differences, such as skin colour, hair type, facial features, etc, xenophobia implies behaviour based on the idea that the other is foreign to or originates from outside the community or nation.

    Because differences in physical characteristics are often taken to distinguish the 'other' from the common community, it is often difficult to differentiate between racism and xenophobia as motivations for behaviour. At the same time, expression of xenophobia may occur against people of identical physical characteristics when such people arrive, return or migrate to States or areas where occupants consider them outsiders.
    I see benefit in distinguishing them, even if xenophobia may not be a well-known word (while I have no time for Hanson, I doubt she was the only Australian not to know the word), but, as is the case for all words, English speakers from around the world will decide if we keep the meanings separate or conflate them. If I hear "xenophobia" I do tend to think of different physical characteristics first. Or perhaps a new word will arise. As long as hatred and prejudice is called out, and we are called to look to our own behaviour, the noun, adjective, ... does not worry me.

    "I don't like the word 'xenophobic.' It suggests irrational prejudice. And, of course, it's a Greek word and I detest Greeks."

    From a sketch that probably seemed like over-the-top satire in 1996. But the problem, of course, is that buffoonish characters from TV comedies sometimes become Prime Minister.

  • This may be a dumb question, but don't you all have C of E bishops in your House of Lords already? So you already have church leaders mixed up in politics, and as far as maintaining impartiality, I imagine most people could guess the bishops' political opinions from their voting records. Would it be very different for the rector/vicar of a parish to run for office?
  • This may be a dumb question, but don't you all have C of E bishops in your House of Lords already? So you already have church leaders mixed up in politics, and as far as maintaining impartiality, I imagine most people could guess the bishops' political opinions from their voting records. Would it be very different for the rector/vicar of a parish to run for office?

    All the bishops sit with the cross-benchers, whereas this is a party-affiliated candidature.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    A few comments.

    I'm fairly sure the old prohibition applied to all those who were ordained by bishops, but not to most those who weren't, though it did applied to CofS clergy. So it included CofE, CinW, CofI and Scottish Piskies. It also included Roman Catholic clergy irrespective of Catholic emancipation. It was status related. So it applied even to people who weren't functioning as clergy. It was dropped because it was barring somebody from standing who had once, earlier in his life, been a Roman priest.

    It never applied to other public offices. @TheOrganist I don't know what your view would be on these. I'm not at all comfortable with them. 40+ years ago, there was an incumbent of one of the churches in central Bristol that has now closed who was a City Councillor, Labour I think, probably from the South Bank tradition. I think he would have claimed it was part of his ministry. There's currently a retired clergyperson who is a Police and Crime Commissioner for part of Yorkshire. He was at one time a Sheffield City Councillor, but I don't know whether that was while he was an incumbent. Perhaps there's a shipmate who would know.

    There was also, about 35 years ago, a vicar who sat as a Magistrate in Calne. In some ways, I'd have though that as even more questionable. Being sent down for 3 months in the slammer by a priest, even if deserved, doesn't feel right to me.

    However, is there a difference in this area between full time clergy and part timers, non-stipendiaries etc.? If there isn't, that would mean one is saying someone whose secular activity involves things that we may regard as worthy for others, nevertheless shouldn't be a ordained as a non-stipendiary, or should give up part of their career, if, say, they're already involved in politics, campaigning journalism etc. Lawyers aren't inhibited from non-stipendiary ministry. Would it reasonable to say that it inhibited judges?


    Part of the civil argument, was an entirely reasonable suspicion of religious figures using their spiritual authority to get people to vote as they tell them. I get the impression that's fairly prevalent in the U.S.

    I think one part of the church argument would be that stipendiaries are paid their stipend to enable them to serve God in ministry without having to devote their working hours to earning a living - not to fund them to go off on a jolly of their own, whether worthy or unworthy. Another part would be that for a person in ministry to identify themselves closely with one controversial view, however self-evident they may think it is, impliedly unchurches all those in their flock who disagree with them. If @Arethosemyfeet is in ministry, rather than a lay person free to express his or her own opinion, then, however understandable, I'd query whether the line voiced in his/her first post on this thread, if expressed publicly rather than on these boards, is compatible with the role?


    @TheOrganist, there's quite a lot in your long post I don't agree with, but two things I'd pick out.

    First, I don't think the ballot's being secret is relevant. If anything it works against what you seem to be saying. It means that those who might feel pressured, once they get in their booth can ignore the pressure they've been subjected to. That's why it was introduced.

    Second, I happen not to think it is enough to say the Brexit Party is OK because the Synod hasn't criticised it yet, or dare not. I happen to agree more with what @Arethosemyfeet and @McMaverick have said. And I don't think it's enough to say that because a lot of people in Parkend are the sort of people who may well support Mr Farage, the person chosen to be their priest should be somebody who identifies with them in that. If there are things seriously wrong with what Mr Farage stands for and his personal political fiefdom, that a lot of people agree with him doesn't make it right. It makes it more dangerously wrong. That would be so irrespective of Synod. One is entitled, and should, evaluate his party not just on what it directly says, but on what it overtly implies and appeals to without directly saying it.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    Second, I happen not to think it is enough to say the Brexit Party is OK because the Synod hasn't criticised it yet, or dare not. I happen to agree more with what @Arethosemyfeet and @McMaverick have said.

    I actually found @Ricardus critique a lot more relevant here; insofar as support of the BP essentially gives a blank check to Farage.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    40+ years ago, there was an incumbent of one of the churches in central Bristol that has now closed who was a City Councillor, Labour I think, probably from the South Bank tradition. I think he would have claimed it was part of his ministry. There's currently a retired clergyperson who is a Police and Crime Commissioner for part of Yorkshire. He was at one time a Sheffield City Councillor, but I don't know whether that was while he was an incumbent. Perhaps there's a shipmate who would know.
    And the CofS Minister Geoff Shaw: https://tinyurl.com/y29urc8y

  • Enoch wrote: »
    There was also, about 35 years ago, a vicar who sat as a Magistrate in Calne. In some ways, I'd have though that as even more questionable. Being sent down for 3 months in the slammer by a priest, even if deserved, doesn't feel right to me.

    However, is there a difference in this area between full time clergy and part timers, non-stipendiaries etc.? If there isn't, that would mean one is saying someone whose secular activity involves things that we may regard as worthy for others, nevertheless shouldn't be a ordained as a non-stipendiary, or should give up part of their career, if, say, they're already involved in politics, campaigning journalism etc. Lawyers aren't inhibited from non-stipendiary ministry. Would it reasonable to say that it inhibited judges?


    Certainly, His Honour Judge Mark Bishop currently sits as judge of the circuit court and a Senior Judge of the Sovereign Base Area, Cyprus. Simultaneously, he adjudicates on matters of church law as Chancellor of Lincoln. Finally, he is an NSM at Little St. Mary's Cambridge.

    More exotic a figure is the Rev. Canon. Joseph John Morrow CBE KStJ QC DL LLD, who combines his roles of chaplain of Glamis Castle with being Lord Lyon King of Arms, and thus the chief heraldic authority for Scotland. By Scottish tradition, all heralds must be lawyers. He is also a Vice Lieutenant of Dundee and a former Labour local councilor.
  • To reassure Enoch: I am a lay person. On the rare occasions I am asked to take to the pulpit I do not and would not stray into party politics. Politics more broadly is hard to avoid; the Gospel itself is inherently political.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    It looks as though there are at least the following possible positions:-

    On my original first point
    • Clergy should not publicly align themselves with any political party, whether reputable or disreputable. Am I right @TheOrganist that that is your position, but that apart from that, you think the Brexit Party is as OK as any other?; or
    • If lay people should be free to align themselves with a political party, then clergy should have the same freedom and there's no incompatibility. Presumably, though none of us can speak for him, that is what the Revd Canon Joseph Morrow thinks; or
    • That there is a difference here between stipendiary incumbents and non-stipendiaries.
    • @sionisais thinks it's all right for clergy in other denominations to align themselves with a political party but not for Cof E clergy because they more like civil servants or army, naval or air force officers.

    And on the second point,
    • As the Brexit Party hasn't been condemned by Synod, there is no difference between it and the more regular parties; or
    • Synod or no, the Brexit Party has a suspect constitution and is tainted by xenophobia, populism and an implicit racism. So it is questionable whether even lay people should have anything to do with it, yet alone clergy. @Arethosemyfeet would include the Conservative Party in that, not just since Mr de Piffle became its leader but since at least 2010. @Martin54, though disagrees as the Conservative Party stands for "loyalty, authority, family, sanctity, tradition, liberty".
  • The vicar of my childhood church stood for a mainstream party in the local elections. Mercifully, I can't remember which one! But it did make members of the congregation feel uncomfortable if they weren't in agreement. That was back in the day when worshippers weren't meant to be unrestful and were supposed to support their vicar!
  • Cathscats wrote: »
    In the Church of Scotland you would have to give up your parish ministry (or other paid ministry) if you were to be elected to either parliament, or to local government. Not sure at what point though - on election or on standing.

    While this is a CoE thread, I might provide a reference to the Canadian Anglican practice. Clergy frequently run for seats, primarily in provincial legislatures (Canon Cody in Toronto NE "A" 1918-20 for the Conservatives, Archdeacon Ken Bolton in Middlesex 1969-71 for the NDP) but sometimes federally (Dan Heap in Toronto Spadina 1981-93 for the NDP, Roland de Corneille in Eglinton Lawrence 1979-88 for the Liberals). In all cases, they requested and received their bishop's permission (with the remarkable Dan Heap, there are different stories about how this happened and its timing) and it was clearly understood by all that there was to be no campaigning from the pulpit-- as far as I know, this was carefully observed.

    IIRC Canon Cody continued at Saint Paul's on Bloor Street, but Fr de Corneille gave up Saint Hilda's. Fr Heap as a worker-priest did not have a parish, although he was attached to Holy Trinity. I think that Archdeacon Bolton had retired.

    It sometimes goes the other way; Dennis Drainville was the NDP Speaker of the Ontario legislature, but ended up as Bishop of Québec.
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    My pastor* has never told us who to vote for or addressed party politics. That said, she's rather prophetic--and I do not use that word lightly--and seriously addresses the evils she sees in the world. She asks us to face them and do something about them. Ergo I have absolutely no doubt who she would vote for in the presidential election. (Whatever person she thinks most likely to beat Trump, presumably the Democrat.) I would be interested in whether those of who who want politics kept out of the pulpit object to this. Because I think her sermons phenomenal partially because she doesn't waste time patting us on the back for being good liberals. But that doesn't make her less political

    *For the next couple months until she leaves to be a bishop elsewhere
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Augustine the Aleut thank you. That's interesting. This isn't meant to be an exclusively CofE thread. It's just that I'm CofE and I vote in an English constituency.

    Now the next questions. Do you think Canadian clergy should stand in elections? Are their respective flocks happy about it? What's the clergy rationale for doing so rather than getting on with parish work? And is the position much the same with other denominations in Canada?
    Gwai wrote: »
    ... she's rather prophetic--and I do not use that word lightly--and seriously addresses the evils she sees in the world. She asks us to face them and do something about them. ...
    @Gwai when you say that, what do you mean by it? Do you just mean that she is controversial and outspoken on public issues? Or does she impart a supernatural wisdom and message from God to your congregation, fresh different and challenging, to which other people do not have access, and which she does only by long hours spent closeted with him and listening to what he is saying, in the manner of the biblical prophets?

    They aren't the same thing. Saying something important but controversial that people could work out by their own theologically trained reason, and possibly already have, may be the role of the preacher, but it's not enough to make what he or she says, 'prophetic'.

    Besides, are the people who are actually doing the evils she speaks about in her congregation or in some other way hearing what she says?

    We're very ready to use the phrase 'speaking truth to power', but a person isn't doing that unless 'power' is actually or metaphorically in the room. Most of the time what's actually happening is that someone is 'speaking truth about power to the powerless'. That may have its values, but it isn't the same thing. It's also easier. The audience is more likely to agree with you.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I would have no problems here with a member of clergy also being in politics. For example Rev Fred Nile, a leading social and theological conservative, is a member of the NSW Upper House; I disagree with his views but he is entitled to express them and obviously there are sufficient voters who agree with him. The same for Fr Rod Bower, the Anglican rector of the outer-suburban city of Gosford, with whose views I largely agree to the extent that I gave him my second preference in the recent Senate election.

    But the position in the UK is different for the CoE. While local clergy are independent bishops are appointed by the government and some sit in the House of Lords. And the CoE as a whole is established. Its role overall is pretty close to Erastian. There's a strong argument that its clergy should not participate in politics.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    It looks as though there are at least the following possible positions:-

    On my original first point
    • Clergy should not publicly align themselves with any political party, whether reputable or disreputable. Am I right @TheOrganist that that is your position, but that apart from that, you think the Brexit Party is as OK as any other?; or
    • If lay people should be free to align themselves with a political party, then clergy should have the same freedom and there's no incompatibility. Presumably, though none of us can speak for him, that is what the Revd Canon Joseph Morrow thinks; or
    • That there is a difference here between stipendiary incumbents and non-stipendiaries.
    • @sionisais thinks it's all right for clergy in other denominations to align themselves with a political party but not for Cof E clergy because they more like civil servants or army, naval or air force officers.
    I'd answer as follows.
    First, I don't think clergy - CofE, RC, Imams, Rabbis, whatever - should publicly align themselves with any political party, ever: and I'd say that of all political parties right across the spectrum from the Communist Party of Britain, through SNP, Plaid Cymru, through to BNP, EDL and including the Brexit Party.

    No, I personally don't think the Brexit party is "as OK as any other" but I also don't think it satisfies the criteria the Synod used to say that membership of, or alignment with, the BNP was not allowed.

    Lay people and clergy can support whatever party they choose (though we may deplore their choice) but I don't think it right for someone such as a religious leader to make public their choice simply because there will be those who will see that personal choice as giving a rubber stamp of approval.

    I think that the foregoing should apply to all ordained people, regardless of whether or not they are salaried, working, retired, whatever.
    And on the second point,
    • As the Brexit Party hasn't been condemned by Synod, there is no difference between it and the more regular parties; or
    • Synod or no, the Brexit Party has a suspect constitution and is tainted by xenophobia, populism and an implicit racism. So it is questionable whether even lay people should have anything to do with it, yet alone clergy. @Arethosemyfeet would include the Conservative Party in that, not just since Mr de Piffle became its leader but since at least 2010. @Martin54, though disagrees as the Conservative Party stands for "loyalty, authority, family, sanctity, tradition, liberty".
    I think there is a massive difference between the Brexit Party and others, not least that it doesn't actually have any members but uses the word "Party" just as a title. The BP has no members, only supporters; it is a single issue pressure group with no aim other than getting the UK to leave the EEC which isn't in any way a policy for governing the UK and dealing with the real issues that affect people such as housing, education, health, etc, etc, etc.

    The thing I find particularly worrying about the Brexit Party is the tag it sometime uses of Turning Anger into Hope - angry about what (other than Brussels) and hope for what?
  • Enoch wrote: »
    @Augustine the Aleut thank you. That's interesting. This isn't meant to be an exclusively CofE thread. It's just that I'm CofE and I vote in an English constituency.

    Now the next questions. Do you think Canadian clergy should stand in elections? Are their respective flocks happy about it? What's the clergy rationale for doing so rather than getting on with parish work? And is the position much the same with other denominations in Canada?

    *snipping out the Gwai conversation*

    Our political situation is so regional in nature that I am reluctant to give a pan-Canadian answer.

    Should they stand? We have had some extraordinary leaders come out of clerical circles. As I was focussing on Anglican clergy, I did not mention Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister who became the first socialist head of government in Canada as Premier of Saskatchewan, who founded medicare, and who was the first leader of the NDP; or the venerable Stanley Knowles, a United Church minister who sat for Winnipeg NC and was perhaps our greatest parliamentarian and more recent UCC minister Bill Blaikie, who was sufficiently revered as a parliamentarian that on retirement he was summoned to the Privy
    Council. David McDonald, who was Secretary of State in Mr Clark's 1979-80 ministry, was a well-regarded figure on the Hill, and was effectively the chaplain for years, and I have knowledge of him having helped MPs with grave (and I mean grave) personal problems. On the more conservative side was the Social Credit premier of Alberta, Bible Bill Aberhart.

    The answer to that is that it probably has done the wider community much good with articulate and educated leaders, with experience on the coal face of how policy has an impact on humans. However, Its effect on congregations can be problematic.

    Are their flocks happy? The answers on that will vary. One political cleric I mentioned in another posting caused great joy when he moved to Ottawa, and the bottles really came out for his successor's appointment. Campaigns can cause divisions in a congregation and that is where common sense seems to have worked.... so far....

    The rationale is, I suppose, that they are addressing pastoral issues on behalf of a wider community.

    I have heard that the UCC has procedures in place for clergy seeking office, but I have not seen them. Since Saint J2P2, the RCC has forbidden clerics to seek or accept office, and they put the muscle on the late Fr Bob Ogle, a canon lawyer who sat for Saskatoon East for the NDP 1979-84, to stand down rather than run again. As their commentary on this, the University of Saskatchewan renamed Saint Pius X Seminary Ogle Hall.

    There have been a few senators who were clergy, included a nun (whose order had to dispense her from a vow of poverty so that she could acquire a small plot of land to provide her with her real property qualification of $4,000) as well as a Toronto non-denominational minister who had to resign after his texting correspondence with a teenager was deemed to be inappropriate. But in Canada, senators are appointed and not elected, so they're likely not part of this discussion.
  • The previous minister of one of my former churches in London had a minister who was not afraid -m almost literally - to nail his political colours to the mast. In his time the church displayed a large banner outside proclaiming that "This Church supports the Labour Party". This did not go down well with some members of the congregation, especially as this was at the height of "Loony-left" politics, with the local Council spending more time discussing (eg) women's rights in Jamaica than the state of our roads.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    The previous minister of one of my former churches in London had a minister who was not afraid -m almost literally - to nail his political colours to the mast. In his time the church displayed a large banner outside proclaiming that "This Church supports the Labour Party". This did not go down well with some members of the congregation, especially as this was at the height of "Loony-left" politics, with the local Council spending more time discussing (eg) women's rights in Jamaica than the state of our roads.
    I'd class that as well out of order. It's unchurching those who don't agree with him.

    And who is he to be able to say "This church" rather than "I, the Revd X"? I've ben under the impression that Baptist churches are congregationally run. Had the church met and resolved that they all supported the Labour Party, or to tell those members who didn't that they should move elsewhere?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Second Post

    @Gee D I don't agree with you and others who have said that there's a difference between an established church and any other.

    Doubtless there are some clergy who would interpret 'Erastian' as meaning that their role is to give a religious endorsement to the state, to exhort their flock to do their bit likewise. Not many clergy or lay people, though, interpret establishment that way. The state would doubtless prefer it if they did. There's a an alternative view that establishment is there to keep the state's metaphorical feet to the fire so as not to lose sight that kings princes, governors etc are accountable to God, not just in it for themselves or to keep the electorate happy or to reward their own followers.

    There are nevertheless good reasons why, even if one accepts that and it were important, one might also say that a clergy person would damage that witness by aligning him or herself with a particular political party.

    There's also, though, IMHO a difference between saying I stand for X - and by implication, you should to - and Option Y is so far from the kingdom that people should consider any other option except Y.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I'd class that as well out of order. It's unchurching those who don't agree with him. ... I've been under the impression that Baptist churches are congregationally run. Had the church met and resolved that they all supported the Labour Party, or to tell those members who didn't that they should move elsewhere?
    Quite. I only heard about it post facto and don't know any details - as you rightly say, it hits several wrong buttons.

  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    edited August 2019
    Gwai wrote: »
    ... she's rather prophetic--and I do not use that word lightly--and seriously addresses the evils she sees in the world. She asks us to face them and do something about them. ...
    @Gwai when you say that, what do you mean by it? Do you just mean that she is controversial and outspoken on public issues? Or does she impart a supernatural wisdom and message from God to your congregation, fresh different and challenging, to which other people do not have access, and which she does only by long hours spent closeted with him and listening to what he is saying, in the manner of the biblical prophets?

    They aren't the same thing.

    One is entirely aware they are not the same thing, darling.

    And I definitely meant the second though I have never questioned her on her methods for sermon prep.
    Besides, are the people who are actually doing the evils she speaks about in her congregation or in some other way hearing what she says?
    Uh, yeah, of course we are. We're the ones who are not, and I refer my previous post here, "fac[ing the [issues] and do[ing] something about them!" That's why I didn't say "speak truth to power." We are not power. Are you sure I'm the person you are really addressing?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Enoch, I think there's a difference between the CoE and the CoS, with the absence of State interference with the latter. Would you agree?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    Enoch, I think there's a difference between the CoE and the CoS, with the absence of State interference with the latter. Would you agree?
    No.

    They have different constitutions, but that's because they have a different theological history, in both cases closely bound up with the power structures of the past. Both by their names indicate that they are in some sense national, potentially available for all the Christians in a particular place. These days, the scope of the state to 'interfere' as you put it, is very limited even in the CofE and almost gone in the CofS.

    Very few active CofE clergy or laity would accept the notion that the state is entitled to tell clergy what they can and can't say or that they are expected to work out what the state would like them to say and then say it. The people and newspapers who think that are unlikely to attend at all, or be Christmas and occasional offices only.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Gwai thank you. That's interesting. Obviously, I don't know who your pastor is. We're anonymous and far away from each other.

    I'm now over 70 and have been attending church one way or another virtually my whole life. In that time, I've encountered almost nothing that I'd class as containing an element of prophecy in its true and profound sense, and nothing at all that I can recall that had any bearing on the public sphere or the relationship God might be calling us to have with it.

    'Prophecy' and 'prophetic' are used in the weaker sense I've mentioned all too often. I wish people wouldn't use the words that way. It demeans something that is a rare and unusual gift, that in history has often been silent for centuries at a time.

    Your pastor must be a very unusual person. It's a pity you're losing her. It would be better if more bishops had that quality and calling, but one would fear whether the expectations of the office might silence her vision.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Thanks for your post, but that does not deal wth 2 matters. The first is the appointment of bishops in the CoE, which still remains in the hands of the PM. I see this in contrast to the CoS where there are no appointments by a politician. Indeed, the Crown's role is limited to having an observer at the General Assembly and is a major difference despite its being a national church in the sense you pick up. The second is that some bishops sit in the Lords and thus have a political role.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    edited August 2019
    The PM’s role is very limited these days. S/he can reject the names put forward by the church, but nowadays the convention is that s/he accepts the church’s first choice
    The commission then forwards two names to the prime minister, who chooses one of them, or (exceptionally) requests additional names from the commission… Since 2007 the convention has been that the prime minister will choose the first-named recommendation. (Source)

    The bishops who sit in the House of Lords (as part of the legislature, not the executive) mostly do so in order of seniority of appointment, and sit on the cross benches (politically non-aligned). Their oath of allegiance to the Sovereign does not require any loyalty to the government currently in power.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I knew that they sit on the cross-benches, but they are still part of the legislature. I still find the whole procedure objectionable, including the farce of the election.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I apologise for my last post which went further than it ought. The last sentence would be better expressed by saying that the whole procedure is ripe for review.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    S’OK. It’s obviously something you feel strongly about. I agree that the Collrge of Canons and the congé d’élire* is a bit of a farce. Originally it represented the monarch’s control of the appointment procedure. Even if the College of Canons had genuine electoral power it is not, I think, how the church today would choose to appoint bishops. Nowadays the only politics in play in the appointment process is church politics.
    (*Permission to elect.)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited August 2019
    The congé shows HM's graciousness - she gives leave to elect, but then saves the electors the worry of thinking about the person to elect by providing the name of the suitable candidate. Casting a quick eye across the PM's for the last 70 years, I'd say that Harold MacMillan was the last who was a serious churchperson. Perhaps Douglas-Home.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    Yup. Although she’s just telling the College to elect the person the church has already chosen. It is a bit of historical nonsense.
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