An evening in front of the box gave John Hervé something to think about

IT HAD BEEN a hard day in the Parish. Browsing through the schedules one programme looked vaguely interesting.”Five Steps to tyranny – Why People commit terrible acts”. 1 settled down to watch. 1 became interested, then engrossed then fascinated. For a gradual realisation occurred. This is what is happening in the Church of England It is happening in my Diocese. And it is happening to ME!


We were informed that tyranny begins with a “dominant group”. This creates a culture of “in-groups” and “out-groups” — us and them. 1 reflected That the “in-group”was emerging in the Church of England for many years before the vote in ’92. Invariably, only those in favour were preferred at any level. Following ’92, those unsettled by it have been marginalised (if not., why did we need the Blackburn Report?). The programme told us that the “outgroup” are not seen as having the same rights as the “in-group” (in my case, what other vote of a PCC requires two-thirds majority besides that to pass Resolution C?) Positive discrimination in favour of minorities does not extend to Forward-in-Falth members in our Church and certainly not in my Diocese (neither of them is therefore actually an Equal Opportunities Employer).


The programme stated the next stage was pressure to comply. 1 recalled a spokesperson for body holding significant amount of patronage in stated to me. following his intervention to persuade a PCC to rescind Resolution C in an interregnum, that he had “managed to bring it back into the C of E”‘ (occasion, witnesses, name and address supplied). People are more likely to comply (stated the programme) if an authority figure is added for the occasion. Is that why the Suffragen Bishop of our Diocese visited every PCC that had passed resolution C to “discuss the matter?.


We were told the next step is to demonise and dehumanise opponents .My Christmas post contained a book of Poems (“Let those who Hear: Hear”‘). It was about the pain/hurt/suffering of Women who have vocations in the Church. But virtually every poem was prefaced by a vitriolic and bitter attack on Forward-in-Faith (of course, I am not supposed to feel pain as a result of such attitudes!) The programme suggested that it is usual for people to obey authority even when it goes against conscience, even more so when they convince them they are obeying God’s word or saving democracy. It is easier to do them harm if they are viewed as less than human. 1 was at a meeting with a Diocesan bishop, who when challenged with the fact that no one from the constituency in the diocese unsettled by the ’92 vote was either on the Diocesan Staff or an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral stated that there was no one of the required calibre in our constituency for these posts. The group referred to included an author of a best-selling book on spirituality, another was an ex-tutor of a Theological College. another Vicar of the most important parish in the Diocese and another the Forward-in-Faith Regional Dean! (Occasion.witnesses supplied).


At this point we were told that everyone has choice to be a bystander (ie let the oppression happen or to be a dissenter (speak out/up against it). Bystanders maintain tyrannies If ideas and actions cannot be challenged, if dissent is not acknowledged, then this is a dangerous situation. 1 reflected that our Synodical system (especially in elections) ensures that minorities are not heard (except the acceptable minorities). Suppression of rebellion at this stage becomes acceptable — a logical step and the social norm for that particular community. The,Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod come to mind!


With this point, the programme made me reflect on the fortunes of ECUSA Traditionalists in Australia cry out on their agony. Evidence to the Blackburn report outlined some horrendous actions towards traditionalists in our own church. We all have stories to tell. How can committed Christian lay people and clergy do such things? But this is the natural progression of tyranny. The ability of ordinary people to do evil acts. It is because, finally, it becomes and seems a “normal”thing to do and acceptable.

This programme put forward the thesis of that there are five steps to tyranny. Nazi Germany? A Communist State? Bosnia (ethnic cleansing, etc)? Yes, all of these. But it is also happening in the Church of England. And it is happening to me!

John Herve is Parish Priest of St Agatha’s Sparkbrook in the .Diocese of Birmingham

“Five Steps to Tyranny” was shown on BBC2 at 9.00p m ojn ]9th Dec 2000