What does the BNP vote tell us about our church? Ed Tomlinson wonders what Synod thought it was doing and does not like one bit what this suggests
Have you ever watched a weak leader attempt to gain control in a group dynamic? What tends to happen is that the mask of authority does not fit, meaning the group sees through the ‘act’ very quickly. The result is predictable; with requisite gravitas lacking, the leaders ability to lead is exposed as sham, matters descend into farce and a situation arises worse than before. Real power shifts elsewhere, leaving the one in charge in a place of uncomfortable weakness. Thereafter the (now bogus) leader limps along, ridiculed in private, and bypassed in public.
Marks of weak leadership
But weak leaders are seldom fools and often learn from their cruel humiliation. In future, controversy will be avoided; fudge and compromise becoming watchwords of the day. And yet strangely, considering this subconscious shift in tactics, the sham leader will often remain blind to their impotence. And in order to keep up the delusion of importance, they will forcibly tackle problems which everyone agrees about. Using sledgehammers to crack peanuts, they repeatedly back the populist voice in an attempt to seem relevant and in control.
Cue Synods decision to ban clergy from the BNP. What was that all about? I am not suggesting that support for this ludicrous party is not at odds with faith — it clearly is. What I question is the reason Synod felt a need to underline it. After all, how many clergy does it actually effect? I would estimate less than the fingers on one hand. Thus the vote troubles me, as it says more about our troubled church than the threat of far-right politics.
Was this vote of Synod, whose authority has been so crushed by an inability or unwillingness to deal with women’s ordination and the homosexual issue, clutching at straws to demonstrate unity and power? Why else waste time legislating for something which will, in all reality, barely affect either church or BNP?
Yet had the exercise been purely futile, we might end this article and allow the matter to pass. A joke could be had at the expense of weak leadership with no harm done. But I fear its not that simple; this
strange decision has opened Pandoras box and could actually have far reaching implications on future decisions.
For starters, precedent has been set. If we now legislate against distinct parties, what of others equally abrasive to the faith? I struggle with Marxist philosophy, which tends to be atheistic, anti-Catholic and anti-family So why has Synod not banned all support of Socialism, for it has proved a graver threat to faith than the BNP thus far? And for that matter the present government has pushed Christianity to the margins, attacking the family, promoting same-sex marriage and rampantly supported abortion. Might we not ban membership of New Labour too? Tricky, for we are a State Church, but where do we draw the line?
What it might mean
Which leads me to question what the BNP ban actually reveals. Was this vote a robust defence of Christian faith, or does it expose a church rooted to left-leaning politics and the PC opinions of middle England? The answer to this is crucial in determining the integrity of this vote, and I am worried the answer is the latter.
I now find myself in a church which allows me to: deny the real presence, ignore Scripture in matters of sexual practice, endorse non-biblical revelations as regards holy orders, opt for the deplorable act of abortion, divorce and remarry in church, deny the virgin birth and/or physical resurrection… And yet I have no freedom to vote for a certain political party? Is not BNP membership, whilst utterly repugnant, the least offensive item on this list? Does the present Synod really rate infanticide a lesser evil? The crippling silence concerning abortion suggests it does.
And what of the decision to apply this ban only to those in holy orders? This separation of clergy from humanity
has become a favourite of Synod, but it makes no sense at all. What is good for the goose is good for the gander: if something is sinful, it is sinful for all, if permissible, it must be free to all. That goes for BNP membership and gay sex alike.
This may seem a moot point but we must ask what message differential treatment is sending out? Were I a layman it might tell me that Church laws are only for clergy, that my own behaviour was not important. I might even reach the perilous conclusion that matters of faith are negotiable. In a land where faith dwindles, people need a strong lead. Pity the fool then who looks to the current establishment!
Finding the real issues
Finally we turn attention to Synod itself, for this vote highlights its fatal flaw. Namely that the governing body of our Church is increasingly resembling modern politics, where all is decided by popular vote. Little wonder we find ourselves less in step with Jesus and more in step with society by the day, for our doctrines and practice now lie at the mercy of a show of hands, mostly gleaned from the chattering classes of middle England!
The ban on BNP membership was passed because someone bought a favourite topic to the floor. Proof, if any were needed, that the councils of our church have become nothing more than a body for legitimising popular opinion. If this does not terrify you it should, popular opinion chose Barabbas not Jesus!
How sad that so many bishops choose weak leadership – and a Synod of choice – simply because they have lost faith in Christ to transform. I say this with confidence – for it is the only explanation as to why they seem more concerned with Fair Trade, racism and the environment than in calling sinners to repentance.
Racism is evil, BNP membership foul, but the same is true of many things. If the present hierarchy were as robust in preaching the true faith as tinkering in matters political, they might actually bring about the genuine revival of faith that this country desperately needs. Then the threat of the BNP, and all other man-made lies, would fade, as fear gave way to love, and Gods kingdom was established on earth. \ND\