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"..a Government unburdened by doctrine" - what about the Church?

Updated: Jul 7

A Voice of Experience reflects on Sir Keir Stamer's first speech as prime minister.

On the afternoon of the 5th July 2024, Sir Kier Starmer made his first speech as prime minister from outside Number Ten. During the speech he reassured the United Kingdom that, "My government will fight every day until you believe again [in a better future for your children]. From now on", he continued, "you have a government unburdened by doctrine, guided only by the determination to serve your interest, to defy, quietly, those who have written our country off."

Whatever one's political persuasion, an interesting parallel is presented between Sir Kier’s proud statement that political doctrine would be absent from his government and the proposals due to be debated by the General Synod of the Church of England in York this weekend. In these proposals (GS 2358), the House of Bishops continue to pursue their target of introducing blessings for same-sex couples and allowing clergy to enter into same-sex civil marriage.

In denying the presence of any doctrinal tie, Sir Kier implies that being guided by doctrine is a negative thing. It is as if he says, "Oh those who have gone before us, were so tied to their doctrine that they ignored the needs of the real people in front of them." In the same way, many of the Church of England's bishops appear to argue, "Oh, those who are so wedded to received doctrines, they are determined to ignore the needs of the real people in front of them."

There are only two approaches to doctrine - the first, is to submit to it, and the second, is to make it submit to you, by editing it beyond recognition or abandoning it altogether. That difference has been brought in to stark relief in a number of open letters published this week between The Alliance, an orthodox umbrella group, the Bishop of Oxford and others.

The Alliance's commitment to the doctrine of the Church of England causes them to protest against the careless and potentially unlawful changes the bishops are seeking to make.Their position has been defended by Lee Gatiss of the Church Society who set out ten reasons why the doctrinal import of the received Christian teaching on marriage is binding.

In contrast, the Bishop of Oxford justifies his desire for change, by claiming that what is being proposed is not a watershed, but rather something that "builds on existing practice". In two out of three of the examples he uses, the existing practice is itself unlawful, but goes unchallenged by senior clergy. In the third situation he uses pastoral accomodation offered to lay people, on the basis that they were not held to the same standards as clergy, to argue that clergy should now have the same freedoms. The startling thing about this letter is his dogmatic refusal to acknowledge legal or doctrinal realities, and his determination to staunchly ignore the fact that unpicking, re-writing or rebelling against one piece of the christian faith, causes the rest to quickly unravel.

It has not gone unnoticed that Sir Keir Starmer's speech writer, Abigail Martin, worked at Lambeth Palace for six years before joining the Labour team in January. The Church of England is facing falling attendance, dioceses close to bankruptcy and a 30% drop in those seeking ordination. Is this the bright future that Sir Keir Starmer wants for the country?

It is all to easy to see the similarities between a divided nation being blue tacked back together by rhetoric and a divided church held to ransom by bishops who seem to have forgotten those vows and hope to hold the church together with 'pastoral reassurances'.

At their ordination, every member of the clergy in the Church of England is asked,

"Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?"

Their answer, "I believe it and will so do."

At their consecration the bishops are asked,

"Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?"

Their answer, "By the help of God, I will.

A government ruling without principles is likely to lead to chaos. Yet, how much more tragic will it be if the bishops and archbishops of the Church of England abandon the Apostolic faith and lead the church away from the life-giving order provided by God in order to embrace the chaos of a fallen world.

If in their pride and conceit, the bishops reject rebuke, and turn away from the Book of the Lord then we shall have to re-place the Law of the Lord ourselves.

Lord, have mercy.

With thanks to House of Commons for image


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Jul 08

Unburdened by doctrine? How did that play out in his former job as Director of Public Prosecutions? Unfettered anarchy?Palpable bunkum.

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