Saturday, 19 April 2008

Church Times: The C of E is losing its own history

[...] A generation ago, Anglican priests could count in their ranks historians of the scholarly stature of Henry Chadwick, Owen Chadwick, and Jack McManners; today, their number is diminishing radically, and their lack of preferment is almost assured. It is a trend that has been going on for some time.

Instead, film and television set the pace; and the rehabilitation of Catherine of Aragon is the straw in the wind. Yet, from this rebranding, it is not a radical Protestant interpretation of the Church that benefits, but the Roman Catholic interpretation. Appropriately, the Prime Minister now leaks his intentions to end the ban on RCs’ ascending the throne: implicitly, the prospect is disestablishment.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church has just raised £2 million from its scarcely affluent diocese of Hexham & Newcastle to endow the Bede chair in Catholic Theology at Durham University, whose holder must be a communicant member. Not only would the Church of England be unlikely now to endow such a post; if an endowment arrived by accident, it would bend over backwards to be “fair” — to ensure that its holder had no such partial commitment. Again: good or bad, this is telling historical evidence.

Resources now go elsewhere: the staffs of Anglican archbishops and bishops include secretaries for public affairs, media managers, press officers, and communications directors. Church House boasts a 24/7 Media Centre. In 2006, bishops’ staff costs amounted to almost £6 million. Despite this burgeoning bureaucracy, it is worth asking whether the Church has lost control of its own history. Read more

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