The Dean and Chapter of Bath and Wells takes the knee, along with bishops in the Nave of Wells Cathedral (Credit: Wells Cathedral)

The Church of Woke

The Black Lives Matter movement’s ideology is at odds with much of what the Anglican church holds dear

Artillery Row

Under the aegis of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican church has gone from the Liberal Democrats at prayer to a protest movement for campus causes. Whether it’s climate change or Black Lives Matter, Justin Welby keeps the faith of those following the orthodox line. A recent statement guarantees that congregations will diminish when normal services are resumed: ‘I pray that those of us who are white Christians repent of our own prejudices, and do the urgent work of becoming better allies to our brothers and sisters of colour.’ If it wasn’t so crass, so parochial and parish-pump, it would be insulting. 

Many white Christians don’t have the luxury of seeing other races through the prism of victimhood

Welby went on to rightly address his own privilege but wrongly attributed this to ethnicity rather than class. There are plenty of white Christians who don’t have the luxury of seeing other races through the prism of victimhood. As I point out in the current issue of The Critic they see the good, the bad, and the ugly. In short, themselves. Experience has taught them that sometimes people will brown skins do bad things. They are therefore unable to support the narrative on Black Lives Matter parroted by national institutions, mainstream media and big corporations. Some of us can’t knowingly overlook the violence, the destruction of neighbourhoods and attacks on the police. Or indeed  all  the facts. Four years before the killing of George Floyd, a white man Tony Timpa, died at the hands of the police in a similar way. Where were the global protests?

Taking their cue from the Archbishop of Canterbury, others in the Church of England are toeing the party line. This was evident before the lockdown, and has been ramped up in Sunday sermons on social media, where ‘systemic racism’ is cited and Reno Eddo-Lodge is quoted. Can I get a witness? as the preacher says. Well, Wells cathedral in Somerset, for one – the  smallest city in England, where the number of black residents barely reaches double figures. I know two-thirds of them having moved to Somerset from London a few years ago, and become a cathedral regular. I was baptised in 2007, while in my forties. (Like many parents, mine attended church for weddings and funerals. When I asked them why I wasn’t baptised they said: ‘We couldn’t afford the buffet.’ ) I made the decision late in life because I’d been waiting for the church to change; to evolve, to progress. 

Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Dean of Westminster David Hoyle walk to the shrine of Edward the Confessor for a private prayer in Westminster Abbey on June 15, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Now I’m considering leaving as it’s begun to parody the liberalism it embraced. In Wells, the cathedral is central to the religious and cultural life of the city. Until now the major criticism has been that it operates as a privately educated, upper middle class club which sets it apart from a number of the locals. The divide deepened as the incumbent Dean and his colleagues catered for an anti-Brexit, middle class Lib Dem demographic, championing open borders and mass immigration, attacking Donald Trump, via heavy-handed virtual-signalling from the pulpit. 

We’re only too aware how a liberal elite denigrates the masses for courting the excesses of the US, yet they themselves import the excessive ‘woke’ causes of American campuses. Now they colonise the country’s historical racial grievances too. In a matter of weeks we’ve gone from the death of George Floyd to the removal of statues, television programmes and possibly the packaging of  Kellogg’s ‘Coco Pops’. Yet this pales beside an image of the Bishop, Dean and Chapter of Bath and Wells, together with the Bishop of Taunton ‘taking the knee’ in an empty Wells cathedral in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.  It  echoed the Democrats in Congress striking a similar pose, all that was missing were the Ghanaian kente scarves. Again it was somehow crass, provincial.

Currently it’s not enough to be anti-racist, you must be actively anti-racist because, as the cardboard slogan goes, white silence is violence

Now the cathedral clerics are off their knees, they’re planning seminars on racism and events on the cathedral green in support of the motives of Black Lives Matter. Even though the movement’s ideology is at odds with much of what the Anglican church holds dear. Evidence of the society the movement envisions is found in Seattle, and the chaotic, anarchic Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ): a Ballardian dystopia that’s a world apart from a west country parish akin to the Barchester of Trollope.

Here in the UK, we’ve come a long way since palpable prejudice was justifiably addressed by anti-discrimination laws. These morphed into legislation to counter the nebulous ‘institutional racism’ and  ‘unwitting prejudice’ of the Macpherson Report. Now we arrive at the  ‘systemic racism’ highlighted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the party faithful and a cast of marching millions. Unlike the ending of apartheid there is no finish line when it comes to ‘racism’. The goal posts are constantly shifting. These are on the move once more. Currently it’s not enough to be anti-racist, you must be actively anti-racist because, as the cardboard slogan goes, white silence is violence. Or is it simply that white silence is boredom. Maybe ‘anti-racism’ has become like the drunken bore at the bar who shouts in the ear of every punter until the pub clears. Maybe many of us are silent because we’ve simply stopped listening. What’s more, we won’t be kneeling and we won’t be repenting, despite the prayers of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover