Was Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury right to speak out against Boris Johnson government’s decision to export illegal migrants to Rwanda like unwanted cattle?
The orientation of a churches political narrative always needs to be focused upon pastoral and humanitarian care, leaving the diplomatic resource of negotiation and the appeal to the political factions in ways that avoid unrest and conflict.
The Primate and Bishops are responsible for the political and the ethical stance against said governments. I’ve yet to hear a Bishop described a leader of government as a “dictator” even when the evidence is quite clear. A bishop quite simply does not do so. Experiences like those in China, where after the takeover of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant missionaries were expelled from China; Christianity was demonised as a manifestation of western colonial imperialism, and therefore had to be expelled. In fact the Church is often the proponent when denouncing oppressors, dictators and governments who act in self interest.
Governments have in the past sought, in different ways, to dilute the credibility of the Church. The opposition parties have also used this stratagem, as a consequence the pastoral dimension of ecclesial action have been polarised under the idea of a supposed division between an leader of the church —on one side— and a bishop —on the other—, or even between “a bishop who may or may not recognise an legitimate or illegitimate and immoral government. This type of argument only gives greater strength to a government’s strategy when attempting to make the people lose credibility in the ecclesiastical institutions upon which they rely, due to its organisational nature, the Church always acts in a collegial manner, that is, with an unbreakable unity between the head of the church, the bishops and the faithful.
Our government lost the moral high ground during the Tony Blair –possibly another Bullingdon Member– years and never regained it. Johnson’s actions have achieved yet more of the same. Those whom today criticise Justin Welby, —the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of all England with his long and proven track record of genuine public service for having criticised Boris Johnson and his Government’s intention to send illegal migrants to Rwanda—, did they in fact raise their voices when Boris lied to the Queen, to the House of Commons or when he deceived the electorate? In fact, I wonder if any of those critics have ever said anything at all when politicians have acted immorally or unethically? Among the critics of course the normal gaggle of MPs who are always far too eager to promenade their Christian credentials, waving them about like dusted trophies during elections or the Paschal season, texting “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” in all their tweets and facebook, giving rise to most of the Jesus pasquinades which truly highlights their utter rank hypocrisy; so, from what I understand of this current episcopal-priministerial melee is that, it’s absolutely OK for cabinet and members of parliament to speak of Jesus and religion but our religious leaders and representatives have to keep out of all political and religious affairs!
Boris, a pathological liar, convicted and fined yet continues to act as though excessive antisocial rowdiness and bad behaviour is the norm. Johnson himself called his Bullingdon years “a truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance, toffishness and twittishness” in order to distance himself from his Bulli past, well done Boris, your actions have spoken far louder than your words ever have.
Of note is one of the Bullingdon’s rite of passage to humiliate a homeless person, the novice Bullingdonian was to find a beggar in the centre of Oxford and then burn a £50 note in front of them. Just the sort of people we really want to steer the government of this country.
For the Church, faith is neither ideological nor doctrinal. Its only interest is the pastoral dimension and to care for people which translates to the promotion of welfare, good health, happiness, comfort, protection and prosperity for the poorest and those who suffer the most within society, such as the relocation of illegal immigrants to Rwanda today.
Human life in the Christian faith is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This is the foundational belief of all the principles of Christian social teachings. Human life is constantly under direct attack. The value of human life is being threatened. Intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always considered to be morally unethical. As Christians we are taught and called upon to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. Christianity maintains that every person is of incalculable value, people are far more significant than worldly goods. With that in mind I can affirm that the measure of any institution — whether christian, lay or political— is calculated by whether it weakens or strengthens both the life and dignity of the human person.
We have to remember that this is a parliament that seem loath to hold those in power that do wrong to account, its the wrong time, or we have other more serious issues to contend with, I’m not going to discuss the matter at this time… or some such other excuse… absolute nonsense.
We have to thank Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury for standing up and being counted, for being a moral compass of the nation, he is after all one of the Lords Spiritual and as a senior members of the Church of England, which is the established church, He is entitled to sit in the House of Lords with the same rights as life and hereditary Peers, the ‘Lords Temporal.’ The participation of the Bishops in public business dates back to the early feudal period, when Bishops were summoned to Parliament. Unlike the Lords, the Archbishop Welby sits in the House by virtue of the office he holds. Though he’s not a Peer, like the Lords “he does not represent a parliamentary constituency, although his work is often closely informed by their diocesan role. Welby sits as individual Lord Spiritual, and as such has quite a lot in common with the independent Crossbenchers and those who are not affiliated to any party.”
The most common difficulty for a Lord Spiritual in attending to the business of the House is wrestling with the competing demands of the diocese. Business that goes on until late in the evening means that those of us who live outside of London and the Home Counties have to knock out nearly two days of work in order to travel to and fro and participate in business in the House of Lords. Bishops have regularly contributed to debates on a wide range of topics, from foreign affairs to families, bishops also scrutinise matters under debate in the light of the Christian faith. So when something is morally amiss what’s a bishop to do? Keep silent?
The most important thing I believe, is that the Church speaks, not what it says, and bishops do venture into the more detailed discussion of governmental legislation. The relationship between the Church and State is a core part of our constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. The presence of Bishops in the House of Lords signals successive Governments’ commitment to this fundamental constitutional principle and to an expression of the relationship between the Crown, Parliament and the Church that underpins the fabric of the United Kingdom. Government entirely accepts the case that a healthy variety of opinions, which could include a range of religious, moral and ethical viewpoints, should be represented […]. Their presence in the Lords is an extension of their vocation as Bishops to preach God’s word and to lead people in prayer. Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight to the work of the House and, while they make no claims to direct representation “they seek to be a voice for all people of faith, not just Christians” the way in which the Church of England’s representation in the House of Lords has been manifested over at least the past few centuries has served to acknowledge the importance of philosophical, moral and spiritual considerations —not just religious ones— in the conduct of public affairs” so as to bring authoritative, non-coercive counsel to our elected representatives who are obviously in need of ethical, moral, religious and spiritual counsel.
The Church of England is a law-making body. It submits Measures to Parliament. No government Minister has direct responsibility to Parliament for the substance of Church legislation. The Bishops in the House of Lords are the only ex officio voices which the Church, as a law-maker, has in Parliament.
So should the Archbishop of Canterbury have spoken out against the forced removal of asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda, 4097 miles away on the other side of the world! Yes, he has a duty to do so. If fact bishops should be a far more vocal than they have been in the past, especially when unethical acts are being committed by those whom believe that they are in-charge.
Shipping illegal migrants seeking safe haven, away to another country will make them loose all hope, and at what cost? No one should ever be deprive of hope. I’m sure the government could have come up with a far better and more humane solution. Obviously they didn’t have time, what with fuel prices sky-rocketing, utility bills doubling, food prices rising, covid19, disabled and unemployed people finding it difficult to survive, and of course all of the parties one did or didn’t attend.
People should never be put in a position where they begin to lose faith in the people and institutions that are supposed to be working toward changing the human condition for the better. When ethics and morals are absent or questionable in a government, then that government is absolutely useless, their principles become deficient, and their relationship with their people is one of embitterment; why? Because the government has lost its way and the people have lost hope and therefore government is no longer trusted to make good their promises.
I leave you with the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”