Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Suspended Bishop and the Royal Wedding

I know this is now old news, but I’ve been concerned about the fate of Pete Broadbent, the Church of England bishop who criticized, on Facebook, the forthcoming royal wedding. The BBC reported that he was suspended from his post, even though he had apologised for the tone he had used and for any hurt he had caused by the content of his remarks.

This seems all wrong to me. First of all, I know that, technically, the Queen is head of the Church of England, but that’s a historical accident. I don’t know any Anglicans who don’t believe that Jesus is the ‘head’ of their church. The Queen is head as a constitutional, legal arrangement. Secondly, Anglicans, even bishops, have a right to freedom of opinion on any matters outside the fundamental substance of the Christian faith (e.g. crucifixion, Trinity, resurrection etc), so republican views are not at all unacceptable.

Add to this what he actually said. Stating that the marriage would be over within seven years was a bit silly – how would he know? He could be right or wrong, but there’s no logical reason to suggest this. However, also, according to the BBC report at the link above, he said that:

'Marriages should be about family, not “some piece of national flim-flam paid for out of our taxes, for a couple whose lives are going to be persecuted and spoilt by an ignorant media”. He criticised the monarchy for a history of broken marriages and a "corrupt and sexist" hereditary principle, before going on to attack the "gutter press" for "persecuting" the Royal Family.'

So he attacked the media! No surprise that the gutter press have made so much of it. What is really pathetic though is the way the church has so easily caved in to media pressure and hasn’t vocally supported Mr Broadbent on some of his points, such as the way the media act around celebrity and royalty, and for the appalling effect such media obsessions have had on our lives and culture. The church has kept quiet on this and has suspended the bishop, someone whose contribution in all kinds of important matters it had previously valued a great deal (or he wouldn’t have been appointed as a bishop in the first place). Richard Chartres, bishop of London, said he was “appalled” at Mr Broadbent’s remarks. I am appalled that the church appointed a sham trial and judged it according to the rules of media circus.

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