The bishop of Burnley has lambasted the Church of England for the adoption of a “middle class culture” and not listen to the marginalized, the working class of the voices behind the vote for Brexit.
The church jumped on the “establishment of the middle-class bandwagon of outrage and horror”, phillip North wrote in the Church Times. “As if you set in auto-pilot, the C of E has joined with those who are denouncing the collapse of the consensus liberal and bemoaning a new mood of division in our public life.”
North accused the church of allowing their agenda to be “not for the poor, but by the academics, the elites wealthy and some sections of the media”.
The C of E had become so disconnected from disadvantaged communities “that no longer listen to what they say, we just amplifies their voices to the nation.”
This will continue, unless the church is focused on urban ministry, putting their best leaders in private parishes and return to the farms had been abandoned, he said.
North’s comments came as Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, called on the country to resist the turning inwards after the Brexit vote, saying what was needed was “a more beautiful and better common narrative that shapes and inspires us with a common purpose.”
The opening of a debate on the sharing of British values in the house of Lords, Welby said that moments of great change in the mood and the culture demanded a “re-imagining of who we are as a nation.”
But the North, said Pope Francis in the call for a “poor church for the poor” does not mean “top-down charity projects, many of which reinforce pre-existing relationships of power and in collusion with the innately unjust structures of power. Instead, he was calling the church to its agenda, which shall be determined by the voices of the dispossessed and forgotten, not by the powerful. We may not always like what we hear.”
The C of E should focus on the family, the place and the work, in the North, he said. You must defend the sanctity of the family, a “core concern” for most people, that is the support, self-identity and purpose.
You must play a role in “the search for a new and unifying national narrative that is patriotic, in addition to a tolerant and inclusive”. And must make “a stand for the dignity of work and justice in the workplace. Rarely listened to a sermon in the workplace”, he added.
“It is vital that we stop condemning, and instead of listening to the voices of those who have made use of their democratic right to express a deep frustration in the structures and institutions that have abandoned them, and in a middle-class culture that misunderstands or misrepresents their heartfelt concerns.”
He said that the church’s concentration on sexuality was an example of the middle-class concerns. “Through the prioritization of this issue at this point, we run the risk of not hearing another cry of pain.”
In the Lords debate on the exchange of values on which is based the national life, Welby called for a renewal of fundamental British values.
“The values embedded in the feelings of threat and fear can lead us down a very dangerous path,” he said. “As we move into a post-Brexit world, along with the other events that buffet and divert us, unless we base ourselves on a clear course, and widely accepted practices, loyalties and values that they will just go with the wind.”
The leader of the C of E, added: “we need a better and more beautiful common narrative that shapes and inspires us with a common purpose – a jump of the national ambition, not a sense of division and antagonism, both at national and international level.
“We need a narrative that speaks to the world of bright hope, and not mere optimism, much less simple personal interest.
“That will allow us to play a powerful, hopeful and confident role around the world, resisting the turn inward that will leave us alone in the darkness, desperate and vulnerable”.
Welby reiterated the importance of freedom of expression, both for the people of faith and those of faith, as a review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded that the law on religion and the general belief was effective, but a lack of understanding had led to misunderstandings and confusion.
Although individuals with and without religious or other beliefs they are offered adequate protection by the Equality Act, the new guidance was needed to help employers understand how to apply the law in such matters as free time to pray, place of work, Christmas parties, and the use of religious symbols.
“Our review found that the law works well. There are a lot of myths that have arisen due to the misunderstanding of the legal requirements,” said David Isaac, commission chair.
“The employers’ actions should not be governed by the fear of offending. Our guide helps managers and companies to reach decisions and sensitive approach to the discussions in the right way.”