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Bishop of Lichfield warns the country’s Christian foundations are being ignored

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill

The Bishop of Lichfield has questioned whether Britain can still be regarded as a Christian country – and warned that “creeping secularism” was leading to the religious foundations of the country being ignored.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill’s comments came at a meeting of the Lichfield Diocesan Synod in Stoke-on-Trent, which also saw the Bishop highlight the case of Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin who brings a case to an Exeter Employment Tribunal this week because her employers told her to remove from the Cross that she wears around her neck.

He said:

“She has worn it for 40 years since her Confirmation and says it is a sign of her Christian faith and her vocation in nursing.  She says the cross sustains her in all her work; but she says our legislators are not listening to people like her. Presumably they want next to take the cross out of our national flag or the Union Jack.

“Now I personally do not think we should go to the stake for the wearing of crosses.  The uniform that Christ and the apostles tell us to wear is not the adornment of jewels or anything outward; but rather the mark of love, which, of course, is a much more demanding mark for all of us who struggle to be better Christians than we are; and knowing the fallibility of our churches.  Nevertheless if our country allows Sikhs to wear turbans it is a bit of nonsense to forbid nurses to wear crosses.  Imagine what that Christian nurse Florence Nightingale would say!”

The Bishop also covered the subject of recent headlines about child abuse by priests in his speech.

He spoke of reviews carried out by the Church of England which saw more than 40,000 files on clergy and lay leaders scrutinised by independent experts. He added:

“Out of those 40,000 files, only 13 cases were found that needed any further follow-up and over none of those have the police decided to take any action. This doesn’t mean that we can be smug or complacent.  Any case of child abuse is one case too many, and there may well be lurking cases that emerge at any time. But I hope that what I have said shows that we can have confidence in 99.9 per cent of our clergy and lay leaders in this matter; and, most importantly, we can be determined to go on offering youth and children’s work right round the diocese.”

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  1. Freddy

    29th March, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    “creeping secularism” People don’t believe in magic anymore and don’t want men in silly costumes telling them what to do. This is a good thing surely?

  2. Dave

    4th April, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Florence Nightingale probably wouldn’t have minded too much. She was a Christian Universalist and so would have been of the opinion that everyone goes to heaven anyway. Outward displays of faith are completely unnecessary, it’s what’s inside that counts. If your words and actions don’t mark you out as a Christian and you feel that you need to resort to advertising the fact on jewellery, doesn’t that say more about the Christian rather than her employers?

    The Sikh turban is a different matter. That’s a mandatory requirement of the Sikh religion, there is no such requirement in Christianity to wear a cross. Indeed Jesus instructs Christians to submit to legal authority on such matters when he says, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” In other words the State has an authority recognised by Christ which he instructs his followers to respect. “That which is God’s” would be spiritual; prayers, thanks, worship and living a moral life.

    It is furthermore somewhat disheartening to hear the Bishop refer to the Union Flag by its derogatory naval moniker rather than the correct term. I feel this also shows a distinct lack of respect for the State on his part, as does his refusal to accept that Britain is now a multicultural society with all religions, or none at all, being equally valid.

    Let’s also bear in mind that Christianity is an imported Middle Eastern religion and not an indigenous one. Furthermore those religious foundations he mentions would refer to times when the ruling classes were members of the Roman Catholic Church, and not the Anglican Church. The schism that led to the foundation of the Anglican Church was responsible for bringing in a period of great terror in British history where many people were indeed burned at the stake. This was not done by secularists but by Christians. In fact no secularist is suggesting that Shirley Chaplin should be burned at the stake or sanctioned in any way, just that she should obey the same rules as all other employees have to obey; not being given preferential treatment is not the same as discrimination.

    In short the Bishop’s statement is an ill-considered and nasty piece of jingoism. He has made a straw-man argument, quoted inappropriate examples and indulged in xenophobia as well as one-upmanship with the Roman Catholic Church.

  3. tally

    4th April, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I seem to remember that the Archbishop of Canterbury wanted to rid England’s churches of the Cross of St George when he was first appointed. Some Vicars have banned I vow to thee my country from churches etc.
    The Cof E joined in with New Labour to promote regionalisation and the abolition of England with regional assemblies. It is time for the C of E came out in support of the country “England” not britain.