Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

A better jubilee

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As a priest in the Established Church I believe it is important that the leadership of the church upholds Christian values. The monarch and government retain a leadership role in the church that can often conflict with Christian values. The recent visit of the King of Bahrain, accused of brutal repression, demonstrates affairs of state trumping the role of supreme governor. It is difficult for the church to speak truth to power when that power appoints its chief spokesmen.

The concept of ‘jubilee’ is an Ancient Near Eastern practice of restitution, including the forgiveness of debts. In the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 25), this ‘yovel’ is demanded of God’s people as a rebalancing of society. Whereas our society is crying out for this kind of jubilee, what we are given is an expensive personality cult. It does not take a Hebrew prophet to point out that this is a sinful inversion of how anointed leadership should be exercised.

Churches up and down Britain will be holding services and events to mark the ‘jubilee’, and, while these may serve some good in celebrating community, there is the danger that the focus will be on an earthly monarch and vague ideas of nation rather than on the King and Kingdom of Heaven.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

One thought on “A better jubilee

  1. To what extent is the Church of England capable of challenging cultural norms whilst retaining its role as an established church?

    It seems to me that before WWII, and certainly immediately before the industrial revolution, the established church was essentially the church being cosy with the establishment, in particular a sort of queasy toryism that is now largely dead except in odd corners of North Down/South Antrim and Pusey House. Here I mean toryism with a small t – not affiliation to the conservative party as such but belief in monarchs and the orange order and establishment and so on. I can’t really put my finger on what it is exactly, but it’s nearer what the UUP stand for nowadays than the Conservative party.

    Notwithstanding early reformers like Lord Shaftesbury, widespread criticism of government policy from the highest level of the Church of England has only really started in the past fifty years, with things like the Faith in the City report of 1985, and the London Citizens movement, and even these have been hampered because the prime minister can apparently veto nominations of Bishops, as was last done apparently with Jim Thompson.

    Yes, I can see the advantage of aspects of establishment, particularly with the Church of England’s intention to be present in every community (neighbourhood/town/village) in England. But in practice does the establishment mean more harm than good for the country?

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