Archbishop of York: Get it right, or lose our soul

By | November 25, 2020

As the ABC announces that he’s going to take time off for some self-care via a sabbatical, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell has spoken out on the Church of England’s failures when it comes to preventing sex abuse.

His comments are spot on and should be considered carefully by provinces throughout the Anglican Communion.

Before we go further, let me add a disclaimer, which is that Cottrell’s comments fall short, for they focus on sexual abuse. As such, his comments ignore the continuum of abuse, ranging from spiritual, to emotional, to financial, to narcisstic, and many additional types. Yet they are still worthwhile, particularly in their understanding of the moral heart of the church.

Speaking at General Synod on the devasting results of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s report, Cottrell said there is an urgent need for transparency and reparation, adding “Getting all this right, Synod, is going to cost us a lot of money, getting it wrong is going to cost us our soul.”

Per The Press:

Cottrell pointed out that a cultural change would be key to any effort to try and be a “more Christ-like church”.

He described a culture of clericalism and deference in the church as “deeply unhealthy” and said it must not continue.

He said: “It allows us to find ourselves in positions where people feel we are somehow above reproach and that we can not be criticised.

Speaking to Cottrell’s comments, Mr. Welby called the Church of England “devastated,” adding

Quite rightly people are challenging the Church on how it can have the audacity to lecture them on morality in light of the IICSA report, he said.

The only way in which this Church of England will find its way to having any moral authority is by repentance, by apology, by action and by reparation.

At first blush, this all sounds quite reassuring.

But scratch the surface and even as Welby decries the slow resolution of claims, he’s planning to take a three-month sabbatical for self-care. That begs the question, “Where does that leave victims of church abuse, many of whom cannot take a three-month break from their suffering?”

Nor has Welby been truthful in the past. As I reported here earlier, he appears to have lied is his claims that he apologized to Matthew Ineson. Other media report other incidents of questionable veracity.

That said, Cottrell hits the nail on the head with this comments.

Not only does the church need to hold itself accountable and become more Christlike, but it needs to make reparations and care for those it has hurt. It needs to change its culture, from top to bottom, and in a comprehensive way.

And while we’re on the topic, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada should not breathe a sigh of relief any time soon.

For years, both have protected their reputation first, and cared for victims of abuse second, if at all. Far too often, this includes group think, where one bishop says to another, “Oh, there’s no real issue here,” when it comes to specific allegations of abuse. Meanwhile, no one thinks to sit down and actually speak with the victim of abuse and make up her own mind.

Moreover, far too many dioceses and bishops consider anything that doesn’t involve children, money, or an extramarital affair as beyond the reaches of clergy discipline. “Not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church,” is the official blow-off language included in the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary canons. Goodness knows, church officials need to sound cogent, even as they brush aside the church’s victims.

Lastly, while I tend to focus on TEC, the CoE, and the Anglican Church of Canada, it’s important to remember that corruption in the Anglican Communion gets really ugly when one ventures into some of the more remote regions.

To name but one example, our Ugandan brothers and sisters who support the death penalty for LGBT persons shouldn’t ignore the importance of becoming a more Christ-like church.

To to otherwise will result in the Anglican Communion losing its already tattered and soiled soul.

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