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Dominic Cummings May 24 2020 banner.jpg
Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images
Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images
UK News

Bishop questions if ministers can work with Church of England if Dominic Cummings doesn't repent or isn't sacked

by Tola Mbakwe

Church of England bishops have strongly criticised the Prime Minister after he defended the lockdown actions of his chief aide. 

At the daily Downing Street press conference on Sunday evening, Boris Johnson said Dominic Cummings had "acted responsibly, legally and with integrity" by driving 260 miles to County Durham to isolate due to childcare concerns.

Numerous bishops and church leaders tweeted their frustrations on the issue. 

Rt Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester questions if the Church of England should continue to work with ministers on the handling of the pandemic if Cummings isn't sacked. 

He told Premier Christian News he was shocked when he found out what happened.

"I couldn't see how that could possibly be within the guidelines that the government had been telling us... to all stay at home, to protect the NHS, to save lives, as it was at the time, and it seemed it was just like one law for us and another law for them."

Bishop David said he has been reflecting about the scandal from a Christian perspective and believes there must be a theme of repentance in it. 

"I've been thinking about… when someone gets something wrong, to admit they've done something wrong, to repent. 

"I'm the first one to offer forgiveness to as sinner because I know I'm one myself. I think that's important in all of this.

"We can all feel for a father in the situation that Mr. Cummings was in, we can fully understand his instincts, but that doesn't make what he did right or acceptable."

He added the Prime Minister made a "dangerous" statement by saying Cummings made the right decision becasue he followed his instinct.

""If [people]  follow what the prime minister said last night, they will say, 'Well at the end of the day I can trust myself. My instinct tells me I want to go and hug my elderly mother, if it tells me I want to go and visit my grandchild, if it tells me I want to do this or that, then ultimately I should, I should trust my instincts'. 

"I think that's a very dangerous message. Religion for centuries, millennia, has said you cannot always trust your instincts. We are fallen sinners, to trust our instincts is very, very dangerous."

Echoing Bishop David's thoughts, Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said: "The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?

A few minutes earlier, Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, commented in response to a critical tweet about the Prime Minister.

She wrote: "Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay."

Dr Hartley also shared some details of her experience of being unable to see her parents during lockdown.

Meanwhile, Rt Revd Vivienne Faul, Bishop of Bristol, tweeted after the Downing Street briefing that the PM has no respect. 

"The bonds of peace and our common life (which had been wonderfully strengthened during the testing by CV-19) have been dangerously undermined this evening."

In an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump, Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, also tweeted on Sunday evening: "Johnson has now gone the full Trump."

Meanwhile, Rt Rev John Inge, Bishop of Worcester also shared his thoughts on the issue as a parent.

Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newscastle said there should be more openess on the issue. 

Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright

Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham in March to self-isolate with his family while official guidelines warned against long-distance journeys, apparently because he feared that he and his wife would be left unable to care for their son.

Further reports also suggested he took a second trip to the North East in April, having already returned to London following his recovery from coronavirus – a disease which has seen more than 45,000 people in the UK die after contracting it, according to the latest available data.

Mr Cummings denied the fresh allegations, which were reported by the Observer and the Sunday Mirror, and Mr Johnson declared he would be standing by his most senior adviser.

Mr Johnson, leading the Government press conference for only the third time since being discharged from hospital on 12th April, said he could “not mark down” Mr Cummings for the way he acted.

The Prime Minister said: “I have had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I have concluded that in travelling to find the right kind of childcare, at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus – and when he had no alternative – I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

Listen to Premier's interview with Rt Rev David Walker here:

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