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Church News

CofE accused of failing in its responsibility to nation by keeping doors shut

by Marcus Jones

The Church of England is being accused of failing in its responsibility to the nation by closing its doors.

Over 500 clergy and lay people have signed a letter to the Times calling for a rethink to current guidance.

They say priests should be free to enter for private prayer and for the broadcast of services.

"We regard what has happened to be a failure of the Church's responsibility to the nation, stifling our prophetic witness and defence of the poor, and ask for open discussion and accountability through the Church's structures and other forums regarding the processes and thinking which led to these decisions," they say in the letter.
"It is widely agreed that the temporary closure of churches for public worship is necessary in the current crisis. However, the broadcast of services from a closed church is explicitly permitted by government guidelines, yet unlike almost all other Churches in these isles, the Church of England has gone beyond this advice."

One of the signatories, Dean Emeritus of Durham Very Rev Michael Sadgrove told Premier the Church of England needs to follow the lead of the Catholic Church.

He said: "Clergy are going into churches to offer mass every day and the Archbishop of Westminster has made a point about how important it is to know your priest is in church saying his or her prayers.

"I think that's a wonderful example to the nation and I wish we could follow it in the Church of England."

Adrian Dorber is the Dean of Lichfield and Chair of English Cathedrals.

Speaking to Premier, he said he's seen first-hand the impact of closed churches. 

"Only this week I had a person in some distress wandering around the cathedral shouting 'betrayal...this is place is not open it's a betrayal'.

"When you excite that kind of emotion you have to think very careful about how you answer it.

"What we mustn't be seen to be doing is withdrawing from the public realm and maybe closures of our churches and no broadcasting inside them hasn't been the smartest sign to give.

"I understand the integrity for the reasons for that, but I think we've given a rather ambiguous sign and the sooner we open the better it will be."

While praising what churches have been doing while closed, a spokesperson for the Church of England said: "We all look forward to the day when we can meet and worship together in our church buildings. The bishops understand the desire for clergy and laity to livestream worship from their churches. 

"This has been regularly and prayerfully discussed by the House of Bishops on numerous occasions in recent weeks. We intend to respond to the changing nature of the situation as it evolves in the days and weeks ahead."

Speaking to Premier last month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was hopeful churches would have some limited use of their buildings when the Government begins to ease lockdown restrictions.

He said any change to guidance would be led by medical and scientific advice. 

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