In an opinion piece today in the Daily Telegraph editor Damian Thompson celeberates the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth by extolling her virtues as ”Supreme Governor of a national Church”.
But he goes on to lament the sorry decline of the Christian Church in Britian during her reign and to worry about the future of Christianity after Elizabeth’s departure from the throne.
this country’s overtly Christian royal ceremonies have held off the moment that the faith in Britain becomes as residual and meaningless as it has in parts of Europe.
The anxiety for Christians is that this effect depends on the personal convictions of Elizabeth II, who is not only more pious than her children but has also taken her religious duties more seriously than many of her predecessors. If the British monarchy of the future recasts itself as a mere guarantor of religious liberty – as Prince Charles seems to envisage – then the secularisation of public life will be complete.
Thompson’s praise for the Queen and her bold witness to her faith is delightful. Unfortunately, he is not content simply to praise his monarch. He feels compelled to go on and damn the leadership of the church of which her Majesty is ‘the Supreme Governor.”
Thompson observes that,
Since the Queen ascended to the throne, churchgoing in Britain has more than halved; the Churches as institutions have suffered far greater damage than the monarchy.
Then he offers his explanation for the sorry state of religious life in Britain.
Is Queen Elizabeth II the true Christian leader of our country? An odd question for a Catholic to ask, you might think, but consider the feebleness of senior bishops – Anglican and Catholic – during the 60 years of her reign. She has been served by great prime ministers, but no great Archbishop of Canterbury.
Damian Thomposon proposes that the decline in religious adherence in England is attributable to the poverty of leadership among the Bishops of the church.
It is a delightful job to sit on the sidelines and be paid to throw stones at people in positions of leadership.
I am not a Bishop in the church. But I know that, in my own little microcosm of church-land, there are people who would accuse me of having exercised “feeble” leadership over the past 30 years and therefore sharing responsibility for the decline of Christian observance in Canada. And they may be right. Perhaps I and the leaders of my generation in the church are the guilty culprits. But, it seems to me unlikely that we can bear sole responsibility for the lack of commitment to an institutional expression of faith in the western world today.
Perhaps we are responsbile for the fact that Sunday morning sports, shopping, charity runs, and garage sales have preempted church. But, it seems more likely that there have been economic forces at work in our society over the past 50 years that have profoundly opposed active participation in institutions of faith.
It just may be that these same economic forces that keep Mr. Thompson’s newspaper afloat bear a far greater responsibility for the decline of faith in his country, than the “feeble” leadership against which he rails. Mr. Thompson might want to consider if some of the fingers he is using to point at others may not be pointing back at the role of commercial media in shaping the culture of our day.