Forum: Can an Established Church Exercise Moral Leadership in a Non-Churchgoing Age?
Thomas Arnold wrote: ‘I cannot understand what is the good of a national Church if it be not to Christianize the nation and introduce the principles of Christianity into man’s social and civil relations’.1 Can this hold true today? On Easter Sunday 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, included in his sermon a strong criticism of the Government’s proposal to remove to Rwanda certain migrants illegally entering the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats at the hands of people traffickers. His condemnation was uncompromisingly theological: he said that the proposed scheme could not stand up to the judgment of God, and indeed was ‘the opposite of the nature of God’. Writing in The Guardian the following day, the columnist Simon Jenkins, while sharing Welby’s opposition to the scheme, commented that ‘the days when an archbishop could plausibly speak for the conscience of the nation are over’.2 This article explores the tensions of moral leadership for ‘establishment religion’ in a largely nonchurchgoing society, and suggests some alternative approaches, drawn from recent thinking and influenced by a postmodern standpoint.