A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury: have we read the same history books?

Your Grace,

I certainly don’t expect us to agree on everything when it comes to religion. After all, you believe in God and I don’t.

But I am surprised how different the view of our country’s history seems to be. You and your colleagues talk about the prospect of equal marriage – a prospect it is worth remembering that other strands of the Christian family are welcoming, not to mention many members of the Church of England – as if it is one of the greatest threats to the Church of England in the last 500 years.


Greater than the threat of being conquered by a Catholic nation and having the Catholicism imposed by force on the country? (I give you the Spanish Armada.)

Greater than the dissolution of the monasteries and seizure of all their assets? (I give you Henry VIII.)

Greater than the scientific discoveries that upended completely the literal chronology of the Old Testament? (I give you the creation of geology as a field of study.)

Greater than the idea that God may not be required to explain the emergence of humans? (I give you Charles Darwin.)

And that is without getting into other threats such as other invasions, the spread of secularisation, the declining Church attendance numbers or the rise of other religions in the UK.

I am sure before entering into such a grand and sweeping statement you will have given it careful thought. After all, chasing a headline with a piece of hyperbole wouldn’t really be fitting for such an important issue.

So please – would you mind explaining?

Thank you.

Yours etc.

UPDATE: It looks as if the specific 500 years reference was a phrase coined by a journalist, although it has been widely quoted in the media as being what the Church of England has said. The more general point about relative threats still stands of course.

7 responses to “A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury: have we read the same history books?”

  1. Mark, the salutation for a letter to an Archbishop should simply be "Dear Archbishop". "Your grace" is the oral address.

  2. From David Warner, in loco Paternis: Mark there some simple issues here.
    1. The governing constitutional document of the Anglican Church worldwide is the 39 Articles of Religion published by the Church of England in 1562. These are reproduced the Book of Common Payer and all derivations of it (such as the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Ghana, which I happen to be consulting at the moment).
    2. The church is there for the edification and salvation of its members in Christ, not for atheists, gay Christians of no specific persuasion, and certainly not for the political convenience of politicians of any particular party – even Conservative or Liberal Democrat MPs.
    3. Because of its history, the Anglican Church worldwide is inevitably a Coalition, similar in some ways to politicians who signed up to the Coalition Agreement you regularly preach to us about.
    4.As a Coalition, the church's senior clergy are concerned not to have the ship capsize, fragment or otherwise meet its maker without very strong reasons – which reasons do not necessarily include the convenience of David Cameron, Nick Clegg et al.
    'Nuff said I think – from the pen of The Bishop of Brixton ┼.

    • No-one is ordering the Anglican church to marry gays. All people are asking for is that the Anglican Church shouldn't veto others. After all, other strands of Christianity support the change so why should the Anglican Church be saying to fellow Christians, "No, you are not allowed to follow your beliefs; we want them to be against the law"? Fellow Christians, note.

    • What the government is asking parliament to do is to alter the meaning of a word; there seems to be no substance behind doing so. Nobody will actually benefit from it.

    • I'm puzzled by your view Jeremy, for a couple of reasons. First, quite a few people say they do want to be able to use the word "marriage" for their own relationship and so would benefit from the change. Whatever you think of that view, saying they are nobodies seems rather dismissive. Why not disagree with them and address the argument head on rather than counting them as not existing?

      Second, there's been quite a lot published about the sorts of legal differences the change will make. For example, something that legally counts as marriage has a legal force in other countries in a way that civil partnerships do not. So if you get married/partnered here and then move overseas that is a very real difference. Again, what puzzles me is the certainty of your view "Nobody will…", yet presumably you've looked into the issue before expressing such a certain view? So again, why make no mention of those sorts of other issues or acknowledge they exist?

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