An Open Letter to the Church of England: Letter Template | Jake Scott
Last week, on the death of Captain Sir Thomas Moore, the British nation experienced a refreshing burst of common grief at the news. Be cynical all you want, but ‘Captain Tom’ became a figure of national adoration, both in recognition of his military veterancy, and of his charity work at the end of his life in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Knighted after raising £32,000,000 for the NHS, and appointed as an honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College, the nation seemed to have found a common hero in the midst of so much dreary news.
It seems strange, then, that one Church of England trainee priest tweeted that there was a ‘cult of Captain Tom’ and, moreover, that it was a ‘cult of White British Nationalism’, as well as refusing to take part in the proposed ‘National Clap’, following last summer’s weekly clap for NHS and other essential workers. Now I personally did not clap, but I kept my opinions to myself, and I certainly did not attempt to link a public display of gratitude to ‘white British nationalism’. The absurdity of the statement is obvious, never mind the idea that any non-white person clapping for Captain Tom would be complicit in white supremacy.
None of this is to even remark upon the insensitivity of the tweet; Captain Sir Tom Moore had faithfully and loyally served his country and the people within it throughout his life, and the idea that a man of the cloth would insult that legacy is repugnant. The Church is intended to be a source of moral guidance and leadership, not a campaign for any secular or worldly concerns. To conflate this already-ridiculous point with the idea of white supremacy is not only to besmirch this humble man’s achievement, but to ridicule and tarnish those who were inspired by him as ‘white British nationalists’ is beyond offensive. Which, incidentally, was the majority of the country.
And of course, what if the Captain who had raised £32m for his country was black, and the support for him was condemned as a ‘cult’ of ‘black nationalism’? The outrage would be enormous – and rightly so.
The trainee priest – a Mr. Jarel Robinson-Brown – later retracted his statement and apologised ‘unreservedly’, but then the C of E Windrush Group condemned the (quite reasonable) criticism Mr. Robinson-Brown received as ‘a social media lynching’. This seems a particularly odd hill to die on – and dying, the Church of England is – especially given Mr. Robinson-Brown’s own support for violence. Is this really the image the Church wants to be sending out? What happened to the Church that wanted to spread Love and the message of Jesus Christ throughout this nation and beyond? Or even the Church that wanted to be ‘Jesus-shaped’?
Now one can defend the right to free speech without descending into the pit of cancel culture – indeed, I equally condemn the Scottish police force’s decision to arrest someone over an apparently offensive tweet about Captain Tom. But if one can recognise abuse in one form, why cannot we recognise abuse in another? Indeed, why can the Church of England not recognise the disgusting behaviour of one of its own? To close ranks around Mr. Robinson-Brown in this way is to support his views, suggesting that the Church of England sees no wrong in an obviously racist comment.
If you, like me, are concerned with the moral direction of the Church that this move suggests, I have enclosed at the bottom of this article a brief letter template that you can send to the Bishop of London (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Archbishop (email@example.com). Once again, this is not an attempt at cancel culture, but a broad attempt at asking the Church of England if their sense of moral direction is really one they ought to be proud of, and to at least distance themselves from the statements made by Mr. Robinson-Brown – not only in regards to Capt. Tom, but towards this nation in general.
I write in regards to the insensitive tweet by Jarel Robinson-Brown in which he stated that showing appreciation for Captain Tom Moore is representative of a “cult of white British nationalism”.
Whilst I wholeheartedly support his right to free speech, to stoke racial tensions in this way would seem in total opposition to the teachings of Christ and also un-becoming of a man of the cloth.
If the roles were reversed and a white clergyman were to tweet about the “cult of black nationalism” there would rightly be uproar.
On a more worrying note, where has he learned his deep disdain for our shared homeland and its occupants who happen to have a different set of immutable characteristics?
Please consider this a formal complaint about his conduct, and with hope that his views are challenged with love and kindness.