The Church of England is run by out-of-touch academics and elites who are scared of patriotism and failing to protect the family, a bishop has said.
Philip North, Anglican Bishop of Burnley, said the church would not be surprised by Brexit if it had listened to the concerns of those who feel “frozen out”. Instead, it has become “so disconnected from many of these communities that it no longer hears what they are saying, let alone amplifies their voices to the nation.”
In an outspoken attack on his church, the bishop said that during the past few decades, the Church of England’s agenda had been set “not by the poor, but by academia, the moneyed elites, and certain sections of the secular media.”
“We then listen to the poor on condition that what they say backs up our own pre-conceived arguments,” he said. “They have become for us an illustration, or a theological idea — anything other than people.”
Writing for the Church Times, Bishop North added that instead of listening to what the poor want, the church has obsessed over gay rights, and “all too often, middle-class clergy squirm nervously during Remembrance Sunday, and excise any hymns that hint of nationalism.”
He also accused the church of failing to stand up for family values, writing: “Across many communities, extended family life remains very strong.
“For all its frustrations, it is where most people find support, self-identity, and purpose. But too many Anglicans seem embarrassed to stand up for the sanctity of the family.”
Many Brexit voters, the bishop added, did not choose to leave the European Union due to racism or intolerance, but because they wanted to take back control over their country.
“It was less an anti-immigration vote than a patriotic vote from people who were fed up with having pride in their nation, its flag and its armed forces misrepresented as intolerance or racism,” he said.
In the run up to the Brexit referendum, the Church of England was accused of publishing a “Pro-EU prayer” to help worshippers decide how to vote.
Although billed as being neutral, the prayer was criticised for asking that worshippers “work with all the peoples of Europe” for the “common good”.
One lay preacher said: “I’m sure ‘and that with all the peoples of Europe…’ reflects an aspiration valid in or out of the EU, but I think prayer as it stands is VERY open to honest misunderstanding as being pro remain, and vulnerable to hostile spin by leave”.