In traditional fashion the next Archbishop of Canterbury was revealed to the world by leak today. It is to be Justin Welby, who appears to have all the bases covered in that he is the first Alpha male to be appointed, he has been a bishop of Durham, and he has the right background to engage with the current ruling elite, but according to Simon Jenkins in this week’s Spectator the wrong man has got the job. Ignoring the fact that he is not ordained he makes the case for Roger Scruton, the philosopher in a review of his latest book, ‘ Our Church’.
In his new book Scruton speaks up for the Church Of England in his usual tone of elegance and conviction. In an article in the same magazine Scruton himself has produced a precis of his ideas and immediately shows why he is such a perfect advocate for the Cof E. He has got its measure and sees the warts along with the charms. He writes:
‘No institution is more vividly expressive of the English genius for creative muddle than the Anglican Church. A Protestant church whose liturgy declares it to be Catholic; a national church with a worldwide congregation; a repository of holy sacraments, which is regulated by parliament; an apostolic communion whose authority descends from St Peter, but whose head is the English monarch: looked at from close up it is all nonsense, fragments left over from forgotten conflicts, about as coherent as the heap of broken crockery that remains after a lifetime of marital quarrels.’
His account does get more positive after that!
Jenkins thinks Scruton has exaggerated the liberalism of the Church and gives as an example what he sees as the its absolute opposition to Reform in the C19th. He does have a point if it is recalled that the Archbishop of the day was knocked from his carriage by rioters on account of his public hostility to the Great Reform Act of 1832- his chaplain was understandably on the receiving end of not a rotten egg but a rotten cat! But Jenkins exaggerates too, in that those who came to be known as representatives of the Broad Church movement were in favour of change, with the great Sidney Smith pouring forth satirical scenarios to lampoon the conservatives.
Defenders of the status quo argued that despite the existence of rotten boroughs the country has grown rich, so he imagined a rich farmer who had chronic stomach aches calling in a doctor on account of his agony only to be told that he had grown rich with the malady, so why seek to cure it?
Some of those who had presided over the rotten boroughs sought compensation for their loss; so he imagined the recently ejected highwaymen of Hampstead Heath lobbying Parliament to cover their losses.
When the Lords threatened to spike the bill he compared them to the lady who, when a great flood inundated Sidmouth, took on the Atlantic Ocean with a mop and bucket!