Gavin Ashenden has posted a piece dubbing Justin Welby’s statement in praise of the EU a “terrible error of judgement.” I think Bishop Gavin is being nice. To say as Welby did that the European Union “is the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Roman Empire” descends into clownish cluelessness.
Nonetheless Ashenden well points out what is even a bigger problem with Welby’s statement:
There is a convention that clergy don’t speak out on political matters where their ‘flock’ or constituency reflect both sides of the argument. It’s a sensible one and has saved many an Archbishop from unnecessary humiliation and risking national disrespect.
Although those who lean to the Left find the temptation too hard to overcome sometimes, ignoring this convention suggests one of three things; that you think you have a hot-line to God, (not impossible but unlikely); that you believe your own personal political judgement is beyond criticism; or that you seriously disrespect your political opponents and their views.
And I may add that said disrespect invites anger and division . . . although in Welby’s case, his statement is so absurd that laughter is more appropriate and more common I suspect.
The bishops and other leadership of the Anglican Church in North America would do well to read and consider. No, I cannot recall an ACNA bishop going so far as Welby into ill-advised political statements. But ACNA would do well to be more careful to respect “political opponents and their views” in areas in which ACNA is not of one mind. We have enough areas of disagreement and difference to navigate as it is.
We can learn a lot from Justin Welby . . . from his “terrible errors of judgement.”