Divided we fall

The Diocesan Office was too late in sending Bishop Donald’s letter for it to meet our deadline for printing, so here is an extract from his weekly letter to clergy sent on 14th March. 

I didn’t watch THE INTERVIEW last week, being firmly of the belief that screens should be off by 9pm, but I’ve read numerous reports. 

Whatever the rights and wrongs on both sides of a family spat which has gone viral, it is clear that this is dividing people at a deep level. Are you on Meghan’s side or the Palace’s? Please note that I’m not asking that question, which is inherently divisive and destabilising. 

Similarly, horrified as we all are by the murder of Sarah Everard, I’m not asking whether there should be a 6pm curfew for men. Or whether we should or should not treat the covid restrictions as flexible. Or whether Brexit was wrong. Or whether Scotland should be independent. Or whether representative democracy has had its day. As a nation, we are deeply divided, and in real danger of becoming more so. As church, we should foster unity not division. 

Traditionally, various institutions and cultural norms have held us together in a fairly high degree of peaceful harmony. The monarchy, the rule of law, a free press, marriage, the union, the supremacy of parliament, freedom of assembly and of worship, the House of Lords as a check on the tyranny of the majority, respect for other people and for different opinions, and so on. There are those who would undermine all of these. Social media highlight and seem to encourage intemperate and intolerant instant reaction and comment. Culture clashes are quickly magnified and blown way out of proportion. 

Even in churches, debates on when and how to go back to worship in the buildings can become heated. Let us at least set an example at our local level, with consultation, then clear decisions taken by the incumbent and PCC, and the church uniting around those decisions. A challenge I know, but we could even be small lights or beacons on how to argue well and decide well, remaining united in a world which seems to prefer division.