Gangsterism and the Church of England

Gilo takes a hard critical look at the Safeguarding Culture and the Administration of the Church of England

When will sufficient numbers of bishops wake up to aspects of the inherent corruption and dysfunctionality at the centre of their structure and challenge it fearlessly? Scared of straying away from their herd, they are marshaled into the enclosure and together protect a rickety status quo. Some of them, perhaps even most of them, are awake to the broken culture of which they are a part. But very few have the courage to defy the machinery of central comms or the House of Bishops’ whips and raise their head above the parapet. Current leadership is very low grade but, or rather perhaps because of this, it commands deference and adherence to the hive mind.

Episcopal retirements are celebrated whilst those retiring have been quietly able to bypass any accountability for safeguarding failure. Others are able to maintain silence in the face of repeated questions. And it seems that little has been learnt across the last decade. Bullying, silencing and a special brand of Anglican gangsterism is rife across many dioceses.

The redoubtable ‘Elbows’ Alan as he’s known by some following Welby’s description at IICSA of the Bishop of Buckingham as having uncomfortable elbows – is a kind of wild saint and I imagine bears the marks of much reprimand for having spoken up in alliance with survivors. I spent a day in London with Rosie Harper and Alan Wilson towards the end of last year. We went to the Hogarth exhibition at the Tate to see one of the great satirists and social commentators of English society. Alan is rare amongst the bishops in being unafraid to see as Hogarth did the contradictions of society and its less than noble institutions.

Sadly, the reality is that bishops mostly drink the Kool-Aid and prop up a broken and decaying edifice. So let’s take a closer look at some of them. Jonathan Gibbs, a decent man, will probably be gone sometime this year. Who will follow him? Another who will start with the best of intentions and be quickly ground down and find the structure offers no tangible support. Gibbs will likely end up broken on the wheel of his own ineffectiveness. How can one person hope to change a culture which has little intention of changing more than it has to? One lone figure with nothing more than a secretary up against an army strong in Church House (akas CofE Centre for Cognitive Dissonance) and up against diocesan bishops who can politely ignore him and who know that he will have little awareness of what is going on in their diocese.

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