Map of Britain swivelling round

Not only did Britain vote to leave Europe: it seems we can’t even negotiate with it. We seem overconfident that we can push our weight around and get what we want, while unable to take other Europeans seriously.

Why? Do we really think the British are so superior to everyone else? Or is it just the English? Is England revealing its cultural failings?

In Alastair Campbell’s interview with him in GQ Magazine, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admits ‘copping out’ on the question of whether gay sex is sinful – his Tim Farron moment.

Archbishop Justin also admitted that reconciling the views of those in liberal Anglican Churches with those of churches such as Uganda and other ‘GAFCON’ Churches for whom the issue of same-sex relationships is a ‘red line’ matter, is impossible: ‘It is irreconcilable’. When challenged by Campbell on whether his response to same-sex relationships (however faithful, stable and loving they are) was ‘morally a cop-out’, the Archbishop responded: ‘Yes. I am copping out because I am struggling with the issue’.

This is an edited version of the talk I gave at St Denys Bookshop in Manchester, on 30th September. It describes my new book Why Progressives Need God, and why I wrote it.

My background is in liberal theology. For quite a while I’ve been an active member of Modern Church, a liberal society in the Church of England. My main focus is philosophy and ethics, so I ask questions like: do we need to believe in God? Does it make any difference? I think it does.

Sir Philip Mawer’s Report, as Independent Reviewer, on the non-appointment of Bishop Philip North to the Diocese of Sheffield describes what happened in, as has been noted elsewhere, ‘measured tones’.

Much attention is paid to the personal challenge it was to Bishop Philip, and one feels great sympathy for him. It must have been awful. The Report also pays close attention to the part played by Professor Martyn Percy’s article on the Modern Church website and the impact it had on the eventual outcome.

(‘The Church of England’s fight to survive’, FT Weekend Magazine.)

Jeremy Paxman’s article about the future of the Church of England is both affectionate and exasperated. While he points out just how far from the thinking of the rest of the country the Church of England is in many social matters, he admires the ‘reasonableness’ with which the Church of England works at them. While he notes the many good works the Church of England can point to, he also reminds us that numbers (of people, resources) are dwindling. ‘I admire the Church’ he writes, ‘In many ways the story of England is the story of her Church, and there is something endearing about its endless anxieties.’