Dr Jules Gomes has described succinctly how Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn presided over the committee that designed the pastoral guidelines to use the baptism liturgy afresh for transgendered persons and then denounced himself for doing it.
At the beginning of the week he announced the new guidelines. There followed a considerable amount of criticism that this was an abuse of both baptism and the Bible.
The Church of England’s Evangelical Council then panicked, realising it had to say something. It cobbled together a statement criticising the guidelines with some vehemence. It just so happens however that Bishop Henderson is chairman of the CEEC, and by the end of the week, we saw him admonishing himself for the abuse of Scripture as the leading signatory to the CEEC critique.
The Church of England appears to have begun to morph into the world of Gilbert and Sullivan’s amateur operettas with poor Bishop Henderson developing something of a resemblance to Pooh Bah in the Mikado, who at one and the same time was Chief Executioner and Chief Justice. Only Bishop Henderson has taken it further and found himself becoming judge, prosecutor, victim and theological malefactor all at the same time.
Having created and commended the liturgy, he came out as his own foremost critic.
The problem is that you cannot denounce yourself like this, in a style that is cross between G & S and the old Soviet Politburo in their worst period, without raising the expectation that the next step is to call for his own resignation. This looks much too much like low drama and high farce.
So how could that possible happen in any organisation that makes a claim to coherence and integrity?
We can only guess.
But increasingly I am beginning to feel very sorry for + Henderson. I think he has been the victim of a stitch-up, and if he has, it would be hard not to see it being at the hands of Archbishop Welby and his team of ‘advisors.’
Let’s assume that Welby’s private staff/politburo got together after the General Synod meeting in July where the LGBT lobby won the mandate to use and abuse the baptism liturgy for their political campaign.
Someone will have said, “We need a chair for the committee that’s going to push this thing through- who shall we choose? The Bishop of Salisbury perhaps – he’s a progressive street fighter who takes few prisoners?”
“No” a voice at the back opines, “let’s bamboozle the evangelicals by getting their most prominent bishop (actually by now, as an endangered species under the toxically misleading “Mutual Flourishing” their only Diocesan bishop), to chair it. That will cause them real trouble when they kick up their usual fuss that we are just twisting the Bible to serve our own politically correct agenda. Let’s use Julian Henderson.”….
(I suggest ‘bamboozle’ but in the only conversation I have had with them, they resorted to the F*** admonishment in a reverse blessing. They may not have said ‘bamboozle’.)
What we don’t know is why on earth Bishop Henderson agreed when the Archbishop’s request dropped onto the mat or slipped into his in-box.
It can’t be because Welby has a reputation for bullying, or more politely, managing with a heavy hand, because no one has suggested such a thing, in public at least.
So if he wasn’t bullied into it, why did + Henderson accept the position of Chair. No doubt the best thing to do is to ask him directly.
Be that as it may, the committee then did what it was planned to do- a plan that long predated the rather shoddy and aggressive pushing it through Synod last summer. After all this move has been in the pipeline for as long as Welby has been Archbishop. It’s the logical next move in a Church that has surrendered to Cultural Marxism’s vicious theological and political attack on the Christian family and normative (which in this case means ‘God-given”) gender identities.
Perhaps Bishop Henderson was naïve and had no real idea what a stitch up this committee was going to be, with its four planted woke theological advisors/minders.
Perhaps when he saw the full horror of the manipulation and abuse of Scripture under his chairmanship he panicked too?
All we know is that when the Church of England Evangelical Council rushed into cobbling a text together that excoriated him by implication and the liturgy specifically, he signed it- as chairman.
His supporters may claim that this is an act of integrity little short of Archbishop Cranmer’s putting the hand that had signed his confession into the flames before they consumed him, but that would not be an entirely fair comparison with the courage of Cranmer.
This is a sad tale of a failing institution. Deserted by its disillusioned faithful, a refuge for Social Justice Warriors who are a bit ‘woke’ and craving some supportive spirituality, but not too much of Christ.
It mixes together incompetence, duplicity, fear, ignorance, arm twisting, theological clumsiness and a sort of Laurel and Hardyesque black comedy.
In a Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More confronts his previous protégée Richard Rich who has just betrayed both Christ and More. For perjuring himself he was rewarded with the office of Attorney General for Wales; More asks him:
““Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world [Matt. 16:26]. But for Wales?”
The same question should be asked of either Welby or Henderson, only replacing ‘Wales’ with ‘Transgenderism’.
Henderson looks like he’s sorry;
Welby not so much.