Can public C of E services be defended?

Paul Hurt
Remembrance SundayRemembrance Sunday
Remembrance Sunday

Providence Road, Sheffield, S6

According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, affiliation with the Church of England (C of E) has never been lower in all age groups: it amounts to only 2 per cent of young adults.

What can justify the C of E’s dominant role in Remembrance Sunday commemorations, then? I attend the event in the city centre or at Weston Park. Like ones throughout the country, it takes the form of a C of E service.

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There are many, many prayers and after each one, this is the expected response (as given in the Order of Service booklet):

All Hear our prayer

What is a non-believer or a believer in another religion to do? Mumble insincerely? Stay silent? Should non-believers pretend to believe in the power of prayer, or in the Trinity – the doctrine that there’s God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (also in the booklet)? We attend to remember the fallen, to show gratitude for their sacrifice, to show gratitude and appreciation for present members of the armed forces, not to witness a C of E service.

Sometimes, a decline in support for an organisation is unfair, but not in this case. There are and have been many, many exceptional C of E members but the catalogue of C of E failings is long.

Edward Wightman was the last person in this country to be burned alive for heresy. He had denied the Trinity and questioned the status of the Church of England. The C of E still remembers and celebrates John Calvin, who denounced Michael Servetus (also burned alive after denying the Trinity). The Bishop of Sheffield’s doctoral thesis was on the subject of John Calvin! The C of E remembers and celebrates to this day St Augustine, who actually taught that unbaptised babies are in hell.

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A large number of Anglicans believe in hell, of course, although not for unbaptised babies.

I understand that the Bishop of Sheffield has evangelical beliefs, with a conservative tendency.

Perhaps he may be able to comment on this doctrine, perhaps on John Calvin as well.

And does he believe that C of E Remembrance services for the general public can be defended?