Bishop Alan is on good form in his recent post St Paul’s: Writing on the subway wall?

What can leaders in the Church of England, like me, learn about our operation from last year’s experience outside St Pauls? I wanted to capture three bits of feedback about the Church of England from sympathetic voices. Their words are not comfortable, but we have to pinch ourselves and remember the Facts are our Friends. They can be changed, but doing so will require change in us.

Including reporting a message to the Archbishop of Cantebury:

… You state that the demands of the protesters have been vague. 
That, I suggest, is a symptom of their inability to collectively articulate their desire for a fairer world. 
Had your response been to answer simply and directly the question on the banner most frequently featured in the media coverage outside St Paul’s “What would Jesus do?”  you  may have been able to help them. ...

And words from a US banker working in London:

I wish I knew his name. He came up to me on the street outside the Cathedral that first weekend. With the press asking me what bishops think of bankers, I found it especially valuable to hear what bankers think of bishops. He saw my collar and asked if St Paul's was “my Church.” “Yes, and no,” I said. But I am a Church of England bishop. And he said...

Ah! Church of England! — a lot of what you do in your churches is beautiful. Your downside is your top people. Their heads are stuck so far up their own asses they can't see the light any more!

Excuse my friend’s American. They talk like that, especially the bankers. I hate to think our good and decent College of Bishops comes over like this. But it does. 


The facts are our friends. And the fact is there is a world out there rocking on its bearings, looking to Jesus Christ, among others, for wisdom and hope. 


An institution that’s absorbed in anxiety about itself, and gets hung up on, for example, arcana like “the gay issue” as currently framed, or discriminatory behaviour towards women, doesn’t inspire wisdom or hope in anyone outside itself. 


This is painful to admit, but it’s the truth on the street. Most local parishes are far more recognisable as the Body of Christ than the anxious fading institution wringing its hands at the centre. 


The time has come, not to resign but to re-engage — and to repent on the way. Change is possible, but we need to want to get real. That’s what metanoia is. How can we expect the bankers to do something we find so damned difficult ourselves? By grace, through faith. Same as everyone else. 


Who knows? our struggles to get real may resource them on their parallel journey. But only if we do it.

AuthorJonathan Clark