Monday, 12 November 2012
Following a delay the next Archbishop of Canterbury has been named as Justin Welby. Those who were tasked with creating a shortlist to submit to Downing Street have been unable to agree with much speculation that opinions are divided about the future role of the Church and its world-wide canon. Where is God when you want him, you might ask?
The appointment of Welby comes at another important time for the Anglican Church as members struggle with the questions of female Bishops and the legitimacy of formal marriage of gay people. Prayers beseeching clues to the right path from the previous encumbent of the post also went unanswered.
The Church of England is not the only Church in crisis. This comes at a time when we learn that the Pope's butler stole secret papers that he maintains embarrassed his beloved Church. I'm sure that hidden in the Vatican's vaults are papers secreted away because their contents threaten the very existence of the Church, proving that rather than having been built on the Rock of Peter The Roman Catholic Church is in fact built on shifting sands. In the last one hundred years, the present nuclear age, I believe that better education, particularly in the sciences, has brought a change in people's perception of the Christian Churches as manifest in the decline of traditional congregations. People are increasingly sceptical of the Transubstantiation and Resurrection although adherents of more evangelical movements have grown, to my mind reflecting a movement away from traditional feelings of faith towards a mood that better reflects an understanding of mankind's own innate spirituality. Love and altruism can be found in peoples without invoking a Creator or living God.
I can see a time, maybe a couple of hundred years from now, when the Abrahamic Churches, as we know them, will be no more. Because many of the peoples who follow Islam are not so scientifically aware it may be five hundred years before they finally see the light. By then the oil will have run out and I doubt very much that the Prophet will be able to help those countries which currently rely on it for income and two thousand years after its inception, Muslims will still not know whether it is better to follow the Sunni tradition or the shi'ite.
However, we have recently witnessed the commemoration of the war dead at the annual service from the Cenotaph. It is a service mirrored all over the world as people remember those who gave their life so that those who are left could live free from tyrrany. In almost all instances these services are conducted by the Church and I know of no more fitting organisation with which to trust this responsibility. If only it could be done without reference to a God. Man has a spiritual side which needs to be satisfied, if only to be there when the people singly or collectively need to be inspired. Not by divine beings or supernatural occurrences but by men or women who through the ages have commanded respect by their deeds and words. Jesus, Moses and Mohammed would be amongst them; so too the prophets and Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha. Turn all the churches, synagogues, mosques and temples into houses, not of God, Yahweh, or Allah, but as shrines dedicated to the celebration of mankind. A place where humans can see the liturgy in the stars; hear it through the music of Beethoven and Bach, feel it in the emotion of seeing a newborn child. A place where the creed is an exposition of the total laws of physics. In short I am suggesting that the world does not need division but the coming together of the faiths to unite under the one banner of Religious Humanism. Each day people are dying and suffering because of their religious faiths. God is not answering the prayers of the people of Gaza, Haiti and the horn of Africa to name but three areas of severe human suffering. Now is the time to ask any God to reveal himself. Faith is not enough; it never was. Mankind is at the crossroads and needs answers not promises; decisions not prevarication, openness not obfuscation. Who will lead?