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Book exposing fatal flaws in the C of E is quickly withdrawn

Book exposing fatal flaws in the C of E is quickly withdrawn

Religious correspondents who received copies of  That Was The Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People, due for release on February 11, have been ordered to ‘immediately’ return the ‘relentlessly honest’ book to the publisher.

The blurb for the book said:

The Church of England still seemed an essential part of Englishness, and even of the British state, when Mrs Thatcher [pictured above schmoozing with Archbishop Robert Runcie in 1985] was elected in 1979.

The decades which followed saw a seismic shift in the foundations of the C of E, leading to the loss of more than half its members and much of its influence. In England today religion has become a toxic brand, and Anglicanism something done by other people. How did this happen? Is there any way back?

This relentlessly honest and surprisingly entertaining book tells the dramatic and contentious story of the disappearance of the Church of England from the centre of public life. The authors, religious correspondent Andrew Brown and academic Linda Woodhead, watched this closely, one from the inside and one from the outside. That Was the Church That Was shows what happened and explains why.

A statement issued by leading UK publishing house, Bloomsbury, said that the withdrawal of the book was the result of a legal complaint. Asked to clarify, its publicity agent, Lucy Clayton, said:

I only know that there’s been a legal complaint. I cannot comment further.

Speculation mounted that the book was pulled because it contains a disputed passage about the sexual activities of various Church of England bishops and other leading lights in the Anglican community.

Writing in the weekly magazine The Spectator, Damian Thompson said the book contained rumours and speculation about the sexual identity of key figures in the established church whose membership figures are at an all-time low.

Thompson wrote that apparently there has been a legal action because of  “a disputed passage about a Christian leader”.

It sounded intriguing. But which leader? I have a finished copy of the book in front of me, and it’s hard to guess. Is it the bishop who, we’re informed, ‘turned out to have had a conviction for cottaging hushed up’? Or the bishop who was the subject of an ‘entirely false’ rumour that he ‘attended gay orgies’? Or the bishop accused of faking his academic qualifications, also described as an ‘entirely false’ claim? It may be none of the above.

We learn something extraordinary (and, perhaps, defamatory) about a member of the Church of England hierarchy on virtually every page. Ostensibly an account of the Church of England’s decline over the past 30 years, the book reads more like a compendium of its most malicious gossip.

Thompson added:

I speak with some experience. In the early 1990s, as religious affairs correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, I wrote some awfully spiteful stuff. I wince when I read it today. But even I could not reach the sadistic heights of That Was The Church That Was …

Rowan Williams:

Rowan Williams: ‘He couldn’t be a shit – and yet he had been one’

The best thing in the book is its portrait of Rowan Williams. The former Archbishop of Canterbury emerges as a high-church Welsh mystic who felt more at home in Narnia than in England, where village fetes were more sacred than Holy Communion. We read that he ‘had no glib answers to the problems of human tragedy and suffering’ – or to any problem, for that matter. He expected his bishops to ‘worry at the truth like patient followers of Wittgenstein’. Instead, they kicked him around because they knew he could be bullied.

That became clear when, having encouraged his celibate gay friend Canon Jeffrey John to accept the post of Bishop of Reading, he then forced him to withdraw his acceptance in order to placate homophobic African bishops. The book quotes an anonymous bishop, who says the Primate of All England fell into a deep depression because he couldn’t reconcile this with his self-image as a saint and scholar: ‘He couldn’t be a shit — and yet he had been one.’

Thompson concluded:

That Was The Church That Was tells us something important about English Christianity, but not what the authors imagine. It is the sort of scandal-obsessed diatribe that dying religious communities – one thinks of the Catholic Church in Italy or Ireland – are too weak and compromised to fend off. For the time being, the Church of England is being protected from this atrocious book by somebody’s lawyers. But for how long?

13 responses to “Book exposing fatal flaws in the C of E is quickly withdrawn”

  1. CoastalMaineBird says:

    Ostensibly an account of the Church of England’s decline over the past 30 years, the book reads more like a compendium of its most malicious gossip.

    Let’s don’t pretend like those are two different things.

    Sure, gossip can be malicious and false, but it usually has roots in some real events.

  2. Justin Badby says:

    Well the success of this book is now assured. What better publicity for it than to be retracted in this way. Cant wait to get a copy.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    ‘It is the sort of scandal-obsessed diatribe that dying religious communities – one thinks of the Catholic Church in Italy or Ireland – are too weak and compromised to fend off.’
    Really? Oh, well – too bad! Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to this one It is listed on Amzon but not yet available.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/That-Was-Church-England-English/dp/147292164X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454938767&sr=8-1&keywords=That+Was+The+Church+That+Was%3A+How+the+Church+of+England+Lost+the+English+People

  4. David Anderson says:

    Justin Badby is right. This book would have come and gone but now it has assured best selling listing due to something these people never learn. It’s call the Streisand Effect.

  5. Angela_K says:

    I can’t understand why the catholic apologist Mr Thompson is so surprised at the CofE’s decline or the Catholic church decline, does he never read the news or look back over the centuries at the vile things done by those religions? The various religious leaders have historically often been caught with their and/or young boys trousers down but unfortunately for them, it is more difficult to cover up and hide

  6. Dave Godfrey says:

    Good story, but did you have to spoil it with a photo of that horrible woman?

  7. Stonyground says:

    I don’t think that the CofE’s decline is likely to have been caused by any internal scandals. I think that as people have become better educated Christianity has become more and more implausible to them. Illiterate peasants might have lapped up Bible stories but nowadays such things are not even believed by children.

  8. Newspaniard says:

    I am going to be emailed when it’s available by Amazon, then I’ll order it from someone else. I hate the way Amazon treats all booksellers.

  9. Alan Crowe says:

    ^
    Doesn’t ‘the book’s been pulled’ Mean that it won’t be available to buy?
    I hope not but I think so.

  10. 1859 says:

    “…the book was pulled because it contains a disputed passage about the sexual activities of various Church of England bishops and other leading lights in the Anglican community.”
    Deviant sexual activities of the clergy!!?? Never!! I mean how can it be possible that such sexually repressed and morally superior men dressed infancy costumes, can do this sort of thing! What next!?

  11. barriejohn says:

    There is a book which exposes “fatal flaws” in the Christian faith – it’s called the Bible. Have they “pulled” that one yet?

    http://awkwardmomentsbible.com/

  12. Vanity Unfair says:

    I wonder whether Brown and Woodhead have a separate contract with a US publisher for the US market where the libel laws are laxer. It would still be difficult to import, of course, and electronic copies might be blocked so getting a copy in the UK would not be possible.

  13. Cali Ron says:

    I am sensing an opportunity here. For the price of the book and shipping costs an enterprising American could supply his fellow freethinker with the desired tome. Anybody here know what the legal ramifications might be?