Is Justin Welby losing faith with lockdown?
2nd November 2020

Is Justin Welby losing faith with lockdown? Archbishop of Canterbury warns that forcing church services to stop is a ‘huge loss’ for worshippers

  • Justin Welby is seeking a meeting with ministers to complain about the rules   
  • The archbishops said churches will this time stay open for individuals to pray
  • Muslim leaders also criticised lockdown, calling for a ‘re-assessment’

 The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that forcing church services to stop during lockdown is a ‘huge loss’ for worshippers.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby is seeking a meeting with ministers to complain about the rules.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby during a service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, in June 2013

He wants to challenge the Government about why churches have to shut out their congregations while other gatherings are treated as essential and will be exempt.

Among the meetings that can continue after the shutdown begins on Thursday are those for recovering drug and alcohol addicts and support groups for gay and transgender people.

The move to confront ministers is the first hint of rebellion against lockdown from the Archbishop, who assented in March to the full closure of all churches, and even forbade vicars from praying alone in their own churches.

In a letter to Church of England clergy, written with the Archbishop of York the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop Welby said he may have been over-cautious during the spring lockdown.

Critics who say he should not have agreed to close the churches ‘may be right’, they said.

The archbishops said churches will this time stay open for individuals to pray, and will hold services that are broadcast online. 

Shoppers preparing for the second national lockdown on Thursday

The complaint to ministers follows furious protests at the weekend by leaders of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, who demanded to be shown evidence to justify church closures.

Muslim leaders also criticised lockdown, calling for a ‘re-assessment’ of the decision to shut places of worship. 

The archbishops said in their letter that stopping sacramental services such as the central Anglican rite of communion ‘is a huge loss’.

The archbishops said churches will this time stay open for individuals to pray, and will hold services that are broadcast online 

They continued: ‘And since we were not consulted about the lockdown provisions, we fully intend to speak with Government about why certain exemptions are made and not others, emphasising the critical role that churches play in every community.’

The archbishops wrote: ‘We are sure that some of you reading this letter will wish we had made other decisions during the period of the first lockdown, or even challenged the Government harder on the decisions it has made.

‘You may be right… but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

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