Society and Social Structures

Woolf Institute: Butler-Slush and the demand for more multifaith mish-mash


So, the Woolf Institute, whose declared mission is concerned with “combining theology with the social sciences and the humanities”, in pursuit of “interfaith” “social solidarity” and “common purpose”, convenes a Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (full title: Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life: community, diversity and the common good), whose members include Muslims, Hindus, Atheist-Humanists, liberal Christians, inter-faith theologians, sociologists and proponents of “Equality and Human Rights”, who issue a Report which calls for more multifaith mish-mash and less robust Christianity in public life, and we’re appalled and disappointed and/or surprised and shocked?

What is wrong with people? This is a private institution with a theologically pluralist mission, which crammed its multi-ethnic commission with diverse academics and sundry lobbyists who have a pre-ordained theo-political agenda, and that agenda is concerned with the diminution (if not the eradication) of Christianity (ie anachronistic Anglican Establishment) from public life, in favour of a more tolerant secular space of generic spirituality to better reflect the pluralism and multiculturalism of modernity.

This is not a credible report because it was not a plausible commission. Baroness Butler-Sloss can call for a “new settlement” if she wishes, but who is she? A peerage does not bestow the authority to chip away at the foundations of the historic Anglican Settlement: our values, traditions, culture, language and law are based upon it, and it isn’t called a settlement for nothing. It is settled. We have received our national revelation, and its preservation against historic onslaughts and boundless scepticism is evidence of its claims. British society is not neutrally agnostic: the Anglican canopy permits and protects the fundamental freedoms of religious argument and belief.

This Woolf Institute Commission isn’t worth the effort of condemning. Its Report has no more credibility than a political manifesto, and no more constitutional authority than a copy of the Beano.