Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who can be slow to act and whom we have criticized for lack of force, rebuked Church of England clergy for complaining of persecution in England while Christians elsewhere face "terrible communal violence" and are "living daily with threats and murders."
He was referring in his ecumenical Easter letter to a group of Church of England Bishops who in a letter last week to the Sunday Telegraph asserted widespread British persecution, including "numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”
Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia wrote in response to the letter to the Sunday Telegraph:
To my knowledge, even the most extreme pressure groups like Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Legal Centre who are stoking and reinforcing the Christian persecution complex, haven’t made the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals”. So far they have pointed to only a handful of examples where there is some alleged injustice. Rarely have this small number involved dismissal. And even where (if?) they have, upon further investigation, the claims have tended to fall apart. Indeed, in one case, it even seemed to be the intervention of Christian campaigners which brought the dismissal about, after confidential client details were given to a national newspaper. In another, CLC claimed dismissal and then reinstatement, when dismissal never actually seems to have occurred.
Williams suggested in his letter today that attention be focused instead where the need is compelling and the risk of meeting it considerable:
When St John tells us that the disciples met behind locked doors on the first Easter Day (John 20.19), he reminds us that being associated with Jesus Christ has never been easy or safe. Today this is evident in a wide variety of situations – whether in the terrible communal violence afflicting parts of Nigeria, in the butchery and intimidation of Christians in Mosul in recent weeks, in the attacks on the Coptic faithful in Egypt, or in the continuing harassment of Anglican congregations in Zimbabwe. As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, we acknowledge that Christians will never be safe in a world of injustice and mindless fear, because Christians will always stand, as did Archbishop Romero, for the hope of a different world, in which the powerful have to let go of privilege and rediscover themselves as servants, and the poor are lifted up into joy and liberty.
By comparison, the secure incantations to civil fear of the five prominent bishops and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, pale.