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‘Non’ also to Anglican bureaucracy

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I HAD the privilege some years ago of taking the funeral of Lord Shore of Stepney, formerly Peter Shore MP. Half the government front bench was packed into Mortlake Crematorium, where we sang “Jerusalem” and “The Red Flag”.

Lord Shore came to prominence, among other things, by leading the Left’s opposition to further European integration. For him, the problem with the grand vision of pan-European political decision-making was that it made ordinary people feel as if they were caught up in the cogs of a great political machine over which they had no control.

Few of us have ever read the hundreds of pages of the draft European constitution — life’s too short, and Euro civil-service-ese hardly makes for the most riveting of reads. But what many sense, and what many in France have clearly sensed, is that this whole thicket of legislation is taking power further and further away from you and me.

The Guardian columnist, Oxford don, and ardent pro-European, Timothy Garton Ash, launched his latest book in St Mary’s, Putney, last month. He spoke convincingly of a free world, set to face the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century — not least those posed by the enormous growth of the Chinese economy.

For Professor Garton Ash, Europe is set to become a sideshow in the new world order. His lament for the now-moribund constitution is that he believed that it would have enabled Europe to ally economic prosperity with social justice, all the better to sell that model to the rest of the world. It’s easy to nod along in agreement.

The problem, however, is that expanding European political togetherness seems to require a huge growth in political bureaucracy. This makes most of us feel alienated from the process of decision-making. That’s the cost of trying to exert centrifugal force on a large and diverse geographical area through the workings of democracy.

The French referendum contains a message for those who seek further political integration for the Anglican Communion. The powers that be in the Communion civil service call it “catholicity” — which is now a code word for the grand vision of global Anglicanism, extending from Sydney to Lagos to Canterbury (though maybe not to San Francisco).

More and more committees meet; church bureaucracy grows to accommodate more process and procedure: but, to those of us in ordinary parishes, it feels as if no one is listening. And we don’t even get the chance to say “Non, merci.”

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney, and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.

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