‘Non’ also to Anglican bureaucracy
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
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.