Holy Smoke

As we confront mortality, why do our bishops have so little to say?

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Do you sense that something is missing in the churches' response to the coronavirus? No one can fault them for ignoring the dangers of spreading the virus: bishop after bishop has taken the difficult decision to suspend public worship, and offered sensible advice about precautionary measures their flocks can take. And, in many cases, that's about it. Indeed, many church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, sound more like health and safety officers than the successors to the apostles.

In this week's Holy Smoke episode, Dr Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen, argues that the bishop's attitude of 'wash your hands and be nice' reflects the churches' polite surrender to secularisation – but suggests that ordinary believers now have the opportunity to show the public what Christianity really looks like. The coronavirus, dreadful though it is, could mark a turning point – one that leads to a religious revival in which the old breed of bishop-bureaucrat gives way to more inspiring leadership.