Today’s political culture is ‘rancid and dangerous’ and Boris Johnson should be ashamed of himself for telling a lie that led to street violence, a Church of England bishop has said.
Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, said the UK faces a “struggle between those whose interest is to fragment society and those who want to uphold the common good”.
Speaking on the eve of his retirement, Bayes also said Church law should change to define marriage as between two people, regardless of gender – a highly controversial move that would overturn centuries of biblical teaching. traditional.
Bayes said Johnson should take “a serious stock-taking of his position” after telling parliament that Keir Starmer had not prosecuted pedophile Jimmy Savile. Two days later, Starmer had to seek refuge with a mob accusing him of being a “paedophile protector”.
Bayes said: “I don’t think that’s an honest statement, and I think [Johnson] should be ashamed of it. And the people who trotted out to say “it’s not really a problem, it’s all part of the turmoil of politics” should share that shame…
“The parallel in my mind is Donald Trump. [Johnson] shows us who he is, and people seem to want that in politics. And I regret it. We need a policy that has no room for lies told in the House of Commons that could produce violence in the streets two days later.
However, if Johnson resigns, the political environment would still have to change, Bayes said. “It’s not about individual bad apples. It is a question of culture. The culture of politics was “contradictory, irritated, exhausted” and “rancid and dangerous”.
This was the case “on the other side of the west”, he said. “You see clear illiberalism in Eastern Europe, you see the rise of the far right in France, and you see what you see in the United States… Basic decency has been lost.”
People who suggested that bishops should not express political views were wrong, he said. The church has “a place in the public square” and “there are values that we can express clearly and which will have a political impact. As long as that platform is there, it is up to us to stick to it.
Within the C of E, Bayes has been increasingly vocal about the urgency of LGBTQ+ equality, an issue that has caused bitter divisions for many years.
He said: “I want to see a church where if a congregation and its ministers want to bless and marry same-sex people or trans people, they should be free to do so without stigma. And those who do not want to do so should have the freedom of conscience not to do so. I want to see gender-neutral marriage canons, which just say marriage is between two people.
Bayes said he expected that to happen, “100 percent.” The Church must listen to “God who never changes, and society which changes all the time. About slavery, abortion, contraception, women’s ministry, long and agonizing debates resulted in a church that made room for these things. And I think in the end it will happen [with LGBTQ+ equality].
He did not expect such a change imminently, but “I hope and pray that it will happen in my lifetime”.
Bayes, who has been Bishop of Liverpool since 2014, was introduced as a member of the House of Lords in November, just three months before his retirement. “I would have been there for five or six years but there was a [C of E] rule that female bishops should take precedence. I support this rule, but it means I have been the shortest member of the House of Lords for decades. But it’s cool.
After retirement, he will trade his eight-bedroom Bishop’s house in Liverpool for a two-bedroom workman’s house in the West Country. He can write a book, but first “there will be a lot of snoring for about six months, and he will remember how to be a grandfather”.