Bishop of Leeds defends Cummings tweets as senior clergy speak out against PM and his adviser

The Bishop of Leeds has defended speaking out against the Prime Minister and his controversial advisor Dominic Cummings, telling the Yorkshire Post that if Christianity has nothing to say, “it isn’t worth having”.

Monday, 25th May 2020, 1:17 pm
Updated Monday, 25th May 2020, 1:18 pm
The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines. Picture: Adrian Murray

The Rt Revd Nick Baines is one of a number of Church of England bishops who have taken to Twitter to speak out after Boris Johnson defended the lockdown actions of his chief advisor.

At the daily Downing Street press conference on Sunday evening, Mr Johnson said Mr Cummings had "acted responsibly, legally and with integrity" by driving 260 miles to County Durham to isolate due to childcare concerns.

In a tweet on Sunday night, the Bishop posed a number of questions, including: "The question now is: do we accept being lied to, patronised and treated by a PM as mugs?

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"The moral question is not for Cummings - it is for PM and ministers/MPs who find this behaviour acceptable.

"What are we to teach our children?"

But while he received 2,700 ‘likes’ for his tweet, and a raft of supportive replies, there has been some criticism that he and other clergy should stay out of politics.

Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, Bishop Nick said: “Politics is about people, and the right ordering of society. If Christianity has nothing to say about that, it isn’t worth having.

“There has been some criticism around having compassion for Cummings - what about having compassion for the thousands of people who didn’t drive, and therefore didn’t say goodbye to relatives?

“Including one of my clergy, whose husband has died in a hospice and has a severely autistic son, and didn’t have anyone to come from the other side of the country to look after them because they obeyed the rules.

“Compassion has to work in more than one way.

“For me it’s not about politics, it’s about public health and public order.”

Also speaking out on Twitter was the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, who commented in response to a critical tweet about the Prime Minister.

She wrote: "Integrity, trust and leadership were never there; just a driven misguided ideology of power that has total disregard for the most weak and vulnerable, and those who work to protect and care for us with relatively low pay."

Dr Hartley also shared some details of her experience of being unable to see her parents during lockdown.

She tweeted: "My parents live in Durham, an hour away from where we live. My father finished radiotherapy treatment just before lockdown.

"I've missed his birthday, Mothering Sunday and countless other catch-ups that would have happened.

"And that's a fraction of a story compared with others."

Meanwhile, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, the former Dean of York, tweeted after the Downing Street briefing: "#livingdifferently in a nation where the PM has no respect for the people.

"The bonds of peace and our common life (which had been wonderfully strengthened during the testing by CV-19) have been dangerously undermined this evening."

Later on Sunday night, The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, commented on Twitter: "I don't usually tweet politics, and I have carefully steered clear during the pandemic. But tonight I must say: the PM & his cabinet are undermining the trust of the electorate and the risks to life are real."

The Bishops of Manchester and Newcastle have also spoken out.