Closure of churches is ‘guidance, not instruction’ – Archbishop

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    The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to criticism over a request for churches to stay closed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

    Some vicars have challenged the guidance from the Archbishops and bishops of the Church of England to keep doors closed as the lockdown continues.

    Church of England churches were first told to suspend all public worship when the lockdown started last month, forcing services to go digital.

    This was then followed up by additional guidance telling churches to close their doors completely, including for private prayer and the livestreaming of services by pastors.

    Fr Marcus Walker, Rector at Great St Bartholomew’s, in London, had questioned whether the bishops had a legal right to order clergy not to say daily prayers and offer Communion inside their church buildings.

    Archbishop Justin Welby was asked about this on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. 

    He called Fr Walker a “wonderful priest” as he sought to clarify the guidance issued to churches.

    He insisted that the bishops had not broken any canon law in asking churches to remain closed.

    “We have given guidance, not instruction,” the Archbishop said.

    He continued: “Frankly, Andrew, in the Church of England, the one way to get anyone to do the opposite of what you want is to give them an order. It works with all of us. Someone said it’s like herding cats. 

    “So no, we haven’t given an instruction, so we haven’t broken canon law. We have said: this is how you care for your flock and share in the privations of the flock, and share in the suffering of the nation, and set an example, and care for others and look after them, and, you know, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.

    “It’s not complicated,” he added.

    Fr Walker said on Twitter that he was “very grateful” for the clarification.