Bart Harrington: How far do you think the Call to the North achieved its objectives?
_ Bishop Blanch: The difficulty Is that it was ascribed objectives it never really set itself.
It was and is much more of a long-term mission, a change in the psychology of the Church and in the attitude of parishes rather than special weeks. It means a Church on the offensive, always seeking to commend itself to the people outside it.
This is a very slow process and I feel we have scarcely begun. much less either succeeded or failed. We now take it for granted that we don't launch out on great schemes unless we launch out on them together — and that is a really remarkable thing.
What we want to do is to change inwardly the attitude of the Church towards the world. to awaken a sense of responsibility in the ordinary member. BH: How then, do you sec the Church's role in an industrial society?
BB: Our industrial society is marked by stupid competition between management and unions. That is the very heart of the situation. The Church's role is, I believe, in any way it can to introduce a little rationality in attitudes. It is a very strange notion that one can only succeed at the expense of the other. This is such a weird notion of interdependence that it has got to be tackled.
BH: But not by one individual Church?
BB: No. It is too difficult and complex an issue for any one Church.
BH: What, then, about the various industrial chaplains?
BB: We have a good number in the field and have always tried to insist that there must be only one industrial chaplaincy whether it is manned by Methodists, Anglicans or Romans. It must be one chaplaincy speaking to a particular situation, not a series of competing denominations.
If you are taking your message of reconciliation to management and unions, you should not take it separately. It can only be presented with any chance of success by the Churches together.
BH: How do you see the Christian layman functioning in this area of our affairs?
BB: There is a real role for him in industry.
BH: And the Church has to train him for it?
BB: Yes, of course. I would much rather see people playing their full part in industrial affairs than rushing around propping up the institution. This is the proper role of the layman — not just sustaining the Church but taking the Church's message out into the nolitical and industrial world.
BH: Speaking of the Church and education, most of the effort in the past has been seen in denominational schools. Do you think the future will repeat the past? Or will there be a sharing of the effort?
BB: The North of Ireland situation has taught us a great deal about the importance of this. We, in the Church of England, have reacted against the idea of Church schools and Church education. Now we have come around again to the feeling that it is important. We have 240 schools in this diocese and on the whole the clergy and the people are determined to keep them as long as possible.
BH: So the old style is coming back again?
BB: Yes, and I think there are two reasons for it. There is a great clamour for Church schools, even from parents who do not go to church themselves, because they see a certain stability and continuity within the Church system.
Then sometimes for those who are practising Christians, the standards they tend to live by and bring up their children by, are only adequately represented in the Church schools. Therefore they want their children to go to them.
Our Church schools are, in a sense, different from yours — they are less denominational and may be the only school in a particular area. I would very much hope that there would be much more co-operation, certainly at secondary level. That is where we are weak, whereas on the whole you have done a great deal for secondary education. I would ver■, much like to see these facilities being shared a bit. HUI : Offering to the people of a neighbourhood a common Christhin school? There are one or two experiments.
BB: This is a huge step forward, really. And it may be more important than we think.
Supposing society moves further and further in an atheist direction — I am not sure this will happen, but suppose it did — in a way the only way of ensuring a Christian education for your children, if you are a practising Christian, would be to send them to a Church school. You cannot now be sure that State schools are as Christian as they once were.
BH: When the two commissions got down to work they found that much of the difference was In language rather than in concept.
BB: That is very remarkable, I must say. A remarkable achievement. It was your Bishop Clark, a co-chairman, who spoke to the Anglican Synod — the first time it has ever happened. You would not have known whether it was an Anglican or a Roman bishop speaking.
BH: That must be the ultimate we want to achieve. If there is so much agreement do you subscribe to the idea that some measure of common training for the ministry is desirable?
BB: It is one of the curiosities of the Church of England that all its theological colleges are private. They were established to propagate a particular point of view — Middle, High or Low Church.
That in itself has been very divisive within the Church of England and I am glad to say it is now beginning to die down. Colleges of diverse traditions are beginning to work together. Some rather ridiculous prejudices are being removed
before they ever begin.
Now I would have thought that this is a natural step forward. We have a modest beginning at Lincoln Theological College, which has a Roman priest and a Methodist on its staff. I have been greatly involved in trying to create the kind of amalgamations of theological colleges which are obviously necessary.
It is incredibly difficult. Nevertheless, it would be
another great step forward if there could be just one college in England which did not have traditions to take on with it, which really set out to train men for the ministry whether they
were Romans, Methodists, URC or Anglicans. Once it had happened and people got used to the idea, it would tend to spread to other colleges.
BH: We have a need, of course, for many more relationships at the ordinary level. I, for instance, should be meeting my Anglican and Nonconformist neighbours more.
BB: It is a fact that when you meet officially you exaggerate
your differences. You are meeting because you arc different. What you want is the kind of natural meeting, not because you are different but because you are Christians.
BH : Neighbourhood meetings are better towards unity than some of the official . . .
BB: . . of the so-called ecumenical meetings.
BH: Euthanasia Ls likely to be a major issue before Parliament.
Our bishops recently made a statement reiterating our position. Do you think a common stand will be possible?
BB: Yes. I would agree with your bishops that a doctor has a
duty towards his patients but that duty does not extend to keeping them alive at whatever cost. Every doctor has known this for centuries — that there reaches a point where there is no hope of recovery.
I do not think any doctor need fear any arbitration to use
every resource of the National Health Service to keep such a person alive indefinitely. I agree with that, and I imagine that is what the bishops are saying. This is not euthanasia: it is simply allowing nature to take its course.
It is a very different thing when you get round to saying that a person could ask for euthanasia or relatives could suggest it or that a doctor might consider it a good thing. Here you are not allowing nature to take its course. You are positively changing it for social convenience or because hospitals aee too crowded — all these are largely irrelevant. You are taking a responsibility which I don't think men ought to he taking.
My own feeling is that there would be a fair degree of unanimity about that over the Church at large. I think the Church of England Synod and the bishops especially would be very watchful about a Bill which legalised euthanasia and therefore made it a kind of option for either doctors or patients or their relatives.
EM: This is going to be a crucial issue in a humanistic and post-Christian Scoiety.
BB: I agree. It is crucial not only in this particular medical field but also for our understanding of life altogether. It really does betray a certain divergence of view between the secularist and the Christian about the aims and objects of life and hoiv we are to treat it.
BH: Finally, in these days of national depression, can you see any gleam in the gloom?
BB: The country has been living for about 20 years in a kind of fools' paradise. By the late' 1960s we had achieved a standard of living which was quite erroneous really and did not have any solid basis, financially or economically.
I think that the "oil revolution" has simply exposed what has been true all the time. We can no longer live luxuriously at the expense of our customers and the world. This is the truth of the matter.
The gleam I see in it is this. Although we shall undoubtedly have to accept a reduced standard of living, provided that we can weather it without any undue show of rather stupid militancy or profiteering, think we shall have a more realistic view of the world as it really is — and that could be a very good thing. The peasant in India does not owe us a living.
Whatever the consequences may be for us — and I can see that it can be very serious for a lot of good things we won't be able to do — if it gives us a sense of realism about the resources of the world and what share of them we can have, then this cannot but be a good thing.