The Church of England will concede in a statement that it was over-defensive and over-emotional in dismissing Darwin’s ideas. It will call “anti-evolutionary fervour” an “indictment” on the Church”.
The bold move is certain to dismay sections of the Church that believe in creationism and regard Darwin’s views as directly opposed to traditional Christian teaching.
The apology, which has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church’s director of mission and public affairs, says that Christians, in their response to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, repeated the mistakes they made in doubting Galileo’s astronomy in the 17th century.
“The statement will read: Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practise the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends.”
Opposition to evolutionary theories is still “a litmus test of faithfulness” for some Christian movements, the Church will admit. It will say that such attitudes owe much to a fear of perceived threats to Christianity.
Hmm. Interesting. It’s taken them a long time, and I think it’s conveniently timed, but I think this should be very useful in stopping creationists in the school system — at least in the UK. If even the Church admits that they were wrong about Darwin, then it’ll be quite difficult for individual creationists to convince judges or school boards, I’d hope.
My instinct was to say, “so bloody what” at this news, but, let’s face it: I do believe science is incompatible with faith, but not that we should throw away such statements as this. The Church is basically saying that believing in evolution is not a bad thing, no matter about Genesis, and I think once religious people are thus allowed a fuller and more accurate understanding of evolution, it could encourage them to be more pro-science. A fuller understanding of science does death blows to religion and all forms of superstition.
So: for the first time in a while: go Church of England! (By which, I don’t mean go to a Church of England service. Because that might be very boring.)
Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic, said: ‘It’s absolutely ludicrous. Why don’t we have the Italians apologising for Pontius Pilate?
‘We’ve already apologised for slavery and for the Crusades. When is it all going to stop? It’s insane and makes the Church of England look ridiculous.’
Yeah… but it sort of is, isn’t it? I mean, there was a time when the Church had power. Not any more. All the glories of Christianity have been reduced to “a kind of sharing”, as Stephen Fry put it.
I do find it strange that the apology is written directly to Darwin himself, though.