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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Call to ban 'nationalistic' hymn
Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme - copyright Manchester Diocese
The Bishop said Christians are loyal to God above their country
An Anglican bishop wants to ban the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country - because it echoes Hitler's Germany and is "heretical".

The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, attacked English nationalism in a diocese newsletter.

He compares the hymn - which was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales - with right-wing attitudes.

Bishop Lowe said he would not sing it as Christians' responsibilities lay with God.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday: "It actually says we're going to support my country whatever it says, entire and whole and perfect, the love unquestioned, which is in that first verse of the hymn, right or wrong.

The first verse of I Vow To Thee My Country

I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above,

Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

"That, I'm afraid, is actually heretical because it actually says that my country's approach to things must be my first call on myself and that my relationship with God or what I believe to be right or wrong is secondary to that.

"Honestly, nobody can really, if they read that hymn, sing it in any seriousness anymore."

He added he was raising the issue in the wider context of the "vilification" of foreigners in the media and had noticed it was being sung at "various national occasions".

He said: "It's saying my country right or wrong. I don't think anybody could actually say they could adopt an approach whereby they said they would not ask any questions of their government and their policies and so on.

"The government under the Queen in this country is actually the representation of this country and it has all the... echoes of 1930s nationalism in Germany and some of the nastier aspects of right wing republicanism in the United States."

The hymn was written by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice in 1918 and is set to music from Gustav Holst's The Planets.

A version was adapted as the anthem for the Rugby World Cup.

The Bishop of Hulme speaks to Today's John Humphrys
"It has all the... echoes of 1930s nationalism in Germany"

Vicar defends hymn ban
09 Aug 01  |  UK News
Hymns ban strikes sour note
08 Aug 01  |  UK News


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