Support for the Church of England came today from an unexpected quarter: the editorial column of The Observer newspaper. In Faith values the leader writer refers to the major feature story by Rachel Cooke on the cover page of the Review section, The sleek shall inherit the Church which reviews the current state of the CofE.
Part of the editorial:
Some three million people will file into the pews of the Church of England at some stage this Christmas – three times as many as on a normal Sunday. It may be only 5 per cent of the population, but in a secular age in which Christian faith appears so out of fashion it is remarkable how well the numbers hold up every year. Christmas remains a time when the story of birth and redemption retains a remarkable hold on our collective imagination.
…People do not have to accept every canon of the Church’s creed to be impressed by its core spirit of radical toleration – a continuing gift to our national culture. Some of the millions in church this weekend will not be attending because they are regular practising Christians. Rather they come because they feel the spiritual dimension of Christmas should be acknowledged and they know this radically tolerant church will welcome them, even if they don’t turn up again until next Christmas.
Such tolerance, though, is under siege. It is even attacked by evangelists within the Church who see it as too accommodating to what they portray as amoral trends in civil society, such as homosexuality. It is regrettable for both believer and non-believer that such trends tend more towards the Old Testament age of retribution, revenge and intolerance that threatens our modern plural and largely secular society.
… If we all could subscribe to greater tolerance, it’s hard to dispute that the world would be a better place. If Christmas can help that message alone, it is more than worth its keep.
In her feature story, Rachel Cooke says much that is worth reading. Two small excerpts:
What I found surprised and moved me. For one thing, there are still lots of them out there (one million people every Sunday). For another, they are often far more tolerant than their critics, sometimes soaringly so. As for the institution itself, in our uniquely grasping culture, I can think of no other that offers so much in return for so little.
But in any case, this is not a numbers game. The very best thing about the Church, whether you choose to make use of it or not, is that it values the few as much as the many. I felt this, powerfully, on the night I showed my Godless face at St Mark’s, when there cannot have been more than £10 in the collection tray. For this reason alone, we must pray that the evangelicals do not, after all, storm off into the dark night, rattling their own coffers loudly. Ask most clergy which they would rather – a packed house, or a handful of the elderly or the lonely or the lost – and you will find that this is not a deal any of them are willing to cut.