THINKING ANGLICANS

Last Rites for the Church of England?

BBC Radio 4 this evening broadcast “Last Rites for the Church of England?” in which Andrew Brown “asks if the Church of England has become fatally disconnected from society.” The half-hour programme will be broadcast again on Sunday 2 February at 2130.

But you can listen to the programme online here now. There is also a 13 MB downloadable podcast.

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Erika BakerRod GillisJ DreverJames ByronFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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James Byron
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James Byron

The “diversity” argument forwarded by Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, is amoral. The church would not benefit from the “diversity” of tolerating racists, and it doesn’t benefit from soft-soaping homophobia, either. Stevens is equally wet in his defense of the welfare state, conceding its founding ideals at the outset. This is why dogmatists triumph, be they religious, or neo-liberal. They know what they believe, and fight for it. Moderates equivocate and fence-sit and get pushed aside. If the march of the oppressors is ever to be stopped, the psychological reasons for this must be found. Personally, I suspect that it’s… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

The Church of Denmark is not thriving, just because Danish families pay Church tax! Denmark has not experienced the mass immigration which Sweden ( 25 per cent of the population)has and not disestablished its Church.This is folk religion in Denmark. Islam is growing because of immigration. Particularly as the core Islamic population recruits brides from the Indian sub coontinent. Holy Trinity does preach against homosexuality and regularly prays for the deliverence of gay people. Brown does not show how the Church of England has completely caved in on heterosexual morality. Divorced and re-married clergy ( plus laity ) are a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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If the theme of ‘Life after death’ is still valid in the Church of England, then perhaps the present situation might produce a slimmed down functional Body of Christ for the future – after what some people (including, apparently, Andrew Brown) have diagnosed as stagnation before demise.

Jill Armstead
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Jill Armstead

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks
With compassion on this world.

Teresa of Avila’s prayer for our model, the body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as food for our journey. We shall survive.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

The “diversity” argument forwarded by Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester does not even make sense. The program starts by showing that the views of most churchgoers are the same as those in society and that it is only the hierarchy that is stuck in the 1950s. There is no “society out there” and a completely separate church.
It would therefore be very easy to move at a much faster speed on all the contentious issues.

James
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James

Yes the church should always ape the culture around it. Jesus said blend in, don’t be distinctive. That will be much more successful in spreading the faith. We only have to look across the pond to see that. Wise advice, Andrew Brown, thank you so much.

Adam Armstrong
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Adam Armstrong

RIW said “Divorced and re-married clergy (plus laity ) are a hallmark of thriving Anglican alternatives like ACNA and CESA.” Again, the propaganda machines of right-wing homophobic groups have met their target. Since RIW agrees with their positions, small wonder he calls them “thriving”. Even if ACNA/CESA put a positive spin on everything they do, and because they have only to go up as new bodies, would RIW please back up this assertion with facts?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Thanks for the link to Andrew Brown’s BBC radio piece on the C of E. I don’t know anywhere near enough about your context there to comment upon the details of his program. However, I am intrigued by his use of the term “values gap” between the C of E and the general public presumably. The existence of a values gap between the church and the wider society is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, the church’s critique of the so called free market and the social Darwinism it spawns, may be an indicator of faithfulness to the Gospel… Read more »

sjh
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sjh

Rod Gillis –

i think by “values gap” he means that society perceives the church’s stance on gender and sexual orientation in particular as immoral. When the church critiques society over greed, inequality etc, even when people don’t agree, they recognise there is a moral thrust to the argument which one would expect from a church. When however the church becomes less moral than society that is when you have a values gap, and that is what is tearing at the church’s credibility.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“The existence of a values gap between the church and the wider society is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, the church’s critique of the so called free market and the social Darwinism it spawns,” That’s somewhat missing the point. Free market ideology, red in tooth and claw, is not a value widespread, or deeply embedded, in the population at large: it’s the intellectual framework of theoreticians in certain political parties. It has an effect on the way we live because those theoreticians have some influence on politicians, but people do not, at least in sufficient quantity to affect… Read more »

Pluralist
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I thought the radio programme was all over the place, a one man’s meandering of thoughts with a few interviews. There are two issues: one is European and British specifically patterns of ‘stay away’ and ‘arms-length’ secularisation, and then the connected gap in beliefs, but a Church can always become even more sectarian and disconnected for numerical growth among the diminishing support base and this always seems more ‘clear’ than being broad based and more connected but then seemingly indistinct.

Randal Oulton
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Randal Oulton

I read this piece today, “5 churchy phrases that are scaring off millennials” and I’m pondering a connection between it and all this:

http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2013/11/07/5-churchy-phrases-that-are-scaring-off-millennials/25149

I get that James was being sarcastic as all heck and arguing against being “of the world” — the Shakers took that to the extremes, too, James, let’s ask them how they made out with that…

robert Ian williams
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robert Ian williams

My point is that ACNA is immoral ( with clergy and leadership heavily mired in divorce and re-marriage), and yet they claim to be growing. They claim 100,000 adherents..whether that is true or not. CESA congregations are also thriving in South Africa, but so are the Mormons! Numbers prove nothing as regards truth.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod,
I thought the “values gap” was not so much between church and society but with most church going Anglicans and the policy making hierarchy.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Teresa of Avila’s prayer for our model, the body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as food for our journey. We shall survive.

Posted by: Jill Armstead

Thanks you, Jill, for this important reminder of the power of Christ in the Eucharist to vitalise the Body of Christ. St. Teresa of Avila knew a thing or two about opposing the intransigence of the Church in her day.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Interested Observer says it very well indeed. Opposing market-worship is a position with widespread support; endorsing homophobia because a 2,000 collection of texts says so isn’t.

This “following culture” argument used to defend homophobia is baloney. Homophobia is unpopular because it’s wrong, not wrong because it’s unpopular. Numbers are irrelevant.

Tim Stevens’ wretched argument in favor of slow change for its own sake exemplifies all that’s wrong with the thinking of patrician and disconnected leaders. Who the hell is he to set the timetable for gay people’s freedom?

J Drever
Guest
J Drever

Liz Oldfield refers (almost at the end of the broadcast) to the Church being almost completely moribund in the eighteenth century. She makes a reference to their being ‘only 20 people in St Paul’s on Christmas Day’. Hmm. Perhaps the numbers were so small because: (i) cathedrals were often quite moribund; (ii) St Paul’s had no parish (save St Faith under St Paul’s); and (iii) most communicants would have been in their own parish churches. I simply do not buy into the hoary old chestnut that the Church was at death’s door in much of the country; this is history… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ sjh, I couldn’t agree more. @Erika, I understood the values gap to be both alienating the average person in the pew from the hierarchy as well as reducing credibility between the church and those in the wider society. However, @ interested observer, I think it’s you who missed my point.Catholic social teaching, whether presented officially by the R.C. church, or in a more eclectic and borrowed way by Anglicans, is an example of a gap in which the church is correct to advance a perspective that is at odds with the lived values of the wider society. Talk to… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod, yes, but you asked whether a value gap between the church and society was a bad thing in principle. If your average person in the pew, who is also an average member of society, is alienated from the values of the hierarchy, then we can no longer really speak of a value gap between “church” and society. The most we could say is that there is a value gap between the few at the top of the church and the rest of the country. Which means that we can no longer frame the question in terms of “secular” vs… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Erika,The voice over lead into the program tagged the issue as the “disconnect” between the C of E and the wider society. Brown ends his piece by linking the future viability of the church to its doctrine and teachings. Throughout he links the views of a (the tiny number) of churchgoers believe opinions in the wider society. At about thirteen minutes in, Brown claims Anglicans are more right wing than their leaders on the welfare state. Hence my assertion ( not a question) that a values gap is not necessarily bad in itself. There are other relevant questions to… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod, you’re right, Andrew Brown did that. I felt it was not a very credible link. For a start, it depends on which issues we are talking about. When it comes to the topics where the church is really tearing itself apart and where it is at complete odds with society, gay people and women bishops, those in the pews share the liberal views of society. That does not mean they may not be more conservative on other issues. So it is really not very meaningful to then continue to speak of “the church”, suddenly referring to the hierarchy and… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@Erika, in stating that the top layer has to sort out doctrines while the rest of us have comfortably moved on, you collapse a rather more complicated situation prematurely. Depending on the issue, the controversy WITHIN the church on certain issues, raises the question about whether the “rest of us ” have moved on or whether some of us have moved on. There is also the further question as to the extent church members have moved on by comparison with their leaders. Example, many people attend church and participate but disagree with their church’s conservative social positions. They still stay… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod, when we talk about “society” we generally mean those 90+ % of Christians who no longer go to church. These people by and large have absolutely no idea what goes on inside a church. They would not know whether their local church was inclusive or conservative, they would not have a clue about liturgy, hymns, their view on women priests or on gay marriage. What people “in society” know of the CoE today they know from the media. And in the media we have a former Archbishop who consistently lambasts his successor and who is in the forefront of… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Erika, I don’t think we are all that far apart on the “issues”. I appreciate what you name about the English context, which I only know about in the most general of terms. Although, I think your context is driving your argument. That the church, Christianity, has some very big problems, not just with a “values gap” but with credibility in general is not really news. This state of affairs does not obviate the need for a critical appraisal of a rather one dimensional mantra which exhorts the church to change its values and doctrine in order to become more… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod, yes, I am talking about the English context because Andrew Brown talked about a disconnect between the CoE and society. Would churches attract more people if they became beacons of human rights? I don’t know. I would hope so. People might at least be more interested to find out. And if not? Then churches would still have the right focus and no longer a disconnect with society. To some extent, the question sounds a little like that lovely cartoon that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook where someone asks at a global warming conference: and if global warming turns… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@Erika, yes he did. I said I don’t feel informed enough to comment on the specifics of that; but the proposition i.e. change doctrine and policies in order to become more appealing to a wider society has implications. Notwithstanding the fact that some church policies are out to lunch and ought to be scrapped, Brown’s assertion meets the test for “the end justifies the means”. We have mainstream churches in Canada (not Anglican I have to say) that advertise themselves as “post-theist”. The radical change in doctrine is problematic, but has not been very successful from a marketing point of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rod, “the end justifies the means” Would that not depend on what the end is? And what doctrines were supposed to be changed? People often use the terms doctrine and policy as if they were the same thing. I have not come across any doctrine that repels people so much that it is a stumbling block to faith. I have come across some explanations of doctrine that are repelling. And “the end” is not some form of religion light but genuine faith. If our words and actions currently make it very hard to people to even explore the possibility of… Read more »