Thinking Anglicans

opinion

Ian Paul looks at the articles by John Hayward that I linked to a fortnight ago: When will the C of E be extinct? and The Extinction of the C of E: Two Issues.

Vic Van Den Bergh No Communion for you! – the woes of trying to go to church on holiday and failing!

Giles Fraser The Guardian At a Christian funeral all are equal before God – even Cilla Black

Sarah Puryear has been talking to the Revd Anders Litzell (prior of the Community of St Anselm at Lambeth Palace) for The Living Church Lambeth’s Benedict Option

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CynthiaErika BakerDaniel Berry, NYCEdward PrebbleTim Chesterton Recent comment authors
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Father Ron Smith
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So much for the article by ‘Vic the vicar’.

No wonder the Church of England is in decline. God help us all!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Ian Paul : “Without the anchor of theological security, we won’t be free to engage in the journey to meet our culture—and some would argue, we wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to offer when we got there.” Sadly, it would seem that the sort of ‘theological security’ that Ian Paul applauds, as being the reason the Church of England seems to be doing better that other provinces of the communion at stemming the tide, might just be based on the ‘sola Scriptura’ understanding of theological discourse – without the faculty of ‘Reason’ being applied to the pursuit of hermeneutical interpretation of… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

With policies openly based on the preferences of African Christians it seems hardly surprising that the church is in decline in England and Wales. People seem to find organised religion most compelling when it’s messages are clear and not obviously self-inconsistent. CoE policies are a mass of compromises designed to hold the body of the church together in the short term rather than articulating a clear doctrinal basis for long-term growth. To be fair, it can be hard reconciling the Old Testament, the Gospel message and Pauline Christianity. I suspect many here rely mostly on the Gospels but Africa and… Read more »

Liam
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Liam

I, for one, place tremendous weight on the Pauline Epistles: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.’ ‘Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.’ ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ ‘For as… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Father Ron, I don’t share Ian Paul’s theology, but as a person who takes a nuanced approach to the Bible, and who passionately supports equal ordination and social justice, he sits on the open, not the conservative, end of evangelicalism. I’d draw the boundaries of church membership wider than he would, but as his constituency runs the church, they can OK who’s in, and who’s out. If the boundaries are to be widened, as the holders of power, him, and those like him, must be persuaded. As an open evangelical, he’s open to reason, so this is certainly possible, but… Read more »

Feria
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Feria

As far as the Pauline epistles are concerned, I think it’s pretty clear that one of the main things Kate is talking about is their use in support of homophobic discrimination. In this regard, it’s important to remember, and to say loudly, that twenty-first century translations of the Bible have infused the epistles with a homophobia that wasn’t there in the KJV epistles. Perhaps what we need to stamp out homophobia in the Church is some _real_ traditionalism, starting with a campaign against the use of unauthorized versions of the Bible in CofE services. As far as popularity is concerned,… Read more »

David Marshall
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David Marshall

Ian Paul’s constituency may control the Church in a political sense but it doesn’t represent the majority of us who still identify as Church of England. The divorce is between their ‘faith’ and that of the population the institution is meant to serve. I’ve given up on regular church participation because the ‘worship’ and other local events on offer do not connect with my interests and priorities. Church attendance nationally suggests I’m not alone. Evangelical, catholic and traditional middle of the road leaders are (in general) equally disconnected. Arguing with opinion formers like Ian Paul, while it’s probably worthwhile in… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

James, you and I seem to share similar takes on a lot of things. However I’d question your comment: “Evangelicals run the church ’cause their brand of Christianity’s most popular, which suggests they’re not at all divorced from the 21st century, but rather, that the 21st century isn’t what we’d like it to be.” It may be true that conservative religion attracts more people than a more open or liberal religion. People look for certainties, simplicities, and absolution from taking decisions based on their own consciences, preferring to have ‘sola scriptura’ imposed on them and taking responsibility for their moral… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

James Byron. Thank you for this thoughtful and eirenic take on responding to open evangelicals. I agree with you in encouraging engagement. But they would be surprised by the notion that they are running the church at the moment or ‘calling the shots’. I can assure you it feels very different to them. But perhaps that is one reason the process of meeting and engaging feels, as you call it, ‘delicate’?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I’m rather surprised by Susannah Clark’s description of evangelicalism as ‘fundamentalism and inerrancy and absolution from having to exercise one’s own conscience in submission to the scriptures’.

I’ve been an evangelical for my entire Christian life. I am not a fundamentalist, I don’t believe in inerrancy, and as for ‘having to exercise one’s own conscience in submission to the scriptures’, I believe we had a Reformation over that issue, except that we called it ‘the right of private judgement’, which has been a key plank in the evangelical platform ever since.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Susannah Evangelicalism has always been a broad and pluralist tradition. James Byron made clear he understood this in referring to the ‘open’ end of the evangelical spectrum. You, by contrast, appear to think the name Evangelical describes only the narrowest, mindless kind of sectarian fundamentalism and bad faith. Well it doesn’t describe Tim’s faith. It doesn’t describe me either. Like every tradition and flavour within the church Evangelicalism is facing huge challenges of faith and mission today – but causing the decline of the church counts as one of the more startling accusations I have read recently – and I… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Thanks for such thoughtful responses! 🙂 I agree, David Marshall, that all branches of the church are disconnected from society. It’s just that evangelicals, in tapping pop-culture, are slightly less disconnected. I also agree about the disconnect between leadership and many who identify as Anglican. It’s the evangelical skill to have stopped this disconnect from turning into resistance. Susannah, I agree that most people in 21st century societies (at least in the West) reject evangelicalism, if only ’cause church membership in general doesn’t appeal. I also think you’re right to say that evangelicalism as found its niche. Striking for me… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

I have the same problem with Ian Paul’s analysis (and that of John Hayward on which it is based) as I do with the discussion on another thread about cathedrals. Cathedral congregations are growing, so let’s create a whole lot more cathedrals. Evangelical congregations are growing, so let’s all become evangelicals. Both these ideas are nonsense. Yes, a lot of evangelical churches are very big, just as a number of other churches catering to a particular constituency (such as cathedrals) are also big. But not all evangelical churches are growing, and some are declining dramatically, often because of the drawing… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Edward, I suspect you’re right about the certainties of evangelicalism appealing to a sizable minority of the population. But its style, not its substance, appeals to plenty more: the popular evangelical churches aren’t exclusive brethren huddled in drafty halls, but churches with slick services combined with social support. There’s no reason, none at all, that other Christian traditions couldn’t present their distinctive theologies in a modern flavor, keeping the moderate, liberal, or Anglo-Catholic substance, but incorporating contemporary music, audio-visual, and pop-culture references (the Catholic Church often does just that). In many cases, evangelicalism may well be succeeding despite, not because… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

To think of Saint Paul’s teaching as wholly moralistic, it to forget that he himself admitted to a ‘thorn in the flesh’, that could well be attributed to a homosexual gene disposition. I think Paul’s tendency to moralise is based on his own deep understanding of our acute moral ambivalence; as would-be followers of Christ – the need to ‘do our best’ and yet remain fully aware of our own human frailty. Paul’s signal recognition of this ambivalence is gleaned from his epic statement; when he admits that his righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’. Also, his complaint: “Why do I… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“the far greater majority of people who are walking away from church do so precisely because here in the 21st Century the literalist or inerrant view of the bible, and popular brands of conservative Christianity are at odds with 21st century secular conscience, science, and psychology.” I agree, but I think even using the term “religion” may be too limiting. If we think of “belief-system” rather than “religion”, where do agnostics/atheists/anti-theists fall in the demographic totals? Which *belief-system* is really growing the fastest, and why? (*) …not that I think that “fastest-growing” equals capital-T Truth, mind you. But I’d like… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Surely, the point of creating more cathedrals is to create more bishops where the newly created prelates may place their cathedras. Hopefully these extra Right Reverends will be sound teachers and Guardians of the Faith, as well as being good pastors and be blessed with hearts for mission. I don’t hold out much hope for the recent explosion in the creation of extra “missional” Archdeacons in assisting the growth of the church but it would seem to me that more locally based bishops possessing the fullness of ministry might just possibly be in a better position to grow the Church… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

James..I agree re the RC. Church,.but they often have sufficient nos to run several congregations…in Chiswick for example the church on the high Rd ( the best position for any church) had a Sat vigil mass, a quiet 8 am, a 10 am which was like an Anglican Parish Communion, an 11 am choral, some Latin,incense..a 12.30 folk mass and 6 pm get it over quick ..plus 4 pm Vespers and Benediction.Sadly many C ofE parishes are down to one service on a Sunday….one size fits all.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

James describes successful evangelical churches as ‘churches with slick services combined with social support’. I think one of our problems is that we all appear to still be thinking of evangelism and church growth as something that happens through the growing of Sunday services. But in the early Christian centuries, no one thought of weekly worship services as points of entry for the gospel into the lives of non-believers. It’s not about finding a form of Sunday worship that will be slick enough to attract people who aren’t Christians yet. It’s about finding contact points for the gospel into the… Read more »

David Marshall
Guest
David Marshall

I suspect evangelicals have the most culturally compatible presentation because their theology requires explicit acceptance. Those of us with broader truth seeking, sense making priorities may see it more as a process of enabling the recognition and infusion of intrinsic value. But in this respect, evangelicals only emphasise certain features in traditional anglicanism. It’s the anglican foundation itself that in my view is lacking. It is missing essential building blocks for a useful contemporary Church. So a Church for England will need, if not a new house, then at least to extend on some new foundations.

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

I wholeheartedly agree with both James and Tim.. Woolever and Bruce’s analysis based on the US Congregational Live Survey 10 or so years ago, identified ten “strengths” of particular congregations; they argue that strategies to build on strengths where a congregation has gained the highest score are likely to lead to improvement in other strengths, all of which are likely to make the congregation more attractive to newcomers. But only three of those strengths – caring for children and youth, degree of congregational participation, and welcoming new people – are positive predictors of growth. None of those three is necessarily… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Edward, that book appears to be out of print. I’d be very interested if you could list all ten strengths for us, or perhaps email me at timchesterton@outlook.com – thanks!

Tim

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

By all means, Tim. My own copy is buried in a box somewhere, so I am quoting from a summary in my own thesis. I don’t have Woolever and Bruce’s definitions of any of these terms. 1.Spirituality and faith development 2. Meaningful worship services 3. Participation in congregational activities 4. A sense of belonging to the congregation 5. Caring for the congregation’s children and youth 6. Community involvement 7. Sharing faith with others 8. Welcoming new people 9. Empowering congregational worship 10.A vision for the congregation’s future. Again, their thesis is that all of these are positive strengths, that improvement… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Doing what’s popular is no way to run a church.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Doing what isn’t popular doesn’t seem to work either.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

CoE evangelicals need to stop using this “steep decline” nonsense (of TEC) to justify themselves. TEC is declining less fast that our peer mainline Protestant churches. Furthermore, we do have evidence in growth in some areas. Here’s a link to a recent survey. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/documents/new_facts_on_growth_2014_final.pdf About 30 percent of parishes and dioceses in TEC are growing. The common denominator is that they tend to be liberal or very liberal. That is in alignment with other growth indicators, such as the presence of young families (who tend to be liberal in the US), and geography. Some urban and suburban churches are growing,… Read more »