Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 9 September 2017

Giles Fraser The Guardian The disestablishment of the church is now necessary and inevitable
Church Times Leader Comment Life with the ‘nones’
The above two articles comment on figures contained in the latest British Social Attitudes survey. Madeleine Davies has written about the figures for Church Times: Bishops unfazed by surge among the non-religious in latest British Social Attitudes survey.

Simon Butler ViaMedia.News In Praise of Activists…

Charles Clapham Unadulterated Love The House of Bishops’ proposed Teaching Document on Human Sexuality
[This is a consolidation of Dr Clapham’s comments on our article here.]

Jeremy Paxman Financial Times Jeremy Paxman on the Church of England’s fight to survive
As congregations dwindle, is the Church on the brink of extinction?
[You may find this article is behind a paywall; this has been happening to me intermittently.]

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Ann Reddecliffe
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Ann Reddecliffe

Will the new Teaching document need to be approved by General Synod?

As the rejection of GS2055 in February showed, a document written for the worldwide Anglican communion rather than the people of England would not be guaranteed to be accepted.

Froghole
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Froghole

The numbers issue is obviously by far the most important story of the year: 1. That the Church can only command the nominal adherence of 3% of the coming generation is terrifying. 2. The BTL glee of the secularists is, frankly, distressing. Note the uniformity of opinion in the Guardian and the near-uniformity in the Telegraph. 3. The game is up. The complacency of the bishops with respect to their news is either a front or else they have adopted a Louis XIV attitude – only the deluge is likely to arrive before many of them will collect their pensions.… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

The other point I want to make is this: it is once advanced by the sadly forgotten Catholic scholar, Christopher Dawson (‘Enquiries’ (1933), ‘The Judgment of the Nations’ (1942), ‘Religion and Culture’ (1947), ‘Religion and the Rise of Western Culture’ (1950), etc. It was Dawson’s contention – in agreement with the atheist/agnostic Durkheim, Tylor, Weber, Frazer, etc. – that religion was the key to culture. He argued that Christianity appropriated some of the most useful parts of Greek culture and made it dynamic. The great advances wrought by the West were a function of that dynamism. However, those advances brought… Read more »

RevDave
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RevDave

At least Charles has the decency to state at the end of his piece why he is *opposed to the composition of the group* that are to write the Teaching Document of Human Sexuality – he supports redefining marriage away from that which Jesus taught. Which why, IMHO, he and many other liberal campaigners will criticise every aspect of *any* group that disagrees with them, and why he claims that “In practice, a document which does not respond to the expectations of the majority of LGBTQI members of the Church of England, their families, friends and congregations, and to the… Read more »

crs
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crs

‘But please, my fellow Anglicans, we need to go before we are no longer welcome.’

Sober comment from the Left.

I always wondered when this would arise from progressives and just what form it would take.

Lavinia Nelder
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Lavinia Nelder

The hard part about reading Charles’ excellent synopsis is the thought that the Church of England would become something other than I had understood it. I have used Paul Avis’ definitions on Anglican Identity to explain how we are different from other churches, but the way the introduction of a teaching document might take us means that those distinctions are swept away. The subject up for ‘teaching’ is irrelevant, the method of achieving it isn’t. I have had to come to the uncomfortably realization that if this becomes the way we do Anglicanism, then I wouldn’t be able to call… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“I wonder who / Will be the last, the very last, to seek / This place for what it was?” Larkin may’ve been a professional black cloud, but here, his gloom’s appropriate. The church is dying, and the part of me that believes we should let it die grows larger by the day. Oh, it’ll continue as a hip (or wannabe-hip) HTB/Willow Creek club for enthusiasts; and since I don’t want to see Christianity share the fate it visited on paganism, I’m glad that at least someone’s gonna keep a remnant alive. But Christendom as-was, a national church in a… Read more »

Andrew
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Andrew

As an American, long time reader of this site, educated some decades ago in England, at the moment in Edinburgh, I am viscerally opposed to disestablishment. It will fundamentally change the nature of England, interrupting its history with an uncertain and doubtful outcome. For what it is worth, I see Corbyn as a much greater threat to the UK than Trump, with our strong checks and balances now shown working well, could ever be to the US. The power of a UK Prime Minister is much less constrained than an American president. I was told as a boy that antidisestablishmentarianism… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

It is not for the bishops to define what should be taught about LGBT+ experience and identity. Nor is it for the bishops to define how individual church communities receive, accommodate or celebrate LGBT+ people in their own communities. The teaching document raises the question: what gives them the right to set the agenda, to decide what to teach, or to appropriate how local church communities interact with LGBT+ people at all? Especially when LGBT+ people themselves seem marginal to the production, and more or less ‘objects’ to be talked about and to. This dissonance and widening gulf between local… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

I have now read Paxo’s piece; it is useful. Unfortunately, he starts it with some rather genially pointed remarks about Tarrant Gunville. It is unfortunate that he happened to attend a service at that church and then use it as the basis for spinning a wider story about the Church. Gunville is a relatively small place, so a correspondingly small congregation is to be expected (as I experienced when I went there). However, had he gone to nearby 6d Handley or Pimperne he would have found markedly larger congregations. There is another sense in which the choice of Gunville was… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

Disestablishment is largely a red herring, often prosecuted by those who misguidedly think it would achieve some benefit to Church and State. It would in fact make little difference to either. There are two main intersections between the two. The appointment of bishops is a matter for the Crown, by law, and Measures (the law of the land) promulged by the General Synod need to have been deemed expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. However, the nomination of bishops is now fully a matter for the Church, as by convention Downing Street accepts the name supplied, and the Committee… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

Even many of us who have some of the anti-the-public, anti-liberal, anti-secularist comments on this thread illustrate to a tee, why the Church lacks credibility and relevance today. To say that the general public are a bad lot, unable to think clearly and act creatively is the sort of patronisiing approach that is failing (us) big time.een life-long believers and Church members are near to giving up on the institution or have given up on it. I have found being lied to, and deceived by church leaders personally very hard to live with. The idea that religion is gospel-truth is… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

Clapham: “The lack of lay people is also striking and without precedent”

To me, it’s pretty obvious: the (7 bishop, 4 clergy, human sexuality) committee wants to be able to pontificate about same-sex marriage, unburdened by the voting input of anybody actually in one! >:-/

JCF
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JCF

Careful, Froghole: w/ all that looking backwards, you’re in danger of turning into a pillar of salt. Or to put it in New Testament terms: we’re not here to build booths to “the 1910s, 1810s, 1710s”.

When I read your “other point”, I thought: “Translation: Froghole is Old&White.”

I’m old & white too. I do *know* where you’re coming from.

But the Holy Spirit leads us forward. There’s always a temptation to bring the familiar w/ us—but we can’t, if we’re going to keep up. We have to learn to let go…

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Old people will not be replaced with new cohorts of old people, since disbelief amongst the middle aged is now the default position.” This was the mistake symphony orchestras made. They looked out at the audience in the 1990s and observed they were in their sixties. Never mind, they thought, people will grow out of that silly beat music, and as they mature into older, more affluent people with a bit more time on their hands, we will continue to have an audience of retirees. Ask them how well that’s working out for them. They mistook the age of their… Read more »

Bernard
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Bernard

Anthony. I do not see in the events at St Sepulchre anything of the Church exercising the “privilege and duty to serve the nation”. Had there been any consciousness of this among the hierarchy we would by now have heard a strong denunciation of the parish’s actions from the (acting) Bishop and even from the Archbishop. But all we have is silence. The liturgy about “the silent music of your praise” is particularly apposite…

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Isn’t this disestablishment debate very anglo-centric? Not only do two and a bit out of the three and a bit nations in the UK get along perfectly well without an established church, the fact that the C of E alone is established seems to regard England and Englishness as the norm of Britishness. Why do C of E bishops alone sit in the Lords; national and royal ceremonies almost invariably involve Anglican clergy and churches? If there was a UK-wide consensus on the need for an established church at least arguments about a ‘Christian voice’ in the nation would have… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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‘If there was a UK-wide consensus on the need for an established church at least arguments about a ‘Christian voice’ in the nation would have some validity. But there isn’t.’

Boom. There it is.

Froghole
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Froghole

JCF: I may be white, but I am not sure 41 necessarily counts as ‘old’. Of course, you are entitled to draw whatever inferences you wish as to my ‘preferences’ in response to what I admit were some dyspeptic remarks. My complaint about the way in which public culture in the UK has evolved over the last four decades is chiefly about the way in which commercialism has debased much cultural discourse: in the media at large and, to some extent, in schools and in higher education. Think of television. There was a time in the 1960s, 1970s and even… Read more »

Richard Franklin
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Richard Franklin

Stalbridge St Mary is certainly not closed (see Froghole’s third post) and is certainly not aka Hinton Parva or Little Hinton.

Dion
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Dion

Just because this is “Thinking Anglicans”, a correction:
Apres moi, le deluge is attributed to Louis XV the well-beloved NOT Louis XIV le roi-soleil.

In its variant Apres nous le deluge it is attributed to Mme de Pompadour.

David Runcorn
Guest

re Charles Clapham’s piece. I share his concerns. But we might note that ‘Issues in human sexuality’ was the work of four bishops – arguably the last such to approach what might be called a ‘teaching document’?

Paul Waddington
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Paul Waddington

I took the trouble to plot the BSA figures on a graph (actually several graphs). These indicated that the Catholic Church will overtake the Anglican Churches as the largest denomination in the year 2023 or thereabouts. That is in six years time. Projecting beyond that point is a dangerous business, but I would be fairly confident that Anglicanism (CofE, CiW and ECoS) will decline to a level of about 5% of population before it stabilises. The most alarming aspect of these figures is the age profile. It would seem that 25% of Anglicans are over the age of 75. The… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

@Richard Franklin: Apologies – I had pressed the wrong key; it is Stanbridge: http://www.dorset-churches.org.uk/hinton-parva.html.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Paul Waddington: ‘I took the trouble to plot the BSA figures on a graph (actually several graphs). These indicated that the Catholic Church will overtake the Anglican Churches as the largest denomination in the year 2023 or thereabouts. That is in six years time. Projecting beyond that point is a dangerous business, but I would be fairly confident that Anglicanism (CofE, CiW and ECoS) will decline to a level of about 5% of population before it stabilises.’ I find this quite encouraging, Maybe the C of E will be able to have a similar role in relation to the RCC… Read more »

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
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True enough, David Runcorn. But as the preface to Issues in Human Sexuality by George Carey made clear, the bishops did not assume that all would agree with it, and it was intended not as a definitive statement, but a contribution to a general educational process. What has happened subsequently is that Issues has been invested by the bishops with far greater authority than was ever intended at the time (in the interview process with ordinands for example). This seems to have been accompanied by a deliberate attempt to shift discussion of human sexuality away from the Board for Social… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

@Paul Waddington: I’d be very wary of making forward projections based on past trends. While it is no comfort to Anglicans I think it highly unlikely that the RCC will see the pattern of growth it has in recent years simply because of declining immigration from devoutly RC countries such as Poland. The RC’s clergy shortage and amalgamation of parishes is only going to make things worse.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“after about 1993 on the grounds that this was something the satellite providers would offer” A moot point, because no-one under forty cares what linear TV offers: if it’s not on Netflix, it’s on DVD. It’s like complaining that you can’t listen to the records you think should be on Radio 1, while pretending streaming services and streaming radio don’t exist. I am, ahem, rather more than 40, but I’ve pretty much stopped listening to linear radio, and I increasingly don’t watch linear TV either. The argument that you should give people what they should want, rather than what they… Read more »

David Runcorn
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Fair comment Charles – and thank you again for your article. I share your concern.

Paul Waddington
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Paul Waddington

Referring to comment made by Jo, there is another aspect of the BSA survey which is particularly noteworthy. That is the difference in the age profile between Anglicans and Catholics. Whereas the age profile of Catholics is relatively evenly distributed, with a small dip amongst the 18 to 24 year-olds; In the case of Anglicans,there is a very considerable skew towards the older end of the spectrum. If one takes this at face value, one could expect the Anglicans to lose about half their adherents in about 20 years. If you doubt this, have another look at the figures.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“the age profile of Catholics is relatively evenly distributed, with a small dip amongst the 18 to 24 year-olds” Inter-generational Catholicism is where Anglicanism was two generations ago: people identify as Catholic, even if their observance is nominal – families identifying as Catholic have no more children than anyone else, for example – because their parents did and they see it as part of their cultural and familial heritage. It was that effect on censuses that blinded the CofE to the decline that was happening around it: millions of people put themselves down as Anglican for want of something else… Read more »

crs
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crs

Mr Waddington, important note. We see the same trend in (the much smaller) TEC, with average age around 60, average size around 57, 40% of dioceses under 3500, and compared with 25 years ago, baptisms and marriages down 50%. These are not figures to trifle with. It is hard to imagine anything but eventual collapse or lack of general viability. I sometimes wonder if the LGBTI agenda has served the purpose of focusing energy so as to avoid facing into the demographic hurricane. One can even believe it is a crucial positive and yet accept that this is so. I… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

re: Paul Waddington, “The writing is surely on the wall.” It has been there since the enlightenment.

Demographic decline is as much consequence as cause.

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

The reason that you can make reasonable forward projections is that age cohorts age—so the BSA figures allow you to project forwards through each cohort’s life course. Also because there are surveys which ask people which religion they were brought up in, it is pretty stable that about 40% of those from Christian families become “nones” and that virtually all those from “none” families remain so. Furthermore there is now evidence of net movement from Anglican to none later in life too. Of course this is all about net flows–there are undoubtedly individuals who move against these tides but they… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Regarding Catholicism, nominal Catholicism’s so well-recognized a phenomenon that theres’s a dedicated term: “cafeteria Catholic.” Social pressure shouldn’t be underestimated: it’s most extreme form’s dramatized in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ where, in a bleak gaol room pungent with the threat of sanctioned violence, even a dead-eyed murderer like Alex fires off “CofE” as his religion during prison intake, with the strong implication that pretty much anything else (possibly excluding recognized minority faiths, but possibly not) will land him a beating from the hacks. Now that even methaphorical kickings have ceased — if anything, pressure’s now in the other direction — unless… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: Bernard Silverman, interesting explanation of important detail. Thanks.

“…whether any policy change can make a difference…” A difference in what sense? Going back to a more heavily populated and age diverse observant institutional church? One suspects that is just not on.

However, something more than mere policy change, something more akin to a cultural change within the church, may allow it to optimize its social positioning. Even that may not be enough, a change in the dominant culture may be required as well, a change that is possible though not discernable at the moment.

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

The Reverend Simon Butler’s piece (listed above) is wonderful, and really needed saying– I realise.

What he says is so true and deeply heartfelt, and moving.

We need many more Jaynes– and Simons- many more….

Thank you.

He is right to say :’Thy Will be done’

is the great prayer in these (and one might surely add, all circumstances)…

‘Gwneler Dy Ewyllys’

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

I know that in my London borough with its extremely high number immigrant people in the population, my RC parish is full to the gunnels at each and every sunday mass, and then additionally there is a weekly mass by the Spanish chaplaincy (such a relief not to understand much of the homilies !), and a monthly Gujerat mass. But when one stops to look and think of it , very few of the congregation are Irish or British– very few. When I go to Liverpool there are more retired and inactive priests on the Arch-Dioesean role than of active… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

It would have been good is the one Bishop in the Church of England who has admitted that he is actually gay could have been included in the specially convened “Co-ordinating Group set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to produce a new teaching document on human sexuality”. Surely, a group tasked with theologically defining Church teaching on this subject needs at least a little injection of the actual experienced of ‘being different’ ? The attempt to ignore people who have the actual experience of what it means to be LGBT or I, by excluding them from the… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

Of course people are awful! That includes the churches, which are nothing but people, scrabbling for power, to be “right,” to put God in their pocket through red herrings of “Scripture” or “Tradition” or even “The Greater Good.” It’s never as simple as general consensus = good, private conscience = bad; even the right-wingers claim to have general consensus with the old “always, everywhere by everyone” nonsense. The “democratic process” was corruptible enough to give us Trump, here in the U. S. (and, sorry, but I choked a little at the idea that our checks and balances are strong enough… Read more »