The Times has chosen to devote considerable space today to a confidential document leaked to them, addressed to the Archbishops’ Council, and written by Jayne Ozanne, who is completing a six-year stint as an appointed member of the Council.
Church faces implosion and life underground, says senior adviser
and more significantly a leader article:
Lost souls – An apocalyptic warning from within the Church of England
Extracts from both the news article and the leader column below the fold.
From the news report:
In her paper she says: “It has been nearly six years since I was invited by Archbishops George and David to serve on the first Archbishops’ Council. Much has happened since then, both to move the Church forward and also, I fear, to hold it back.” Arguing that it is her duty to “speak about some of the white elephants in the room that few of us like to admit are there,” she acknowledges that this causes discomfort.
Ms Ozanne continues: “I remain convinced that the only way for the Church to survive the storms that are currently besetting it is to embrace the hard truth with honesty and humility.” Questioning whether Church leaders really believe any more in a God who can move mountains or in a God who can raise the dead, she warns that the Church seems to have forgotten how to meet the cost of being Christian.
“Sacrificial giving is not a concept that we in the West have either embraced or understood. We are too comfortable and, as a result, too compromised. I see a time of great persecution coming, which will drive Christianity all but underground in the West. I believe that this will primarily take the form of a social and economic persecution, where Christians will be ridiculed for their faith and pressurised into making it a purely private matter.”
While the established Church will self-destruct, “fragmenting into various divisions over a range of internal issues”, she predicts that a new “Church in England” will take root, consisting of non- denominational cell groups throughout the country.
Neither archbishop was willing to comment but one senior council member, who was not prepared to be named, said: “She goes to a particular (evangelical) church in London and her perception is governed by that tradition. She really ought to get out more and see the Church at large.”
Ms Ozanne was backed by Philip Giddings, a political scientist and lecturer at Reading University, who was instrumental in setting up Anglican Mainstream, an evangelical lobby group that campaigned successfully against the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. Dr John describes himself as a celibate homosexual.
Dr Giddings, one of the Church’s most senior laymen, said: “This was a personal reflection from Jayne and it needs to be taken seriously. I think it a real possibility that Christians face the kind of persecution she predicts and the established Church faces some real challenges, which we need to address. Those of us in leadership positions need to take very seriously what she has warned about.”
Dr Giddings said that Ms Ozanne’s paper should be seen in the context of the divisions between the orthodox and liberal wings of the Church worldwide. “What she says reflects the reality that there is an ongoing division within the Anglican Communion and the Church of England in particular on matters of authority and the relevance and authority of Holy Scripture.” …
From the leader article:
In truth, Ms Ozanne has probably not helped her own cause by casting her argument in such dramatic terms. While there are many in the Church of England who are deeply disturbed at its direction, few of them would be comfortable with the notion that Christianity in Europe is fast reverting to a status that it held almost two millennia ago — oppressed by the authorities, obliged to operate in secrecy. There is the risk that a few brutal phrases will diminish the credibility of her broader analysis. That would be unfortunate. For on closer inspection, her case is stronger and more subtle than it might initially seem. When she refers to the “persecution” of Christians in Europe, she means a process by which believers would be “ridiculed for their faith and pressured into making it a purely private matter”. This is not a ludicrous supposition. Some would say, after the Buttiglione saga, that this state of affairs already exists.
Similarly, when she predicts that the Anglican Church will “continue to implode and self-destruct”, she cites a series of reasons for this with which a number of lay members of the Church might empathise. She is critical of a leadership which appears to “shy away from admitting there is any absolute truth” and one which, in an attempt to maintain a happy camp, ends up seeking “to promote a gospel that is socially acceptable to all”. She herself believes in the “transformative power” of the Holy Spirit, but laments that this is “something we are not keen to talk openly about in the Church of England”. She yearns for a quite different approach, one with “a faith that was more contagious in its intensity”.
Ms Ozanne is from the conservative evangelical branch of the Church and perhaps has a set of scars from the battles over the appointment, which was eventually abandoned, of a homosexual man as Bishop of Reading and the successful ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. She should not, nevertheless, be dismissed as simply a factional figure determined to impose her idea of Anglicanism on the rest of the flock. It is perfectly possible to hold different theological views and suspect she is right when insisting that on present trends “many will continue to leave — disaffected and dismayed”….