Saturday, 28 April 2018

Opinion - 28 April 2018

Angela Tilby Church Times Deliver us from the Evangelical takeover

David Goodhew The Living Church Lambeth 2020 and the Growth of Asian Anglicanism
An earlier article looked at Lambeth 2020 and African Anglicanism

Edward Dowler Church Times State-owned churches are not the answer, Sir Simon
“The cold hand of secular authority cannot replace the stewardship of a living, breathing community”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

What a sensitive and thoughtful piece by Angela Tilby.

She has expressed something important for me, that I have struggled to find words for.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 11:24am BST

Opinion-pieces that express appreciation for other heritages, while critiquing the author's own heritage, are surely more helpful than ones which do the opposite. I expect Angela Tilby can point to lots of pieces by evangelicals rubbishing her own tradition, and they're just as objectionable, but two wrongs don't make a right...

Posted by: Andy gr on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 1:32pm BST

While 'brand HTB' is not to my taste in terms of worship style and theological outlook, to suggest that it is out of touch with existential distress seems grossly wide of the mark. This is, after all, a church that ministers in prisons, runs a night shelter, and offers counselling to divorced and separated couples, just to name a few of their activities. The liberal belief that all evangelical activity on society's front lines is 'proselytism in disguise' is not only unhelpful, but simply wrong.

Posted by: DMS on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 4:20pm BST

Thanks for the two David Goodhew articles on the lead up to Lambeth 2020. I must confess, I was not aware of the information (below) that appears in his article on Hong Kong. I took note because Hong Kong is picking up the next meeting of Anglican Consultative Council and Archbishop Kwong is ACC current chair.

"Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong has forged a close relationship with the Chinese state as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee. Alongside this, the archbishop has attacked pro-democracy protests, using the disturbing argument that since Jesus was silent on the cross, protesters should do likewise.[5] This is in marked contrast to Hong Kong's Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Lutheran churches, which have backed the pro-democracy movement and sought to protect activists from state reprisals.[6]"

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 5:15pm BST

Well, sensitive or otherwise, I admire Tilby's moxy!

I'm less impressed by her mocking not only evangelical theology, but utterly inoffensive spiritual practices such as tea lights and paper flames (both of which I've seen in Catholic and Anglo Catholic churches in several countries).

I strongly disagree with the central tenets of evangelicalism, but I've consistently praised evangelicals' drive, organization and devotion. If they're taking over the CoE, it's because, as per their name, they're the ones evangelizing. With success comes influence.

I'd love nothing more than for mainline churches to enjoy equal success, but to do that, they must become as culturally naccessible as evangelicalism. It's not a choice between that and the spiritual depth Tilby rightly seeks: we need both.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 7:05pm BST

Here’s a response

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 7:36pm BST

Wow, thanks for that link, Simon: Fr. Craig Huxley nails my feelings about this, and does it with laser-guided succinctness. "Confidence and competence," that's it.

Mainline congregations don't need to become carbon copies of HTB, Willow Creek, or whatever; but they can learn from evangelicals' gifts for accessibility, clarity, and organization, and adapt it to their own traditions.

HTB made Fr. Craig feel welcome: that is, surely, the heart of it.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 9:37pm BST

I note that my expression of my experience, and thoughts, feeling, has been dismissed too, without a moment's hesitation, it seems.

It will hardly encourage me to share, here.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 10:40pm BST

I wonder if the perceived 'evangelical takeover' is a result of those in authority looking at HTB and similar churches, seeing 'success', and thinking that is the way forward for everybody. But one or two flourishing megachurches in every city is not typical of the evangelical presence. There are as many struggling backstreet churches identifying as evangelical as there are anglo-catholic and middle of the road, and the success of HTB is largely due to its upper-middle-class confidence. Our evangelical archbishops and their colleagues ought really to bring a gospel critique to this capitalist-inspired notion of success.

Posted by: David Emmott on Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 11:14pm BST

For my part, I certainly didn't intend to dismiss how the piece spoke to Laurie: indeed, as I said, Tilby's views on spirituality spoke to me too. I may agree with the earlier concerns about how it expressed its criticisms of evangelicalism, but I value all perspectives, and hope everyone feels free to share them.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 8:31am BST

There are street artists who will quickly paint or draw you. If if you have a big chin, that will be exaggerated. Glasses? They will be prominent. In other words, the result will be a caricature. We know that. We value that.

For me, Angela Tilby has done the same. Her piece is a literary caricature of evangelism. Is it exaggerated and overdone in places? Absolutely. But are some of her cutting observations on the mark? Absolutely too.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 8:58am BST

Laurie, I haven't read Angela's piece so haven't commented so far, but I'm glad you found it helpful. When someone puts into words something important to you that you haven't been able to express, it's huge. 'The right word is a power and lends definiteness to the action'' (attributed to GB Shaw).

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 9:31am BST

I am sorry, Laurie, that you feel that your feelings have been dismissed without hesitation. I too was warmed by some of Canon Tilby's words, particularly the last paragraph about respect for privacy, slow nurturing of faith and gentle counsel. There is a great contrast between that and the brashly confident and intrusive approach that I perceive (rightly or wrongly) in much Evangelical worship, and I am attracted by the former but repelled by the latter.

So I agree with you and with Canon Tilby. But, with others in this thread, I feel that other parts of her piece were unnecessarily dismissive of other parts of our broad church, and less eirenic in nature than I have come to expect from her. Fr Huxley's piece makes a better attempt to reconcile the different approaches.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 10:01am BST

I probably agree with Angela Tilby but her article is behind a pay wall. It is ironic that evangelicals can be successful, but are much more likely to put off the general population by their ghastly sickly-sweet version of religion.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 11:59am BST

Thank you to Simon for posting this link - my response is similarly enthusiastic to yours, James. As a former evangelical and now about to be ordained deacon to serve my title in a liberal catholic parish, I shall take Fr Craig's two words 'confidence' and 'competence' with me into my ministry. PS to the Editor of Church Times: How about inviting Fr Craig to write a regular column? PPS to Fr Craig: Do come and visit us in Prestwood again!

Posted by: Nigel Spoor on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 11:59am BST

Re "confidence and competence." Fr. Huxley appears to have allowed himself to be finessed by what in show business are called good 'production values.'

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 12:44pm BST

Don't stop, Mr Roberts. I can't understand why people are so keen to agree or disagree with the views of others. More than a few on TA are suspiciously (pathologically?) sure of themselves and quick to condemn. I find myself agreeing with most people in part - I can usually grasp someone else's POV. I am thus a mass of contradictions - and happy enough in that state. FWIW I have some sympathy with Tilby, but it can't be denied that HTB-ers bring people in, and from that brand, many move on. They are organised, sincere and efficient. I admire them, and feel I have much to learn from them. What I find hard to take are the wishy-washy, simpering, chocolate-obsessed, so-called liberals. There's nothing to grab hold of ...

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 1:39pm BST

I reflect that in any era of the Church of England one tradition can be found making similar complaints about a currently other other. For the first two thirds of the last century Evangelicals were a despised minority in the Church of England. No bishops were appointed from their tradition. Their clergy were generally offered the remoter and poorer livings. They were isolated and behaved that way. Many of their most gifted minsters went on the mission field. How fortunes have turned around! But I think it may explain evangelical capacities both for conservative insularity and defensiveness but also a generous hospitality to others exemplified by HTB and others.
The death of David Edwards last week took me back to one of his books. In the 1980’s, as the emergence of Evangelicals was becoming more established this brilliant intellectual and theologian from the liberal Anglican tradition approached John Stott and invite him to an Evangelical/Liberal dialogue. He read all John Stott’s books, commenting on them in detail. John Stott responded and the result was a theological engagement that was as informative and courteous as it was rigorous. ‘Essentials’ is still a really helpful read and remains a model for engaging across differences. Perhaps it is time for another dialogue and to wonder who might take part. Angela Tilby?

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 3:24pm BST

More on the David Goodhew piece, The Growth of Asian Anglicanism; Goodhew refers to a journalism piece in footnote 5. By following it, I was able to track down an article from The South China Morning Post titled, Divine to Divided: How Occupy Central Split Hong Kong's Christian Leaders. It is a solid piece of Journalism. (see link).

There is a section on the Archbishop Kwong controversy.

"The remark generated accusations that Kwong was using his position to make charged political statements that favoured one side of the debate over the other. That criticism carried deep connotations given the influence Anglican churches – once embedded in the hierarchy of the colonial administration – continue to wield even two decades after the end of British rule."

I am not informed enough to make a comment about this particular local controversy. However in terms of Lambeth 2020, the issue is a reminder of how regional context and culture, whether Asia, Africa, Canada, The States, England,or elsewhere is much more than an adjunct to the rational theological arguments aspect of Communion wide controversies.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 4:21pm BST

Rod Gillis, I think you're being a tad unfair to Fr. Huxley. He puts a heavy emphasis, in his blog, on the sincerity he encountered at HTB. It's true that one person's 'sincerity' is another person's 'overconfidence', but his piece wasn't just about production values.

Incidentally I haven't served in an evangelical church since 1992, but when I was vicar of a difficult housing estate it was clear that many of the blue-collar and unemployed there found evangelical churches more accessible than our middle-of-the-road Common Worship. I understand why many people here find evangelical worship off-putting, but it's wide of the mark to say it doesn't appeal to the people of this country. It often does, that's why their evangelism is often successful.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 4:37pm BST

Here's another response to Angela Tilby

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 4:47pm BST

I think the odd thing about the Tilby article is that it uses, as a springboard for an opinion piece, something that is designed to be entirely unitive. Of course, one can dismiss the production of a novena of prayer or the use of the Church calendar as cynical marketing ploys on the part of a devious group that seeks to colonise the spiritually unwary. Or, of course, one can instead take it in the way it is intended - as a concerted opportunity for those from every tradition to pray for the coming of the Kingdom and the re-evangelisation of our society. Here in the Diocese of London we shall be embracing Thy Kingdom Come with joy - and with diversity. Mutual flourishing, if it is to mean anything at all, must be about finding places and opportunities where the lived experience of Christian faith can be worked out in all our diverse communities. Richard Chartres dictum that "everyone must have a spoon in the soup" has been fundamental to the life of the Church here in London. I have enjoyed that diversity over the past year, and I know that Bishop Sarah believes in seeking the best for catholic, evangelical, charismatic and liberal parishes. Personality preference and spirituality are closely linked. Getting over that and not dissing the other's spirituality might be a good way of using Thy Kingdom Come creatively.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 5:08pm BST

Re Janet Fife, "I think you're being a tad unfair to Fr. Huxley." Production values can be slick and beguiling with regard to actual content. However, Fr. Huxley is a priest not a theatre critic, with charity being the difference there one assumes.

In any event, point taken. It was a wise guy rejoinder I could not resist.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 6:21pm BST

Is the Church ever likely to get away from the belief that certain theologies can only be expressed through specific ecclesiologies. There are a large number of people who are theologically liberal and get a real spiritual experience from what would be described as "happy clappy" services. They are confident in their faith and sensitive to the feelings of those who aren't. I fall into this category as do many of my friends, who are disaffected Anglicans who would like to get on with growing the Kingdom without having to fight our own side to do it.

Posted by: Lavinia Nelder on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 8:11pm BST

"who would like to get on with growing the Kingdom"

But what does "growing the kingdom" mean? To me it is measured in the number of baptisms and the old-style Anglo-Catholic church did very well ideeed against that measure.

Evangelicals seem to count active worshippers. They do pretty well at that, but I think they deter people from getting their children baptised. I think there is a good argument that evangels are not growing the kingdom but might be inhibiting growth. But it really does depend on what one means by "growing the kingdom"

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 9:58pm BST

I think that +Pete hits the nail on the head and spells out something that I've been thinking for a long time. He says 'Personality preference and spirituality are closely linked.' I put it another way that churchmanship / styles of worship relate more to aesthetics than doctrine. I am very uncomfortable in a 'free worship' type service and hate both the type of music and the physical expression that goes with it - I find it embarassing as I do any similar secular activity in the theatre for instance. But that's me. I feel much more able to worship in a structured, formal liturgical way. So plainsong and traditional music yes, arm waving and 'Shine Jesus Shine' no.Chacun a son gout?

Posted by: John Wallace on Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 10:01pm BST

David Goodhew's article in 'Covenant' indicates his pro-African view of Anglicanism in our world today:

" Will Lambeth 2020 be a rerun of Lambeth 2008, which large numbers of African bishops did not attend, and where indaba rhetoric was a well-intentioned but ultimately flawed appropriation of the least vigorous part of contemporary African Anglicanism?"

The reality is that the 'Anglicanism' embraced by the majority involved in GAFCON separatism from the rest of the Communion - as expressed in its 'Jerusalem Statement' is far removed from the sort of Anglicanism that I have grown up with and which I have supported in more recent times.

The homophobia and sexism still practised and advocated by the GAFCON 'majority', whose bishops boycotted Lambeth and the ACC Meetings may not be the most desirable Mission Statement for what I, and many other non-Global South Anglicans want to remain a part of.

Indeed, Dr. David Goodhew's vision of the future Anglican Communion - based around the aggressive puritanism of the GAFCON Primates - which is so bitterly opposed to the Gospel charism of eirenic 'Unity in Diversity' that has traditionally been a mark of Anglicanism may be diametrically opposed to what I believe 'Anglicanism' has to offer in our world of today.

I don't really mind if GAFCON bishops continue to boycott Lambeth. They certainly do not represent Anglicanism for me. Let them continue on their journey of separatism if that is what they really want which would seem to be the case.

The word 'Love' seems to have been forgotten in their thirst for purity, and which of us is pure?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 12:59am BST

In trying to understand Angela Tilby's excellent article on the dangers of sola scriptura religion, Simon's link to the '' article is most enlightening - and eirenic!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 8:13am BST

Deliver us from caricatures of others and a siege mentality. "If I disagree with you, I have to love you more" (George Bebawi)

Posted by: David Keen on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 12:47pm BST

The whole point of Angela Tilby's column in the Church times is that, to a predetermined word-limit, she is asked to write an opinion piece that evokes a response. She understands the media well, and knows that her ability to rattle cages will draw a response, which is precisely what the Church Times wants - and why they ask her to write the column. She is responding to her brief very well indeed. May we be delivered from the day when she writes to affirm any tribe in their hard-won status quo.

Angela Tilby is also a radical, in the sense that she is securely rooted in the history and tradition of the Church (she taught Patristics when she was here in Cambridge), which means she also knows how unrooted and historically superficial is the current dominant evangelical agenda in the C of E. When did you last hear Welby and Sentamu and their like drawing on the riches of their heritage, people like the Wesleys, John and Henry Venn, Charles Simeon, John V Taylor, Richard Baxter and Jeremy Taylor?

Angela Tilby speaks for many (not least those who don't automatically take to TA to express their discomfort at being rattled) who are simply turned off - and turned away - by the C of E's increasing willingness (gullibility?) to go tearing off in panic mode, hitching its horse to the latest trend, because it is no longer confident about what has shaped it, or its capacity to offer a rooted, intelligent and imaginative way of faith. No wonder people run a mile from us when faced with existential pressures.

Posted by: Will Richards on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 1:02pm BST

The comment by Will Richards is insightful, about Angela Tilby as a first rate writer, about the media and about the nature of modern evangelicalism.

"When did you last hear Welby and Sentamu and their like drawing on the riches of their heritage..." Good Question.

One can distinguish between the crucial role an office plays, such as does the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the style or presentation of the person who occupies that office at any given time.

Archbishop Welby's leadership style can be fairly described as a certain kind of top down Alpha CEO (pun intended) bonded to a rather thin evangelical theology. Perhaps it could become a model for an online degree program, something like an MBBA or Masters of Business and Biblical Administration.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 3:10pm BST

As someone who finds a different model of worship and theology to that of the evangelical wing of the CoE and in particular that of HTB and its plants more to my liking; I found Angela Tilby's piece expressed very real concerns.

It is certainly true that HTB and its plants sometimes display over confidence/arrogance and a lack of an understanding of church history or tolerance of other types of churchmanship and I would not argue with those who see them as a church within a church.

They are however also very good at bringing people to Christ, which should not be denigrated. Likewise they should be commended for taking social engagement seriously and which could be said to resemble a practical implementation of catholic social teaching, something that has not always been the case for other groups in the church.

Only time will tell whether this is a God given movement or not.

Posted by: Confused Sussex on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 3:39pm BST

"When did you last hear Welby and Sentamu and their like drawing on the riches of their heritage, people like the Wesleys, John and Henry Venn, Charles Simeon, John V Taylor, Richard Baxter and Jeremy Taylor?" In a video to promote 'Thy Kingdom Come', the thing which has evoked a response from Tilby, Justin Welby refers to a 6th century bible brought by Augustine to England, and presented to the Archbishop at his installation. Does that count?

Perhaps there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the more people hear about 'Thy Kingdom Come' the more the church in England will be stirred to pray for our country, rather than just argue with itself.

Posted by: David Keen on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 4:24pm BST

I'm all for a historical base, Will, but often that's best used to inform movements to liberate people from the dead-hand of tradition, whether that tradition's the sanctification of royal power, the rejection of ordination regardless of sex or sexuality, or theology rooted in ancient cosmology simply incompatible with later centuries of discoveries. If the HTB crowd are guilty of anything, it's in placing too much stock in traditional theology, and in refusing to embrace new insights.

I couldn't agree more with Lavinia Nelder: style is absolutely separable from substance. I've suggested many times on here that, in order to become more accessible, other traditions embrace aspects of "evangelical" services (in truth, merely good AV, catering and guitars), while staying true to their core beliefs. Followed by embracing evangelicals' gift for organization (cell groups, conferences, etc), and, well, evangelizing, which can be through example, not hard sell.

Hundreds of thriving liberal churches with the buzz of HTB would be the best means of ensuring there's no "takeover," and of securing a hearing for liberal theology and spirituality. If Tilby wants to spearhead such a movement, I couldn't be more enthusiastic.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 6:09pm BST

An illustration.

Clicking on HTB's site, I'm immediately offered a choice of multiple services in multiple locations, with many videos of teaching available to sample. I'm invited to attend a leadership conference and Focus 2018, a church week away that looks bigger and better resourced than many festivals. I'm offered an Alpha course (naturally!), invited to volunteer, or to donate to the survivors of the Grenfell disaster.

Immediately, I'm given the impression of a thriving church rooted in its community, a church that's confident, welcoming, and is going places.

Yes, HTB's atypical, the Willow Creek of English Anglicanism: but I can find similar evangelical beacon churches in dozens of English cities; and beyond them, hundreds of thriving evangelical parishes wired into evangelical networks like New Wine, HTB, or Spring Harvest. I'm given a strong sense of a dynamic community, with a clear message, and well-founded hope for the future.

Now what can I find if I want a liberal alternative? Closest I can think of is the Greenbelt festival, which is great, but different in kind. Where are the liberal networks tied into regular conferences and festivals packed with excited young Christians?

It could happen. Tilby's a gifted communicator and organizer who's appeared regularly on T.V. and radio. If, together with other liberal leaders, she helped found a liberal network along the lines of New Wine, I've no doubt that, within a year or two, she could be up on a stage alongside a worship band, extolling liberal Christianity to thousands of cheering young Christians. Within five years, she could be overseeing dozens of church plants and a liberal version of Alpha. In ten, sky's the limit. Now that would be something.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 6:58pm BST

James Byron I totally agree. It's really not as if HTB and all those ghastly evangelicals are greedily hogging all the available unbelievers is it? There's room for all. I am reminded of the saying that a sign of maturity is being able to tell our own story without blaming anyone else for it.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 30 April 2018 at 8:55pm BST

I've read Angela Tilby's article and it seems to be saying that:
1. Evangelicals are so ineffective that people are going to their doctors for spiritual guidance; and
2. Evangelicals are so effective that they are taking over the church.
Can anyone explain the logic of this to me?

Posted by: tbl on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 8:30am BST

James Byron makes some good points. HTB and its plants are activist in promoting the gospel to the world and in encouraging people to engage with christianity and they deserve to be commended for this.

I do however question how many people who are introduced to christ via the HTB approach move on to a deeper engagement in what it means to be a christian. ALPHA is great at what it does but presents what is "chistianity lite" and favours theologians who have not asked difficult questions. This means that many participants stick at what ALPHA has told them and find it threatening to go beyond this stage in christian development

What is certainly true is that the liberal and catholic wings have far more inward looking and so far less successful in promoting the gospel and engaging with the world.

Posted by: Confused Sussex on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 12:19pm BST

You make compelling points, Confused Sussex: although I'll gladly accept that HTB itself delves deeper than Alpha, being delineated by evangelical red lines, its theology will always be restricted in a way that liberalism isn't.

Just makes it all the more frustrating that mainline churches haven't, on the whole, been able to emulate evangelicalism's success. Their theological flexibility makes them ideally suited to interface with society. If only they weren't held back by their style and organization.

I genuinely hope that Tilby writes a follow-up op-ed with ideas to revive liberalism's fortunes. Disagree as I do, I respect her courage in diagnosing problems: it'd be great to hear of her solutions.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 4:19pm BST

Why is everyone assuming that 'evangelical' = 'HTB'?

HTB represents one strand of evangelicalism - charismatic - and one church size dynamic - corporate.

Traditional evangelicalism in the C of E is closer to an All Souls Langham Place approach, and they don't even use the Alpha Course there, they have their own home-grown course, Christianity Explored.

And the vast majority of evangelical C of E clergy will spend their entire ministries in small and medium sized parishes. Granted, I'm a Canadian Anglican, so my situation is a little different, but my current parish with an ASA of 70-80 is the largest I've ever served in my 40 years of full-time ministry.

As for evangelicals dealing with hard questions, I think Alister McGrath, Elaine Storkey, Oliver O'Donovan, Anthony Thiselton and others have done quite well here.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 5:02pm BST

"Why is everyone assuming that 'evangelical' = 'HTB'?"

For my part, I wasn't, Tim: Tilby namechecked it, and, with her references to Welby and public (private) school, appeared to be focusing on that strand of evangelicalism, so I did likewise; but I also noted that the Brompton crew are atypical, and made sure to include the hundreds of regular evangelical parishes, along with the New Wine / Spring Harvest networks. Since she raised the transatlantic connection, also gave a fair bit of focus to Willow Creek (of Chicago, Illinois).

Agree that the All Souls / Christianity Explored strand of evangelicalism's distinctive, and there's definitely mileage in looking at how it slots into Tilby's model.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 7:23pm BST

Edward Dowler’s article presents a nightmare scenario of churches run by bureacrats. But that was not Simon Jenkins’ proposal.

Jenkins' notion of churches run by local parish councils is not far from the role originally envisaged for PCCs in the Church and State report produced during the Great War. This argued PCCs should be entirely lay, as clergy membership would lead to sacerdotal domination.

The franchise to elect PCCs was baptism, not as some wanted, confirmation. This meant the vast majority of the population could vote for PCCs, and they might represent the views and interests of the parish, not just cooperate with the vicar.

Jenkins mentioned parishioners being unwelcome even to marry. Sadly some churches do "expect" church or group attendance. Parishioners may have legal rights, but who wants their special day marred by an obstreperous incumbent?

Baptism is even worse. In some parts of England it is much less hassle to have a baby aborted than baptised. A minor, but important consequence is the PCC franchise becoming an ever-diminishing subset of the parish population.

Stephen Parsons describes the holy huddle dominating some churches. There are cases of non-parishioners on PCCs as worshippers rather than residents voting for baptism policies as stumbling blocks to those living in the parish.

Churches do not need nationalising, they are public already.

If the railways were run purely for train enthusiasts, ignoring passengers, we would demand action. Either more effective public control, or better management.Our churches are even more important than our railways. An established national church should not be run as a narrow sect, or group thereof, but for all. Mr Jenkins is on to something.

Posted by: T Pott on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 9:23pm BST

Yes, I noted your more nuanced approach, James - thanks.

As far as a Willow Creek connection is concerned, I'm not sure whether Justin Welby or John Sentamu have one. However, one person who used to attend the Willow Creek leadership summit every year is Bishop Alan Wilson - I remember him blogging about it!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 1 May 2018 at 11:31pm BST

Bishop Broadbent's comments about all being nice to one another sit rather oddly with this tweet from @petespurs posted at 2:09 PM on 29 Apr 2018 : "And she's gone. At last an honourable resignation. Now what about the puppet mistress? "

Posted by: TP on Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 2:58pm BST

TP Except of course that Bishop Pete said nothing so crass as 'all being nice to each other'. And is there not a gospel connection between working for the celebration of human diversity and confronting institutional racism.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 8:18pm BST

I'd refer David to the comments on Twitter made in response. Some people might imagine that a bishop should choose more judicious words than to describe the Prime Minister as a "puppet mistress".

Posted by: TP on Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 9:25pm BST

TP You made a comment here so I replied here. I assumed this was your own opinion.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 5:42pm BST
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