I like Linda Woodhead, but I'm not sure the C of E can any longer be described as 'a national Church with wide social influence.' And 'a counter-cultural sect?' Don't make me larf! We don't really believe women are equal to men and we don't like gay people - that is the message young people are apparently getting from the C of E hierarchy. Ms Woodhead is probably right, that is not what it is like on the ground, but that is the message that goes out loud and clear in the media. Like her, I do not think church leaders are necessarily 'wilfully oppositional,' I think they just don't get it. You cannot have a smiling former ABC Rowan Williams standing next to the new Bishop of Fulham and a year down the line listen to that same Bishop writing that 'women cannot be bishops' and expect to be taken seriously or even listened to by most young (and quite a few of us older) people today!
I'm glad you said (and quite a few of us older people) in brackets.
Because I gave a talk on marriage equality last week in a big church with an audience of an average age of about 65. I was expecting a lot of hostility and I had prepared for a difficult conversation.
I was surprised that there was not one dissenting voice. If anything, there was bemusement about why the church clung to the position it is clinging to and a real sense of "can we not just get this done with once and for all and move on please?!"
The problem is that the public persona of the Church is now so negative. It's assumed almost automatically to be against pretty well everything and to have lost its cutting edge vis a vis social concern. In short as far as many (particularly younger) people are concerned it's a pretty unpleasant and reactionary organisation.
The sweet irony is that, as Erika points out, the reality in the parishes may be far more accepting and dare I say it 'Christian'. However, you have to go in through the door first to experience that ... in the meantime the all pervading negative image prevents people making that pilgrimage.
So after much research, Linda Woodhead has found out that the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer...
"In a striking inversion, official church teaching is welfarist-paternalist on social and economic issues, and authoritarian-paternalist on personal ethics. It is the mirror image of majority Anglican opinion."
This divide can't be healthy. JMO, but it seems to me to be the *prophetic* role of church-teaching (leadership), to be a thorn-in-side of those "Telegraph or even the Mail on wider social and economic matters". To overturn the moneychangers' tables, as it were.
Instead, the hierarchs are playing prophet (scold, really) in the members' *bedrooms*! :-0
In short, neither hierarchy nor laity has got it all right, or all wrong. But taken together, the CofE has it all wrong. Kyrie eleison!
In support of the above (although it is only a very small snapshot) the three comments from young people which turned up on my Facebook page about the participants in last night's television programme 'On benefits and proud' are vitriolic. (I didn't see the programme so can't comment).
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