So, the archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling for the evangelization of England.
This, in a country whose official leader is, and I believe I'm quoting accurately, a "defender of the faith". That is, the Christian faith.
Whose official leader must be Christian.
Where a particular group of Christian clergy, and only that particular group, automatically get seats in the House of Lords.
Where there is an established Christian church, supported by public tax dollars.
A country where, I suspect, the overwhelming percentage of its population identifies as Christian.
Which has, I believe, never had a publicly non-Christian person as prime minister.
Where there must be religious education in public-supported schools, at least 51% of which must be about Christianity.
So, explain the need to me, again?
What a great idea! At the heart of all the processes of renewal and reform has to be seeking the heart of God in prayer, so this is a fabulous initiative which I welcome. Evangelism is about the Good News, and despite the church sometimes, we need realise again and again the joy of the gospel and a renewed vigour in sharing it.
It might even convert the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who knows?
It is very good to see that Exposition and Benediction is being officially sanctioned and encouraged by our Evangelical Archbishops as part of this week of prayer. I do hope that many will use this most powerful way of bringing our prayer before Christ in the Eucharist.
Under 1 million Sunday worshippers may indicate that some traditions and trappings of Christianity are still embedded in our society, but that Christian faith probably isn't.
The initiative is positive - although I can wholeheartedly understand all those lgbt priests and their supporters who have put it in the shredder.
Re Peterpi - 'Where there is an established Christian church, supported by public tax dollars.'
Would that this were the case! The dear old C of E may be, 'by law established' but in comparison with other such churches in Europe it is not supported by taxation.
Together with the custodians of buildings of architectural significance the local trustees (ie the clergy and churchwardens) may apply for grant assistance for major repairs and renovations.
The ministry of the Church to the parish - not just to the congregation has to be financed by voluntary contributions and fees for Occasional Offices.
Maybe it's unfair, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the headline is that the archbishops are asking for this wave of prayer because they're losing the battle against LGBT people.
Only on TA - criticism for an Ascensiontide prayer initiative. Avidly awaiting Martyn Percy's article explaining how this confirms that ++Justin is unsuitable for episcopal ministry.
Peter Gross, the Church of England is not supported by 'tax dollars' (or even pounds). Thanks to some effective lobbying over the last few years, it has received some limited grants to help keep the roof on its ten thousand medieval buildings. But the current-account running costs of the institution all fall on the parishioners. You are right, of course, about the officially Christian character of the British state: but our politicians talk far, far less about faith than any of their American counterparts. Tony Blair was privately pious, but his press officer famously announced that 'We don't do God.' It was treated as a personal peculiarity when David Cameron declared that he kinda sorta with-a-following-wind might be an Anglican. Gordon Brown wasn't a churchgoer; neither was John Major, nor James Callaghan, not Harold Wilson. There is no electoral penalty for atheism. National Prayer Breakfasts are unimaginable. Most people don't know the basic Christian stories. Church attendance continues to fall, and the C of E really is facing extinction in a couple of decades. Evangelism under the circumstances is not a rhetorical luxury but a survival necessity.
peterpi - Peter Gross
our official leader is very much Christian - but she isn't actually allowed to lead any more than a ship's figurehead leads a ship;
a small number of clergy get seats in the House of Lords (26 from a total membership of 816), but the upper house has very limited powers indeed;
the established Church gets no tax dollars (or even tax pounds), and it is struggling financially under the weight of maintaining thousands of historic buildings for the nation;
the most recent census (2011) showed just under 60% identify as Christian, but a major 2015 survey gave just 42%;
Religious Education as an exam subject in schools need tends to be ethics and philosophy of religion, and whilst all publicly funded schools should have a daily act of collective worship which is "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character," this very rarely happens - it may just be the least observed law in the world. Many people would like to see the law changed.
So, yes, a bit of evangelization would be a good idea.
What a depressing initiative. Of course the idea of prayer can mean something useful, but not in the context of "longing that more should come to know Christ". This kind of religious non-sense, the natural language of thought of only a tiny minority of minds in the UK, makes the Church of England sound both offensively sectarian and laughably irrelevant. Who exactly do the Archbishops think is going to be encouraged/inspired/attracted by all these "dioceses, cathedrals, parishes, and chaplaincies ... preparing to engage in special times of prayer and witness"? Only those wrapped up and comfortable in the particular kinds of religiosity that have so effectively driven most of England out of its Church. God has so much more to offer than this.
When all else fails, pray.
Re tax dollars/pounds, the Church of England does (literally) receive tax pounds back in the form of Gift Aided donations, in the same manner as any registered charity.
Although the text of the letter said that it was addressed to all parish priests, it was also sent to NHS hospital chaplains who are forbidden to evangelise in the course of their employment.
To evangelize is a dominical command, as is to pray always to the Father....and it's an apostolic command 'to pray that all might be saved.' And we all know many people who do not know or enjoy on a daily basis real communion with the living Christ...so any resistance to, or suspicion of, this initiative or call, is concerning, to say the least.
Even for the normal TA thread this one seems depressing. That people might know Christ classed as 'sectarian and laughably irrelevant' leaves one wondering what the church is for then, other than perhaps a poorly resourced version of the Citizens Advice Bureau.
I'm really sorry about the comment by David Marshall. How sad and deeply pathetic in the truest sense of the word. There is no doubt that the church has failed and is failing people. There is no doubt that it has not been Good News for the LGBT community and many many others who often dont get a mention on this website or any others. In the Anglican family there are countless Christian who are marginalised and oppressed for all sorts of reasons beyond their control, and they still long for their communities to be evangelised. We too should do the same. Live and be good news for the weakest as well as the strongest in our communities. and that has to begin with prayer. Yes - God has so much more to offer - He has the Good News, and unless we address this imperative of our communion, we will cease to have any impact at all.
At least it's not a decade...
If I was Jesus, I would be seriously pissed off at having people like you (ABC & ABY) representing me!!
I DO find this kind of pointless initiative and empty posturing 'depressing'.
It is similar to 'the Decade of Evangelism' all over again.
Do Evangelical leaders never learn ?
It is all about the need for Everybody Else to change -projection !
I appreciate everyone's feedback on my comment.
And please forgive my sin (trying to decide whether venial or mortal :-) ) of referring to "tax dollars". It was a parochial -- oops! -- I mean, metaphorically near-sighted, slip of the tongue.
For some reason, I thought England had a "church tax" or "religion tax".
I cannot see that "coming to know Christ" is non-sense. As a liberal, broad church C.of E. parson, I think that is one large part of what it is all about, though I would speak of coming to know more of JESUS (and I believe much can be known, as e.g. Geza Vermes or Maurice Casey have shown)... knowing more about his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, and his teaching in the parables, and his healing and welcoming of people, even though some of that brought him to ugly death at the hands of the Romans, and seeking to follow him. Such coming to Jesus of course is by God's grace, and through thoughtful study of the Scriptures and not least through prayer. As an honorary hospital chaplain in a Sydney public hospital for about 18 years (at 80, trying to keep my legs going and my old brain working), I am not allowed to "proselytise", but our chaplains certainly can "evangelise", that is, bring the good news of God and of Jesus in all kinds of ways, on the wards as well as in services of worship. That is possible not least simply by clearly being there (in the case of deacons and priests, I hope clearly identified by clerical collar), but also in other ways, from conversations and listening, to sacraments and the provision of prayer cards, icons and Gospels. And in our hospitals and in our society and in our schools - and in our Church, more things are wrought by prayer than some writers seem to believe. I hope I spend more time on prayers (in my case,through sometimes poor attempts at keeping to daily BCP Matins and Evensong) than on writing on this site - but in such writing I see no need to be never-endingly negative.
Thank you Bill Paul III. As Anglicans - Thinking or otherwise - this is our command. Its one of the five marks of our mission too!
Perhaps I should have spelt out that I was making a distinction between the Church of England and other denominational expressions of Christian tradition. Independent churches can legitimately constitute themselves entirely for those who participate; if they wish to 'obey dominical commands', 'pray that all might be saved', or 'commune with the living Christ' it need be no-one's business but their own. The C of E has a different remit. It has at least a moral obligation to reflect that it is historically enshrined in the fabric of a secular liberal society. When it uses a narrow sectarian justification for its policies, it should be no surprise if some of us who can imagine a different kind of institution don't always meekly defer to the rhetoric.
Forgive this Yank from a part of the world where "crusades for Christ" and calls for national religious renewal have always been commonplace for viewing this campaign with jaded eyes.
Slogans, preaching, tent revivals, campaigns, proof texting, sales pitches etc. are one thing, but it's always instructive to remember the motto of the great state of Missouri, "Show me!"
Right now, with so many self identified Evangelicals in this country practically singing Giovinezza as they march in cowboy boots, and calling for this or that group to be made so very illegal, this Brooklyn gay man doesn't see much love at all, Christian or otherwise.
Credit where credit is due. Full Marks for this Pentecostal Prayer initiative from Lambeth and Bishopthorpe - all power to their Graces elbows. Goodness knows much prayer is needed if the Established Church is to have any kind of viable future!
My fragrant wife of 41 summers has been telling me for years how much I would enjoy the novels of Barbara Pym. I have eventually succumbed and have just spent a delicious hour in bed with Barbara Pym reading "Crampton Hodnet" - a 20th century Jane Austen indeed, full of many LOL moments. For example how about this for a quote!
"Yes, this was the Church of England, his flock, thought Mr. Latimer, a collection of old women, widows and spinsters, and one young man not quite right in the head......He had the feeling, as he mumbled through the service, that he and his congregation were already dead."
Those words were written as long ago as the outbreak of the Second World War and there has been nothing but decline since then!
So, thank you Justin and John for your Whitsun initiative - Bring It On!
I'm interested to know more about what you mean by the C. of E. having "at least a moral obligation to reflect that it is historically enshrined in the fabric of a secular liberal society."
A moral obligation to whom? And why? It occurs to me that when it was "historically enshrined" English society was neither secular nor liberal (granted both those terms mean different things to different people). So might one not argue that its moral obligation is to recall England to its former condition, precisely on the basis of how it was enshrined? Or to put things less contentiously, if society changes why should that have to entail that the C. of E. ought to change too? (note "ought": we know that in practice it does gradually change).
Put another way - to whom does the C.of E. owe its obligations, moral and otherwise? To England or to Jesus? Whilst it is the C. of England it is also the Church of E.
A possible pointer: HM the Q is Supreme Governor of the C. of E.; its Head is Christ.
David Marshall says that this phrase "longing that more should come to know Christ" is "religious non-sense" putting himself not just against the witness of the New Testament and the thorough witness of Book of Common Prayer (in each of its editions). He also asserts that "only a tiny minority of minds" in the UK would accept the possibility of this language (heh, which is part of the reason, isn't it, for evangelism) confusing an established Church with something he thinks is to play back to populous what it already thinks. He also says that the church is " historically enshrined" in "the fabric of a secular liberal society" which is massively incautious as secularism is an emergent reality, not part of the founding of the English Church (same for liberalism....it's emergent and is just one form of liberalism, not historically necessary in this form as opposed to another, all of which makes the reality or dynamic between gospel and church and society more complex than he wishes. Hard to see how a liberal society could be part of the silencing of one of it's important institutions and a significant segment of its population. Also hard to really believe that "these types of people" --Wm Temple, Robert Runcie, Michael Ramsey--have led people out of the church.
Interesting question - thank you. I wasn't imagining history doing a zap-style one-off enshrining. The Church we have is the result of a succession of generational changes and choices to retain it as a feature of our societal framework. The obligation, in the terms of your question, is to England. That's the context in and for which it is constituted.
Jesus is the central character in Christian mythology. I know there are those who like to blur the distinction between myth and reality about this, but that is a meme that survives now only with regular reinforcement. I'm thinking weekly church services, but I'm sure the Archbishops' special times of prayer and witness help. If that meme does not exist in our world view, likely to be the case for I suspect at least 90% of the population, any obligation would be to a mythical character we know little or nothing about. It is literally non-sense. The Church if it is to remain part of English society has to do God differently. More of the same will see its value and potential lost, as powers that be lose patience with its irrelevance.
As already noted, it is depressing. But it needn't be that way if the right people took the first steps in a new direction.
and thank you for a considered answer. I think many people would say that the CofE was "enshrined" at the Reformation, and everything since has been tinkering with that (your "generational changes" I suppose, though it hasn’t happened in every generation). I can't think of a time when there have been "choices to retain it," if only because it has always been so intimately tied to the monarchy (thus it was restored at the Restoration). Although this may seem like historical quibbling, I think it probably is an important part of working through what the nature of the CofE actually is.
And whilst the context in and for its constitution is England, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its ultimate obligation is to England. An ambassador is made such in and for the context of the country to which she is sent and she must understand and deal with her context to be effective, but her obligation is to her sending country. Or to use a different analogy, a parent is constituted as such by having a child, but it would be a foolish parent indeed who gave the child what the child wants or thinks is good for him.
As for dismissing Jesus as a mythical character, I’m afraid that won’t do. That there was such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, around whom a religious movement formed, is beyond reasonable historical doubt (he is better attested than Leonidas of 300 Spartans fame, for example, and no one doubts him). So an obligation to him is not, in the formal logical sense you seem to mean, “literally non-sense,” (that would only apply if he were a non-person, as truly mythical characters are).
I would suggest that the very minimum we might say of a Christian Church is that it exists on the basis that Jesus is a proper object of obligation – whatever point of the spectrum we fall on between “divine being whom we are obliged to worship” and “teacher whose insights into humanity are so deep that we have an obligation to try to put them into practice.” Deny that basic obligation and what is the title “Christian,” and with it the word “Church,” but non-sense? So for the CofE to express an obligation to Jesus (e.g. in a call to prayer and evangelism) looks entirely proper, indeed, its raison d’etre.
Bernard, I'm sure some of us at least will take that as a back-handed compliment: "If only those darned Christians would stop praying and speaking about Christ....."
But (God willing) we don't and we won't.
David Marshall sounds awfully like those nice Cambridge intellectuals from the 1980's who took their sea of faith Christianity and found no-one, intellectual and certainly not the average UK person, had any idea or interest in what they were talking about. To carry on in that mould is to follow a terribly dated modernist philosophy that will guarantee the death of the Church of England, not renew or reimagine it.
You seem to be saying that there is some intrinsic value in the Church of England, whether or not anyone is interested in it or pays it any mind. I don't see that. Neither is there any platonic ideal to which it must inevitably conform. The only constraints on its nature are those imposed by whoever engages with it in the here and now. It's a political creation that has whatever form emerges from the politics of the day.
As for Christian mythology, I absolutely do not dismiss it. But neither am I interested in bizarre historical claims. It seems likely there was indeed a Jesus of Nazareth who inspired the early Christian movement. He's long dead. What remains, the bones of Christian tradition, are the biblical record and present day Church communities and institutions. Nothing else. We can make of those bones what we will. There is the opportunity to create and build with them; to update and retell the stories, incorporate insights from a scientific world view, and re-integrate God as a reality in everyday experience and culture. Or not, the choice is ours. I see no basis in reality for an "obligation to Jesus" beyond what we might imagine for ourselves.
The commitment to the Christ of the Gospels is that of preaching and living the Good News to ALL. Wherever the Church preaches bad news - to anyone one - this is not the Gospel. Wherever we preach the God of Love, rather than a parsimonious, judgmental, authority figure, interested only in plotting our downfall; we are truly being agents of a Living God.
The act of prayer ought be alligning ourselves with God's Loving purposes for our world. This is so different from the judgementalism of ISIS.
Let's be part of this crusade of prayer - if we cherish one another's place in creation.
Jesus also said not to make a public spectacle of your praying. He said that was the sign of hypocrites.
I think we’re coming at things from very different places here. But I do wonder if your position, as presented, is entirely consistent.
You say the only constraints on the CofE are imposed by whoever engages with it. But the way you put it, this seems to deny that its own members (I know, a contended idea, but I mean the people who give their time and money to it regularly and/or are on electoral rolls) can find value in it or influence what it is. You appear to suggest it is entirely a creation of those outside it.
On “mythology,” talk of “bizarre historical claims” feels unhelpfully indelicate. But more importantly, you’ve missed an important element from “the bones of Christian tradition,” which is Tradition itself – there’s an awful lot between the biblical record and present day Church communities. Tradition rather means that we can’t simply “make of those bones what we will.” If the bones are biblical texts and the flesh is the present Church, then Tradition is the sinews linking bones to flesh.
Or, to think of your analogy in another way: given some bones, it is possible to reconstruct with a high degree of accuracy what a person looked like – including facial features. Bones do no give just any old person, but particular bones produce a particular person who looks a particular way – and cannot give any other look. So Christian Tradition constrains what we look like and what we can build.
And I find it puzzling that you can talk of the re-integration of “God as a reality” but see “no basis in reality” for Jesus as a present locus of obligation. If God is real, and we are to build on the biblical record which sees Jesus as fundamentally (dare I say ontologically?) connected to God (as a proper object of worship, for example), then Jesus is real too, at least to some extent. Thus there is a basis in reality for an obligation to Jesus. After all, the real God said at Jesus’ transfiguration, “This is my Son, listen to him.” Doesn’t that establish an obligation upon us, even on your minimalist reading of the bones?
Yes, Mark, but he did command us to pray. Jesus even told us how to go about it. It doesn't have to be on the street corners. Jesus recommended we pray in our own chamber - where distraction is less likely to deflect us from the enterprise.
Bernard Randall, on Thursday morning, that the CofE is "intimately tied to the monarchy" and "was restored at the Restoration".
To be more accurate, the CofE continued across the republican Commonwealth, and remained the (established) Church throughout that period. What was abolished and then restored in 1660 was not the CofE but episcopacy. During the Commonwealth the CofE was, like the Church of Scotland, presbyterian in government rather than episcopalian. At the Restoration, the Churches in both England and Scotland became episcopalian again, only for episcopacy to once again be abolished in Scotland after the events of 1688, since when the CofS has remained presbyterian and the CofE episcopalian.
thank you. I stand corrected - though the mischievous part of me wants to ask whether an established church in England without Supreme Governor, Prayer Books, Articles and most importantly bishops is really the Church of England we know and, ahem, love.
Bernard -- no, indeed I suspect the CofE would have a rather different complexion, and so would the Anglican Communion, assuming that the Communion existed.
But there is an important point here too. The Church of England, the Church of the English, existed in communion with Rome; it existed out of communion with Rome; it existed when episcopacy was abolished; and it existed when episcopacy was restored. It's the same Church throughout all the changes: the same people worshipping in the same buildings. Long live the Vicar of Bray!
We pray for Bray -
It's the only way!
Ir's still the same Church,
I think anyone who attends services or is on an electoral roll is engaging with the Church. I'm not sure what other options there are. Certainly none that give access to Church decision-making, because positions of influence are all restricted to clergy or, at a pinch, regular lay communicants.
The thing about Tradition is that it is partly expressed in the C of E's legal framework; the rest is in the hearts and minds of those who keep parishes, dioceses and national bits of the Church going. It's the memories, preferences and habitual ways of doing things that colour church life. However indelicate to say, it is all determined by politics, from flower rotas and PCCs up to the discussions that determine General Synod agendas. I don't want to push the bones reference too far, but I was thinking of the bible and the constitution. The only flesh on those bones is an shrinking group of people, those of us who self-identify as Church of England and remain involved or interested in its future.
Coming back to Christian mythology, I do not dismiss it. It's a big part of our history, and Jesus is the most radically subversive hero in any story I know. But he is a mythical character. We have no way of knowing who the historical Jesus was. However remarkable, to conflate him with God the creator and sustainer of the universe is, in our time and culture, to effectively campaign for the exclusion of God from serious consideration.
If Jesus is a character in a story, however inspiring, there's no basis for any obligation. Archbishops who speak as if he were God do not have the credibility to convince anyone, however reticent some may be about disagreeing in public. The obvious lack of sensible grounds for taking such claims seriously is too persuasive.
"If Jesus is a character in a story, however inspiring, there's no basis for any obligation. Archbishops who speak as if he were God do not have the credibility to convince anyone, however reticent some may be about disagreeing in public. The obvious lack of sensible grounds for taking such claims seriously is too persuasive." - David Marshall
I think you are highlighting that the emphasis today is on archbishops as leaders rather than as teachers. They lead from an assumption of Christ's divinity rather than teach how we can be sure of His divinity.
Indeed, my take on evangelism is that with things like YouTube there is an opportunity for the archbishops to teach on the most complex and difficult topics which has not been available to any previous generation. The Great Wave of Prayer is a worthy initiative but to my mind the real need is for the church "leaders" to take up their role of teachers in the mold of Saint Peter, Saint Paul etc
as I said, we're coming at this from very different places.
You've said previously that it's likely there was a Jesus of Nazareth, but then you're coming back to him being just a character in a story. You need to be more consistent than this, I think. And frankly, to say he is a mythical character is plain wrong. We know enough to say he really existed (we can be as confident as any figure from ancient history, and more than most), and we can say a very great deal about his teaching and the kind of ministry he had, even if some of the details are obscure to us. That people writing about him had an agenda is true, but no more so than anyone writing about Roman emperors of the time - we don't claim we can know nothing about them, simply because all the texts display bias.
Just as important, if we don't connect Jesus to God (something countless people are perfectly happy to do whatever the details of their theological understanding) then we can end up with a God who isn't connected to the world, who is abstract and unrelated to us. That seems to me far more likely to be campaigning for the exclusion of God from serious consideration in most people's lives.
True, it seems likely there was a historical Jesus. The earliest biblical references (some of Paul's I think) date from not less than 30 years after his death. That means the stories are at best based on 30 year old recollections (the gospels are later). My 30 year old memories are very hazy. But these weren't recorded as history. They were written by his followers to spread their 30+ year old interpretation of his message to persuade others to join their movement. This is nothing like Roman history. It's a good story that for many hundreds of years has preserved a culturally significant identity and message. That's what myths do, if they're allowed to evolve and adapt as they're retold over generations.
As for God, it's the Old Testament writers who worked out that Yahweh, their god, could only be One and intimately connected to their world, because Yahweh was its creator, its first cause and sustainer. That's what Jesus would have understood; his message seems to have been that it's OK to imagine Yahweh as a father, whoever we are. It would have been those who decided Jesus should have the status of a Roman emperor that began the trinitarian problem. And so it came to pass that some of his twenty-first century followers no longer recognised the Yahweh Jesus knew, the creator and sustainer of our reality, the ultimate intimate connection.
I think you're mistaken, Bernard. But as you say, we're coming at this from very different places. I doubt we'll agree.
"My 30 year old memories are very hazy. But these weren't recorded as history. " - David Marshall -
Bt you, David, do not claim to be the Son of God. Nor have you suffered the death of Christ, by Crucifixion. If you were and had been, your story might be quite different.
I think most 'Thinking Anglicans' would take issue with you on this important matter - of the veracity of Incarnational Christianity. But then, this site is not necessarily a good venue for the theological propositions you are touting.
I don't think anyone suggested we shouldn't pray, but publicity stunts like this "wave of prayer" is jaded and irreligious nonsense.
I am on the very bottom rung in the Anglican community but I am very excited about the Archbishop's call: it is surely part of his job to inspire, sustain and increase his flock like a good shepherd and uniting us all in a week of prayer is a lovely strengthening, powerful event. Jaded and irreligious, what nonsense! Many of the comments I have read have been over-intellectualized, the call is to pray for the Father's kingdom to come, believers pray all the time for this very thing. Let's do it together joyfully in May, negative comments and reasoning not needed.
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