Have I missed something here? Those concerned to reassure us that Britain is still a Christian country cite the result of surveys showing that fair majority of respondents affirm that the are indeed Christian, regardless of whether they attend a place of worship regularly or not.
Now, in his critique of the recent BBC poll, Mr Ould is removing the large proportion of respondents who say they don't attend a place of worship regularly in an attempt to show that Christians do overwhelming believe in the resurrection.
Since we also know that regular attendance at a place of worship is now around 10% of the population or less does this mean that we can now accept that we are no longer a Christian country and that 'real' Christans are in a small minority and should have no more influence over society than other minorities?
Richard Coles' piece has a spot-on analysis.
But most of all I feel touched by his experience of hearing Ephesians read aloud, and how his heart embraced it, leading to a break-through in his understanding - both intellectual and affective.
I am helped.
Richard, I wouldn't try and speak for Peter Ould, but I wouldn't be surprised if he, like many evangelicals, fully acknowledges that Christianity has slipped into minority status, and is in the re-evangelization of England camp.
The "England's a Christian country" line is usually used by establishment Christians like Welby when they need to block some law or policy that rolls back Christian norms, whether it's heterosexual marriage, or the ban on euthanasia.
For all my disagreements with evangelicals, I readily acknowledge that they're skeptical of Christendom, nominal religion, and the corrupting effect that state has on church.
I think many of us can tell that Bishop Paul has honestly struggled a lot with the tensions around human sexuality in our Church, and I think he has been more open and frank about his feelings than some other leaders. As a matter of disclosure, Bishop Paul is *not* one of the 41 bishops I’ve had conversations with, but I appreciate his forthright admission of feeling and struggle about the whole business.
Where I find the cutting edge of his position – and its arguable problems – is that he seems pretty clearly to want more affirmation of LGBT relationships (I’m suspecting – and he might confirm this except it might compromise him – that he would be happy for formal [constitutive] blessings of at least civil lesbian and gay marriages in the Church)... but because he also sees the terrible threat to the Church’s unity (as I do) and so much else of the precious work and fellowship many enjoy... his present position is that lesbian and gay interests and full recognition need to be effectively ‘held hostage’ by the threat of conservative members to split if any further concessions are made.
And therefore, the radical inclusion has to remain informal, and though emotionally the welcome can clearly be there, officially the status quo remains. He could correct me if I’m wrong. His heart comes across as warm and affirming, and I believe that, but the present end-product of his logic is that the status of gay and lesbian couples who marry is not acknowledged by the Church. And that’s diminishing and it flies in the face of the welcome, the acceptance, the affirmation. It also conflicts with where half the Church of England wants to go with this. But it’s LGBT people who take the rap for other people’s consciences. We may ‘invoke’ where our affirmation and informal blessings point, but (out of fear of conservative backlash?) we still hold back. Respect for conscience and choice only seems to work one way: the conservative way.
I really appreciate Bishop Paul’s admission of struggle, of ‘tangle’, and the recognition of fallability and the ‘unfinished moment’: and his implied desire for more formal change. That open-endedness has resonated from him for months. At the same time, being held hostage by conservative consciences in the Church, lesbian and gay couples find (and suffer) the perpetuation of the ‘unfinished moment’ in their lives.
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