Thinking Anglicans

The Church of England's search for salvation

Robert McCrum writes in The Observer today about The Church of England’s search for salvation. “The Church of England is in crisis. Its position on women bishops and gay marriage has alienated much of society. Robert McCrum visits its parishes and asks if the future lies with those it has spurned.”

To accompany the article, photographer Karen Robinson presents The Church of England today – in pictures.

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FD Blanchard
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FD Blanchard

Enjoyed both the article and the photos.
Churches, like nations, are usually much better than their leadership. It is heartening to see the Gospel proclaimed and lived out on the parish level with such dedication in the face of so many difficulties despite the curial intrigues at the top.

Tim Chesterton
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My oldest friend from my high school days attends St. Mary’s Maidenhead. It is a strongly evangelical church; it has five services on Sundays, and the two main morning services, at 9.15 and 11.00, are full. I’ve visited the church on Sunday mornings, and have experienced lively and attractive worship, good contemporary music (not really worship band style, although I understand in the evening it’s more that way), expository preaching, and a strong children’s ministry. When the children leave for their groups, it looks to me like fully a third of the church has gone out! According to Robert McCrum,… Read more »

Laurence
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Laurence

But Tim what is the point of propagating fundamentalism, obscurantism and an irrational approach to life on this scale ?

I would rather they stayed home and read,or watched Sunday politics and ethics programs – or listened to the Archers.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Very interesting article by Robert McCrum. A few thoughts: “There’s no singing because no one knows the music. ” Simple solution there – include the music with the texts of the hymns! When we worship in the UK, about half of the music seems to be shared tradition, but I don’t know half. I pick it up by the 2nd verse, but I’m musically trained. It seems to me that this would be problematic for visiting non Anglicans and newcomers to the church, in addition to foreigners like me. Publish a proper hymnal. It is also heartening to see parishes… Read more »

clairejxx
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clairejxx

But McCrum’s 2 does not make your 1. Statistics?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The problem, Tim, is that it’s hard to assess the health of an organisation by looking at one branch. Political parties know this only too well. Had you gone to a meeting of a constituency Labour party in the thrall of Militant, or a Conservative branch during the peak of their internal fights about Europe, you would have seen success by some standards: lots of enthusiastic, committed members who were keen to attend even the most trivial agenda item. Both parties were, at the time, utterly unelectable and, perhaps as importantly, haemorrhaging members. Any branch which has a strong ideological… Read more »

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Interested Observer, the fact that people assume all churches in a denomination are the same works both ways. A person walking into the Episcopal church here will soon realize they’ve walked into the Sunday morning country club and if they aren’t rich, aren’t welcome. Therefore all Episcopal churches are rich white enclaves for the powerful, etc. Or when the PB said that TEC is small because Episcopal women are better educated and have only one child, that translated to some, “If you don’t have a master’s degree or you have three kids, you aren’t welcome.” I was recently reminded of… Read more »

FD Blanchard
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FD Blanchard

In the USA, it is common for large evangelical churches to scoop up legions of people like a front-end loader; for example, “mega churches” with thousands of people attending every Sunday in a church building the size of sports arena, with Christian rock bands and an abundance of specialty groups and services for members. These places emphasize a “personal” experience of Jesus on an industrial scale together with heavy doses of Prosperity Gospel and motivational speaking. Those same churches also have serious retention problems, leaking members out the back door as fast as they come in the front door, especially… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

Tim is right: McCrum writes “on the ground, in the shires and cities, it seems to be gay clerics and women priests who are keeping the Church of England alive, and in touch with society, from day to day” and then interviews gay and female priests and nobody else. Well knock me down with a thurible. Interested Observer – do you mean that any church with 5 packed services is simply doing a good marketing job to attract an audience? I’m sure liberal and Anglo-Catholic churches are just as good at appealing to their type of people as evangelical churches… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“A person walking into the Episcopal church here will soon realize they’ve walked into the Sunday morning country club “ That might be a problem in a country (I’m guessing the US) where people might walk into a church on a Sunday morning at random. In the UK, they aren’t getting that far: it would be interesting to see some numbers for “people going to church who previously didn’t”, but my guess is that it’s very small. And therefore what matters is not what happens inside the church putting people off who arrive, it’s what stops them from coming in… Read more »

David Keen
Guest
David Keen

…or getting the congregation out of the church and into Starbucks too. If they’re not coming to us, we need to go to them.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

FD Blanchard said, ‘In the USA, it is common for large evangelical churches to scoop up legions of people like a front-end loader; for example, “mega churches” with thousands of people attending every Sunday in a church building the size of sports arena, with Christian rock bands and an abundance of specialty groups and services for members. These places emphasize a “personal” experience of Jesus on an industrial scale together with heavy doses of Prosperity Gospel and motivational speaking.’ Not quite sure what that’s got to do with St. Mary’s Maidenhead – or with most evangelical Anglican churches in the… Read more »

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

“and note, I say may: I’ve never seen convincing studies one way or the other” Interested Observer. Well, you are unlikely to find any convincing studies, as the absence of adequate statistics, and the difficulties of consistent definitions make it very difficult to convince those who are already convinced one way or the other. But I have my own theory. There is a finite proportion of the population, which I estimate somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of the total, who yearn for clear answers, firm leadership, and an approach to religion that says, “This is the way, walk ye in… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“and therefore the task is not getting people into a different meeting on a Sunday morning, but getting them out of Starbucks.”

When, in fact, many of them are taking kids to football practice, swimming clubs, concert rehearsals or are enjoying the one morning they get with their partner over a relaxed family breakfast.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

and lets face it church going is still related to social class in England. I expect all the churches are doing quite well in Maidenhead..you would expect that. just as they do in Chiswick where I served for 9 years ( in fact they all seem to be doing even better there 15 yrs on).How many of the white working class especially under 30 have anything to do with the church at all now? Yet more did 50 years ago….Church growth in London owes a lot to immigration I suspect…how are things in Co Durham? Regional and social factors remain… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Robert McCrum’s article, concentrating or ministry in mostly rural England, is heartening – in its perception of the value of the ministry of wiomen and gays in the Church in country areas. Most people there are more concerned about how the Church might help them in the day to day mundane practicalities of dealing with important issues iof life and death; than they are about who actually provides such ministry. This, surely, is the essence of how the Church of England ought to be carrying out its mission to its own people – rather than settling for debate about the… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

“And ‘that branch’ is likely to be the one paying via parish share for clergy in struggling parishes, producing more ordinands and future leaders etc., so yes it does benefit the organisation at large.” David Keen

Does that account for the large, conservative evangelical churches that withhold their parish share; in my own diocese of Southwark, for example?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

For the record, TEC churches in general, do not look like the “country club.” Some do of course, especially those located near country clubs! Generally, the membership looks a lot like CoE, typically reflecting the population of the region. Most urban Episcopal Churches are a lot more casual in dress than either CoE or the country club churches. A fact that got me “in trouble” once, and is worth reflecting on in the context of whether the CoE is welcoming or not. My experiences worshipping in the UK have been generally very welcoming. But there was the usher at a… Read more »

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

I can’t help but compare my one cathedral experience in England — St. Paul’s in London — with experiences in major Italian churches. The tourists officially were supposed to be out of St. Paul’s by evensong. Instead, they packed the nave and listened quietly as the choir sang the service. No one tried to make them leave or suggested that they should. Everyone enjoyed divine service together, and all left together when the cathedral closed for the day. In Italy, the priests chase the tourists out like flocks of pigeons before Mass. I once watched a Dominican priest in Santa… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

So, if this article and pictorial are correct, Women and gays run the church and white guys are only allowed as organists and members of the choir, hmm? I know the CoE did a study a few years back on church demographics and it seemed to point to women priests having less faith in traditional theological norms(resurrection, etc.) Is there a new one on the way? Does liberal theology, being for same-sex marriage, etc. bring in more folk than conservative leanings? Or is the church looking in the wrong direction altogether? What will really make people stop going to Starbucks… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

“white guys are only allowed as organists and members of the choir” Chris H.

Er, why are you bringing race into this?

primroseleague
Guest
primroseleague

Chris H – yes it is possible to have multiple churches in the same parish, although it’s much more common in urban areas than rural ones. However, it’s unusual for churches in the same parish to have radically different churchmanship simply because the vicar of the parish church will have oversight of any daughter churches (and often will be doing all the services in any case) – the exception is evangelical church plants which seem to do their own thing regardless of whose parish they’re technically in. In cities it’s easier because you are likely to have multiple parishes, meaning… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The Robert McCrum article really seems to say it all. Until there is some major breakthrough on the current triple impasse, what is left to be said?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Chris H. wrote “Cynthia, the Gallup poll, Pew forum, and TEC statistics have shown Episcopalians are richer, better educated, older, and less likely to go to church than other U.S. denominations, so the “country club” is probably more common than you think.” Chris, I travel extensively and have worshipped in many, many Episcopal Churches. Yes, there is a “country club” element. They tend to be conservative, so given the wildly liberal stance of the broad church I’m not seeing the “country club” set as dominant. Yes, we are well educated, that does not put us in stereotypical molds. Some of… Read more »

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

What’s with this sudden obsession of trying to bother ordinary folk and compel them ‘to come to church’ ? Why ? What’s the point of it ?

What did you have in mind ?

Why not take some interest in those already coming to church lay and ordained ?

I am imagine some narcissistic
agenda lies behind it.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Um – something to do with the Great Commission, maybe?

MarkBrunson
Guest

The Great Commission involved being a Light to the World, not being a nuisance to your neighbors. You get them to go by demonstrating there’s something to it, and, clearly, mass-market “christianity” doesn’t.

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

The great Commission mark 2 :

2 all nations and make all men (sic) attend church services !”

Duh ?

The industrial mission movement saw its mission as FINDING God already out there, embodied in so many lives, organisations, fields and ways.

Not taking God to the lost- not dragging them to church….

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

“Who am I to judge gay people ?” (pope !).

The Church of Rome also on its own search for salvation ?

Anyway getting real, it seems, and becoming a little more caring, a little more reasonable.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23489702

Geoff
Guest

“Tim is right: McCrum writes “on the ground, in the shires and cities, it seems to be gay clerics and women priests who are keeping the Church of England alive, and in touch with society, from day to day” and then interviews gay and female priests and nobody else.”

Like whom? It seems to me once you take out all the women and gays you’d have pretty slim pickings!