Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 10 January 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Keeping the church together?

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love God according to Harry Williams

David Goodhew The Living Church After COVID: The Deepening Decline of the Church of England

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Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

There may be little point in ‘keeping the Church together’ if there is no Church left to be kept together. Dr Goodhew’s article is salutary in this regard. Many will be unhappy with re-litigating pandemic controversies, but there were those who warned at the time that: (i) there would be great and permanent damage to future attendance (as the habit of regular attendance would be broken and seldom resumed); (ii) online worship was not a sufficient (though it was, at the time – and remains – a necessary and useful substitute for certain categories of churchgoer); (iii) there were practical… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

The one point you make, within the usual quality evaluation, is that ‘authorities need to be honest’. That standard ought to know no party affiliation. The problem is different in TEC (dioceses need to be compressed in number by at least 40%), and it appears that the Bishops speak often about this. But to simply make clear to everyone the appalling statistics (especially the aging of the church, lack of children, and percentage of congregations under 20 ASA) must happen if the problem is to be faced. ‘Solutions’ can only then follow. TEC needs to do this as well. But… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I think the problem in the USA is that each state has its own laws regarding non-profit incorporation, so having dioceses that straddle state lines (though there are a few) becomes a legal conundrum. But certainly there is no need to have five dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, for instance.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

As you note, there are not many of these. I’m not sure ‘incorporation’ is formally required to conjoin small dioceses that are contingent (Vermont, NH, Maine). But states with a lot of interior dioceses reflect a period of growth that is no more (MI, PA, etc). Does there need to be a diocese of SW VA (tiny ASA)? GA is a huge diocese (GA and FL are the largest states east of the Mississippi), so the idea that geography demands this, isn’t necessarily true. GA has a diocese of ATL (as well as GA), while FL has 5 dioceses. I… Read more »

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I don’t disagree with your assessment of the organizational problems in TEC. But trying to figure out solutions is very difficult. The issue that TEC faces, that the C of E faces to a much lesser extent, is the huge geographical distances in the United States. I grew up in the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (which you questioned the need for). So let me give some of my perspective on that. That diocese covers a huge amount of territory. (Virginia is a much bigger state that most people realize — the western tip extends further west than Detroit.) Except for… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

Not to mention, of course, the cultural differences engendered by those distances? My wife grew up in Northern VA (Arlington), but went to college in Southside VA (Longwood, located in Farmville). She describes them as being virtually two different worlds.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

“She describes them as being virtually two different worlds.”

I am aware of this but struggle to see it as probative for the Christian Church. Unless the idea is that the best diocese is a diocese of the culturally-like minded. Savannah isn’t Macon, either.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

I recognize that the future trajectory is probably not sustainable.

Yes.

SWVA is struggling to survive as it stands. Merge it with SoVa.

GA is bigger than VA. As are many Western States.

Sorry to touch the nerve of a Virginian. I know the SWVA very well. We have a problem that needs to be faced.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

As I mentioned, I recognize that there’s a problem that has to be faced. My concern is that the solutions be well-thought out so congregations aren’t unnecessarily harmed. Concerning the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, merging it with the Diocese of Southern Virginia so that the bishop is located the distance from London to Glasgow for some congregations isn’t a good solution. I think there ought to be a major re-think of all the diocesan boundaries in TEC that make sense. Historically, they were largely based on state boundaries. But state boundaries were set up hundreds of years ago — they… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

Creative thinking is the key. Thanks.

I only mentioned TEC so readers here wouldn’t presume that the CofE has big problems of decline, but not TEC.

(A previous commentator said cross-state arrangements were legally untenable; I’m not sure this is the real nub of the matter.)

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

In connection with my previous post, for the perspective of those in the UK, the distance between London and Glasgow is about 400 miles. How would it work for the congregations in one city or the other to by governed by a diocese headquartered in the other city?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

The Diocese of Texas has recently recovered the territory given to the Diocese of Ft Worth/North Texas, and the distance from Houston to the Oklahoma border is greater than London to Glasgow. The cultural differences between the metropolis of Houston and a place like Lubbock are also considerable. And of course, the proximity of declining dioceses like SWVA (ASA under 2500) and its neighbors makes for a much smaller geographical area than the Diocese of Texas, from Houston to the OKL border. I want to be clear, however. I mention the diocesan reality in TEC as but a single obvious… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

In our diocese, the road distance between our westernmost community (Jasper, Alberta) and our easternmost community (Cold Lake, Alberta) is 405 miles.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

If the assets of the diocese are to be legally protected, then incorporation is decidedly required. In most states, the law requires charitable organizations (and churches are so defined) to be set up as not-for-profit corporations under state and federal law. If not, they are subject to taxation at many levels.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pat ONeill
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Fine. Let Vermont, NH, and Maine remain as they are and shrink into oblivion.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I’m not saying there aren’t ways to do it, but it’s complicated and would require a good deal of legal maneuvering and compromise.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I was speaking in the context of the comment “In thinking about diocesan boundaries, state boundaries should be largely ignored now” (dr.primrose). You’d need to take this up with him.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

For what it’s worth, early on in TEC there was something called the Eastern Diocese, which (as I understand it) consisted of all of New England except for Connecticut. During the 1830s and 1840s, new dioceses were formed from it, conforming to state boundaries and eventually the Eastern Diocese disappeared.

Whether it is a good idea now to consolidate some of the New England dioceses or not or whether it’s legally problematic, I don’t know. But there is historic precedent for having a diocese in New England that covers more than one state.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

When the situation becomes more dire than it presently is, I suspect all manner of arrangements will find scope for pursuing. Just as we see in Texas. And in the biretta belt (Fond du Lac, Eau Claire). And probably in PA. And MI. But the important thing to note, as you indicate, is that historically TEC (PECUSA) has been many things on the diocesan front. Once, all of Florida. Once, all of Texas. Once all of VA (the colony, including now WVA). The diocese was born out of the colonies. There was no ‘national church’ until the idea was confected… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Bob
Bob
1 month ago

David Goodhew states: “In large swathes of England, the church now has no children in its churches on a Sunday. This is moving beyond decline and toward extinction.”
Dioceses should be looking at those churches within their diocese that have thriving ministries amongst families, children and young people, identify what it is that they are doing, and then put the resources in place to replicate their successful ministry. This may involve changes to the pattern and style of worship towards more family oriented services.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Helen King
1 month ago

Agreed, working in schools, colleges etc is a great way of introducing young people to Jesus. “Open the book” is a great example. The focus has to be on Jesus, rather than the church. Also great work being done at Christian outdoor centres. We have a number here in Yorkshire which have gone from strength to strength as the Lord has blessed their work.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

It’s kind of wild how much decline could be reverted by ‘put the resources in place’. The successful churches I’ve attended have either had support centrally or wealthy congregants willing to help out (or, in one instance, a surprisingly well put together semi-professional fundraising team) which has allowed them to hire staff who can run activities, leaving the clergy to deal with things that only clergy can.

I mean we’ve tried everything else. At what point do we just start insist that if you build it then they will come?

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Psalm 127.1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labour in vain”. But a church still needs to make reaching families, children and young people a priority, backed by sacrificial giving. Provide toddler groups, new mums groups, youth clubs, youth events, family events etc as ways into the church. Provide a warm welcome, sound teaching etc. But above all pray and seek God’s blessing on the ministry.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Bob, churches have been engaged in all of these kind of activities for decades but Dr Goodhew’s article confirms that it hasn’t worked. I spent almost 25 years in full time ministry before I retired. Throughout that time I was involved in all of the initiatives you describe sometimes with some modest success. However it always felt that we were swimming against the tide. I heard recently of a church with an attendance of over 50 people at its weekday mass. The congregation is almost exclusively there in order to sign a register so that their children can secure admission… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Here in my diocese it is working. The churches that are full of families all have excellent ministries amongst families and young people. None of them offer “mass” though. They are all evangelical and their USP is the gospel.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Where did Jesus say “just sing songs in remembrance of me?”

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Where have I said that?

William
William
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

You said that ‘none of them offer mass though.’ Presumably that means no breaking of bread.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  William
1 month ago

No, it doesn’t mean that. It simply means no service called Mass.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

I wonder what Mass is in Aramaic?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

How can you have a church without “mass”? It is not an optional extra but central to the gospel.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Only the Anglo-Catholic and Liberal Catholic churches in my diocese have “Mass”. The rest have parish Eucharist or Holy Communion. Simples.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

What is the difference?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Aren’t we arguing semantics here? As someone who grew up as a Roman Catholic, mostly post Vatican II, there is so little difference between a RC “mass” and an Episcopal/Anglican Eucharist service as to make them identical to someone who didn’t know he was going to two different churches.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Thank you. I believe this back-and-forth is nonsensical. Obviously one can have a Eucharist or Holy Communion service and need not force it to be spoken of by ‘Mass.’ God bless you and may he save us from pedantry in the name of his Eucharistic gift.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Can you explain, without being pedantic, the difference between mass, Holy Communion and the Eucharist?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

All celebrations of the Eucharist must include a reading from one of the gospels Bob. Many priests saying a weekday mass also offer a short homily on the readings used in the service. Evangelicals do not have an exclusive relationship with the gospel.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Agreed but is a short homily on the readings enough? Does it challenge non-believers to repent and believe?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Quality always trumps quantity.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Agreed, but that doesn’t address my comment. Does it challenge non-believers to repent and believe as in Acts 2?

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Fr Dean, if you have a captive audience for at least 12 months and you cannot get anyone interested in what you’re offering, can you really say that it’s entirely the fault of the parents?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Erika Baker
1 month ago

One would hope that a beautiful liturgy, the powerful message of a gospel passage and the sacrament itself would have touched their hearts but evidently not.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Perhaps the language used in the liturgy puts people off the message. Perhaps a sacrament for believers excludes the non-believer, again putting them off the message. Perhaps just reading the gospel without challenging non- believers to repent and believe is not enough. Just some thoughts.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Bob the language is that of Common Worship or the Book of Common Prayer. They are the only services authorised in the CofE.

Ian H
Ian H
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Which does not have “Mass” in it…. for which you challenged Bob earlier and pointlessly.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Ian H
1 month ago

I think that was Fr David H; though I am puzzled as to why everyone is so hung up on nomenclature.

Ian H
Ian H
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Yes it was… Apologies for the attribution. I think the point you raised re “nomenclature” is fair enough and that Bob was being criticised pointlessly

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Ian H
1 month ago

A church which has no eucharist – or mass – isn’t truly Christian. Bob seems to support such organisations. Criticism is, therefore, not pointless.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

He wrote: “The rest have parish Eucharist or Holy Communion.”  

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Are you then saying that the Quakers, who do not use the Eucharist, are not Christian? I think they would beg to differ.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pat ONeill
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

The Salvation Army are the same. I have no idea whatsoever why they fail to follow the Christian requirement to “do this in remembrance of me”.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Is it a “requirement”?

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

That doesn’t mean that it excludes people.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

If we abolish the liturgy and the Sacrament we have abolished Anglicanism – which is precisely what the Happy Clappies have done.

David J Goss
David J Goss
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Perhaps it is not only the parents who should be expected to attend a weekday mass. – My daughter lives in Switzerland and the Catholic Parish Church to which she belongs has a thriving congregation with a significant number of children. – Each year a group is prepared for First Communion. – Preparation includes the requirement to attend a weekday mass before school once each month for a year, and the option of learning to serve at mass on Sundays, but it also includes the opportunity to take part in a variety of social and “fun” activities. – This group… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  David J Goss
1 month ago

This has been my experience worshipping in the Catholic Church is France. Lots of adult lay involvement, including catechism, Sunday worship music, and even hospital visitations. Given the clergy shortage, the laity have taken ownership and told ‘Fr’ he is useful in his remit. It’s a win-win thing. We had lots of kids, scouts are vibrant. In France, the ‘counter-cultural’ character of being Christian is now winsome for many, including the young. Church and culture relate of course, but the Church has its own distinctive vision. The unforeseen advantage of ‘laisication’ at the turn of the 20th century (Jules Ferry… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

This has already happened. Expensive church planting, with happy-clappy ministers, smiling youth teams and sermons about that great bloke, Jesus, have not hastened the decline. In fact, such places are alien to the English psyche and are bound to lead to oblivion. The exciting theology of the 60s – as in Colin Coward’s article – has been replaced by Alpha courses, songs on screens and an obsession with gay sex. This “successful” congregationalism may include “more family oriented services.”. As long as it’s not a gay family.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

The problem with actually trying to do what Jesus suggested we do is that most people don’t want to do it.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

A life of self-sacrifice has never been attractive

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

And the early Christians grew the church 10% per year for three centuries without spending a whole lot of money at all, mainly by focusing on what Jesus told them to do.

But here’s the rub: yes, I’m absolutely sure you can grow a church without spending a pile of money. But can you grow a traditional C of E style church that way? I’m not so sure about that.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

They may not have spent much money (though that’s arguable). But quite a few lives were spent at times.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Agreed.

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Yes. Mostly lives of their opponents. According to Gibbon at least.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Matthew Tomlinson
1 month ago

Not sure that Gibbon is a reliable witness!

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Why?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I suspect you are using erroneous information.10% growth per annum for 300 years amounts to a 2,617,010,996,188-fold increase. As of the first Whit Sunday there were over 3,000 so, if your reckoning was accurate, there would have been 8 million million in the fourth century. Even today the world population is a mere thousandth of that.

Last edited 1 month ago by T Pott
T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

My calculation was wrong. 3,000 x 2.6 million million is around 8 thousand million million, more than a million times the current world population.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

You are correct; I was quoting from memory and my memory was faulty. (Rodney Stark’s estimate was 40% per decade, but of course this has been challenged.) The actual text I was trying to remember was Alan Kreider’s ‘The Patient Ferment of the Early Church’ (2016). Alan was a Mennonite church historian and his whole book is an examination of the question of how and why the early church grew. In the first chapter Alan makes some interesting observations. He points out that ‘the growth of the churches was not organized, the product of a mission program; it simply happened…Early… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

For those who are not familiar with it, this summary of Alan Kreider’s book ‘The Patient Ferment of the Early Church’ may be helpful.

https://brianzahnd.com/2020/07/the-patient-ferment-of-the-early-church-a-summary-by-peri-zahnd/

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Could you provide the evidence of churches that follow your chosen model are thriving and have a large number of families, children and young people worshiping with them. Just a few examples in England will suffice. Many thanks.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

There aren’t any. The wider population isn’t interested in an organisation whose USP is an anti-gay agenda with not much else to say.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

You have misunderstood my request. I would like you to provide me with examples of churches in Church of England that follow “the exciting theology of the 60’s” .

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

There aren’t any. Theology has been replaced by happy-clappiness and managerialism.. It is said Justin Welby proposed Paula Vennells to be bishop of London. She could have run that diocese like she organised the Post Office.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

But surely those who affirm the “exciting theology of the 60’s” still hold to it, have enthused others to follow embrace it. Surely there must be some amongst the progressive church leaders.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

It may not have turned out to be that different to what we can find in a number of Dioceses today. The equivalent of employees (office holders) treated with contempt by the powers that be, instructed to follow orders without question but left to carry the can if the balloon goes up, doing their best to keep serving their communities to the best of their ability despite the brand becoming more and more an anachronism and support for them being pretty much non existent from HQ. Those in authority doggedly pursuing innovation after innovation, fuelled with enthusiasm from newly appointed… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Let’s see if we can follow you.

The reason for the decline of the CofE is its “anti-gay agenda”;If said agenda were not there, there would be no problemsBe pro-gay, and the CofE will be just fine.Is this the modus vivendi behind all your dyspeptic and frankly scornful or dismissive comments down the years? Is that it?

So, all that needs to be done is #3 above. Then all will be well.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Religion is in decline in all liberal secular democracies. For the CofE to become obsessed with gay sex, in a context where it is a non-issue, simply reveals its irrelevance. If the Church were pro-gay, there would be no stampede to gain entrance. A call to holiness, a prophetic alignment with the poor and downtrodden, a desire for justice for all and a quenching of thirst for meaning, might go some way to halt decline. Instead, we have church ‘plants’ where people are invited to sing songs off a screen.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Religion is not in decline in all liberal secular democracies. The main religion is idolatry, the worship of self, the individual.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Selfishness is not a religion.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

One of the fascinating quirks of the world is that religion is doing extremely poorly in the heartlands of neoliberal capitalism and pretty well everywhere else. One would wonder if there’s a correlation…

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

China and North Korea aren’t particularly devout.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

China’s one thing (and at least partly depends on an entirely separate argument about Confucianism and folk religion, both of which are being actively promoted in the PRC), but in the case of North Korea I’d actually quite stridently disagree; what is Juche if not the old Roman idea of the emperors becoming gods? Kim Il-Sung even carries the title of ‘Eternal President’, and there is no current living president of North Korea.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Where does one sign up for the N Korean religion? Is it possible to leave it? Is there a danger of being executed if you don’t believe in it?

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

So we are now halting a decline by becoming pro-gay (in your lexicon, marry same sex couples pursuant to changes in the CofE standard at present). The other things are your own individual preferences. Is there any evidence whatsoever that the church of FrDavid will even ‘halt a decline’ — which resolves something like 5% of the present challenge. Of course not. If this is the sum total of your longstanding litany of scorn, and it solves nothing of substance, why do you persist in this line of thinking and angry dismissals? It takes up a lot of time and… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Your logic is weak. You are suggesting that something which doesn’t “even halt the decline” “solves nothing of substance”. Isn’t it more likely that the answer is complex and multi-faceted and compromises many things, none of which in isolation will halt the decline, but which in combination can?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Being “pro-gay” , as you call it, is not to halt decline but is a matter of justice and equality. The list I have cited is not my personal preference but the essence of Jesus’ teaching. Why do you persist in refusing to divulge your thinly-disguised distaste for the equality of LGBTQ Christians?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

In my experience certain parts of the Church can be vocal against the perceived wrongdoing of minorities and either complicit or silent when it comes to the obvious wrongdoings of a large group.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Sorry, this was a thread about the severe decline in the CofE, to which you volunteered that this is due its not being ‘pro Gay.’ Now it isn’t about halting a decline. We are back to the mantra of justice and equality. I have no distaste for ‘LGBTY Christians’ but I do have a distaste for positions held and then withdrawn, or always making everything about your own predilections and strong dismissals. I confess to finding it revealing–one does not have to be a therapist–to hear you speak about thinly-disguised distaste when your favorite default is non-disguised distaste. Happy-clappy, smiling… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

At last we agree. I have a non-disguised distaste for the way in which the CofE has reduced the Christian faith to an unbelievable nonsense, to the accompaniment of smiling drummers and casually-dressed, grinning preachers

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I think the decline in London is telling. For years they bucked the overall trend of decline – investing heavily in fresh expressions, Alpha, HTBesque missiology, and church plants – only to find out that they too are mortal. At many church planting or missional workshops here in Canada we were long told that if we followed the fresh expression model then growth would naturally follow. And it did for a while – especially in those parishes significantly endowed with the people and financial resources to invest in that sort of ministry. Trouble is, there aren’t that many churches of… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

‘In fact, such places are alien to the English psyche and are bound to lead to oblivion.’

Well, I’m a foreigner but my mum and my brother and lots of friends and relatives live in England, and one thing that’s very clear to me from my contacts with them is that there’s probably no such thing as ‘the English psyche.’ Most people who use that phrase mean ‘English like me.’

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
1 month ago

I should think that the high point in Harry Williams’ ministry was participation in the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, when he read a prayer. Twelve years earlier he had attended Charles’ 21st birthday party. Not long before Harry’s death in 2006, Charles visited him at Mirfield. Princess Margaret made two formal visits to Mirfield.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Clifford Jones
1 month ago

A high point for me was, whilst on retreat at Mirfield, I was served my dinner in the refectory by Harry Williams who was acting as the waiter.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Thank you. In his autobiography he says that he regarded such tasks as a form of prayer.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

My own church is probably typical of many suburban/urban churches, in a dormitary community in Birmingham. We have a congregation reflecting our community – retirees, working people with college or post graduate age children, some young families and students and we have a number of outreaches, toddler groups, lunch clubs and similar which are of value in the local community. But we are having to adapt to a familiar, and growing problem. Until now many of those groups have been run by active retirees in their mid sixties and early seventies. But, with the increase in retirment age that supply… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing. I totally agree. At my church we face the same issues. Do the same thing just because we have always done it is the wrong approach. Being adaptable in the way we do things is crucial, but the message stays the same.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Hullo Bob. Things move on – Kate Keates has raised another issue close to my heart, regarding the announcement this morning that the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition has been held for the last time. The primary reason given is that of an aging active club membership (the show was organised by an individual local society) and a loss of younger blood to take their place. It is not just churches and specialist societies which are feeling this particular pinch – it is pretty well across the board at the moment. Be interesting to see what further comments appear in… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
1 month ago

Christianity is doing poorly in the heartlands of neoliberal capitalism, and the CofE struggles to overcome this with the managerial language of neoliberal capitalism.

One wonders if there is a correlation or something

Picky
Picky
Reply to  FearandTremolo
1 month ago

I’m sympathetic to the Church of England in its travails, but is the possibility not worth considering that the decline is not caused primarily with concern about the hostility to gays, or with not enough jolly singing, or with too much jolly singing, but simply by more and more people finding the Christian message — that there is a supernatural being, God, who created and sustains the universe; that God fathered Jesus on Mary; that Mary conceived, carried, and was delivered of Jesus while a virgin; that Jesus, having been executed, was resurrected and rose to heaven; that if we… Read more »

PatrickT
PatrickT
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

Seems quite likely to me that this is the underlying issue. Well-run individual churches can buck the trend by being very strongly engaged with people, but this will only stretch so far and no further.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

That hits the nail on the head. It is religion that is the problem. The majority wish to lead a happy life without one.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

Perhaps people will sense the loss of this–as Israel forgot the torah, until King Josiah–and tear their garments in remorse and in thanksgiving. There is surely some deep fog enshrouding the people, and gimmicks or up/down votes on LGBT issues, are just subject-changing. This is consistent, I think, with Dr Goodhew’s larger point.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

I agree with you very much, but we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament contains some wonderful and valuable stories, but the question is how do we use them and what gives them value. What is a hermeneutic appropriate for the 21st century? We used to regard the Garden of Eden stories as historically true, but after difficult debate in late Victorian times most people have managed to accept that these stories were, instead, mythical or legendary and yet still had value within a religious faith.… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

“There is a huge amount of work on this sort of thing inside academia, but it never gets from the University to the pulpit.” Let’s grant your point. If you think this will grow the church, I think this is highly unlikely. But to stay with the point, I believe the average church-goer has already figured out that the Bible carries with it categories other than those of the natural sciences. To drill down on this and find scientific categories (legend, history, etc) is an imprecise business and likely to defeat the Bible’s built-in poetic register. Sermon becomes lecture. Proclamation… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

You seem to suggest it’s best to keep the laity in blissful ignorance. They may suspect what they are hearing is infantile rubbish, but we’d better not teach them anything because they “don’t care to have that sorted out”.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

You have a penchant for heading for the most depressive account you can confect. ‘Blissful ignorance’. ‘Infantile rubbish.’ You simply cannot read anything with curiosity or without at-the-ready attack plans. Draw a breath and try to think. Please. I said nothing of the sort.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Simon Kershaw
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

My experience of talking to fellow pew-sitters is that some people want to remain in a simple faith, and others are happy to be challenged and to think about things differently. And it can be very hard to guess which group someone is in without actually talking to them about it. But I suspect that there are a lot more people prepared to think differently than is sometimes suspected. After all, we do all live in the real world with all the outside pressures that it brings to our faith.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

My point did not have anything to do with ‘simple’ or ‘more challenging.’ I have preached and taught adult education for over 40 years. In fact, ‘simple faith’ people are often the ones with what I would call rather two-dimensional questions, usually in the realm of facts, facticity. John says the Baptist isn’t Elijah. Jesus says he is. What’s going on/who is right? Minds that read texts and have literary instincts often just assume both are right for some reason, and they have worked that out ahead of time (the Baptist didn’t say this about himself; Jesus said it about… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

On your point of the need for discretion, btw, I agree. My previous note had to do in part with reading the culture rightly. Our place in the history of ideas. Donne’s sermons are masterpieces of erudition and poetic range. They’d be a flop today, I suspect. My question–borne of teaching the long range of history of interpretation, from Origin to Antiochenes to Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin, Bellermine, Luther, into modernity–is, why is that? What does it say about our cultural moment?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

If people “don’t care” there are contradictions in the nativity narratives, why can’t the preacher explain categories such as history, legend, myth etc and enlighten people? When small children have taken part in the Nativity Play at school, they are likely to grow into teen-agers and adults who reject such stories along with fairy tales and Santa Claus. Explaining how scripture should be read, might mean adults don’t automatically reject them as pre-scientific gibberish, having been taught a more sophisticated way of interpretation.

Last edited 1 month ago by FrDavid H
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Have at it! It sounds like you’d be happy to have anyone in the church of FrDavid. For my part, I’d be more inclined to locate the magi in Matthew and the Shepherds in Luke, but then, our congregations are pretty robust and full of curious Christians. Be well.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

The problem is that once a church declares one part of the Bible unreliable the obvious rejoinder is, “How do I know what – if anything – is reliable, then?” I don’t think I have ever heard a satisfactory answer and those which are offered go over the heads of most people. I think it is one reason why fundamentalist churches do relatively better – they don’t undermine the Bible or faith.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Kate. You are right. Simplistic answers may well what is wanted by some of those people who attend churches already. But as we are discussing. The numbers of those are fewer and fewer.

What interests me are what sorts of answer might work with those who do not currently go to church.

My experience is that quite a few of those (but by no means all) are hungry for more serious religious and theological explanations, but they don’t find that sort of thing in a church and seek endlessly elsewhere.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

One useful avenue might be to analyse the type of Christian content on YouTube and Instagram which gets views, and which doesn’t. From my own viewing, I would say that being a first rate presenter is an essential. If we go back 60 years, people had very little against which to compare a preacher. With the growth of Television, and then the Internet, that’s no longer the case. It doesn’t matter these days how pious a minister is, or how erudite their theology, unless they are a great presenter they won’t get an audience. I wonder if some of the… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
1 month ago

In unrelated news, the Warley National Model Railway society has announced that they are cancelling their annual exhibition at the NEC which has run for 30 years. https://thewarleyshow.co.uk/ Only, I don’t think it is unrelated news. They are struggling with volunteers who are ageing. Sound familiar? One of the arguments on this thread has been whether it is just the Church of England which has been affected by decline or whether it is Christianity – or religion as a whole – more generally. But maybe it’s something which goes beyond religion and is a greater social trend. Is it that… Read more »

Baptist Trainfan
Baptist Trainfan
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

As a fellow railway enthusiast (though not a member of any society) I think you make a good point. I’d make another. When Dr Beeching closed lots of little village stations, the belief was that people would take the bus (or drive) to the big town and catch the train there. Some did – but others either chose to drive the whole way or stopped travelling because it was too difficult. I’m not defending the multiplicity of denominational places of worship in small communities – but if churches in these places are closing or having infrequent services, and if all… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Baptist Trainfan
1 month ago

How about forming partnerships with those larger urban churches? The church I am a member of has been supporting smaller churches for many years, both financially and by sharing gifted people such as organists.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Baptist Trainfan
1 month ago

That’s the BIG mistake the Church of England made. Many people want to know the people with whom they attend church. Forcing them to travel, broke that bond. It stopped attendance being something done with friends and acquaintances and turned it into something done alone. I am unsurprised many people have stopped going. Your Beeching analogy is spot on.

I think Stephen Cottrell articulated the answer a couple of Synods ago when he called for a simpler, humbler Church of England but the will isn’t there at senior levels.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Hullo, Kate. You beat me to it! Having both exhibited, and crewed a society stand at Warley, I received the announcement early this morning. For a variety of reasons it did not come as a surprise; what is particularly interesting, akin to the point I made here recently, is that the primary reason stated is both aging active membership and lack of younger – in this context probably people in the 40 – 60 age range – people to replace them. (Dwindling attendance and rising costs are also involved – not surprisingly this may sound familiar.) And you are spot… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

I so get that point about energy…

But, reading your response made me realise something. Maybe it’s not something our generation can fix. Our ways suited us but the difference between cohorts is now so large that maybe it’s for Gen Y and/or Gen Z to fix – if they want to.

My guess is that they don’t want to, or, to be more precise, not enough of them do to be effective.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

The basic problem is summed up in an old prayer. “Lord, give me the courage to change what I can, the faithfulness to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In my experience religious people and model railway enthusiasts actually have more in common than they are willing to admit – in a great many ways. But, as Rev Awdry remarked, railways and the Christian faith are both very good ways of getting to excellent places………

Francis James
Francis James
1 month ago

The continued fratricidal “holier than thou” conflict within the CofE is undoubtedly amusing to outsiders. For insiders it is at best an exhausting distraction, and at worst it causes people to drop out because of the unpleasant atmosphere. Indeed, all too often you hear comment about the amount of nasty gossip amongst church people, and dismay at their readiness to condemn others. By contrast I once had a ship with a crew consisting of Moslems, Hindus, & Buddhists, and they were a delight. The fact that Vennells was in the running for the post of Bishop of London is very… Read more »

Picky
Picky
Reply to  Francis James
1 month ago

I think I remember Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, (and if I’ve remembered wrongly I apologise to him) saying that he attends church, but it is “a social thing”. I don’t pooh-pooh that: the church plays a valuable part in England’s social life, especially in rural England. To me the most worrying aspect of the CofE’s decline is how we will fill the gap as priests and gathered congregations vanish from our villages and market towns. That seems to me a matter of more pressing concern than the Barsetlike party warfare that is waged day after day in this forum.

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