Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 11 August 2021

Greta Gaffin Earth & Altar 5 ways to pretend you know more about the Church than you really do

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Searching for Expertise in Safeguarding in the Church of England

Giles Fraser UnHerd The Church is on the brink of revolt

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David Richards
David Richards
1 month ago

Giles Fraser is always stimulating and worth reading. But… let me get this straight. George Carey, who described the CofE as a ‘toothless old woman muttering to herself in the corner’ and imposed a whole raft of ‘evangelistic’ initiatives on the CofE from the ill-conceived Decade of Evangelism to Springboard (remember that? – a precursor to Fresh Expressions), and championed people like Graham Cray (whom no-one else would touch with a bargepole, because of his antipathy to parochial Anglicanism, until Carey made him Bishop of Maidstone) is now putting his shoulder to the wheel of Save the Parish. Really? I… Read more »

Gilo
Gilo
Reply to  David Richards
1 month ago

Following the revelations in the Gibb Report and IICSA of Carey’s failed leadership and complicity regarding Peter Ball – he should in my view cease all public pronouncement as ‘former Archbishop’ and go into deep retirement and gardening duty. He continues to make his presence felt despite the state of disgrace that should accompany all that is now known about the culture he led and enabled in Lambeth Palace, and the clear choice he made to protect Ball against the weight of letters of complaints (only one of which he chose to give to the police). He should cease all… Read more »

Charles K
Charles K
Reply to  David Richards
1 month ago

Graham Cray was a good parish priest. He played an important part in my faith journey. Just saying!
Also, the current Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Hull were key players in Springboard which cost the church nothing, but helped equip and train clergy and laity alike. It was not a precursor to Fresh Expressions, but – ironically – was about the renewal of parish life.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Charles K
1 month ago

I used to enjoy the sermon recordings of Graham (and David Watson) from St Michael-le-Belfry and I bought many of their tapes for our church tape library. It was quite a ministry, with its encouragement to be open to charismatic worship. I was blessed by their ministries.

James Nye
James Nye
Reply to  Charles K
1 month ago

I’m wondering whether that would be the same Graham Cray, Charles, who interviewed me for a place at Ridley Hall and, on discovering I was also applying to Westcott House (the other Anglican seminary in Cambridge) told me ‘you don’t want to go there, it’s full of puffs and perverts’? Suffice to say, I told him there and then I wished to withdraw my application to study at Ridley Hall. I’m relieved I did because, the following year a female member of staff at Ridley was treated abysmally when a group of students tried to set up a branch of… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  David Richards
1 month ago

Had the Editor of The Times not published the two letters he did this morning on this subject, one from the blustering Patrick Cormack (who I once ordered from the Chair to sit down in a session of General Synod because he insisted on trying to invoke a Parliamentary standing order which didn’t exist in the Synod standing orders), and one from the rather sensible David Male, he might have published my letter: Sir, Lord Carey (“Former archbishop accuses Welby of neglecting parishes”, August 12) will be familiar with centrally planned mission strategies to revive the Church of England. During his… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony Archer
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 month ago

It might also be argued that, by succumbing to the blandishments of Sir Michael Colman, that the Church Commissioners be relieved from all prospective pension accruals, indefinitely, meaning that the full burden of those accruals would be borne by the parishes via the parish share system, Lord Carey – whether wittingly or unwittingly – did the parish system the greatest disservice. The burden of the parish share after 1998 has been perhaps far more problematic than any divestment of glebe and other endowments after 1976, since it has gradually crushed vulnerable or modestly successful parishes alike, and diverted from them… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Yes, with the benefit of hindsight, a major fault line between the parish and diocese was unwittingly created by the post-Lovelock reforms. These reforms included not only the Pensions Measure 1997, but also the National Institutions Measure 1998 which set up the executive branch of the Church. They compounded a sense of loss of autonomy and financial independence in the parishes, creating multiple conflicts of interest. This was the experiment that has monumentally failed.  In some respects, the fiduciary responsibilities of PCC members as the trustees of a local charity are at odds with those of the diocesan board of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Many thanks for that! Indeed, the 1999 Measure was arguably also the creature of the Lovelock disaster. It was widely felt that, whereas Geoffrey Fisher had kept a close eye on finance, some of his less efficient successors had not (Michael Ramsey and Robert Runcie were largely uninterested in financial matters). The combination of excessive burdens being placed upon the Commissioners by an unthinking Synod, and senior prelates allowing the Commissioners (Jim Shelley, Michael Hutchings, Martin Landau and William Wells) to go on desperate frolics of their own, led to such disasters as Ashford Great Park or St Enoch’s shopping… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you, again! I agree with you that many functions could be carried out by Church House. It seems quite absurd that a parish church in Windsor or Newport Pagnell has its administrative centre in distant Oxford. The redistribution policies inherent in both the diocesan common fund/parish share, and the Commissioners’ allocation of central resources, are typical of a lack of joined-up thinking, in my view. Whereas the dioceses advise wealthier parishes to support those in decline but not necessarily deprived, the Commissioners steadfastly refuse to do so. You may counter this by arguing that the Commissioners can take a national… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Many thanks again for that! The proceeds of sale of glebe are required to be allocated to the diocesan stipends’ fund under Section 19 of the 1976 Measure and its replacement, Section 25 of the Church Property Measure 2018, but what would be useful to know (and I have seen no statistics) is the rate at which those assets have been run down since 1976-78 (the must have been run down, because why else would the numbers of stipendiaries have been reduced so aggressively since the mid-1980s, and why would there now be such stress on parish share subventions?). Also,… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Yes, you are right to observe that parish officers are feeling the pinch. The burdens placed on them are becoming more onerous while the number of regular attendees has decreased. The top-heavy layers of bureaucracy at a national and diocesan level do not appear to serve the parish church as effectively as they could do. They have become a deadweight on parish ministry. This unsatisfactory state of affairs can probably be traced back to the nationalisation of parochial assets in the late 1970s and further reforms of the late 1990s, as you have often pointed out. They resulted in shifting the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
A (not so) humble parishioner
A (not so) humble parishioner
1 month ago

I can’t but agree with the Giles Fraser piece. I have felt most strongly that the central bureaucracy has long been cannibalising the parishes, robbing them of the resources to do good ministry and actually using these resources to actively undermine parishes by funding evangelical church plants that directly compete with parish churches regardless of what those in charge of that programme claim. As for the current preponderance of bishops and other diocesan functionaries, this has been a bugbear of mine for a long time, both with the previous creation of a mysogynistic “church within a church” for people who… Read more »

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  A (not so) humble parishioner
1 month ago

It’s tough but crackable, and once one diocese has made the change others will follow. Diocesan Synod: do not vote through the diocesan budget until it shows a shift towards resourcing parishes properly, i.e. a fair parish share, and present an alternative ‘mission strategy’ with a parish focus, CNC: make sure diocesan reps unite to appoint the candidate that has parish in his/her DNA. General Synod and Archbishops Council: send a clear message to the Church Commissioners about how nthey should spend our money. Deanery Synod: make this the focus of your agenda for the next year and send some… Read more »

A (not so) humble parishioner
A (not so) humble parishioner
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

It sounds good, but are any of the people in the synods, councils and committees now ever going to do these things? A wholesale change in the makeup of these bodies seems to be required.

I think I agree with some other views I’ve seen that we need to establish a positive vision of what a parish-centred Church will be first.

Hilary Dawes
Hilary Dawes
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

It has already happened in Winchester, Stephen, with decisive consequences. I gather there are one or two other bishops out there with worried looks on their faces as a result. It is indeed time that elected parish representatives on diocesan and deanery synods started taking their responsibilities much more seriously.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Hilary Dawes
1 month ago

The law of unintended consequences might apply. If Diocesans think they might be voted out, they are more likely to only appoint / influence the appointment of ministers, archdeacons etc from within their tribe.

A (not so) humble parishioner
A (not so) humble parishioner
Reply to  Hilary Dawes
1 month ago

I’ve been reading up on the goings on in Winchester and whilst it is clear that there is a lot of issues with how +Dakin has chosen to operate as bishop, there are some generalities that should have our episcopate worried. The relative profligacy of supporting resource churches and pet projects during such a difficult time over the last 18 months is surely not something that Winchester was alone in doing. The pandemic has thrown many things into sharp relief including how poorly the church has supported its parish priests and how far it has alienated regular congregations (who give… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

George Carey’s criticism of the present leadership, cited by Giles Fraser, tastes somewhat like a bowl of sour grapes. During his own Decade of Evangelism church attendance dropped from 1.14 million to 969,000. The CofE has learned nothing by its promotion of happy-clappyness as the antidote to an English apathy towards religion .If George Carey’s occupancy of St Augustine’s Chair was a disaster, the appointment of an evangelical former oil executive has been equally dire. It’s time for the few people left among the church-going population to ignore this strange brand of religion from the present management, and be left… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

Further to Dr Fraser, it remains to be seen what practical policy proposals will be advanced by STP. At present, some of its arguments revolve around an apt critique of the Endowments & Glebe Measure 1976. I would query how that Measure is to be reformed (or repealed) and, if so, to what end. That Measure was ‘sold’ to the Church on the basis that it would permit the equalisation of clerical incomes, that the quid pro quo for the appropriation (theft?) of parochial endowments being that the parishes would be assured of incumbents in the future. The first objective… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Surely, part of the question is what is meant by ‘parish’. The C of E has a large number of small parishes, far more than can probably be funded or sustained. However, if we were to follow the model of the Roman Catholic Church, whose modern parishes now cover multiple historic parishes, we might find a model which retains the responsibilities, rights and opportunities of the parish system, but on a scale that might be sustainable. But I have no idea how we get to such a position, nor what would become of the multiple buildings within each new parish,… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

Many thanks, Fr. Dexter. This is happening in some places already. There are several benefices in the Norwich diocese, for example, where former parishes have been consolidated into single units with one set of officers. This approach is being adopted elsewhere. The problem with this tactic is that, whilst certain economies of scale are generated, they are frequently transient, whilst the potential liabilities falling to the officers will only tend to increase with the larger number of buildings committed to their charge (and in many places it is hard enough as it is to recruit officers). Moreover, the larger units… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

According to the logic of your proposal, before remitting a large cheque to a new agency of the state, the Commissioners would presumably first need to redeem their investment portfolio and sell off their land and property. Or are you suggesting that this agency retains ownership of them and continues to derive an income from them? And then there’s the taxpayer. The assets would need to be strictly ring-fenced to avoid going towards post-pandemic national debt repayments. It has been reported that even a small percentage rise in interest rates would incur an increase in debt interest payments of about… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Many thanks. The legislation I have drafted envisages a transfer of title to the existing assets of the Commissioners in whatever form it happens to be. This is precisely what happened in 1869-71 in Ireland (which had been part of the United Church of England and Ireland under the terms of the Act of Union) and in 1920-21 in Wales. The dowry would be ring-fenced under the terms of the legislation I have drafted; it would not form part of any common fund for the government. I am aware of the contents of the Commissioners’ annual reports and of their… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you for your comprehensive reply. A national agency which takes care of church buildings is indeed an attractive idea, because it could take advantage of economies of scale for all the reasons you have outlined. But scale itself isn’t always a guarantee of value for money, at least as far as state agencies are concerned: witness the PPE procurement last year. Couldn’t the agency remain as a body of the Commissioners, so that at least the Church has control over it? It would then keep the capital from which to generate the income for its various programmes. In addition… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Many thanks for that! The reason why I have proposed the creation of a religious buildings agency is that I fear that even a dowry as large as £5bn or £6bn would be insufficient to cover the costs of the buildings over time. The state would, therefore, act as the ultimate insurer for the buildings, but in order to persuade the state to assume the liability the Church would have to be seen to make a sacrifice. What I have suggested in the legislation drafted is that parallel uses are encouraged where possible (and appropriate), subject to certain safeguards, to… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thanks again! It seems to me that there is a debate to be had in the Church, before we even get to Parliament. Indeed, Alison Milbank opened her talk with a quote from a Church Times article last year (29/05/2020) by Giles, Sadler and Warren that illustrates the challenge ahead: ‘Being prevented from “going to church” might liberate us from our habitual routines to “become church” all over again — or, perhaps, for the very first time. Such rejuvenation may help to release us, at last, from the prison of our church building, which, for many, have become shrines to… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  αnδrεw
1 month ago

Many thanks again. I think that there has to be a national debate. Like it or not, the parish churches of this country (and I would include Wales) are perhaps the greatest heritage asset this country possesses. They are also an insupportable burden for the Church, and I really don’t think that it is reasonable for the Church to continue to be crushed by them. This, then, entails a national solution, rather than a plethora of often unsatisfactory makeshift local solutions, or non-solutions. Thank you for your comments about stipends. It is not just the stipends but the pensions. The… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Yes, something has to give. The reforms in the late nineties were very much bound up with a sense of optimism during the Decade of Evangelism when it was felt that the Church could stand on her own two feet and not be so dependent on the family stockbroker. It meant that the parishes were then effectively responsible for maintaining the stipendiary clergy in place of the Commissioners. But it was ultimately contingent on the ability of parishes to sustain that settlement well into the future. In the period since the turn of the millennium, it seemed to work quite… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by αnδrεw
Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Once again Giles Fraser repeats that ridiculous Marcus Walker quote: ‘“the last chance to save the system that has defined Christianity in this country for 1000 years”.’ and he adds the comment, ‘He was probably not exaggerating.’

I say again: if Christianity is ‘defined’ by the Church of England’s parish system, where does that leave non C of E Christians? Logically, they are outside the definition of Christianity.

Who gave Mr. Fraser and Mr. Walker the right to exclude non C of E Christians from the definition of Christianity in England??

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Obviously, Christianity in, say, Alaska or Melbourne is not defined by the parish system as constituted in England. But our 1000 year history of English Christianity has been enshrined in a system “in this country” whereby the Faith is to be found in the Parish Church. This says absolutely nothing about the existence of other denominations. For decades Anglican clergy have joined in services for Christian Unity. Logically, this acknowledges that Christians exist outside the English parish system.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

‘Logically, this acknowledges that Christians exist outside the English parish system.’

Logically, if Christians exist outside the English parish system, then Christianity in England cannot be ‘defined’ by the English parish system. It might even be ‘defined’ by something older, like, I don’t know, maybe the teaching of Jesus?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I agree, Tim. Just as the Church of England is a subset of churches, all churches are themselves a subset of believers. Choral evensong taps successfully into that pool of non-churched believers.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

That is very true, Kate. Music connects the secular and religious worlds in profound ways, whereby musicians who may otherwise have nothing to do with the institution, except retain a Christian outlook on life, stay put.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

The Faith is found in parish churches, but it’s also found in churches of every Christian denomination, independent churches, and people who don’t go to church at all. None of them gets to define Christianity as being their particular system or take on Christian beliefs.

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Have you visited any of the “orthodox” Anglican websites? They believe with certainty that their brand of Christianity is the one and only acceptable to God.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Richard
1 month ago

I grew up among such people, although not Anglican. I’ve had brushes with ‘orthodox’ Anglicans too.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

No one has made an exclusive claim to represent Christianity to the detriment of other denominations. The “1000 years history of Christianity” in England obviously includes the pre-Reformation period and those centuries when independent churches didn’t exist. Why should people be afraid to defend the parish system in case we upset the Methodists, RCs, Buddhists and the Church of the Jedi? Some people are just far too sensitive.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

But our 1000 year history of English Christianity has been enshrined in a system “in this country” whereby the Faith is to be found in the Parish Church.’ That did sound like an exclusive claim.

The parish system is integral to the Church of England and has served the English people very well on the whole, but it’s never worked so well in cities. The then Bishop of Manchester bemoaned that fact in 1898.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

There’s nothing wrong with defending the parish system. But why use inflated language to do so? If English Christianity has been ‘defined’ by the parish system (rather than, more modestly, being ‘well served’ by it), then I’d suspect that’s a big part of the problem. A historical accident has taken the place of the Gospel.

Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

There is nothing wrong with defending the parish system. I agree. I would go further and say that we must not only defend the parish system but in doing so we must also acknowledge that the parish system is diverse and one of its strengths is its adaptability. The parish system, as the phrase suggests, is not a thing but a complex system.

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

It seems reasonable to understand ‘define’ in a broader sense. Following the ‘great ejection’ in 1662 many varieties of non-conformity did indeed spring up in England. Some have faded away while others remain comparatively vibrant. However, because of various legal restrictions membership of the Established Church, or at least regular attendance at the services of the parish church, was a key characteristic of the English religious landscape. The relatively recent repeal (in historical terms) of the Test Acts demonstrates the degree to which the Church of England dominated the religious and political atmosphere of the country. That the activities of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Evan McWilliams
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

I’m happy to acknowledge that a system based on geographical boundaries, ancient buildings and a trained and uniformed clergy who see themselves as having a parental relationship with everyone in their parish has been hugely influential in the religious life of England. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that the teaching of Jesus nowhere requires such a system, and that highly effective Christian mission is being carried out in England outside it – sometimes by Anglicans. So I would continue to assert that the use of the word ‘define’ here is not a minor matter. It smacks of the disciples… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

The teaching of Jesus may not require the parish system but the law of the land does and until that changes there are two very simple options: support and fund it properly or don’t. That, I think, is the key point Save the Parish are trying to make. It would be better in many ways if those attempting to asset-strip and negotiate ‘alternatives’ to the existing structure simply came out and said what they really think. As things stand, duplicity and obfuscation are the name of the game. Far from the teaching of Jesus indeed.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

Splitting hairs on this point serves a very practical purpose indeed. Nearly everything I have seen from the supporters of the Save the Parish campaign consists of nostalgic anecdote looking back to a time when the Anglican parish system was indeed a major factor in the system. But those times have passed. The challenge now for supporters of the Save the Parish campaign is to provide well argued, research based, and costed proposals for how the parish system can be modified to make it sustainable and affordable in a country where Anglicanism is almost a minority within UK Christianity, and… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Well said.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Exactly.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Spot on. The save the parish campaign has nothing to say about how to increase church attendance or what to do with thousands of high maintenance listed buildings.

The evangelicals despised by most TA commentators are at least trying to face up to the issues.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

From my perspective, all but two or three hundred churches are surplus to requirements, nationwide, if we examine current congregations and their age distribution. Almost all of those churches are evangelical, and a large portion of them are conservative evangelical. Christianity stands little chance of growth and much chance of increasing shrinkage; moreover, the Christian message has negligible appeal to the vast majority of the population, whether in its conservative evangelical, moderate evangelical, liberal, Anglo-Catholic, etc., manifestations, and this will continue to be the case, regardless of the ability with which that message is imparted. The Church has spent more… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Froghole
Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Save the Parish campaign consists of nostalgic anecdote looking back to a time when the Anglican parish system was indeed a major factor in the system”

Can we stop being ‘nostalgic’ about Acts and the early church as well please?

Father David
Father David
1 month ago

Archbishop Ramsey used to dread receiving letters with the Trent postmark as they were from his predecessor Geoffrey Fisher telling his how to lead the Church of England and offering unsolicited advice.
It would appear that George Carey has gone a step further in that his two successors have been on the receiving end of unwanted and unwelcome criticism. Surely, Archbishop Carey has had his time in the lime light and he should be wise enough to know when to leave the stage.

Andy
Andy
1 month ago

Regarding the parish system, the CofE has to wake up to reality. The majority of people living in a parish make no contribution to the church (practically or financially) and would not care if the church closed. Christians choose their church because of theology not locality as most will travel rather than attend a church they disagree with theologically. Society has changed …

Revd Mark Bennet
Revd Mark Bennet
Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

Much of this is simply untrue where I am – it is obvious that things have changed, but the changes are subtler and to some extent deeper. Most commentators on parish life generalise too much from their own experience, and don’t realise how diverse and different parish contexts can be.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

That is certainly true over here in Canada. People will drive past several other churches to get to the one they feel most comfortable in. And for most city dwellers, their social networks are far more important to them than their physical neighbourhoods. I may regret that, but it’s reality.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

I suspect most choose their church by style of worship. And actually local residents often put up a fuss if a church is likely to be closed whether they worship there or not. Ask any Archdeacon.

David Emmott
David Emmott
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

I wonder. My last ‘normal’ parish job was vicar of a church with a distinctive, albeit not extreme, style of worship. It was also in inner London. One might expect (indeed, I did at first) that the congregation would be drawn from a wide area of those who ‘liked that sort of thing’. Not everyone came from within the official parish boundary, but I can only think of one, maybe two, people who came from further away than walking distance. It was very much a parish church serving the local community, and it still is.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Andy
1 month ago

It is true that the majority make no contribution, and in many places people would be indifferent to the closure of the parish church, despite tepid expressions of regret (viz. such recent closures as Upper Gravenhurst, Astwood, Chelwood, South Hill, etc.). However, it strikes me as being somewhat optimistic to suggest that the overwhelming majority of attendees are influenced by ‘theology’, about which they are likely to know little, if anything. A minority of the ‘Christian population’ might gravitate towards churches that are ‘Bible-based’, but it is doubtful that their often vague preferences are informed by anything beyond that (perhaps… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I believe the focus should not be on ‘which Christians or type of Christians attend a parish church’, but on the geographically located community that lives and exists in proximity to that church. Where Christian communities at parish churches are actually engaging with these secular communities, and sharing life with them, and living alongside them… volunteering to help, to visit, to support projects etc… then *there* is a connection with God. The huge conduit of grace that has operated through the parish system for a thousand years cannot easily be overestimated because, of course, we can’t measure it in numbers,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Susannah Clark
Father David
Father David
1 month ago

Not wishing to be ageist but part of the problem for the Church of England is that we have a sexagenarian episcopate, As far as I can tell there are only eight Diocesan bishops under 60 – 4 females (Chelmsford, Derby, Gloucester and London) and 4 males (Chester, Norwich, Leicester, Southwell and Nottingham). Writing as someone on the cusp of 70 I recall that I had far more energy in my 40s and 50s that I have now. So, maybe we need a younger and more dynamic senior leadership to assist in the revival of a clapped out and much… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Father David
1 month ago

60-year-old leaders are likely to (probably inadvertently) emphasise policies likely to appeal to old people, and indeed have. It’s one of the roadblocks to growth, but is something of a Shibboleth and unlikely to change. (Even on TA, a push to appoint bishops in their 20s would be met with “they don’t have enough parish experience”.)

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Kate: For a start it would be illegal. 30 is the minimum age for a C of E bishop, and actually I expected it to be older – it would be, e.g., for a high court judge. Wisdom and maturity come with age, but it’s unpopular to say such things!

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

“Wisdom and maturity come with age”. Not sure that’s a given, Mr Wateridge, even for high court judges, and maybe not even for bishops.

Last edited 1 month ago by Allan Sheath
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Allan Sheath
1 month ago

I wasn’t suggesting a comparison of intellectual powers (mostly the high court judges would win hands down – the opposite of what you apparently suggest!), but merely the fact that the qualifying period is a minimum of five years longer for the judges.

I’m afraid the comment which you question was merely my own philosophical observation based on my own old age!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Father David
1 month ago

Honestly, does it really matter? My sense is that churches that are growing aren’t growing because of the age of their bishop, but because they’re intentionally sharing the gospel, making new disciples and furthering the kingdom. Really, Anglicanism attaches a hugely exaggerated importance to bishops.

Father David
Father David
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I agree that far too much attention is paid to bishops. Look at any Diocesan magazine and more than likely it will be packed with photos of the bishops. However, it does indeed matter who is at the top of the pile whether it be school, business or church. Their influence can make or break the organisation, just look at the sad case of Winchester.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Why not abolish them? And do away with Anglicanism as well. That might work.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I have not suggested that we abolish them, simply that we not give them an exaggerated importance. As for Anglicanism, I’m an Anglican priest as you are (although I know that your pathological hatred of evangelicals makes it hard for you to believe that anyone even slightly associated with that tradition is a real Anglican). If I thought Anglicanism should be abolished, I would leave it. Please don’t put words into my mouth.

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

If I may make a suggestion? Obviously the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada are very different entities, with different structures, cultures, histories, missions, and outreach. Can that fact simply be accepted? I do not hear those in the CofE saying, ‘all must be like us.’ Indeed, one can hear quite clearly, ‘we are struggling, our footprint is different, we are trying to make our way…”. Let the ACC in western Canada and the CofE both try to find the best ways forward in Christ. They have different challenges.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

CR Seitz (sorry, I don’t know whether you want to be addressed as Dr or Professor): “Let the ACC in western Canada and the CofE both try to find the best ways forward in Christ. They have different challenges.” Exactly. This is the exact argument against the Covenant. Let different Anglican provinces try to find the best ways forward in Christ, to meet the different challenges, culture and communities in their countries. No need for ‘The Covenant’ that tries to impose uniformity, with sanctions if people disagree. Toleration of diversity, recognition of diverse cultural and social contexts, respect for differing… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

What does the covenant have to do with wanting Canada and England to pay attention to their respective challenges?

Obviously ‘uniformity’ is a bogey-word. No one for a second imagines ‘uniformity’ as something possible, and it is irrelevant to this discussion.

My main point is that survival is now the watchword. Froghole is very good at keeping his eye on the ball on this score, in the CofE context. Canada will have its own plans for survival and mission.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Christopher, I am quite prepared to do that if that is the consensus of commenters here. Howeverr, I would note that I am not the only person from outside the UK who offers reflections based on my own experience of church life in the wider Anglican communion. Indeed, you yourself have frequently shared experiences of church life in France, and used them as an example of what the Church of England should do. Are you also going to take your own advice, and simply accept that the C of E and the Catholic Church in France are different entities?

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I am happy to do that. Not sure how that is relevant. With respect, you come across as very sensitive whenever it appears to you that someone is putting down your own preferred vision of the Christian faith. My simple point is that the CofE is not the ACC. Obviously, it is also not TEC or Catholicism either. The parish system of the CofE is unique to its history. Nothing like that exists in TEC or the ACofC. That’s fine. If I were in the CofE I would want to attend carefully to the specifics of the polity that make… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by CR SEITZ
FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Hear! Hear!

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Even when I am not in accord, I have found Tim’s comments as an experienced Canadian evangelical parish priest of UK origin quite helpful in terms of considering common threads between there and here. The parable like chasms you depict between here and there are not of the biblical proportions you describe. In any event, Tim has expressed an interesting opinion on the Giles Fraser piece, which if social media, otherwise TA, is any indicator, has made a splash on this side of the pond as well.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Thank you Dr Seitz and Fr Dean. I agree totally. My church experience as a rural child, urban church musician, and cleric in market towns, villages and latterly UPA, is that the C of E (and C of I) parish church still has an atavistic pull in rural areas, particularly real agricultural rural as opposed to second home “Jillinda and Toby” rural. And so, perhaps even more so (as I’ve said before), does the church graveyard for on the whole rural people want to be buried with their forebears. Yes, it’s true that those who can afford to travel to… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

“I do not hear those in the CofE saying, ‘all must be like us’.” Actually, and as Tim Chesterton has pointed out more than once, I think the Save the Parish campaign sounds remarkably like that in its very narrow historical focus on the CofE alone and disregard for any other expressions of faith and church. So for my part I feel I need to hear more from Tim and those like him – not less.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Save the Parish is about saving the CofE. Why should it focus on anybody else?

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

I do not think you understood me. “All must be like us” …in places like the ACoC et al, outside the context of the CofE. Sorry if that was not clear (Tim is in Canada).

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Dear Christopher: I was born and baptized in the Diocese of Leicester, and confirmed in the Diocese of Chelmsford. My late father was a priest of the Church of England. My mother is a member of All Saints’, Oakham. I keep in close touch with events in the C of E, and some of my closest friends are C of E clergy and laity. You seem to think I am completely unaware of the unique polity of the C of E. I am not. Still, perhaps it is best if those of us who aren’t part of the C of… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Well put Tim

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

 Rod Gillis and Tim Chesterton: You can have little idea how disheartening it is to ‘loyal’ C of E members (we are even told that we should not describe ourselves as such) to read some of the comments on this thread – from both sides of the Atlantic. I am going to cite two relevant examples of the C of E parish at work in the last 48 hours. I have just seen the details of a magnificent mediaeval church in Wiltshire being totally reordered to allow its continued use both as the church for the parish which it… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Thank you. This again shows how important it is to factor in context, history, culture as it exists on the ground in respective regions of the world. Western Canada and Nova Scotia exist within a vast Canadian landscape, and inside a very small Anglican Church which by necessity handles its affairs in the light of this. I have colleagues in Toronto who think the way forward is ‘Fresh Expressions’ type experiments and those whose more catholic commitments are in the forefront. A parish based ecclesiology is what it is. It has its own challenges, and today these are manifest. But… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

RW, thanks for your informative reply. Historically the parish system in Nova Scotia diocese was modelled on that of the C of E. Generations of clergy were trained at King’s College Halifax to make it so. Even after King’s was integrated into the ecumenical Atlantic School of Theology ( where I trained) Anglican faculty kept the vision alive. Before coming to Canada my prof of pastoral theology, ordained in Durham, worked parishes in rural England. We were trained to provide ministry to all seeking it within our parish bounds. The places that have felt the loss of parish clergy most… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Mr Chesterton. I know that. You speak of it frequently.

I have worked in America, Canada, Scotland, France and Germany in the context of Anglican and episcopal ministry. I have had to learn to appreciate the specifics of polity and culture in each of these. (Even the much maligned (here) covenant was not about creating a black-letter canon law system to impose on every province.) Subsidiarity is an important principal reflective of the realities on the ground and unique and particular histories.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  CR SEITZ
1 month ago

Christopher: the reason the Covenant was and is much maligned in a number of places is because it sought to define who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’ entirely based on their views about human sexuality. It might have been disguised as a polite way of pointing out things that we might all agree on, but nobody was/is fooled by it. If you were pro the gays, you couldn’t be ‘in’ with the conservatives who are increasing in number, if not in subtlety, within Anglicanism. I fear the same could easily be true of the ‘save the parish’ campaign in… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

I’m late to this thread but I think that Fr Giles has accurately summed up how I feel about the CofE and its current leadership. Dr Carey really ought to keep his own counsel for a whole host of reasons. I get the feeling that many contributors have a chocolate box view of rural Christianity as being pretty on the outside with no one and nothing going on inside. This was not my experience at all. Not all of us would want to be in swanky parishes in our capital city; either as lay people or as ministers. The parish… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
1 month ago

The deep structure of the Church of England is predicated on it being the church in a particular nation, a nation where everyone is, or is assumed to be, at least nominally, a Christian. (This much is inherited from the first 1000 or so years before the schism with Rome- a central factor of in the claim to be reformed and Catholic). Geography (and thus the parish system) is part of her DNA, this church is embedded in place. (This is a very different founding narrative to Anglican churches elsewhere in the Communion). Emerging from this has been what has… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Fr Andrew
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

Many thanks, but I would perhaps go even further than this. All the property was given to the Church *in good faith* by its donors, whether the original landlords or the subsequent generations of pew fodder, for the purpose of sustaining the parish church. In addition, much was not contributed on a voluntary basis. By the early sixteenth century church ales had started to metamorphose into compulsory church rate: people were distrained of their possessions (or even on occasion imprisoned) if they did not pay, irrespective of whether they were Anglican, dissenters, recusants or irreligious. Likewise, anyone who was a… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Froghole
Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

To add to Froghole’s historical points, consider legacies and donations today. There are people who would (and do) make generous donations and legacies for the benefit of specific parish churches who may well be put off by knowing any resources might be subject to partial or total reappropriation. Giving parishes far greater financial autonomy really would increase the size of the financial cake imho.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
1 month ago

Indeed. I know people who have asked if they should change their will in case the parish to which they intend to leave money is dissolved and its church closed.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
1 month ago

The C of E website has several pages about bequests to the church both generally and to a specific parish (the PCC is the proper beneficiary). In general, such bequests are exempt from inheritance tax.

I believe the problem which you and Sir Bernard identify could be overcome by the bequest as a charitable trust having strict conditions attached including one to deal with the dissolution of the parish occurring within a specified period and alternative provisions to apply in that event. This is emphatically a matter for a probate solicitor, and not DIY will-drafting.

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

Yours and Froghole’s contributions are extremely well grounded historically and in tune with the present reality. They are crucial if the situation in the CofE is to be addressed. I spent a lot of time–too much, two decades–trying to comprehend the specific charism (your word) of the polity of TEC, and defending it. You may find this a fool’s errand in the case of the CofE. One can pray not. For the time can come where expedience overrides history and stated polity, in the name of causes and present day concerns. In the CofE, these are more diverse in character… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

Geography (and thus the parish system) is part of her DNA, this church is embedded in place.”

Thank you Father Andrew. This is a huge point. I agree that it is a charism, and a conduit through which God has worked in often unseen grace – in place, in community, in presence, in shared lives.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I too am committed to the ministry of the local church in the midst of its community. But the word ‘embedded’ needs a health warning and should warn us this ancient vision may well struggle to be flexible enough when required. We know well how parishes boundaries can and do become hopelessly inappropriate obstacles when plagues radically relocated the whole community, major road systems cut them in half, or large new estates are built on the edge of traditional towns or villages, crossing numerous ancient church boundaries as they do and leaving ancient church buildings embedded on the edge of… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Indeed. I had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Gill a number of years ago, at Hucking (Kent), and asked whether the main thesis, of his ‘Myth of the Empty Church’ (1993) was still valid (I was recounting some of my experiences in Kent, Surrey and Sussex), and he felt that it was perhaps not. Hucking rather proves your point. It was a chapel of the formerly very wealthy parish of Hollingbourne. So wealthy it had a sinecure rectory (the only other instance of that in Kent being known to me at Eynsford). Like many parishes along the spring line at… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Thank you David, and I agree with flexibility. What I yearn for, looking outwards towards the nation, is spiritual renewal. And the word ‘new’ is embedded in that word. As the psalmist wrote: ‘You send Your Spirit to renew the face of the earth.’ And there is even ‘The old has passed away, behold the new has come’ and ‘I am making all things new’. In the current discussions, a juxtaposition seems to have been posited between parish church and the concept of lay-led house church initiatives in many parishes. Personally, as a product of house church in my Christian… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Thanks Susanna. Yes, both/and. I too love that verse from Ps104. I am not a Hebrew scholar and I can’t recall where I read this but my understanding is that the Hebrew verb has a dynamic sense to it and is linked to action rather than time – ‘you ever renew/are ever renewing the face of the earth’. I love the energy that gives to the reading and so to the faith we need need in our time and context. (but maybe someone here knows more?)

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

And Archbishop Thomas Cranmer as the compiler of the BCP appropriately chose Psalm 104 (also my personal favourite) as the proper psalm at Evening Prayer on Whit-Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
1 month ago

The Greta Gaffin piece from Earth and Altar is hilarious.

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
1 month ago

I was just sent an interesting essay, in of all places The Anglican Theological Review, by a woman in Illinois. “Learning from Paris.” It covers the recent developments in Paris and elsewhere in France, including Chemin Neuf and Emmanuel. To my mind, she has captured the cultural reality pretty well. It is important to note how different these new movements are from things like Save the Parish, on one side; or HTB, Myriad, and Fresh Expressions, on the other. If interested it is ATR 103 (2021): 60-70.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

When I reflect as a former Anglican as well as a former Monk on the concerns expressed by Anglicans about losing the Parish as the basis of Community and the basis, perhaps Anglicans need to remind themselves of pre-reformation history and in a way get back to basics. Prior to the dissolution of the Monasteries the Monastery played an important role as citadel of Prayer, and in the past it was Monks both Benedictine and Celtic who were the first evangelists to this Land from the missions from Iona and Lindisfarne and the Augustine Benedictine mission . One could say… Read more »

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