Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 16 March 2022

Jane Shaw Prospect Keeping the faith in our parish churches
“Well funded and with a reserve of spectacular buildings, the Church of England has the resources to curb dwindling attendance–so long as it dares to re-imagine”

Laudable Practice To Swim the Tiber is to reject the Anglican Tradition

Tony Dickinson ViaMedia.News War in Ukraine — A View from Italy

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The 2020 Micah Letter to the Charity Commission: Questioning CofE Safeguarding Procedures

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Bob
Bob
2 months ago

Jane Shaw states: “The language is all about discipleship.” I thought Jesus also spoke about disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Even in Acts the talk is of disciples. “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” I fail to see why talking about becoming a disciple (those who hold to Jesus’s teaching) is such a negative thing. Surely that is what Jesus… Read more »

A (not so) humble parishioner
A (not so) humble parishioner
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

I think it is the definition of what is (and therefore what isn’t) discipleship as defined by the corporate evangelism that is in the ascendancy at the moment that Jane Shaw has issues with, not Jesus’s teachings. We live in a church where there very clearly is a “right” and a “wrong” way to be an Anglican at the moment and you can only get your hands on the cash if you are doing it the “right” way. Planting new churches and lay-led worship projects where we already have parishes has always struck me as an aggressive act by the… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  A (not so) humble parishioner
2 months ago

You talk of planting new churches where we already have parishes but omit grafting on to existing congregations to help struggling churches, sending some of your gifted people (your small group leaders, your musicians, your technical people, your treasurer, your wardens, your curate) along with their giving and their gifts. Planting a new church or grafting on involves a sacrifice by the sending church. Being involved in a church that is doing just that it is amazing the way the Lord has blessed and is blessing this aspect of church growth, with many people coming to a saving faith in… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

I agree that “being an Anglican is not the same as being a disciple of Jesus”. But it’s clear that many ‘plants’ have only a tenuous link with Anglicanism, and exist to convert gullible people into a nondescript happy-clappy sect. Where are the Churches sending their choirs, boat boys, masters of ceremony, acolytes, crucifers etc. to struggling parishes? There aren’t any. “Discipleship” in today’s CofE is synonymous with grinning evangelicalism and has nothing to do with Anglicanism.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
2 months ago

A good question: why aren’t churches with masters of ceremonies, crucifers etc sending some of their most gifted people to help struggling churches? It’s not happening in my diocese. They seem to prefer dressing up in fancy robes and ritual, using archaic language, preferring mystery to proclaiming the need for forgiveness of sins, preserving the past rather than moving into the 21st century. But then I mustn’t let my prejudices show – “grinning evangelicalism”, “happy-clappy sect”!

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

Why does “moving into the 21st Century” involve copying the rituals of a Cliff Richard Concert, with ministers wearing jeans and T-shirt, and smiling like Cheshire cats? It’s perfectly possible to proclaim forgiveness of sins within Catholic worship, without copying the pop music of the 1950s.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  FrDavid H
2 months ago

I rather think that modern evangelicals are a bit more up to date than the 1950s. Indeed, Matt, Mitch, Jack and Josh strumming their guitars whilst telling the Lord just how much they want to praise him remind me of boy bands from the 1990s, though obviously, as they’re such nice, well-brought up young men, they’re rather more Blur than Oasis.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  FrDavid H
2 months ago

perfectly possible

I’d say it was an essential component. I’ve never attended Holy Communion or Morning Prayer without a call to confession and subsequent absolution and it would certainly be troubling if a communion service were to proceed without them.

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

The comment I usually hear about traditional worship is that it is too much focused on sin and penitence, and “depressing”.

A (not so) humble parishioner
A (not so) humble parishioner
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

I speak of what I know, which is the Church of England setting up a plant in my area that is in competition with my parish (where I worship) amongst others. A parish that is starved of resources and relying on the goodwill of volunteers to run the church and undertake mission, just about makes its parish share, but is not a HTB-style evangelical one, just middle of the road. My church runs a range of discovering faith groups, a junior/messy church, a choir, a range of regular services, links to local schools, visitations to hospitals and care facilities, co-runs… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  A (not so) humble parishioner
2 months ago

I would go further. I think the issue is that all too often the discipleship wanted is for a particular church, not for Jesus. Mission too is seen as a way of growing a particular church, not increasing those who follow Jesus.
 
You can even see in it another of this week’s articles with Laudable Practice saying that Michael Nazir-Ali has rejected Anglicanism. That’s the language of cliques, not of one universal catholic church.

Ian Arch
Ian Arch
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

Jane’s point seems clear to me: ‘The language is ALL about discipleship.’ There is clearly nothing problematic with Christians talking about discipleship. But if that is the only language we use for the church, then there is a great deal missing. And if all descriptions of discipleship come from a particular stable many people and many charisms are excluded from our discussions and we become a poor excuse for the church. Sadly, that is the church I see too much of, and it does not inspire me.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Bob
2 months ago

You are not the only one who thought Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them”. Some even abbreviate this to “make disciples baptising them”. As if “of all nations” means some disciples should be English, some Scottish some Welsh and some Irish etc.; and as if baptising “them” means baptising “disciples”. In fact, in the Greek, “make disciples of” is a verb, and “all nations” is the object. Some translations make this clearer than others. WhenJesus said baptise “them” he meant baptise all nations. So Jesus was not, in that passage referring to “disciples” as a… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  T Pott
2 months ago

I think we all read it differently.
 
For me, the amazing thing is that all nations can become disciples and the gateway is baptism and no need for circumcision or b’nei mitzvah. It is first and foremost a manifesto for inclusion.

Last edited 2 months ago by Kate
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
2 months ago

This is a really interesting topic, and I think it connects with the nature of the Church of England. When I was a younger Christian, and a born-again fundamentalist believer, I was virulently opposed to infant baptism. I took the view that it was only born-again disciples who should be baptised, and therefore, infant baptism was wrong. I had a meeting with Dick Lucas, and in one hour long session he completely changed my mind, explaining how the point about infant baptism (similar to the baptism of all the Israelites through the Red Sea) was that this was something that… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 months ago

Yes. Very much so.   “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” – Matthew 6:2   That’s the other half of this. If the emphasis in a church is placed on giving to the church – or even just being seen at its services and at its events – then the only reward from that is the social standing you get within the church. On the other… Read more »

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
2 months ago

And let us not forget who was the driving force behind the re-imagination of St James W Hampstead. The notorious Andrew Foreshew-Cain, so dreadful a person that he cannot be trusted to hold a bishop’s licence or a PTO because (clutches pearls) he married a man! God help us.

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
2 months ago

Jane Shaw says…”Traditionally, the C of E has been able to serve such seekers, and those on the edges of organised religion, locally through the parish—through the provision of baptisms, weddings and funerals; compassion and pastoral care in times of crisis”. One of the CofE’s best support initiative was the Weddings Project (and then Christenings and Funerals) under the umbrella of Life Events. It was a good resource to help parishes make the absolute best of the Occasional Offices. So why the bonkers decision to scrap the team ? https://churchsupporthub.org/life-events/life-events-articles/big-news-big-challenge-from-life-events.php ? It defies any logic to take away a resource… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
2 months ago

I hadn’t seen the news that the Life Events team was being scrapped. It strikes me as very telling that a central initiative that related to day-to-day parish ministry has been deemed unnecessary.

James Nye
James Nye
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
2 months ago

Yes indeed. Is this another example of ‘Simpler, Bolder, Humbler’ or an audacious example of top-down hierarchical authoritarianism that cannot even be bothered to inform the wider Church, let alone explain what the process was that led to this decision? Any bishops out there willing to break rank and incur the Beloved Leader’s wrath? I will be writing to my diocesan bishop to ask how this has been allowed to happen. I’ll let you know if I get a response.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  James Nye
2 months ago

If the CofE hits the buffers in 2033; who picks up the assets of the Commissioners? The bishops given half a chance would fritter it away on silly nonsense.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Dean
2 months ago

I would have thought cy-près would apply. The capital should be applied to some similar charitable purpose. The alternative is to spend it before the charity is wound up. Now, of course, everything starts to make sense! The authorities know that the Church is going down, and that they will have a massive fund which can be disbursed to its ‘insiders’ (as with the Soviet ‘siloviki’ in 1990-91). We are talking about approximately £10 billion held by the Commissioners and maybe half as much held by the DBFs. What a windfall (thanks to the parish share)! Perhaps in the not… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

I fear that you’re only slightly tongue in cheek Froghole; methinks with their palatial homes, domestic staff and considerably enhanced pensions they already have a taste for the highlife. A much better scheme would be for it to revert to those ordained deacon in 1995 who have ministered in both the Guildford and St Albans dioceses and currently reside in the East Riding of Yorkshire. I can think of at least one worthy recipient, there may be others.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
2 months ago

Whilst funding for some things is pulled, other jobs are created: York Diocese wants a Start of Ordained Ministry Advisor. That used to be the training incumbent. Another £40k for someone to manage clergy and ensure the diocesan vision is implemented. York has found the magic money tree, but it can’t be spent on parochial posts.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
2 months ago

Crikey that sounds like new sheet music for the band on the Titanic.

Sarah Douglas
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
2 months ago

They are also scrapping the role of the National Children’s and Youth Adviser – after years of saying that children and youth should be a priority! Restructuring now includes several people with role titles such as “Senior Vision and Strategy Consultant”

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
2 months ago

With reference to Jane Shaw’s article, I used to work as a nurse offering care to people with various forms of cancer. I would work alongside many other people to do everything we could to help the patients “fight” the cancer and prolong their lives. For many people this worked and it was entirely appropriate. For some people this didn’t. At a certain point in their illness it became necessary to switch focus and move to palliative care. This was a difficult but necessary transition. Without making that change then the patient could be left with feelings of failure and… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Simon Dawson
rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

I think that’s a very broad brush way of looking at things. My village has got a population of 400, and a congregation (outside harvest festival, Remembrance, Christmas and Easter) of about 20. Or 5%. How about we close any church which doesn’t bring in at least 5% of the population of the town, village or city borough it is in every Sunday and use the money to support those that do? so a small town of 5000 with one church needs a weekly congregation of 250 and so on. Where there is more than one church we can close… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  rural liberal
2 months ago

Indeed. Many urban churches with congregations of 40 or so (which I believe is the median level of attendance) are probably attracting no more than than 1% of the population of their parish.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  rural liberal
2 months ago

I think it is called a straw man attack. You attribute to me a suggestion that I never made (the 5% attendance rule), and then criticise that rule, and then criticise me on the basis of that. I am delighted that your church is successful. I agree that many rural churches are surviving against the odds. I work and minister in a few of them myself, and I will be leading matins this Sunday in a grade 1 listed edifice with a loyal congregation of four. All I am saying is that a “one size fits all”, “save the parish”,… Read more »

Sarah Douglas
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

I think you are equating successful with “good numbers attending”. I wrote this a bit ago but think it is still relevant: https://meristemweb.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/how-do-we-count/

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Sarah Douglas
2 months ago

Thank you for the link Sarah, but I am puzzled why you think I am equating successful with good numbers attending. I am not aware that either of my posts suggested that.

Best wishes

Sarah Douglas
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

I think it was the phrase that you used in reply “I am delighted that your church is successful” and also the implication in your first post that rural churches that do not have many attending are “unsustainable”. If the reason that they are “unsustainable” isn’t due to low numbers what is the reason? Is it financial (though low finances don’t always correlate to low numbers as some places have well off attenders who are very generous)? Perhaps I shouldn’t be taking unsustainable to mean unsuccessful – but then what organisation would want to close their successes?! What does a… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Sarah Douglas
2 months ago

“What does a successful church look like?” I think that is a fantastic question that deserves a page of its own. It’s probably a question which people might attempt to answer in many different ways. To me, a successful church is one that helps attendees, AND the secular community around it, open to the LOVE of God in action, in ways that help people believe in the goodness of love and caring and ‘being a community’; and I think a successful church is also helping people grow in that opening to God’s love way… in service of others, in opening… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 months ago

Susannah. You normally word your comments so carefully. But here you say “Of course, there are hard practicalities in sustaining a church in material and financial terms, as Simon rightly points out. What I don’t think a successful church is, is some group of insiders mainly attending to their own spiritual ‘rightness with God’. I don’t believe in a church for insiders.” This risks implying (unintentionally I am sure) that the main reason for church lack of ongoing viability is down to the deficient spirituality of the congregation. You cannot mean this surely. I can think of churches which are… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Simon Dawson
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

Simon I think I agree with you here: “A church can be entirely “successful” on your terms, but still not be viable through no fault or failure of it’s own.” What I was trying to home in on, was that inward-looking churches may be missing the point of their calling, even if they have large numbers of people in their congregations. You are correct in suggesting that I might not be implying that church closure inevitably is caused by deficient spirituality of its members. I wasn’t. We should do the right things in life, for their own sake, because they… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Sarah Douglas
2 months ago

Thank you for your clarification, Sarah. There seems to be a nervousness that a senior management level might want to come along and close viable churches which don’t meet some arbitrary numerical target, and that my own posts are in some way colluding with that narrative. I don’t mean that at all. My concern is more for the much weaker churches where the congregation have tried heroically to keep going. But after twenty years of struggle against slow decline they now have a half strength PCC which makes up the entire worshipping congregation, none under age 65. And only one… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Simon Dawson
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

Spot on. The Save the Parish campaign appears to be demanding that every parish is kept open irrespective of sustainability. The pressure on small, elderly congregations is unacceptable. Realistically we need to move to a smaller number of well resourced churches. This will be difficult for many but the alternative is that the Church of England collapses under the weight of its own heritage.

Sarah Douglas
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

Thanks Simon for your clarification, which makes a lot more sense. The only thing I would say is that it is possible for rural churches to turn around quite quickly – due to things like change of incumbent/change of what is on offer/people moving in and out. (For example 30 years ago a nearby church had a PCC with an average age of about 75, with little energy for anything. 10 years later the PCC average age was about 65 and the church had a choir, a wide range of children and family worship and ministry and an active pastoral… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

“The Church will collapse under the weight of its own heritage” The collapse has happened already, with or without the help of the heritage. As I have noted many times, I can easily attend services at more than 100 churches, and scarcely see anyone under pensionable age. Things are so far beyond recovery that the question is now what is to become of the heritage, and in my view it should be a public trust held for public benefit and not privatized for the private profit of a disappearing denomination. As I have noted before, the capital and labour used… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

I can follow you part of the way with reference to buildings, but how realistic is your proposal?Is there really enough money in the system for every church in every parish to be maintained in perpetuity? Has anybody done the sums?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

The likelihood of my proposals making any headway at all is close to zero, if not less than zero, since they would result in the dioceses being left standing (i.e., being effectively abolished) in a game of musical chairs. That would be an existential threat to too many vested interests, since the Church is essentially an agglomeration of bureaucratic baronies or vested interests. The expropriation of about £6 billion or so from the Commissioners would provide a dowry for a national agency (the Commissioners would be compensated via a transfer of diocesan assets). In 2015 parishes were spending about £100m… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

Thank you. Somehow I suspected that you had done the sums before I even asked the question.

My only concern is where you say “vesting the stock in a National Agency of the State”. In the current political climate any such agency would be outsourced and privatised, and become a cash-cow for shareholders or vulture capitalists, rather than being run as a source of security for church buildings.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Simon Dawson
2 months ago

Could “a National Agency of the State” (if it were to happen) arguably have charity status? If it did, then the position would be fully protected by the Charities Act 2022, passed barely four weeks ago – no getting around the cy-près doctrine, enforceable both by the Court and the Charity Commission. Further reading and study are necessary, as this is just hot off the press. Froghole will doubtless have a view about charitable status. It ought to follow automatically, but could legislation intervene?

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

I very much agree.

So are church leaders in conversation with political leaders about the development of this kind of Trust?

If not, why not?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 months ago

I think that the politicians do not want to know (as per Alastair Campbell: “we don’t do God”), and the Church authorities presumably feel compelled to live up to Karl Marx’s dictum that the bishops would sooner part with the XXXIX Articles than yield a penny of their wealth. Also, I don’t think that many Church leaders really know enough about the condition of most parishes or, if they do, are anxious not to comprehend the enormity of the problem and the improbability of a resolution to the problem which accords with their faith system. After all, they presumably believe… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

I think it needs to be pitched as ‘Community’ rather than ‘God’. With the ‘Heritage’ thing chucked in as well. Otherwise I can see thousands of churches across the land sold off piecemeal in the end, with benefit only to those outsiders with the money to convert them for residential or commercial use… not for the benefit (and oversight) of the communities themselves. There must be so many good uses that churches might be put to for communities, if only their fabric could be maintained for posterity as heritage. But without vision and leadership I suspect what might happen is… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 months ago

“It’s just that I’m also tempted to suspect that things are just left to drift, partly out of denial about the extent of collapse in numbers and viability.” Many thanks. I think that is precisely what is happening. The primary purpose of the Taylor report (2017), commissioned by the Osborne Treasury, was really to reduce public subventions. Euthanasia by degree is probably the most likely outcome. However, I fear that future generations will be as indifferent to the loss of this posterity as they will to the concurrent loss of the landscape, which is also being ravaged at an alarming… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 months ago

There is precisely zero prospect of any politician of any political party agreeing to take on thousands of listed buildings nationally or locally.

The C of E ought to be coming up with its own proposals. Perhaps a major extension of the Churches Conservation Trust or a new charity to which most of the listed buildings could be transferred with funding from the Commissioners. These buildings could then be leased to viable congregations where possible or otherwise closed/sold/retained for occasional use.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Sam Jones
2 months ago

I proposed just such a plan to the CCT 5 years ago. In a conference held at the V&A in the autumn of 2019 their CEO Peter Aiers stated that there was absolutely no way this would happen. This is why I then changed my proposals. The disendowment and disestablishment proposed were political cover for my revised suggestions. Again, I would note that almost the entire stock of churches in France is owned by the state: France has a slightly smaller population and many, many more churches. Remember also that 70% of the CCT’s funding comes from the taxpayer via… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Sam Jones
2 months ago

It pains me to ask, but why should churches be preserved? Why not take off the roofs and let them decay? How about a reasoned analysis based on rational rather than sentimental criteria? On the whole, I don’t think people would care two hoots if the churches were closed/sold/demolished. There would be wailing and gnashing of teeth from some “middle class” types: groupies of the Pevsner heritage industry and choral evensong. Some in rural areas might splutter a bit, but as I have said before, much more important to them than the church building or a resident parson is the… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
2 months ago

A recent representation I made with respect to the pending closure of Little Wigborough (Essex), where the estimate for resolving the subsidence problem was approximately £200k, recommended removing the roof. I would rather that were to happen than that the building be privatised, as per the nearby Great Birch, following a battle which ended recently after decades of indecision.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Froghole
2 months ago

Didn’t Little Wigborough narrowly miss having its roof removed during WW I when a Zeppelin airship crash landed on the church path?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago

It did indeed, and there is a plaque in the nave to a lady named Zeppelina in its honour. There are also fragments of zeppelin in the nave. The church and churchyard are surrounded by NT land, and Copt Hall next door, which provides access, is leased by the NT. However, the NT were not interested in taking over the building (this was being ruminated when I attended a service there nearly 10 years ago); this is in contrast to its more helpful approach at Calke (Derbyshire), Clumber (Nottinghamshire) or Staunton Harrold (Leicestershire). Worship ceased in 2019 when the subsidence… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
2 months ago

Thank heaven someone else has said what I also believe. If the church isn’t viable, take off the roof and let it gently decay. And let those who would gnash their teeth put their money and their time where their mouth is and take it over. Due notice could be given that a church is to be closed, time given for alternative funding and maintenance to be found by those who call so vigorously for the building to be retained, and if unsuccessful after the requisite period, closure and abandonment to proceed. Otherwise the building handed over to a duly… Read more »

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