on Saturday, 22 February 2020 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Jen Williams A Church Funeral can be a Moment of Radical Hospitality
Anthony Archer ViaMedia.News Church and State – The State We’re In!
Janet Fife Surviving Church Being a Witness
Cherry Vann was interviewed on BBC Radio4’s Woman’s Hour; it’s the first item.
Wow! Read Froghole’s comment beneath Anthony’s article. It is stunning.
I believe in an established Church, but I respect intelligence, and both Anthony and Froghole’s posts merit close and careful reading.
I have a lot of sympathy for Froghole’s views, which I have seen developed here and in other places for some time. And his views about most parishes being in terminal runoff are supported by his painstaking research in attending services in thousands of parishes. Certainly I feel that the CofE’s most pressing problem is not the forthcoming shortage of priests but the imminent demographic timebomb of a shortage of people to pay for the priests and, even more so, for the buildings. The present strategy of desperately seeking to recruit more priests, in the fervent hope that they will… Read more »
Susannah: That is most kind, but I felt that Mr Archer’s article is an excellent one. My response, which was over-long, has been removed following an exchange with the moderator. It has been replaced with something rather shorter. It is for that reason that I have tried to respond to some of the comments made in this thread, although in 2017 I had decided not to write in on TA for the time being.
Your return here is most welcome.
Thank you, Froghole, for a clear-headed assessment of the situation. The details of your proposal are another thing, but the main issue is just how serious the decline is. Trying to say it is because of this or that–if only there were same-sex marriage–is to ignore the reality that Froghole chooses not to ignore.
Lots of good stuff, but with pseudonyms, noms-de-plume,etc., I worry about being anonymously manipulated. Is Froghole flying a kite for +ABC or any pressure group or is (s)he a objective commentator? If Froghole (or others) need anonymity to avoid strictures from on high, please say so.
I don’t share my surname because I share here that I have been through gender reassignment but am very definitely not “out” otherwise.
Many apologies. I can assure you that I am not an employee of the Church of England, or of any church. I am not even on an electoral roll and am not a member of any pressure group or club. Nor is the Church in any way my primary interest outside my employment. I am a peripatetic worshipper and the views I expressed are my own and are not attributable to any third party; they derive from my reading and my experience as a peripatetic. However, I evidently got carried away with myself and must apologise to Mr Archer for… Read more »
I suppose I could be disguising an invented story. I just have no confidence that I wouldn’t be punished! I can’t prove that to you, I’m afraid.
It is a sad comment that the modern management/surveillance culture of churches, schools and universities, large organisations etc force people to use pseudonyms to avoid sanctions. Tellingly, English Athena uses the word ‘punishment ’. It is a sign of the corruption of values and a flight from truth in one of the very bodies, ie the CofE, which should uphold the pursuit of truth. I understand that in some cases people’s social media accounts are regularly checked to see if there are departures from current orthodoxies. Clearly, some contributors have no option but to use a pseudonym. It takes a… Read more »
”Trying to say it is because of this or that – if only there were same-sex marriage – is to ignore the reality that Froghole chooses not to ignore.” I think you are wrong. Under two factor theory some aspects are motivators. For example, style of worship (eg a plant) is probably a motivator: it can make people happier about a particular church than they would otherwise be. I suspect, with all due respect to Anthony, that convenient service times is also a motivator. But the collapse in attendance is driven by a failure to meet hygiene factors, irrespective of… Read more »
I read Anthony Archer’s piece and the Froghole comment afterwards with particular interest. I enjoy Anthony Trollope a great deal and every few years I plow my way through all the Barchester and Palliser (or parliamentary) novels from beginning to end. One of the novels, “Phineas Redux,” was published in 1874, not very long after the Irish Church disestablishment in 1869, when there was some amount of feeling that the disestablishment of he English Church would inevitably follow in short order. In the novel, there is some feeling by members of the Liberal Party that the church should be disestablished… Read more »
What’s often missed is that the CoE was de facto disestablished in the ’70s (the blog itself makes reference to it gaining control over doctrine and episcopal appointments, a process finalized in the noughties). Today’s church is the worst of all worlds, having all the perks of establishment, but none of the burdens and responsibilities. There’s only two sustainable options: Synod gives up its powers over doctrine and appointments, and the CoE reverts to being a true state church, like Denmark’s; or disestablishment becomes also de jure. The former option doesn’t appear viable in a multi-faith society — would non-Christian… Read more »
“…but it will happen quickly after her death.” I wouldn’t be surprised that when Welby was mooted as ABC, the fact of pending disestablishment was already in the air, and he was one they believed could see it through. The monarch has lived a long life, and already had done when he was chosen. During the era of Disraeli, the decline was 1% as advanced as at the present. So ‘inevitable’ has a certain sober reality about it. Why an ‘established church’ no one is in fact any longer attending. You can’t turn that around with HTB plants. And that… Read more »
This appeared in The Guardian today. So the movement towards disestablishment continues.
Janet calls for justice. Without justice, there will never be peace (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris). Justice is love in action. Fighting for justice is the pre-eminent Christian duty. I witness hand-wringing prayers for this and that human tragedy, and think how truly hypocritical they are unless we are prepared to get our hands dirty. An abscess that causes pain needs a knife not a sticking plaster. Metropolitan Anthony(Bloom) of Sourozh wrote “I am frightened when I hear a congregation … intercede for one need after the other, piling up on their shoulders all the needs of the world just… Read more »
I think Metropolitan Anthony once described most Anglican intercessions as “reminding God of his sins of ommission”
Re A Archer/Froghole. Can you really have a National/Folk Church without a Church Tax?
Dr Butler, The model I had in mind with the bill I drafted was an amalgam of those used in Scotland and France, albeit with significant differences. There would be no church tax, though there could be. There would be a non-denominational religious buildings agency, which would be an arm of the state. Paul Binski, late of Caius, has suggested that there can be no solution to the problem of church buildings without the state: the question is how to bait the state in the current political and financial climate. The only way I think it would be remotely plausible… Read more »
“Paul Binski, late of Caius, has suggested that there can be no solution to the problem of church buildings without the state: the question is how to bait the state in the current political and financial climate.” Indeed. However, a perfectly reasonable question is “should the state fund buildings for an organisation which insists on refusing to follow equal-opportunities legislation, and refuses to allow those buildings to be used for legal purposes — marriages — by certain groups?” A hotel which advertised itself as a heterosexual-only wedding venue, or a not-previously-married-only wedding venue, would be acting illegally, and doesn’t demand… Read more »
Many thanks (and also especially for your note about Dresden). I had attempted to anticipate this problem in the bill I drafted in 2018. The whole point of the 6bn disendowment of the Commissioners is that the Church would (and would be seen to) pay for access to its stock. In return it would gain secure access to the stock, much in the same way that the Church of France was given access after the forced expropriations of 1905-08 (that access is not controversial in France despite the attitudes of the RC Church to equal opportunities and the rigid adherence… Read more »
Very much agree with your final paragraph. The attritional loss of buildings (which, as you say, are a key asset of a truly national and parish-based Church) would in my view be catastrophic. The presence of churches in so many communities across the country is not only a cultural treasure in itself. It witnesses to the continuity and spiritual presence of Christianity, community by community, up and down the land, through history and into the future. The Church of England is not framed around people alone. The priceless existence of church buildings over so many centuries provides a platform for… Read more »
I’m all for saving historic buildings and making them available to communities, but they don’t need to remain consecrated churches for this to happen. With the drop in congregations and clergy, it simply isn’t viable for every church to remain a church: ministers driving round vast benefices of seven or eight rural churches, rushing through a service before jumping back in their car, means that in any case the “village church” has been reduced to tokenism, not the beating heart of the community. Then there’s the equality question. Members of other faiths (and none) will rightly ask why on earth… Read more »
I think that it is perfectly viable for churches to remain churches without ministers. All that is needed is one or two point people. In certain tracts of the country services are conducted by retirees, readers, churchwardens, pastoral assistants and, sometimes, other laypeople. Also, I have encountered many benefices or mission communities with well over ‘seven or eight’ churches – even in prosperous counties like Essex or Hampshire. The agency I have proposed is intended to service Anglicans because the legislation I prepared would result in the disendowment of the Commissioners. It is only right that Anglican money should underwrite… Read more »
Thank you, Froghole, for your clear-sighted and prophetic vision which strongly resonates with me. You have said that you are not even on an electoral roll. Are you aware of anyone in authority in the church who shares your view and is able to drive it forward, instead of the preposterously over-optimistic fantasy that is currently being pursued? You rightly emphasise the importance of our buildings as part of our national patrimony, whereas the current strategy has the Commissioners ploughing part of their capital into setting up large youth-orientated churches in non-ecclesiastical buildings like old warehouses, thus further diminishing the… Read more »
Many thanks for your comments. Incidentally, I did have a correspondence with the previous incumbent of your parish (whom I believe was a trustee of the CCT), especially about the future of the closed church at St Paul’s Cray (this was about nine or ten years ago). I prepared a bill, and submitted it to the Third Commissioner (Dr Eve Poole). I received a card from her stating that it would be sent to the Legal Office. I never heard anything again – the Commissioners’ lawyers having presumably placed it in the circular file under their desks. Also, I have… Read more »
Thanks, Froghole, for taking the time to reply to my and other comments in such detail. Like Simon Sarmiento, I greatly welcome your return to these pages.
I’m normally as ambivalent (and sometimes as hostile) as anyone about Establishment, but it might help to negotiate the complexities if the helpful perspective that has been advanced by Anthony Archer (and those who have responded to his article) are also seen from this perspective:
It is this level of thoughtful, cultural engagement that the Church of England currently lacks, but which is needed in bucket-loads at this moment.
I’m really grateful for your link to Andrew Rumsey’s site (and doesn’t he write beautifully?). It led me on to this talk that he gave on parish, and theology of parish, which was the subject of a book he wrote. How we envisage ‘parish’ in the present and the future may well pivot on whether, for us, parish is the active membership of insiders in a church, or the whole community around which a church is located. Of course, both could be true, but I’m conscious from experience that a ‘local’ church that served the adjacent community, and was identified… Read more »
Bishop Andrew has published an intriguing book about parishes and the sense of place, which I would recommend: https://scmpress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9780334054849/parish.
I coincidentally wrote to him a couple of weeks ago with my draft bill. He has sent me a holding response. I agree that he writes extremely well, and his book demonstrates that he has a firm grasp of a large portion of the secondary literature. He was held in very high esteem in Oxted (Surrey), before he moved to Wiltshire.
To Froghole mainly. Splendid and robust proposals. I’d love to see the burden of church buildings removed from the shoulders of the diminishing number of OAPs who bear it at present. As with any imaginative and prophetic proposal, there will be naysayers. I don’t want to be seen as such, but in the spirit of covering all eventualities, I have a few observations. (1) There are too many churches. There are too many rural churches, and many are of no intrinsic artistic merit, though many people assume antiquity and aesthetic merit go hand in hand. Close churches. (2) Church of… Read more »
As a kid I was impressed by antidisestablishmentarianism- as a word and having no idea what it meant. Same now. I do however perceive the dangers of posing the question. We almost certainly would not have the number or disposition of church buildings if starting with a blank sheet now. What thought, if any, has been given to how many buildings, of what ‘capacity’ and design, and priests/ ministers are needed (or ‘affordable?) now or under this or that ‘scenario’? A church (building?) in every rich-enough ‘community’? ‘The church’ is already a laughing matter- bishops in the House of Lords… Read more »
Many thanks for probing (as ever). Dealing with each of your points in turn: (1) I agree, to some extent. Take Norwich diocese, where I have worshipped almost everywhere. Fewer than five appeared to have demographically viable congregations; many (if not most) have electoral rolls of less than ten. However, they have existed out of time immemorial for public benefit; I am all for parallel uses, but feel that they should continue to be used (in however attenuated a form) for the purpose for which they were originally constructed and for which they were financed by past generations of taxpayers.… Read more »
Thank you James, Mr Froghole! I shall be astonished (given that I still have a functioning brain) if when the present monarch dies the C of E continues as is. Given the choice between a visionary and coherent option (yours) and a scissors and paste option, I wonder which the powers that be will choose. Well, actually, I don’t. Travelling around Ireland it’s impossible to miss the ruins of mediaeval abbeys and churches with, close by, 18th and 19th century buildings, much smaller, built to serve the population. Some are Catholic, most are Church of Ireland (most Catholic churches were… Read more »
Many thanks, Dr Monkhouse! The key difference, I suppose, between England and Ireland is that the funding of protestant parish churches was often a form of extortion by the ascendancy of an overwhelmingly catholic peasantry and middle class. The Church of Ireland lacked any meaningful legitimacy, save in parts of Ulster (and perhaps not even then) and in certain districts in co. Dublin, Kilkenny, etc. Although nonconformity diluted consent in parts of England, most rate-payers still paid their compulsory church rate without dissent. Therefore, English churches were financed prior to 1868 by taxation underpinned by consent, whereas in Ireland Anglican… Read more »
Fascinating discussion, and timely as well. For the past four+ years my wife I have worshiped in France. We live in the rectory of a village church dating to the 12th century. Angelus peals three times a day as always. There are 24 churches in our secteur pastorale, served by three hard-working priests. They designate the main three for regular 11.00 services and rotate visiting the others for 9.30. One cultural fact that may not be appreciated—and might serve to distinguish the France of turn of century and now, from England. The communes are tremendously proud of their heritage in… Read more »
Many thanks – this is very interesting. When preparing the draft bill I read as much as I could about the separation of church and state in France, and about the practical approaches taken by Combes, Waldeck-Rousseau, Rouvier, Spuller and, above all, Briand (who, as rapporteur to the National Assembly, did the spade work) in the preparation of the 1905 law. In effect, the anti-clerical bark of the Radicals was worse than its bite, and much of the Radical rhetoric in the wake of Dreyfus was about stopping the party from being outflanked by the Left Republicans. The problem with… Read more »
My own sense is that the timing of 1905 made a critical difference, compared with the present dilemma facing the CofE. If I may, the CofE has lingered on with a probably untenable situation until now, when the opposition to establishment is more virulent, and culture more keen to attack Christianity for its historic faults (two wars, empire, etc). This in turn makes the solution less anodyne — if that is the right term to describe what happened in France with the laws of laicisation. But it is also the case that the French may be more conservative in general… Read more »
‘The bill I prepared envisages all pre-1830 foundations being vested in the agency, plus those Grade I and II* units which are felt to be of particular significance.’ That’s all well and good, but that won’t help the vast majority of urban parishes with crumbling 19th and 20th century buildings. I don’t suppose that an appeal to the wealthy supporters of mediaeval churches in prosperous country towns, who would be relieved of the burden of their own buildings, would be much use. Would it?
Many thanks, but the object would be to relieve the Church of the responsibility for acting as the conservator of such a large proportion (>40%) of the national stock of I/II* listed buildings. Yes, the Church would be left with a residual estate, but it could pretty well do what it liked with it and would not be constrained in the same way with the stock that would be sloughed off to the proposed agency. It could do these sorts of things: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/25/holy-housing-developments-how-god-is-getting-into-construction. Alternatively, it could sell/demolish much of its surplus urban stock and invest it for the future, rent… Read more »