Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 24 October 2018

Jonathan Merritt The New York Times It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God
“The decline in our spiritual vocabulary has many real-world consequences.”

Steve Morris Christian Today Why do I have such a problem with Christian books?

David Goodhew The Living Church Mission in Europe and the Future of Anglicanism

Simon Jenkins Ship of Fools Why Halloween ought to be part of the church year

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Bishops’ Letters and the Case for the Defence – “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The Church of England is open and welcoming to LGBTI+ people – discuss

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CRSRod GillisDavid EmmottT PottJo B Recent comment authors
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Jeremy Fagan
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Jeremy Fagan

But in reply to Jonathan Merritt, there’s been an interesting discussion on Language Log about the validity of his methods – see
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=40222
For the first of two or three articles.
Tl;dr – Google ngram data isn’t consistent enough to support his thesis.

T Pott
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T Pott

Mr Goodhew’s article praises London for its growth, in contrast with the “grim” dioceses of Bath & Wells and Truro. It is like the Geography exam question “Why did the Port of Liverpool grow so much?”, to which the student replied “because in the first place it was too small”. The rate per population in London is now 1.7 % compared with a “grim” 3.1% in Bath and Wells. Some of London’s growth is bounce back from the fact that in the eighties it was even worse. Meanwhile London has by far the worst baptism and funeral rates, in contrast… Read more »

David Rowett
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David Rowett

And speaking from the northenmost point of the grim diocese of Lincoln….. (Quite a nice place to work, actually – Chad Varah used to play in my garden, but that’s another tale.) We had some interesting input on Market Towns (’empty high streets and empty churches’): the churches in Cambridge are booming, with a whopping 3% of the population (if I remember rightly) worshipping in the CofE. Elsewhere in Ely – Huntingdon, I think, and Wisbech – it’s down to about 0.5% and the other denominations aren’t tearing up any trees either. Whatever’s going on, it’s not just a story… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Working-class white males tend, I believe, to be among the lowest achievers in school” Or perhaps, slightly less judgementally, achievement amongst white working class males tends to be lower than might otherwise be expected. Attempting to deduce causes from outcomes is hard, and you can usually prove whatever a priori assumption you have by suitable choice of metric. The reasons for low achievement by working class males are at least as complex as those for the decline in church attendance, but they have been studied in more depth and with better methodology. People doing these studies have accurate information about… Read more »

Jo B
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Jo B

David Goodhew’s drive-by sneer at the Scottish Episcopal Church was not particularly helpful. I’m reasonably certain that the (unnamed) diocese with Sunday attendance below 100 is my own Argyll & the Isles, but Goodhew doesn’t seem to have any regard for context or resources in his moaning (nor attention detail, given the repeated misnaming of the SEC). The diocese’s stipendiary clergy can be counted on one hand, and Episcopalians are scattered across tiny communities throughout the highlands and islands. Some of us would need 48 hours to reach a Sunday service in the diocese and return home, while other communities… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Of course the situation in your own context (Argyll/Isles) is a challenge, for the reasons you note. But it did not sound like he was singling your specific diocese out in the two paragraphs of comment. “In Scotland, the decline is bad. Church membership has dropped from 58,000 in 1990 to 32,000 in 2016. Figures from Brierley show that the church’s attendance was around 20,000 in 1994, but by 2016 this had nearly halved to 12,500, and this is without the effect of the church’s sexuality debates, which look likely to drive further declines (P. Brierley, Growth amidst Decline: What… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

From the David Goodhew article, “The Christian gospel is good news. It deserves to be shared and the evidence shows that if congregations and denominations intend to grow, they tend to grow.” Anyone who believes this simply does not understand the intellectual challenges that Christianity in all its forms currently faces in the western part of the world. As for Anglicanism ( note the termination ‘ism’ ) though many of us love a number of aspects of our tradition, we have to face the fact that it is not eternal. There was a past time when Anglicanism did not exist.… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

Rod, there are vast numbers of Anglicans all over the globe. It’s growing in many parts of the world. There are many growing congregations in the Western world as well. Why should anyone be thinking about shutting up shop?

CRS
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CRS

Please don’t state the obvious….

Of course one can loathe anglicans in Nigeria and Uganda, but to say they will, like the ACoC or SEC disappear, is self-referential.

Kate
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Kate

I don’t think loathing other Christians is ever right.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Of course one can loathe anglicans in Nigeria and Uganda, but to say they will, like the ACoC or SEC disappear, is self-referential.”

Is it fair to say that, based on their attitudes toward reason (the third leg of the trio that includes faith and scripture), they have long since ceased to be “Anglican” as the rest of us understand it?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Be careful about getting getting drawn into a bait and switch argument. I have no idea what CRS is referring to with that kind of language. I agree with Kate, loathing other people is never right nor is attributing loathing to others to make a point. Why engage it.

CRS
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CRS

Self-referential: declaring anglicanism about to go about of business because it looks like that chez Canada or TEC.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

You need to think beyond TEC and other provinces like Canada and Scotland and their policies on SSM that you are preoccupied with. The demographics apply to all parts of Anglicanism everywhere in western democracies. Nor are they limited to Anglicanism. Study the Pew info I linked. Self referential? Perhaps it is a case of emerging probability? This is certainly possible when one thinks in terms of large numbers and large extremely long periods of time. The ‘self referential’ charge ends up looking like a claim that only those of us who are in favour of specific policy changes you… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

You need to expand your vision and stop seeing everything through the lens of “anglicanism is disappearing because it is in my neck of the woods.” Blessings.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

It’s the lens of data. What’s more, the current state of the Christianity question in western Europe and throughout the democratic west may well be a bellwether for the planet. Spinning the data in order shine a light on provinces you disagree with like TEC/Canada/Scotland is a perfect example of …you know… the ‘self-referential’. You know, fifty years ago or so, when Churches were being built on every block and in every suburb; Sunday schools and parochial schools were overflowing with kids; candidates for baptisms, confirmations, and ministry formed long lines; church organizations and church run institutions were thriving; and… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Just remember, it is YOUR lens of data. It isn’t remotely “the lens of data.” You need to stop and resist this kind of wise hauteur. Blessings.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The data is statistical, is reasonably solid, gives rise to a host of questions, is suggestive of future trends. I find it simply irresistible. As Lonergan notes, statistical information is verifiable. I’ve never been much concerned by suggestions about what I may “need”. But as always, I’ve appreciated the friendly sparing match. This site is great for that at times. As we say here in L’Acadie, à bientôt. ( :

CRS
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CRS

Empiricism inside arm’s length is always unreliable…It’s a big world out there. Declarations about anglicanism’s disappearance made from inside votre coin — and with such total assurance, as is your wont–well…non merci. That isn’t data and it isn’t statistical. It is local and specious. Enjoy L’Acadie.

CRS
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CRS

“the rest of us” meaning exactly what?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Peter, of the two rejoinders to my comment above, I’m replying to yours because it think it the more focused and open to dialogue of the two. Taking your last point first, yes there are some green shoots here and there in the west; but I wonder how representative, how viable over the long haul? Christianity (of all types) is in dire straits in western democracies. For me there are two related issues i.e. priorities and intellectual engagement with the surrounding western culture. That engagement must offer at once both a viable critique and a meaningful reasonable alternative. I would… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

Thanks, Rod. I find myself in a strange position of agreeing with you that the engagement with the culture is very important, but also being ambivalent as well. I think that’s because I don’t see the Christian faith as being primarily an intellectual movement, but essentially centred on the person and work of Jesus Christ. As such the history of the world, certainly the Western world, is full of examples of Christianity impacting on cultures, and other times where Christians are belittled and persecuted….not least by other Christians. Taking for example that great Anglican John Wesley he both transformed 18th… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: Peter. ” …I don’t see the Christian faith as being primarily an intellectual movement, but essentially centred on the person and work of Jesus Christ.” I agree without hesitation to the second half of your assertion i.e. our faith must be Christocentric. The first part I agree with but with caveats. I don’t understand faith as the result of a problem solving exercise. It has to be grounded on the initiative of God’s love with the gift of Divine grace. However, Christian theology does have the potential of updating proclamation in a way that takes a contemporary world view… Read more »

Jo B
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Jo B

Isn’t one of the things the Wesley’s are famous for using the music of the time and putting Christian words to it? Sounds like cultural engagement to me.

Lucy Granger
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Lucy Granger

I have just started worshipping at an Anglican church in the Diocese in Europe, after being a PCC member of a church in the South-West of England, and several things strike me, not least the sense of purpose and energy that pervades the local church and the Diocese as a whole. In particular… First, as David Goodhew says, this is no longer a context for British ex-pats, but is truly international and this means churches are unlikely to be stuck in a mono-cultural malaise. There is more than one way of looking at how to be an effective instrument of… Read more »

Alan Davies
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Alan Davies

I would concur with Lucy Granger’s analysis of the Diocese in Europe. One important dimension is missing (and pre-dates her time of living in the Diocese). Robert Innes is indeed a strategically focused bishop, and his approach is widely supported and appreciated; but the growth David Goodhew reports (1990-2016) happened largely under the leadership of Dr Geoffrey Rowell, an Anglo Catholic scholar, whose ecumenical sympathies were wide and deep. He encouraged the Diocese to focus on the essentials of being the Church in changing cultural circumstances, and that laid the solid foundations on which Robert Innes is leading us into… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Having served at several parishes in Europe, Fontainebleau and in Aquitaine in the CofE, and Munich in the Convocation, I agree with your take. And I believe the more international the parishioners the better. Post Brexit this may also be more and more the case for the CofE Diocese in the nature of the case. The CofE Diocese is of course expensive to maintain (the Convocation is much smaller) so how things will fare over time is an interesting question. From time to time I hear rumours of a possible Province in Europe, but rumours they are. Like a lot… Read more »

Jo B
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Jo B

I think brexit is likely not terribly relevant given that Scotland is markedly pro-European too.

T Pott
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T Pott

Re the Church of England Diocese of Europe being no longer just for ex-pats, I wonder who it is for. Portugal has its own Anglican Church, so would the Diocese of Europe aim eventually to have C of E churches in most towns of Portugal, “competing against” the local Anglicans. What about countries with their own national Protestant churches? Does Gibraltar want to see C of E churches in Denmark comprised of mainly Danish people, to the detriment of the C of D? Or across Siberia to provide an alternative to the Russian Orthodox Churches? What about Italy? Traditionally the… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

People wanting to worship in the English language?

CRS
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CRS

People wanting to worship in English. Nigerians working at Michelin, Pakistanis in Paris, Scots teaching at the International School, Americans at Corning, and the list goes on.

T Pott
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T Pott

Thanks CRS – so still not aimed primarily at the local indigenous population as a whole then. That’s what I was wondering.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

The traditional assumption that the C of E in continental Europe should not tread on the toes of the existing (especially Catholic) churches still is relevant, but perhaps less so in the much more secularised Europe of the 21st century. There must be increasing numbers of Italians, French etc who have had no real engagement with the Christian church; if the Anglican churches for whatever reason can attract and evangelise them so much the better. Another growth factor (comparable to that in London) is the increasing number of immigrants from anglophone countries who feel welcomed in a familiar language, even… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

That’s interesting, and it’s good to hear that the Diocese in Europe is in such good heart.

But I don’t think the Church of Ireland’s difference from the Scottish pattern can be due to the Republic’s enthusiasm for Europe – Scotland is also enthusiastically pro-European. Brexit is putting even greater strain on the Union.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Interesting to read anecdotal comments about Europe (and Brexit). I’ve worshiped in Europe,both in the UK and the Continent; but my comments would be anecdotal. The Pew Research Centre has a very interesting analysis titled, Being Christian in Western Europe. It examines complexities beyond trends in attendance. For example, “The vast majority of non-practicing Christians, like the vast majority of the unaffiliated in Western Europe, favor legal abortion and same-sex marriage. Church-attending Christians are more conservative on these issues, though even among churchgoing Christians, there is substantial support – and in several countries, majority support – for legal abortion and… Read more »