Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 29 November 2023

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Vile Bodies – Christian prejudice and abuse

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters Looking in the mirror?
“What happens to the statistics we carefully collect and collate. How are they used – if at all? In this edition we will look at myths, realities, and aspirations of using church stats”

Thomas Sharp ViaMedia.News Agree or Disagree: I’m Still in Communion with my Bishop

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Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
6 months ago

Thomas Sharp’s piece is very good. I expect that many of the women priests in Blackburn diocese would like to be in communion with their bishop but he has decided that he is not in communion with them, and he was appointed, recklessly and unwisely, knowing that that would be the result.
He speaks well enough of them, saying that their ministry is ‘grace-filled’, but what use is that when he will not receive the sacraments at their hands?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Another interesting piece by Neil Elliot. Stats can be ignored or manipulated for sure. The mirror analogy is compelling. However with regard to decline and seeing in a glass darkly, I’d like to harken back to a comment by Fr. Andrew on the Stats for mission thread of Nov. 10th. “There’s something bigger going in, a paradigmatic change in Western societies that I don’t think we’ve even started to address.” This is an important insight that suffers from oversight with regard to stats. Has there been any systematic attempt to canvas the survivors among, say, the boomer generation, as to… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Has there been any systematic attempt to canvas the survivors among, say, the boomer generation, as to the reasons why so many left?”

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/why-baby-boomers-turned-from-religion-9780192866684?cc=us&lang=en&

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

So in a nutshell, why did baby boomers stop believing? We all know that Anglican engagement reached its zenith around 1964. So what happened? Was it similar to the Quiet Revolution in Quebec that resulted in the abandonment of religious practice en masse in the mid 1960’s? I believe the lesson that senior church leaders need to address is that each passing generation results in fewer adherents. Evangelism, however much we want to believe otherwise, will not result in rejuvenation. We need to prepare and align our policies and programs with with reality of a much smaller church. One that… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
6 months ago

“Anglican engagement reached its zenith around 1964″ I am not quite certain about that. An argument can be made for a near-continuous and relative decline since at least the third quarter of the 19th century (the numbers of the clergy reached their apogee shortly after 1900 and then fell steadily). Clive Field has gone back as far as the 1689 Act of Toleration, and Alan Gilbert has also advanced the notion that decline has been a continuous process of very long duration. The problem is the relative paucity of statistics: the Church was deeply embarrassed by the revelations of the… Read more »

Peter Misiaszek
Peter Misiaszek
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

Your statement on conformity is spot on. Ironically, many in our churches speak of faith today as being countercultural. I suppose worship itself is in the sense that only a minority do it. However, even those who do go to church are broadly conformist in their views. If you were to ask the typical practicing Anglican how their faith changes them I willing to bet many would have a difficult time expressing themselves. I believe most or our churches have become so neutered that a great many pastors shun controversial topics during their sermons for fear of criticism and ostracization.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
6 months ago

“… try raising the issue of abortion or assisted suicide or prostitution in the church today.” Interesting you would group these three. They are distinct issues. However, each has the potential if raised to cause significant psychological and spiritual harm depending on how and in which forum they are handled. A cold open sermon is one of the worst places to raise these kinds of bio-ethical issues. Better to allow people who are struggling with reproductive rights, or with debilitating and chronic suffering, or with the consequences of having been victims of sexual trafficking to take the initiative to raise… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
6 months ago

Just as a follow up, The Anglican Church of Canada has in fact produced two documents on Medically Assisted Dying, the most recent of which, representing a wide cross section of views, may be read here:

https://www.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/fsu-maid-advance.pdf

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Peter Misiaszek
6 months ago

“Evangelism…will not result in rejuvenation…We need to prepare [for] a much smaller church.” I would agree but with the proviso that that can be either an optimistic or a pessimistic scenario. With an eye on the former it is important to investigate what accounts for the phenomena that statistics have been/are tracking. Like anyone in parish ministry I spent decades talking with young adults who were just beginning their lives. In the early days as a young priest these were my peers who had come through the church much the same way I had. So one has conversations around pastoral… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

Thanks for the tip Froghole. Looks like a contribution to an answer to my question. For interested others, a quick search found a review from the church times (link) and a post on the B.C. Humanist Association site by the author Prof. Abby Day (2nd link). I note the e-book format is almost half the price of a hard copy.

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2023/24-march/books-arts/book-reviews/why-baby-boomers-turned-from-religion-shaping-belief-and-belonging-1945-2021-by-abby-day

https://www.bchumanist.ca/abby_day_baby_boomers

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Froghole
6 months ago

I suspect one important element in the decline of institutional religion (not just Anglican, but generally across all religions and denominations) is the rise of scientific literacy. Beginning in the early 1950s, the need for the common population to understand science has grown exponentially. It is no longer enough, for example, to know tomorrow’s weather; forecasting for a week or more…and perhaps more importantly, understanding the forces that create weather…is necessary to plan for today’s complicated world. That is just one example. Add in medicine, food preparation, dietary needs, and now we have a world in which reliance on religious… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
6 months ago

What a refreshing experience to read Thomas Sharp’s piece.
What a wonderful and positive change from the small-minded brick bat throwing nature of Anglican debate whether in the General Synod or in these columns. What a delight to have some good theological thought encouraging catholic unity and Christian charity in such contrast to legalistic nit-picking or snide point scoring.
Thank you,Thomas. Southwark so often is the locus of good attitude.

Last edited 6 months ago by Struggling Anglican
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