Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 30 October 2019

Helen King ViaMedia.News Safeguarding & Sexuality – Are We Throwing Money In the Right Direction?

Trevor Thurston-Smith The Pensive Pilgrim Ancient and Modern : When is church music ‘Good’?

Leo Benedictus The Guardian Churches in nightclubs and Anglican gyms: can the C of E win back city dwellers?

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Stanley Monkhouse
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Can the C of E win back ANYONE when it does nothing about injustice? We pray for peace. Peace implies walls, strength, security (Psalm 122 and lots more). As John XXIII said, there will NEVER be peace until there’s justice. And neither should there be. We need to fight. Meanwhile, churches continue as branches of the Evergreen Club, fostering and maintaining staggering complacency. The conflict between what I know I should have been doing as a clerk in holy orders, and what was actually possible given people, institution and buildings, is the thing I’m most thrilled to be shot of… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I agree. Until the Church of England prioritises reparation for survivors and addresses the inaction (or wilful blindness) of certain bishops, the Church is lost. What is the point of training when the Church doesn’t prioritise justice?

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

That John Pavlovitz column is fantastic, Stanley.

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

I could understand the church spending millions of pounds in attempting to bring the glory of Anglican worship to more people ; in instilling a love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament ; in fostering an inclusive community of unconditional love gathered round His altar. But why are only ‘meetings’ led by men with names like Nick playing the guitar regarded as the public face of the CofE? These respectable, conservative gatherings are more likely to appeal to Cliff Richard fans than people searching for a radical life-changing challenge. Why doesn’t the Church save its money and advise people to… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

That Guardian article reminds me of the BBC’s coverage of Brexit: leave-voting people seem to form a disproportionally large number of interviewees. And while ‘Reform and Renewal’ and the HTB-inspired hype does indeed loom large in the overall picture, there are many churches where a much less aggressive, more contemplative and sacramental approach appeals to many of the younger generation. It’s the latter that is in the DNA of the C of E and could be the seed from which growth comes. Whatever the merits of modern evangelical religion it is a rather alien graft onto the Anglican tradition (which… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I like what I think is the substance of your message FrDH, and I like your provocative style. I got into big trouble at a Deanery Chapter meeting recently (pass the knife and I’ll slit my throat – I only went to alternate ones, and even then always 30 min late so as to miss the introductory extempore prayers: and we just want to thank you father …) for having said in print in a letter in the CT that finding a church in retirement would be problematic since I wanted one that was unembarrassed about liturgy, and that did… Read more »

T Pott
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T Pott

I very rarely disagree with anything you write, but your last seven words are a strong exception.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

TP, if this was meant for me, perhaps you have ground for complaint. I was being uncharacteristically (my wife would say) self-deprecating. I certainly tried to get congregations to see that same old same old (I’m not talking about liturgy but about attitudes and action) would result in death. I had some success in the AC church, and realisation began to dawn in a few minds in the civic church. The story at the third, smallest, church goes thus. My first Christmas Carol Service there I invited the local school to participate. Church was full. Joy was for the taking.… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

To be accused by an evangelical vicar of being “rude” is a badge of honour to which I would aspire, Fr Stanley. I agree the self-referential cliques planting churches are unlikely to understand the unchurched. For them to assume their own narrow, simplistic version of the Faith will automatically appeal to others is naive and presumptuous. I would suggest the majority of people find it unattractive and likely to confirm many people’s aversion to judgemental Christianity and religion in general. I’m sure many Guardian readers will find Leo Benedictus’ article funny and likely to alert them to avoid such ‘churches’… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The CofE is in a similar position to the Labour Party. They are both run by self-selecting elites, who are disproportionately likely to be one or more of privately educated, Oxbridge (or “ancient”) educated or holding an assortment of high-quality post-graduate degrees. They believe, however, that their mission is to help “everyone else”. In the case of the Labour Party, this means adopting a patronising and sneering attitude towards a “working class” whom they only meet whilst employing them as cleaners; in the case of the CofE ditto but they don’t even pay the people who volunteer to clean the… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

I agree with your general point, but you must have a different experience of the Labour Party from me.

Graeme buttery
Guest
Graeme buttery

Father,

It may be a bit far, but you are welcome in Hartlepool. My sermons have been called many things, but never infantile!

Father Graeme Buttery

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

What’s wrong with the name ‘Nick’?
And why assume Cliff Richard fans wouldn’t respond to a radical life-changing challenge? I like Cliff’s music, and I’m no conformist.

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

There’s nothing wrong with Nick, Janet. Or even Nicky as at HTB. Or even +Ric as in the Guardian article. I also recall Cliff’s very radical support for Mary Whitehouse in the Nationwide Festival of Light in which he campaigned to ban dirty words on the TV. Unfortunately his evangelical plea was totally ignored and people swear more than ever! Why is it people don’t like being told off by prim evangelicals?

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

One doesn’t have to agree with all of Cliff’s views to like his music.

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

One doesn’t have to believe that only Cliff’s type of music is likely to convert the unchurched masses. Why is it the chosen genre of conservative fundamentalists?

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I didn’t know it was. My concern here is that we don’t stereotype people. I understand that you don’t like the ‘brand’ currently being promoted, and I’m not sure I do either (I haven’t been paying much attention to it TBH) but let’s engage with the real issues rather than caricatures.

The C of E shouldn’t be promoting any one style of worship or churchmanship above others. They are all part of the Church and what we have to offer, and that’s as it should be.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Where are the anglo-catholic parishes being promoted? I agree with what you say Janet. It seems to me that only a form of “Jesus for Dummies” is acceptable to bring in the ignorant masses to make them happy – and clappy!

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I agree that Anglo-Catholic churches(and middle-of-the-road, and rural, and chaplaincies) ought to be promoted. But it doesn’t help if we publicly criticise what isn’t to our taste.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

My limited experience of evangelical music in the UK is more akin to the opening act in a provincial folk club, in which the organiser’s girlfriend gives her Maddy Prior impersonation: wholesome young man with a guitar, wholesome young woman with long hair, Fair Isle sweaters. In the US, it’s more likely to be rock ordinaire, as though an REO Speedwagon tribute act was in town, but rock music from which any trace of the blues has been ruthlessly excised. In both cases, this is music that is painfully white, painfully soulless and painfully old. The musical influences which drive… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Hear! Hear!

Tim Chesterton
Guest

IO, sounds to me like the last time you went to a church that used contemporary worship music was in the 1970s when the Fisherfolk were leading charismatic worship!

Care for an update? This is from the church my brother attends (which, I hasten to add, is not Anglican). I’d say their inspiration is definitely Coldplay, not Maddy Prior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5PeT3SgQCo

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

There’s not much edge to them, but I could certainly enjoy dancing to that track!

David Lamming
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David Lamming

I, too, like/enjoy Sir Cliff’s music/songs. Since Elton John has recently enjoyed a special stamp issue (following, earlier, Pink Floyd and David Bowie), I’ve made the suggestion to Royal Mail that they ought to issue a set of stamps on 14 October 2020 to celebrate Cliff’s 80th birthday.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Wow, talk about vitriol in this column today!

If you guys don’t like contemporary evangelical Anglicanism, fine – feel free to pursue your own version of renewal in the C of E. No one’s stopping you. It’s a broad church, and there’s lots of room for liberal catholic revitalisation. Show us how it’s done! And if you’re right, and the thing that’s stopping the C of E from growing is that people aren’t getting on board with your vision and your agenda – well, you can change that, can’t you?

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Liberal catholics would, I’m sure, be grateful to be gifted millions of pounds to plant churches, have droves of young people on a stipend to help run them, and a hierarchy sympathetic to an inclusive, non-judgemental version of the Faith. Sadly, it seems this is not to be. Our beloved Church is being transformed into a congregational sect with guitars and drums.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

But when the current evangelical movement began in the 50s and 60s it had none of that. The church structures and hierarchy were controlled by liberal catholics who were very hostile to evangelicalism. What they achieved, they achieved on their own time and with their own resources, supported, it has to be said, by dedicated congregations who tithed. So – do what they did. Do your work faithfully, organize, network, pray, and serve Christ as you see fit. Rather than having a hissy fit every time you see evangelicals getting money and attention, prove us wrong by doing a better… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Testify! Couldn’t agree more.

James Byron
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James Byron

My fellow liberals, can we please stop making service style a Partisan issue? Many times, here and elsewhere, I’ve argued passionately that, to survive, liberals and moderates must embrace contemporary music and audio-visual. Theology and style are clean different things. I’ll repeat it now, and say it again, and again, until it begins to cut through. We should be allying with evangelicals on this, and seeking their advice about an area they’ve gotten right.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

‘Grumpy Anglicans’ anyone? TA carries a thoughtful feature in a national newspaper not known for its interest in things Christian. It tells of a mission initiative among students in the centre of Birmingham. People are being reached who would not otherwise encounter church and faith. There are stories of lives being deeply changed by the gospel. It is positive and full of good news. And so far on this thread? One person hopes no one will go to it. Others recycle claims of an alleged narrow/exclusive focus to mission in the CofE – the ‘HTB hype’ etc. The whole church… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Supporting our LGBT brethren, maintaining that black lives matter and lamenting the degredation of the planet may be “morose” to Mr Runcorn. But to many people – including our unchurched brothers and sisters – these matters are more important than listening to a superficial evangelical entertainment.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Superficial evangelical entertainment.’ What gives you the right to judge it as superficial?

I guess we’d be able to tell it was superficial by whether or not the lives of the worshippers were more Christlike, wouldn’t we? By the way, I’ve sat through many cathedral evensong services in which I wasn’t given the opportunity to join in any of the music – unfamiliar chants and settings which only the choir could sing. Looked a lot like entertainment to me.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Don’t knock C of E cathedral Evensong! It’s one of the remaining glories of the C of E. It’s not entertainment but the highest expression of worship, or a best attempt at that. All English cathedrals have an explanatory service booklet for visitors to Evensong. Even those, like myself, who know it by heart, silently follow the words and participate in that way. Possibly reading the words may convey more for some (or most) people than singing them without thought for their meaning. ‘Unfamiliar’ chants and settings might reveal a world of beauty to a receptive listener. It might involve… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘One hopes that the visitor unfamiliar with all of this might go away feeling refreshed and renewed.’

Precisely. And many young people who join in contemporary worship services tell us they go away ‘feeling refreshed and renewed’, despite the fact that, to those who don’t like the style, it ‘looks like entertainment.’

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

You noticed, I hope, that although my own tradition and preference are probably obvious, I didn’t criticise contemporary worship services. For about 20 years I played the organ for a 9 am BCP Communion service with hymns – usually seven hymns as there were that many communicants! At 11 am there was a second service with music group and another equally large congregation. The organ was used occasionally in the second service, with contemporary music played by a lady organist, and we always remained on the friendliest terms. There may have been some overlap in membership of the two congregations,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Hear, hear, David!

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Very true Tim. For the first 60 years of the last century evangelicals in the CofE were a despised minority. Stipends for parish jobs considerably too according to the historic glebe lands they were on. Evangelical clergy, if appointed, were more often left financially out on the margins too (Variable stipends did not change until the late 1970’s). But my real anguish at the tone of this thread is that I have spent a great deal of my ministry involved in supporting, training and resourcing fellow ministers. In those roles I have always worked for the nurture and flourishing of… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I would never publicly disparage the tradition of a fellow Christian or priest” Even if the effect of that is the medium-term extinction of the church? At the moment the public perception of Christianity, in all of its forms, is that it is irrelevant, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-women, entrenched in the establishment. Less the Tory Party at Prayer, more Britain First at prayer. Its senior leaders appear unwilling to confront evil (every month, another drum beat of the IICSA on churches) and want to equivocate on justice (I suspect Justin Welby thinks he has settled the optics of the Lambeth invitation… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Interested Observer There is a world of difference between ‘public disparaging’ and what I would call ‘critically engaging’. The former mocks, belittles, takes down and caricatures the views of others. It does not seek engagement at all. It is a form of bullying. It is also unproductive – for people spoken too in this way are rarely inclined to change their minds. This is not how Christians do business. Now if you are asking if I ever disagree with people, critically question their beliefs, challenge their understanding, prioritise the seeking of justice and truth – I do. And I expect… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Guest
Marise Hargreaves

Well said. Jesus said ‘By their deeds you will know them’ – not by their hymns or traditions. You cannot be uncritical and accept everything as ok. I don’t see the prophets of old as accepting of anything and everything – especially when there was injustice and evil being worked by the establishment and its minions under the cloak of religion. Sooner or later you have to call it one way or another.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I suspect there is much agreement behind all our comments. But we each look through different lenses and from different vantage points. If you’ve spent most of your ministerial life talking mainly to members of the club, you’ll see things a certain way. If you’ve spent it in largely prosperous parishes with more than a critical mass of people with time, energy, nous and administrative ability, you’ll see them another way. If you’ve spent it in UPA parishes with no critical mass of anything, no administrative help, and people increasingly cowed under oppressive government bureaucracy, you’ll see things differently again.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘If you’ve spent it in largely prosperous parishes with more than a critical mass of people with time, energy, nous and administrative ability, you’ll see them another way. If you’ve spent it in UPA parishes with no critical mass of anything, no administrative help, and people increasingly cowed under oppressive government bureaucracy, you’ll see things differently again.’ From 1998-2001 I was a member of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee of the Anglican Church of Canada. During that time, we were in the final stage of producing a new hymnal. I (evangelical) and Gordon Light (liberal catholic) pushed hard to… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Here’s another voice enthusiastically in their favor. I’m an unashamedly liberal, I personally prefer old school services, but I also recognize that millions are not sentimental traditionalists and they’re millions whom the church needs to reach. I rejoice in these successes, and hope to see many more of them.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Yes… well… not sure how to follow in the wake of all the morose comments. I’ll just stick with this: I think God the Holy Trinity is community, and I think our calling is mainly to help promote community wherever we happen to be located, with whatever people we find living alongside us. A church community can be a precious part of that, but can sometimes be quite insular. I think we need to secularise our approach quite a bit, and get out beyond the church walls, and share in the community out there, living alongside our neighbours, and collaborating… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Style of worship is surely very much a secondary concern? I very much doubt God cares overly whether he is praised by music accompanied by organ or by guitar, whether a hymn was written 200 years ago or last week. That we might prefer one or the other ought therefore to be irrelevant to us. What matters, as Susannah says, is what we do; what we do for the poor, for the homeless, the sick, immigrants, those released from prison, the elderly, the lonely, the vulnerable, the disabled … So justice too for survivors of abuse, the inclusion of minority… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Quite. It’s a matter of substance, not style. Personally, I’ve never had much problem with most kinds of worship: I like to have it all. The catholic and Carmelite in me loves the silence, the numinous, and (for example) Taverner’s wonderful music. The evangelical in me loves the wonderful traditional Wesley hymns, accompanied with full organ. The charismatic in me loves lots of the more modern New Wine type songs, and raising my hands, or singing in tongues. The once-was-a-chorister in me loves the church anthems. The 70’s me loves the more folk-style guitar/keyboard songs like ‘Bind us together’ or… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Churches which have abandoned, say, the Eucharist in favour of waving arms may not be important to you Kate. But to most Christians it is the bedrock of our religious identity. Doing good to others is not part of a Christian monopoly. Many of the good works you cite are performed by devout atheists who don’t share a religious motivation. They don’t do the Eucharist either. Presumably good works trump styles of worship every time. Thus the Mass doesn’t really matter. As long as you are nice to others.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I think the point is, in a diverse church which values inclusion, it’s not ‘one or the other’. Because I identify with catholicism, and hold a devoted view of the sacraments and the presence in them, I entirely agree that mass, eucharist, communion – let people call it what they believe – is focal and vital to the heart of Christian community and life: so, in my view, are good works carried out in the love of God and God’s Spirit. But none of those things imply that I should minimise the value to various and diverse people of various… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Well said. Less snark, more celebration of success stories should be the order of the day. I say in all sincerity, let’s learn humbly from evangelicals on this aspect of worshipping, they have much to teach us.

andy gr
Guest
andy gr

“Liberal catholics would, I’m sure, be grateful to be gifted millions of pounds to plant churches, have droves of young people on a stipend to help run them, and a hierarchy sympathetic to an inclusive, non-judgemental version of the Faith”. I can reassure you that, at least around here, around half the projects in the 2019 tranche for church-planting/resource church funding are catholic in flavour; check out for example https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/6605/ or http://www.stjamesclacton.uk/. I will admit that both Mother Cherry and Father Justin may be less negative about guitars than some on this thread, but neither of them are called Nick.

andy gr
Guest
andy gr

(My point isn’t partisan – I just think we should all be glad when bits of the church thrive, even if the thriving bit is very unlike our own).

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

It’s not the bits of the church that are unlike my own I mind, it’s when those bits do harm to people, particularly women and LGBT folk.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

This is my issue too. First do no harm. I have no objections whatsoever to being in communion with evangelical or Catholic wings of the C of E. I have occasionally worshipped in both types of church and appreciated the variety. I want all wings of the church to flourish. But that ecumenical spirit should not be used to stop me criticising those wings of the church if their preaching or practise is damaging to women or gay people. I just need to make sure that my criticism is proportionate and evidence based, and limited to the damaging practise.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘I just need to make sure that my criticism is proportionate and evidence based, and limited to the damaging practise.’ Precisely, Simon. Every time we have an article posted here about Fresh Expressions or church plants or services with praise bands, the criticism quickly degenerates into vitriol about ‘arm waving’ and tambourines and guitars. Apparently it’s okay to regularly recite psalms about lifting up hands in God’s name, but to actually *do* it is somehow ridiculous. You want to make a difference to the damaging practice of many evangelical churches when it comes to gay people? Do what some people… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Seeing my comment posted here, I realize the last line makes it sound as if I’m targeting you, Simon. My apologies – I’m not.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“But when you go after their worship style, you’re not helping.” Liberals, please heed this advice. The reforms you want across the Anglican Communion depend on gaining the consent of members, and young members are likelier to back you. It’s inconceivable that a CoE with a demographic south of retirement would see its bishops unanimously back Brexit, alongside its leading Christian socialist declaring himself an English nationalist who gave the nod to Al “Boris” Johnson delivering a no-deal crashout and despises science. Want that bleak vista to change, you need new blood, and what style of service is likeliest to… Read more »

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

I rather think that claiming evangelical services are more “accessible” to younger people is both insulting to young people and a rather back-handed dig at evangelical worship in itself.

Do liberals need to be better at sharing their faith? Yes. But I think there are plenty of young people who are put off by evangelical worship who can find traditional styles of worship more comfortable.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Suggesting that services presented in contemporary style are more accessible is certainly not intended as an insult, and I trust that most young people won’t take it as such. Some will prefer traditional services, yes, and they’ll remain available. Many others will appreciate a service in a register they’re comfortable with, and here, liberals should be seeking all the help that evangelicals are willing to offer.

Why are so few liberal churches offering such services? We should find out, and remedy the situation.

Jo B
Guest
Jo B

First we would need to confirm the premise of the question, which I don’t accept. Do young people, on the whole, find evangelical services comfortable? A minority do, sure, but that is partly do with the way that evangelicalism tends to concentrate gathered congregations, drawing in people from a considerable distance and hence gaining a self-sustaining critical mass of young people. That’s not about worship style, that’s about marketing and group psychology. A good traditional choir can have much the same effect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a good altar guild could do it too (though I’ve not seen… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I find it rather interesting that the label ‘evangelical services’ is here taken as synonymous with praise bands and contemporary music. There’s nothing particularly evangelical about that. Just because it’s HTB doesn’t mean it’s an essential characteristic of evangelicalism; I’m broadly evangelical and my church uses the Canadian Book of Alternative Services for all its services, with weekly Eucharist and hymns almost exclusively from ‘Hymns Old and New’! G.R. Balleine defined evangelical Anglicans a century ago as those who ‘prefer a simple liturgy and a spiritual worship’ (by ‘spiritual’ he meant less emphasis on outward actions and more emphasis on… Read more »