Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 30 October 2021

The Guardian editorial The Guardian view on the Church of England: the numbers are not adding up
The paper has published several letters in response to its editorial: Parish churches have been living on a prayer.

Theo Hobson The Spectator Why I’m paying my daughter to go to church

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Is it time to start discussing Bullying in the Church?

Phil Groves ViaMedia.News ‘The Bible is Clear’, Consent & ‘Conversion Therapy’

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
83 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
1 month ago

I have to agree with Phil Groves and his challenge to the evangelical community who are in the ascendancy in the Church of England and their use of broken and out-dated psychoanalytic concepts to back up their view that they can ‘pray the gay away’. I detect in Phil’s writing that he knows that evangelicals won’t care one bit what he has to think though. Like many of us he is the “wrong sort” of Anglican. The Guardian article and letters are just more additions to the pile of doom for the Church. I can’t remember where is was said… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
1 month ago

From one of the Guardian letters: “If people want church property in good condition, with professional clergy and open doors, and don’t want to see more closures, they should think about helping us to pay the bills.” I would under certain circumstances be willing to entertain the idea that the Church of England, as an established and central part of our historic legacy of culture, should be centrally funded. Perhaps, like the National Trust, people should be encouraged to donate money as a general act of charitable giving. I am a member of the National Trust, English Heritage, several galleries… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Interested Observer
A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Interested Observer
1 month ago

I do often wonder if we should give some of our great church buildings into the care of the National Trust or Historic England on the proviso that they should remain consecrated places of worship for use by the church for a nominal rent. This would separate the need to care for the fabric of the church from its spiritual care. This would let secular society pay for the upkeep of the pretty village church even if they never attend a service. Of course, this would be a huge burden to place on the likes of the NT so I… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  A not so humble parishioner
1 month ago

In general, the National Trust does not accept properties into its care without adequate endowment. Whilst I don’t think that the NT is the right body to care for our churches, the idea of endowing some group to do so (with the opportunity of fundraising to preserve the heritage) has been mooted here before. Perhaps a body such as the Churches Conservation Trust coud be expanded to do this. But we should be clear that the Church would likely lose control of the buildings, and in particular of the opportunity to reorder them as needed (and even occasionally as not… Read more »

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Absolutely, but when the cost of upkeep become prohibitive, what else is there to do?

As for the loss of the ability to reorder the buildings, at ground level, the challenges of obtaining a faculty in one of these buildings for any meaningful change already has removed the control from the hands of the congregation of that church anyway.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  A not so humble parishioner
1 month ago

The National Trust wants buildings where it can charge for entry i.e. buildings with heating, toilets, car parks, space for a shop/office, disabled access etc. It might be willing to take the cathedrals but very few parish churches will meet the above criteria.

The CCT may be a possible home for redundant church buildings but would require to be massively upscaled and this would take some serious money which can only come from the Church Commissioners.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

At a conference on the future of church buildings held at the V&A in September 2019 the chief executive of the CCT, Peter Aiers, specifically disclaimed any intention on the part of the CCT to accept anything approaching a significant portion of the shuttered stock. The CCT has about 350 units – making it in size something of a diocese in its own right – but the founder of what was then the Redundant Churches Fund (Ivor Bulmer-Thomas) never anticipated more than about 40 vestings. The Church Commissioners presently fund 30% of the CCTs costs. 70% of those costs come… Read more »

James Pratt
James Pratt
Reply to  A not so humble parishioner
1 month ago

That is something that is often done in North America, although usually with disused churches of historical and architectural significance, given to a municipality or non-profit organization to be used as a museum or concert space. But I am aware of one such instance in the Diocese of Quebec in which a 17th century church (built as RC and later assumed by an Anglican congregation) was turned over to the municipality with the proviso that the dwindling Anglican congregation could continue to use the church for regular worship.

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
Reply to  Interested Observer
1 month ago

Spot on as usual. The stunning built national heritage of parish churches is becoming beyond us. But any arrangement with the state will require the Church of England to behave as if it properly understands that it has national responsibilities. And even if we went down a French route and gave the buildings to the nation and then rented them back, why would the nation want to let an institutionally homophobic church which also seems unable to care for victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by its employees have the use of these items of national importance?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Interested Observer
1 month ago

The Commissioners’ assets have risen from £2.6bn in 1998 to >£9.3bn now thanks to the parish share system, which effectively subsidises the growth in the Commissioners’ portfolio, since prior to 1998 the Commissioners were liable for all pension accruals and half the stipends bill. Therefore: The bigger the risk pool the cheaper the result. The NHS, for all its faults, provides care much more cheaply than health insurance in the USA. This is because the nation insures itself as a collective: collective insurance is always cheaper than self-insurance. PCCs effectively ‘self-insure’, which is expensive and wasteful, especially in view of… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

The Guardian is right to point out the “soulless managerial approach” has been criticised for not halting the decline of the CofE in the face of secularism. Obviously ,the managers have seen the majority of the English don’t want to hear a grinning man in jeans talking about his mate, Jesus, in Church on a Sunday morning. Instead they propose the population will respond to an invitation to groups of 30 to pop round to a smiling layman’s house for a discussion about the Lord Jesus Christ over a nice cup of tea. This would be hilarious were it not… Read more »

Picky
Picky
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Admittedly the image of the grinning man in jeans talking about his mate Jesus is not an attractive one, but then nor is it, I suggest, a description of worship at most CofE churches. So it might be the case that the majority of the English don’t want to hear more traditional (and, admittedly more beautiful) forms of worship either. The problem for the CofE cannot really be sensibly addressed in Left v Right / High v Low / Catholic v Protestant terms. It might just be a question of belief v disbelief. Indeed I think it is. So what… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

Pastoral care in the parish and living alongside the (secular) community, sharing life and dreams and distress and joy. Solidarity as best as each person can.

Give the message integrity, and demonstration of love rather than just dogma. The answer is out there. People ache for help and community. Doesn’t mean everyone will believe in God, but there are many who look for what love really is.

(Sorry, not preaching, just my thoughts having witnessed my own priest and church community on a deprived estate.)

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

People need to hear a more credible gospel for a a secular, scientific era. Bishops Jenkins, Spong and Holloway have attempted to teach concepts which are more believable. They’ve been sidelined in favour of a “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam” fairytale.

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

So, where is that “more credible gospel” to be discussed, outlined, proclaimed?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

It needs to start in theological colleges and training courses so that future clergy will be able to preach and teach a credible message. And Bishop David Jenkins recognised the power of the media to reach millions of the unchurched with his theology. He provoked religious discussion like no bishop has since. Unlike in Dr Jenkins’ day, the media assume Bishops have nothing new worth hearing. They’re probably right.

Father David
Father David
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

The cuckoo in the Church of England’s nest got people talking about religion even in pubs, so they say. I made a rare visit with my son-in-law to a local public house on Friday evening and from the conversations that were taking place theology didn’t seem to be high on the list of topics being discussed! So, good on Bishop David Jenkins for raising the profile of religion in the mass media. I recall attending both his exciting consecration in York Minster and his Enthronement in Durham cathedral at the height if the Miners strike. During the address he made… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Excellent question, but perhaps the focus ought to be on Jesus’ religious and moral teachings, with less emphasis on walking on water, or in the broader discussion of the Bible (Jewish and Christian Scriptures), less emphasis on God stopping the Sun in its tracks (which only truly works with a geocentric vision of the Universe with a stationary Earth, though fundamentalists have suggested God used a geostationary lens in orbit). Preach the God of love and mercy and social justice, not the God who somehow splits marshlands in two (the Sea of Reeds is not the Red Sea, with apologies… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

Father, I agree completely. But I fear that Jenkins, Spong and Holloway – and others – were too late, even then. Compared to some other religions/disciplines, the Church has made Christian doctrine over-complicated as if to keep the magic in the hands of the chosen few. FWIW I think Christianity is really quite simple. Every one of us has the divine light within, a bit of the Divine, like a pilot light on a gas stove. The inner Christ. All we need to do is let that inner pilot light grow to fill us from the inside. That’s Christmas. As Mary let… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Very wonderfully expressed and quite inspiring.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

If Holloway, Spong and Jenkins offered anything more than an opportunity to cling to the trappings of Christianity after losing one’s faith why did they have so little impact? If you dismiss the gospel of Jesus as not credible then where does your gospel come from? What “good news” is there that you want to share that doesn’t come across as philosophical daydreaming? If science is the only benchmark then the “sea of faith” crowd small huddle and the rest of the post-Christian fringe are as at sea as the rest of us, and far more at risk of disappearing… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

I haven’t dismissed the Gospel of Jesus. That’s got lost somewhere in a sea of fundamentalism.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I believe that under Spong’s episcopacy, baptized membership in the Diocese of Newark declined at twice the level of the Episcopal Church as a whole. Sounds like the secular, scientific era didn’t find his message very compelling. Can’t blame that on the evangelicals, either. They’ve long since reached endangered species status in TEC.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

A more significant TEC decline was surely spurred by the consecration of Gene Robinson. The liberal direction of US Episcopalians obviously upset some members, but its inclusive gospel is nearer to God’s Kingdom than most other Anglican Churches.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

So you have changed your argument from it being ‘more credible to a secular, scientific era’ (which statistics show it obviously wasn’t), to it being ‘nearer to God’s kingdom’?

Jack Spong’s famous ‘Twelve Theses’ parted company not only with conservative evangelicalism but with much liberal catholicism as well. I seem to remember a former presiding bishop of TEC who, when challenged about the orthodoxy of its bishops, replied ‘There isn’t a single unorthodox bishop in TEC’ (and then added, under his breath, ‘since the retirement of Jack Spong’).

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I don’t see a contradiction between being ‘more credible to a secular, scientific era’ and being nearer to God’s Kingdom. And credibility isn’t always linked to statistics. There are millions of Americans who believe in the gibberish in the Book of Mormon.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

Thank you for mentioning Bishop Spong. I know he riled the TEC establishment, especially its evangelical faction. But he made valid points that insisting on a literal reading of a religious text with an ancient understanding of cosmology and science no longer works. To this day, I recall a passage from one of his books (perhaps Rescuing the Bible from the Fundamentalists) in which he applies a modern understanding of the Universe to the passage in the Gospels or in Acts where Jesus ascends through the clouds to …? Bishop Spong has Jesus rising through the clouds, ever upward, through… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Acts doesn’t say Jesus ascended through the clouds. It says he ascended until a cloud hid him from sight – not the same thing at all. I have long understood that to symbolise the fact that Jesus left this planet and his disciples couldn’t expect to see him physically again, not that he kept up a vertical ascent in a straight line.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

I don’t understand the difference. Jesus did not ascend through a cloud. He ascended and was hidden by one. That’s the same. By the way, this happened to me. I once left this planet and disappeared in a cloud. But I was in an aeroplane.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

You can’t see the difference between Jesus rising, perhaps half a mile or a mile upwards, as far as the nearest cloud, and ‘Jesus rising through the clouds, ever upward, through the troposphere, stratosphere, exosphere, the Van Allen radiation belts, … and into orbit around the Sun!’?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Yes. Spong’s argument at this point reminds me strongly of people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who set out the most flatly literalistic reading of the biblical text and then proceed to ridicule it, apparently blithely unaware that most Christians have recognized the symbolic elements in those stories for years.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

How is ascending half a mile, or a mile upwards not literal? Was Jesus a mountaineer? And after He’d gone upwards did He evaporate?

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

Indeed. I think we have to regard it as (a) literally true but impossible to square with our modern understanding of the universe; or (b) a mystery that we cannot explain (really the same as (a) but even less satisfactory); or (c) as a metaphor explaining the end of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in a world that believed in some sort of literal three-decker universe. Any other alternatives?

My take is that (c) is the only viable option, and that whatever the nature of the resurrection, the ascension is Luke’s way of terminating the resurrection appearances.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

I don’t think a modern understanding of the universe precludes the possibility of the miraculous, or indeed the conception of this universe as existing within a higher dimensional space much as the 2D plane exists within the 3D. My problem with Spong and company is that they seem to start from the conclusion that nothing supernatural can exist, and then ridicule the miraculous or unexplained on the basis that it doesn’t conform to our understanding of what’s scientifically likely, as if that weren’t an essential component of such events. I roll my eyes at that approach from Dawkins, but at… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I agree that Jesus ascending, walking on water, being born of a virgin and rising from the dead are symbolic. Since that is what Bishop Spong argued , I thought you disagreed with him.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I guess the fundamental questions are do we believe that God is supernatural, and if so, has God chosen to act in supernatural ways that contradict the scientific principles most educated people understand to operate. My view is yes, God is supernatural, and yes I believe God sometimes chooses to act in supernatural ways. However, I believe God is a God of order, and chooses to give us degrees of order to live in, on this planet. Therefore I regard God’s supernatural interventions (the ones that seem to defy science in a dramatic, observable way) to be uncommon. I believe… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

For someone so quick to claim the intellectual high ground, Dawkins really is an appalling hack. The low spot of his jeremiad against Christianity was commissioning this poll, which asks such insightful questions as “Q23. What is the first book of the NEW Testament?” and “Q25. Which of the following mediaeval heresies BEST describes your view about Jesus?”, and from that deducing that most Christians aren’t Christian based on a view of “what is a Christian?” which no mainstream UK denomination would recognise (I hate to break it to Richard, but quite a lot of Christians spent quite a lot… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

One of the present scientific theories is that we are living in a simulation. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are fictional. We are starting to develop 3D VR simulations ourselves. In such a theory there would be a ‘creator’ (or creators) responsible for the simulation – in other words, God. Things like miracles are then possible – think of them as cheats in games.
 
‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’ is actually potentially scientific as we presently understand things.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kate
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I’m not sure telling people they’re destined to become a sunbeam will halt the decline of the CofE.

Picky
Picky
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

The problem is that the more credible gospel for a secular, scientific age would, for a large and growing number of the English today, I suggest, rule out all the Apostles’ Creed apart from the bit about suffering and execution. If that is the case then what is needed is not large expenditure on evangelisation, but a way of preserving a more humble church, with its priests, for those who believe. Such a humble church should be supported (if the Church Commissioners can’t manage it) by the local membership — and by those non-believers in the parish who might be… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

Many if not all of the statements in the Apostles’ Creed, and even in the Nicene Creed, can be believed in — provided that the language is seen as metaphoric truth. This is hardly a new idea.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Good point. Hans Kung’s book, Credo on the Apostles Creed made an excellent contribution to the discussion some years back (1993). However, the minute you advance the argument that the Virgin birth and the Resurrection are not about biology a conservative cover version of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition may unexpectedly show up at your door to throw you to in the ‘comfy chair’. “Confess, Confess” lol.

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

So we need to be brave in proclaiming the virtue of metaphor, the alternatives to conservative evangelicalism (not just about human sexuality, but the nature of the atonement, social justice and the kingdom of God, the good news of life before death, etc etc) — and practising what we preach.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Agreed. We also need to be brave in standing up to the fallacy of the deference to authority argument. All hierarchies have built in bias and vested interests. ‘Dixit’ on the part of the institution is a fall back when the evidence does not support dogmatic claims.

Picky
Picky
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Except that it very clearly isn’t meant as metaphorical truth, and indeed the whole business of escaping the reality of the gospel by proclaiming everything unbelievable as “metaphorical” doesn’t wash. Or rather it may wash for some, and for some it may be literally true, but neither path convinces more than a shrinking minority. That has to be swallowed before a solution to the CofE’s problems can be found.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Picky
1 month ago

Most of us live by the Stories we tell Ourselves. In a book of that name, Richard Holloway relates how he is still fascinated and committed to the Story of Jesus. Some stories lose their power or relevance as cultures change. It is perfectly sensible to live by a rational, scientific explanation for existence without a need for a supernatural dimension to find meaning. In this majority context, it is still perfectly fulfilling to live within the Stories we tell ourselves about Jesus as if they were ‘true’. As Holloway points out, religion is poetry. It is when we start… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I’m more inclined to say that trying to hold a position where Christian distinctives are not true but somehow still worthwhile is pretty ridiculous. Post-modernism is the intellectual playground of a tiny minority.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Why can’t poetry be ‘true’? Nowhere have I said the life lived by Jesus – and to be emulated by us – is not true. You are obviously a literalist, which is the playground of unthinking fundamentalists.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I think the question is: if the supernatural is replaced from Christian narrative by a philosophy of simply doing good, while that would be great and admirable in its own right and we should just do that regardless, would many people sign up under the Christian flag, when you can do all that through humanism? What would be the ‘extra’ that Christianity would offer, if Jesus was not actually God, was not resurrected, did not work miracles… that would result in church attendance in these ‘humanist churches’ being boosted? If we are living in a Post-Christian society (and in many… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Good questions Susannah. I don’t think there are any easy answers, and there is, I’m sure, no single answer. I am inclined towards an agnostic line, a sceptical line, one which doesn’t claim to know the answer one way or the other, but which takes the “scientific” worldview and 21st century knowledge seriously (while recognising that even 21st century knowledge is partial, limited). But what we see happening around us is that not only is the Church not attracting many new people, it is losing large numbers of its existing people. In particular a very significant number of young people,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Simon, I agree with you that there is a valued place in the Church for the kinds of views and sceptical, intelligently critical thinking that you have mentioned. I also suspect that too much ‘certainty’ can lead down brittle paths and close down some people’s psychology until it shatters. I think we live with the tension between tremulous faith and doubt, and in the end the touchstone for me about any person is the evidence of kindness, love of others, and givenness to community and individuals in love. The risks of a ‘certainty gospel’ is that it can become over-confident,… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Humanism is not Christ-centred. “Doing good” is not central to Christianity, but self-sacrifial love is. I see nothing supernatural in a man willing to sacrifice Himself for His friends. Jesus is not Super Human (like Superman) but Fully Human. Not even death could destroy the magnetic love He spread among His followers. To gather round an altar to “do this in remembrance” of Him is to make that love present. I see nothing supernatural or unscientific in entering fully into His story, and letting it transform our lives with love.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

Thank you. That makes sense to me, Father David. ‘Entering fully into His story, and letting it transform our lives with love’ sounds powerfully good to me. I admit I accommodate the supernatural in my understanding of my own life and view of things. But I can’t see why there can’t be different approaches.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I agree there can be different approaches, Susannah. Yours seems to be a very loving one. That sounds good to me.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I take the Gospels to be a pretty close approximation of what the disciples saw and heard, with a dash of theological interpretation. Poetry can certainly be true, but “as if they were true” and actually true is the difference between make believe and reality. It’s nonsense to pretend you can extract anything of Jesus’ life from the evidence we have while discarding bits you deem implausible. They two cannot be separated, and in any case why, if there is no more to Jesus than being worthy of emulation, why him rather anyone else? Trying to make the only available… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

You are telling yourself a story you believe to be “true”. I’m not sure if you regard what sounds “implausible” to be both historical and scientifically possible. In which case, you are a fundamentalist, except for a small dash of interpretation. Why is your interpretation “true” and mine not? One aspect of the poetic story is the Incarnation, which is why Jesus should be emulated. It is a theological concept which is neither historical or scientific. It’s poetry.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I don’t think you understand what fundamentalism is if you think anyone who believes the Gospels to be broadly historically accurate is one. Even in casual use that’s not what the term means.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

“the English don’t want to hear a grinning man in jeans talking about his mate, Jesus …” Oh, dear. It reminds me of a service the former dean of the TEC (USA) cathedral I used to sing in the choir of started on Sunday nights at 6pm. Mercifully, the choir director made attendance voluntary as long as the key members of the choir attended It also reminds me of services with guitars and a drummer at my synagogue on the second and fourth Friday evenings of the month that I attended twice and, to me, felt more like a performance… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

‘…and, to me, felt more like a performance that the audience (congregation) enjoyed rather than the congregation participating in.’

I have to say, that’s how most cathedral Evensong services seem to me. I say this as a former choirboy who learned a good number of the best known Evensong settings in my youth (and loved singing them). But most cathedral choirs these days don’t seem to want to lead a congregation in singing the basic settings. They want to perform the more elaborate ones.

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I’ve been to evangelical churches for most of my life and have never experienced this ‘grinning man in jeans talking about his mate Jesus’. Though I have experienced plenty of churches which were committed to their faith, serving their communities, caring for one another, and worshipping God as best they could. Just like parish churches who aren’t evangelical, in fact. And they are all facing the same cultural and practical headwinds. The English clearly don’t want to hear any other types of clergy either, be they men in dresses surrounded by candles and smoke holding expensive silverware in the air,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

How unnecessary so much of this discussion seems: whether or not we, individually, like Evensong or deprecate casual dress in church. A rail crash happened at Salisbury yesterday. An emergency casualty centre was set up at St Mark’s Church with local people offering blankets, food, drinks and first aid. Not all of them were necessarily church people, but here’s a clear case of the church being at the centre of the community and the C of E in action as it should be.

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

And I so agree with Rowland and thank God for St Marks. We hosted a climate change conference a couple of weeks ago as a focus for our community – the church engaging with real issues which matter.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  John Wallace
1 month ago

And here is the BBC’s report of the Church in action last night. I’m sure other churches would have done the same, but well done St Mark’s, Salisbury. Sadly we are now told that one of the train drivers was critically injured.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-59117992

John Wallace
John Wallace
1 month ago

I am involved in all sorts of ways in a liberal catholic church 40 miles or so from London. What always amazes me is the unknown people who turn up for our services. I was serving yesterday morning and from my viewpoint behind the altar I could see at least half a dozen people I did not recognize (out of recovering post-lockdown congregation of about 80). This happens every week. We have Choral Evensong twice monthly and said Evening Prayer (which conduct as part of the rota) on the other Sundays. It is unusual when someone unknown doesn’t appear. Faithful… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  John Wallace
1 month ago

My church runs a pumpkin sale every October (we get them from a Navajo reservation and share the proceeds with them). This year we sold out of nearly 3000 pumpkins in three weeks. Despite the fact that our pumpkins are more expensive than the ones that can be bought at the local supermarkets, we sell out every year…and many people make a donation beyond the cost of the pumpkin. This is engaging with the surrounding community (the vast majority of whom are not Episcopalian and many not practicing any religion at all) in a way that spreads a Gospel of… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Laudable and worthy though selling pumpkins is – perhaps the fact that we have gone a long way from pumpkins to a church reported in The Guardian facing an existential crisis. It appears to me that there is a wholescale lack of confidence in much ordained ministry. If the parish really is to be saved, do we have the women, men and young people to lead and support this into a reality in the future. This is not about any approach to theology, but that the existing clergy need training, support and a better way of doing their jobs! We… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

I can’t accept that Church decline is not “about any approach to theology”, which suggests that any old nonsense can be taught as long as the clergy do their job properly. I have a priest friend who uses a wheelchair. She was told by a colleague at an evangelical theological college that unless she stood up and walked, she showed a lack of faith in Jesus as her personal Saviour. I also heard of a student at Cranmer Hall ask his lecturer if donkeys had crosses on their backs because the Lord Jesus rode on one. And we wonder why… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

If we’re going to train clergy in anything, let’s train them in transmitting Jesus’ message in a way that reaches people without distorting it….without making it all about either a “personal savior” or a group therapy session. Can we somehow get back to translating the two great commandments–love God, love your neighbor–into words and actions that will convince people we mean it? And remind ourselves, especially, that following the first commandment is meaningless if you don’t follow the second.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Pat, I would go even further back than that. There has to be a Gospel (good news) before there are commandments (good advice). ‘We love, because God first loved us’. 1 John 4 sets it out beautifully: ‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.’

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago

It seems, from the comments here, that most people don’t think it’s time to discuss bullying in the Church. But the fact that bullying does often occur, and is seldom dealt with appropriately, may explain why some people vanish from churches. You don’t need to be a target yourself to be put off attending your local church; knowing or hearing that people are being bullied there is an ample deterrent.

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

Whatever our different theological views, surely everyone can agree that the Church of England can’t get itself into a position where its teachings are prescribed by the secular state with the threat of being evicted from church buildings? We have to have the freedom to preach the gospel in a transformative way into the culture rather than just hold a mirror up to it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

I, for one, cannot agree. The doctrine was set by Parliament as the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. Who else should decide what are the teachings of a national church? People who accept the doctrine and seek to apply it to new situations are doing a fine thing. Those who do not accept it, but pretend to so so in order to undermine or strike at it, should they not do so through Parliament rather than the Synod?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

Maybe the problem is right there in the words:”national church”. In a modern nation-state with a diverse, unhomogenous population, the very notion of a “national church,” where doctrine is subject to approval by the government is an anachronism?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I totally agree, Pat.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

Well the point could be loving our neighbour – after all we are told there is no greater commandment. Maybe part of loving and serving our neighbours is to live alongside them, on the platform of the community they live in, walking with them, sharing their efforts to meet the needs of people. And maybe in the act of love, if God is love, then the need for love which is in so many people, will start opening people’s hearts towards God. I think love in action is a huge Christian message in itself. It’s preached best in actions and… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

As St. Francis is alleged to have said: “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary, use words.”

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Except that (a) there’s absolutely no evidence Francis ever said that, and (b) he spent most of his life wandering around preaching the gospel with words, and (c) Jesus (a greater authority than Francis) definitely told his disciples to preach the gospel with words.

I’m in favour of words and deeds, not words or deeds.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Yes, Tim, but The Word had to become flesh (active) before a fuller, richer understanding of a loving Creator God could be both understood and experienced. As children of God – through our full incorporation into Christ, through Baptism and the Eucharist – we Christians have to become ‘other- Christs’ (alter Christus) emulating the selfless love of God-in-Christ that Francis was alluding to in the phrase attributed to him in the Francisan Legenda. In other words; The Word (Christ) has to become ‘flesh’ in us moving beyond mere words, before the world can recognize – in us – the Love… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

All of which is to say, words and deeds, not words or deeds.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago

diocesan bureaucracy has grown enormously. Eighties-style managerialism has downgraded pastoral care in favour of clergy as overseers and brought in internal competition, privileging funding for new mission initiatives, which are deliberately unconnected to nearby parishes and lack evidence of success. “

This is so often said. What I honestly don’t understand is –
How are bishops allowed to get away with it?
How can bishops be made more accountable for their leadership?

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Dave
1 month ago

The dynamic of top-down leadership is all a bit corporate and rather like medieval feudalism in concept. Yes, it’s good to entrust people with stewardship and care, and I’ve respected various bishops who I’ve come to know personally. But fundamentally, bishops are supposed to be servants. So I see their ideal role as being facilitators, committed to empowering local church communities to flourish in their own environments with their own distinctive cultures. Personally, because they are the beating heart of church mission and front-line living out of faith, I believe a balance needs to be adjusted, allowing local grassroots churches… Read more »

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Very helpful words, Susannah and thank you for taking the time to share them.

You say at the end: “I therefore believe that grassroots communities need to make a stand for the decency and conscience of their own communities, and to do so in large numbers, networking together. ” Just to get more of a grasp of what you say could you give an example of making a stand by action in the local community.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Dave
1 month ago

Absolute, radical and public affirmation of the relationships (including the intimate sexual nature) between gay couples or lesbian couples. Public and published statements to that effect from the PCC. Wedding services in every aspect except the legal piece of paper required at present by law, complete with banns being read out in advance, and the church community sharing in drinks, food and celebration afterwards. Total acceptance of LGBT people in all aspects of local church life including preaching, leading youth groups, and whatever gifts they – like everyone else – have to offer. Hosting of LGBT days in network with… Read more »

83
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x