Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 4 September 2021

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of the parish as a system

Mary Wakefield The Spectator What’s the harm in opening the church doors?

Theo Hobson The Spectator The fight for the future of the Church of England
[This is also available on The Spectator‘s UK site, where it is behind the firewall.]

Madeleine Davies Church Times The Church and NDAs: when silence is enforced

David Goodhew The Living Church Whither the Church of England?

Surviving Church Review Article – German Lessons

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Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
22 days ago

David Goodhew’s article is welcome, particularly the speculation that London’s relative growth is partly because it has not cut clergy, but I have a number of reservations with his analysis. First, is the assumption that what drives growth or decline is what we (as churches) do or don’t do. I think the reality is a lot more complicated than that. Pretty much every major denomination in England is declining; it’s unlikely we’re all doing the same thing, and yet… Something bigger than what we get up to on a Sunday (or any other day) is at play. Even if within… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Fr Andrew
Nigel
Nigel
22 days ago

David Goodhew’s analysis is interesting. With reference to London, it is also worth noting that – by my calculation – 16,000 (and perhaps as much as 18,000) of the current Sunday attendance number now relates to HTB and its plants in the Diocese of London (which would have been around 3,000 in 1990). I would not be so bold as to suggest that it has been responsible for the avoidance of decline in London, but it can only have helped. I suspect churches such as All Souls, Langham Place, and some larger Anglo-Catholic churches will have also grown over the… Read more »

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Nigel
22 days ago

I think these are important points. No-one ever thought Chartres was an evangelical, but he was well respected, even loved by evangelicals. They saw him as a godly, God-fearing man and enjoyed having him preach for them – not just HTB and the charismatic evangelicals: All Souls, St Helens Bishopsgate and Oak Hill all happily invited him to preach. Whereas south of the river Butler had a less warm relationship with evangelicals. Evangelicals considering ordination were often encouraged to move to a church north of the river before applying for ordination. Chessun is more respected, but these things take time… Read more »

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
22 days ago

David Goodhew has helpfully identified two key factors behind church growth: intention and resources. Churches grow when they intentionally set out to grow by sharing their faith in the risen Christ of the bible and by making both numerical growth and Christian maturity their aim. The methods used by churches to make disciples will vary but not the goal. Churches also need to invest their resources (people, time, finance, buildings, technology) in growing the church. Supremely, of course, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, at work in the hearts of people, convicting them of their need for a… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
22 days ago

Is it possible that we’re looking at this the wrong way round: that a third (and decisive) factor is societal? Namely, that the reasons that numbers are dropping is that secular society has increasingly moved on from the paradigm presented as Christianity, based on an elevated concept of a holy text /texts that are held to be authoritative and inspired, and to be followed and obeyed because of that, ignoring a possible problem with treating them that way. If society is right about this, and the paradigm is wrong, then the reason church attendance has fallen may not be as… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  Susannah Clark
22 days ago

Susannah – reading your comment gives rise to this question for me: if what Christianity has to offer ‘can be embraced through a variety of faith platforms’, and there’s nothing inspired about the Bible or its contents, then what is it that Christianity has to offer that can’t be found elsewhere? And if it can be found elsewhere, then why should people look to Christianity or the church? What would a good, loving and generous agnostic be missing?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  David Keen
22 days ago

That is a very good point, and one which appears to have crossed the minds of the vast majority of the population who have never had any need or craving for the faith, and almost certainly never will (much as this saddens me). The Bible is seen as another set of mythological texts that are not perceived as being any wiser than those of other faiths or, more to the point, any more interesting or useful. We are back to Voltaire’s question: in what real sense would he have been Christian had he been borne by the Ganges? One of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Keen
22 days ago

“and there’s nothing inspired about the Bible or its contents…” David, it depends what you mean by inspired, and what authority you attribute to the words that the human and fallible authors tried to gather to communicate encounter with the vast mystery of God. A main point I would try to make is not that there’s nothing in the Bible that can open our hearts, when we read it, to the flow of God’s love… but that we are using the Bible the wrong way if we attribute some magical ‘instant text’ authority to everything we read there. The Bible… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
22 days ago

The Bible is terrible at being mundane. It is full of contradictions and has these odd fantastical passages. Selling a mundane Bible isn’t going to work, and that the Church of England has increasingly done so is part of the reason for decline. I take totally the opposite position to Susannah. When we start believing in the Bible as magical, then growth will start again. It’s why charismatic evangelist churches grow. I don’t agree with their fundamentalism but at least they understand that God is magical and that Christianity is a journey beyond the mundane of modern science.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Kate
22 days ago

I’m sure those mundane scientists responsible for saving lives through a rapid development of a Covid vaccine would prefer that God had pulled a rabbit out of a hat to speed up their efforts. I hadn’t thought of Jesus as being in the image of Tommy Cooper who could have stopped people dying “just like that”. It is precisely because many people assume Christianity to be magical nonsense that they reject its claims. Perhaps ministers should stop learning theology and just perform a few card tricks.

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  Susannah Clark
21 days ago

Thankyou Susannah, I really appreciate the depth and detail of your response. From what you say, you’d put the Bible on a continuum with other inspirational texts, rather than in a class of its own? There is a real dilemma at the heart of this – if Christianity isn’t really that much distinct from other spiritual paths and texts, if we encounter God just as much in other spiritual systems, as well as creation etc., then is it really worth the resources and effort that we spend on it? Has the church made Jesus more distinct than he really is?… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Keen
21 days ago

Dear David, Wow, that is such a good response. And thank you for the courtesy and reason which distinguish your reply. I suppose, to be as honest as I can, I do think Christianity is a most powerful way of opening to the Love of God. That’s why I am a Christian. However, my counter-argument to your very fair points would be that Christianity can still be powerful, relevant, life-deepening, if the Bible gets things both right and wrong, or sometimes relevant to a culture like the authors, but later less applicable because of cultural change or scientific advancement. Just… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  David Keen
22 days ago

I agree entirely with Susannah’s analysis. The Christian Myth has lost its power and its story has little meaning to most people in our secular society. Instead of interpreting it anew, today’s Church thinks it can simply shout biblical texts louder accompanied by guitars and drums. People today find inspiration in science, the arts, medical advancement and equality legislation which attempts to outlaw hatred. Most people can’t see what else they need. As Susannah says “the Church’s elevated view of biblical inspiration is getting in the way”. In today’s CofE *what would a good, loving and generous agnostic be missing?… Read more »

Colin Coward
Reply to  Susannah Clark
22 days ago

Bob Edmonds wrote that growing the church is supremely the work of the Holy Spirit, at work in the hearts of people, convicting them of their need for a Saviour, that brings about repentance and faith in Christ. The theology of sin, guilt and repentance that results from or brings us to faith in Christ repels me and always has. I am a priest, 76 next month, refused a PTO by my bishop because I spoke truth to him and impossible for him to give me now because I am married to my male partner. The stance of the Church… Read more »

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Colin Coward
21 days ago

I would be grateful if you would explain to me your view of Christ. Son of God, sinless Saviour, risen from the dead or good man/teacher to follow.

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Susannah Clark
21 days ago

“People may just think this paradigm is irrelevant or even offensive to them, shrugged, and moved off to get on with their lives.” Hasn’t this always been the case. In Jesus’ day the majority found His teaching hard and rejected Him. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians: So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. Jesus preached: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. A rather exclusive viewpoint which many find at odds with their worldview.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
21 days ago

Yes Bob, I was very conscious of those passages. There is also the passage about being ‘a fool for Christ’. But you see, in the very act of citing those verses (and it is a predictable and not unreasonable thing to do because you’re being consistent to your own paradigm) you are also demonstrating the way that paradigm is used: to keep on insisting that somehow every verse in the Bible is itself the voice of God. I view it as fallible humans trying to make sense of everything in their own words, trying to make sense of Jesus, reporting… Read more »

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Susannah Clark
21 days ago

Is the bodily resurrection of Christ a myth or a real event?

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
21 days ago

Let’s go for a real event.  A very substantial part of you and me is not you and me at all – it’s the bacteria and viruses and archaea and parasites that we carry around with us, in us and on us. You and I are not individuals but communities. Our skin needs some of these creatures for healthy functioning. Our guts (digestive tracts) need them for digestion. Through the chemicals those in our guts produce, they directly or indirectly influence our moods, emotions, thoughts and actions by way of amongst other things the vagus (tenth cranial) nerve. So if… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
20 days ago

Physical matter accounts for just 5% of the universe. Science has essentially nothing to say about the other 95%. That, for me, puts a big limit on how much I will rely on science for things like that question.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Kate
20 days ago

Filling in scientific gaps with theological speculations has long been discredited.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  FrDavidH
20 days ago

The more I study science the more I realise how limited our understanding is and how often things we thought we ‘knew’ to be true turned out to be just the most common case. For example, my generation were taught in school that anyone with an XY allosome pair was male. We now know that’s not true as the SRY gene may be defective, in which case the Y chromosome isn’t switched on and an individual grows up as an (infertile) woman. That little piece of outdated science is used by transphobes today who wrongly claim all women are XX… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Kate
19 days ago

Theological speculation has nothing to do with science whatsoever.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Kate
20 days ago

Physicists would respond by saying that science’s explanatory power in relation to the basic structure and history of the universe is total. Newton’s model for celestial and earthly bodies travelling through space was good enough until Einstein, who developed the theory of space-time, whereby physical bodies are interposed by gravitational and electromagnetic fields. The nature of physical reality can be expressed by mathematical equations in half a line. ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler’, in his famous dictum. In our part of the world at this time of the year, the sun rises just over twelve hours… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by αnδrεw
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
20 days ago

Interesting question. To answer it you would need to clarify terms i.e. ‘bodily’, ‘real event’ and ‘myth’. The latter term is defined variously, so the definition one is using is needed.

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
Reply to  Rod Gillis
20 days ago

Bodily: i.e a physical body, bearing the marks of crucifixion and capable of eating fish (Luke 24); real event: actually happened, an event supported by eye witness accounts; myth: a term used by Susannah Clarke, and defined in the Oxford dictionary as a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events or a widely held but false belief or idea.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
20 days ago

Thanks, that provides some clarity. Probably more helpful in a discussion like this to also consult a dictionary of theological or philosophical terms re: ‘myth’. A definitive definition remains elusive, and a lot of specialists don’t like to use the term for that reason. I would use the term ( I’m a non-specialist, just a humble parish priest) in the sense of a story that conveys meaning, that the story is on the way to the truth, though not articulated in scientific or philosophical or strictly historical terms. Re: ‘actually happened’, I don’t find the use of the term ‘myth’… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
20 days ago

Thank you.

Another conjuring trick is trying to give ‘myth’ 3-4 different meanings. It is a popular move, though as you note, belied by basic dictionary and cultural understanding.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  CR SEITZ
19 days ago

Jenkins said he wanted to get people talking about religion in the pubs. His spirit is still at work apparently. TA is a kind of virtual pub don’t you find, like the once in the Irish folksong I referenced earlier, A Pub with No Beer. Jenkins was misquoted by the way, sometimes deliberately. What he said about the resurrection was ““far more than a conjuring trick with bones”. As for definitions, far more than conjuring tricks. Which dictionary and which culture? I like The Handbook of Theological Terms by Van A Harvey . Myth: “Since this word is used so… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Rod Gillis
19 days ago

Yes, I know the background, now another time repeated. Selah.

Great, people talking in a pub. Jesus still storms and defeats death. “Let’s have a chat.”

From my perspective, Peter was right. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Why? he knew the difference between ‘myth’ and a confrontation with the One who rules the Universe with power and authority.

Casual religion is a lot of fun. It isn’t the defeat of death and the powers. For that, we worship a Lord. And give him thanks in fear and in rejoicing.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Rod Gillis
20 days ago

After Bishop David Jenkin’s “conjuring trick with bones controversy” Durham Diocese found itself with a succession of ‘safe’ evangelical bishops who haven’t frightened the horses. His immediate successor, Michael Turnbull, said ” it was a pity there had not been a photocall at the Resurrection”. This presumably would have meant Jesus would have appeared on a 1st Century version of Newsnight or Channel 4 News. It would, have course, removed any concept of Faith since photographic proof would have convinced astonished viewers that dead bodies can be interviewed by people like Cathy Newman. Why do some bishops talk such nonsense? https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/durham-s-next-bishop-eschews-controversy-michael-turnbull-believes-in-the-virgin-birth-and-in-hell-writes-andrew-brown-1

Last edited 20 days ago by FrDavid H
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  FrDavid H
20 days ago

Bishop David Jenkins was a gift to Anglicanism. I appreciated his insight in the ‘conjuring trick’ controversy, and his comment on the virgin birth. He expressed a preference for conversations about the real suffering of people over debates that were primarily of interest to academics. Some years ago a fundamentalist preacher, choosing as his text the raising of Lazarus story in John, opined that “If Jesus had not called Lazarus out of his tomb by name, why every dead man in that grave yard would have walked out”. Sadly, even with disagreement notwithstanding, there is likely more of a comfort… Read more »

Roderick Gillis
Roderick Gillis
Reply to  FrDavid H
20 days ago

It does work. I got a kick out of the writing. Describing Jenkins as someone who disagreed with the fancies of the virgin birth, 3 wise men and Conservative industrial policies. Hilarious.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavid H
20 days ago

Not really relevant except inasmuch as it illustrates a certain mindset (if one can call it a mind): one of the vivid memories from my first professional life is the reaction of a “bible believing Christian” medical student to discovering with her own eyes that women and men have the same number of ribs.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
19 days ago

Tell me she wasn’t eventually let near a patient!

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
18 days ago

I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and it would be a bit strange if I didn’t, as I believe I have encountered Jesus and have been living in a personal relationship with Him for 42 years. When you refer to the term ‘body’ I suppose it is impossible to really understand the nature of his body after the resurrection. I believe He had a supra-natural body, because a normal body can’t walk through locked doors. So the disciples may have been encountering Jesus in a higher-dimensional or spiritual manifestation. That doesn’t mean He wasn’t in physical form, but then… Read more »

Last edited 18 days ago by Susannah Clark
John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
22 days ago

My doctoral (just submitted) thesis refers to intentionality as the key to growth. If you want to do it, you employ the necessary resources of whatever sort fits your style. You need to know where you are aiming to go, The parables of the king preparing for battle / the building of a tower is sufficent scriptural warrant.

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Bob Edmonds
22 days ago

Reading comments below, a good monograph to be written would explain the loss of confidence in the power of scripture, available to Tyndale, Rossetti, ST Coleridge, Cranmer, Herbert, Donne, Lewis, and others. The aridity surrounding Noah’s Ark and “the Bible says so” just shows how utterly lost is this rich world. The German Scholar Henning Graf Reventlow’s study was translated into English. It is now 40 years old but still repays reading. The Authority of Bible and the Rise of the Modern World. (Die Bedeutung des Bibelverstandnisse für die geistesgeschichtliche und politische Entwicklung in England von der Reformation bis zur… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by CR SEITZ
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  CR SEITZ
21 days ago

Many thanks for the reference to von Reventlow; I have the first two volumes of the great history of interpretation, and need to get other two (the fourth being especially germane), plus the work you have kindly mentioned. I am getting towards the end of a new book by Guy Stroumsa, ‘The Idea of Semitic Monotheism: the Rise and Fall of a Scholarly Myth’, which is inspired in part by Renan, and is a sequel to his 2010 book ‘A New Science’. It touches on some of the themes dealt with in this thread and, in particular, the loss of… Read more »

CR SEITZ
CR SEITZ
Reply to  Froghole
21 days ago

There are couple of big continental projects on history of interpretation, the other being Magne Saebo’s (FWIW, I did the entry on nineteenth century, “Prophecy in the Nineteenth Century Reception,” in Magnus Saebo, ed., Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation (Vol. III: From Modernism to Post-Modernism (The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) 556-81). Reventlow’s 1980 Göttingen book referenced above is one of his best works and especially relevant for the question of ‘what happened to biblical reception in England’? It is an important philosophical and cultural question. (I deal with some of this in my… Read more »

Paul
Paul
22 days ago

I can’t seem to reply to Fr Andrew’s post – sorry. But I wanted to pick up on his comments on differences between Southwark and London. I agree the two areas are quite different, but (relative to other dioceses) they are two of the most similar dioceses: London was second richest by assets in 2016, Southwark third richest. London was the most ethnically diverse, Southwark the second most (this is relevant as many people say that London’s growth is because of minority ethnic groups – but that hasn’t helped Southwark). Both are listed by CofE stats as being in the… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Paul
22 days ago

Thank you for the info on assets, that’s quite illuminating. On London/Southwark I’m not denying the demographic similarities. There clearly is something worth investigating as to the difference, though it might be accounted for by several factors rather than one big one ‘migration’ ‘Richard Chartres liked evangelicals’ etc. North and South are similar demographically, but there are differences in infrastructure (I can’t think of a better word): to repeat, all the big churches (I’d call them shrine churches in my tradition) people will travel to are in North London. They account for a huge chunk of London’s attendance figures. It… Read more »

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Fr Andrew
21 days ago

Is there anything that could persuade you that churchmanship/tradition is a factor? You seem to rule it out as a possibility, but it seems an obvious difference between dioceses and churches. Goodhew’s research suggests that the causes are multifactorial, but that one key factor is that: “Those trimming faith to fit in with culture have tended to shrink, and those offering a “full-fat” faith, vividly supernatural, have tended to grow. This is as true of the ultra-liturgical Orthodox as it is of the ultra-informal Pentecostals.” Looking around my own area that seems fair. Looking at the list of churches with… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
22 days ago

Was any analysis done as to why the Decade of Evangelism was such a flop?

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Fr Dean
22 days ago

Dean, isn’t it because it was a top down initiative which many parish clergy and congregations just ‘didn’t buy into’? In the diocese where you last served and I was lay chair of Synod, we have seen this. No matter how many ‘awaydays’, conferences are laid on, unless the initiatives are seen to be applied easily into normal parish life, they will fail. Faithful parish ministry is the key and that’s what David Goodhew shows. If new ideas come from within the parish with the vicar, PCC and other lay leaders in total support, things will happen with the help… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  John Wallace
21 days ago

I was an ordinand and curate during the unremarkable Decade of Evangelism and I struggle to remember it featuring over much for me at the time. As an ordinand I was the head server at Holy Trinity Hereford, my team were all in their mid teens and even at the time I knew that they were a fine group of young people; I even remember their names: Suzy, Sarah, Anna, Becky, Ben, Johnny and Kevin. They couldn’t hide their scorn for happy clappy worship; rather as Theo Hobson’s teenagers sniggered during the Easter Day service they attended. At Holy Trinity… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

The CofE attempting to get down with the kids reminds me of Michael Gove’s recent, widely reported embarrassing attempt at Dad-dancing in a Night Club. It provokes only scornful giggles when a young fogey tries to look cool, be it a HTB minister, a mission advisor called Dave, or any other madcap, here-today, gone-tomorrow expert on how to make our mate Jesus sound groovy (that word gives my age away). Young people are more likely to respond to a sense of the numinous than a religion more akin to the era of Cliff Richard and the Shadows.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavidH
21 days ago

I think what really touches young people is authenticity. I think when a church community is week in week out caring and sharing in people’s lives, and welcoming families, and being there alongside them… I think that’s what impresses young people, because they, too, need that acceptance and inclusion.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  FrDavidH
21 days ago

I haven’t seen any HTB minsters trying to look cool – other than those who actually are in their 20s and do look cool. Instead of your usual trope – and sour grapes – perhaps take a look at the numbers?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Nigel
21 days ago

I think most people would be shocked if Jews talked about their mate Moses, or if Muslims said what a great trendy bloke Mohammed is. It might cause a few sniggers, if not outrage. The CofE seems happy to promote Our Lord as if He is one of the lads who loves trite pop songs. Most young people can see through this cringe-worthy evangelism and either ignore it, or worse, laugh at it.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
20 days ago

‘Most young people can see through this cringe-worthy evangelism and either ignore it, or worse, laugh at it.’ You are perfectly entitled to your jaded world view and your personal hatred of evangelicals. But please do not enlist ‘most young people’ in your cause without statistical evidence. If your claim were true, the churches with the highest percentage of young people in England would all be liberal catholic churches, and the charismatic, Pentecostal and evangelical churches would all be full of retirees. This is the church my brother attends in Manchester; he just turned 61 and he’s one of the… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
20 days ago

According to the Cult Education Institute your brother is being exploited. https://forum.culteducation.com/read.php?12,107449,page=1

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
19 days ago

Trust me, my brother is one of the most un-exploitable people I know. I’ve known him his whole life and I’ve never won an argument with him.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  FrDavidH
20 days ago

With respect, you mentioned in your post: “a young fogey tries to look cool, be it a HTB minister…” So, clearly appearance. Please look here: https://www.htb.org/leadership-team Please tell me who is a young fogey trying to look cool? The people in their 20s look like London people in their 20s, right through to the same for people in their 60s. Nothing strange here. Quite relatable to people, in general Have you considered the fact that people might find your dress at church – depending on preference, styled on the dress of gentlemen, monks or academics, between the 13th and 19th… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Nigel
20 days ago

It would be invidious of me to name those who look like young fogies. Dress styles in various professions – the law courts, for instance- haven’t changed over centuries. I’ve never understood why evangelical ministers think that adopting the neutral uniform of clothes available at any Marks & Spencer makes them more relatable.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

Surely the truth is that people are not all the same. Some find clerical dress helpful and reassuring, others find it a barrier. Also, the personalities of ministers vary. I have colleagues who wear clericals all the time, and others who don’t. They are all people of integrity and I trust them to make good decisions for themselves.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
19 days ago

I agree. I quite like clerical dress and academic dress – and I will voluntarily wear academic dress in the chapel of my college (my alma mater) when I am there. What I do have an issue with is uninformed trashing of well-intentioned decent evangelical clergy at a well-known church. Might I dare to suggest that it is verging on bigotry?

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

Given that HTB has a congregation of more than 5,000 on a Sunday, these “evangelical ministers” may be more in touch with the zeitgeist than you?

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
Reply to  FrDavidH
21 days ago

Are there any examples of liberal churches attracting young people? All the churches I know with anyone in the congregation under 40 are evangelical.

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Sam Jones
21 days ago

The church I am glad to attend is liberal catholic and we are fortunate to have a good number of children and young people in our congregation as well as a number of young(ish) families, plus of course many, like me, who are full of years. I don’t have a post-lockdown figure, but prior to that the older section of our junior church, with which I help had about 12 or 13 children on our books, though they weren’t there every Sunday, any more than I was. It does happen!

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  David Exham
21 days ago

My own local parish where I have PTO has a good cross-section of ages, families, men and a large Messy Church group. There isn’t an evangelical in sight. It’s hardly surprising that happy-clappy parishes are growing when, in places, millions of pounds have been poured in by the present Politburo, who are prepared to “bus in” teams of smiling bible – believers to attract local youths in towns where there are students ripe for picking.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
20 days ago

‘It’s hardly surprising that happy-clappy parishes are growing when, in places, millions of pounds have been poured in by the present Politburo’

Earlier on, you referred to Jesus as ‘our Lord.’ As you know, he warns us about calling him ‘Lord’ but not doing the things he tells us. With that in mind, I suggest you reflect on what he has to say in Matthew 5.22 and how it bears on your continuing habit of comparing evangelical leaders with Soviet-era mass murderers.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
20 days ago

We’ve already had this discussion!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

And I will continue to flag it every time you do it.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
20 days ago

‘Happy clappy’ churches have been growing since the 1970s, long before anyone thought of putting money and resources into them.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

Yes, “in places”. How about the vast majority that are “growing” – where not a penny has been “poured in by the present Politburo”, who are – in reality – subsidising lots of non-evangelical churches via their parish share/diocesan contribution? You conveniently forget about all of those numerous instances and focus on the margins, simply because it suits your (repetitive) line of argument.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  Sam Jones
20 days ago

Yes of course there are.

Cantab
Cantab
Reply to  Sam Jones
20 days ago

I better tell this to the 50 people I administered the sacrament to (probably 50% were under 50) and 50 more children and adults I blessed at the communion rail last Sunday at our bells and smells Inclusive Church shack…

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

You make a fundamental error in your analysis of Alpha in UK – that it is a Church of England course. It isn’t. It is as (more?) popular in the house churches, free churches, pentecostal churches and the Catholic Church in UK as the Church of England.

Of course, in the rest of the world, it is thriving even more.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Nigel
20 days ago

Alpha was invented at HTB “Church of England” . The fact that some other churches use it doesn’t mean it is not “Church of England”.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

So, because something was founded somewhere, it must always be that thing?

The facts don’t agree – it is a fully independent registered charity, it has its own separate board and leadership to HTB, it has many separate legal entities around the world, it is 90 per cent run outside the CofE in over 30,000 churches globally (30 per cent Catholic).

Ah, but “Alpha was invented at HTB” so “it doesn’t mean it is not Church of England”.

I can’t help but feel a lack of intellectual rigour here – please employ some critical thinking.

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  Nigel
19 days ago

With a further data point, I’ve been able to find, it seems that over 95 per cent of Alpha courses are run outside the Church of England.

I am sure you will agree that: “the fact that some other churches use it” is probably not consistent with 95 per cent of churches not being Church of England.

But we shouldn’t let facts and logic get in the way?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

Whether it was a flop really depends on what you’re expecting when it started. If you google you will find a spread of reflections from that time – from all perspectives and some creative and honest thinking. It was also a Lambeth Conference initiative of course. Some of the reflections from elsewhere are helpful. For example there was lots in this piece from Canada that I think reflects the UK too. https://institute.wycliffecollege.ca/1999/01/reviewing-the-decade-of-evangelism/

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  David Runcorn
21 days ago

Thanks for that reference to Harold Percy’s article, David. When he was in active ministry, Harold was an enthusiastic practitioner of congregation-based evangelism and helped many parishes across Canada take it more seriously. The two inquirers’ courses he developed, ‘Christian Basics’ and ‘Following Jesus: First Steps on the Way’, were excellent, and I used them as the model for my own inquirer’s course, ‘Starting at the Beginning’. Harold was also the first director of the Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism, and since his retirement John Bowen and Judy Paulsen have carried on that excellent work.

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

None of the replies to Fr Dean’s question has answered it – which makes me wonder whether the answer is no, nobody bothered analyzing the flop, the centre just moved on to the next strategic initiative

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Helen King
21 days ago

An internet search will turn up several reviews of the Decade. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=review+decade+of+evangelism

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
19 days ago

Thank you for those links. Clearly there were analyses done in different parts of the Anglican Communion. But does that work get ‘owned’ by the Lambeth Conference which set this up?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Helen King
20 days ago

I responded actually. And a quick google reveals there is quite a lot of discussion out there that is easy to find. But if you have already decided it was a flop – and on what basis is not clear – do you really want to engage with any wider reflection that actually took place?

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  David Runcorn
19 days ago

See my response to Simon. My question is deeper, being about whether the various analyses were ‘owned’ by anyone, especially by the Lambeth Conference. At various levels from parish upwards, I’m aware of groups not setting any ‘performance indicators’ – jargon, I know, but the point of deciding in advance how you are going to decide what counts as success, and then checking that out after the event, seems to me to be valuable.

Froghole
Froghole
22 days ago

Some very interesting comments about the London diocese. Having worshipped across the five dioceses that cover Greater London, the only thing that is distinctive about London is the presence of HTB and Bishopsgate. Take them away, and the decline is as desperate as it is in any part of Chelmsford or Southwark. The London diocese is roughly coterminous with the old Middlesex; most of Middlesex is late Victorian or inter-war suburban sprawl, like most of north-east Surrey, north-west Kent and ‘Essex over the border’. On the whole Middlesex has a larger proportion of people from other faiths, but the more… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
22 days ago

Madeleine Davies Church Times The Church and NDAs: when silence is enforced

The sooner NDA’s are abolished the better for the Church of England – then tongues will be free to free up long-running scandals – such as the Bishop Bell case.

Last edited 22 days ago by Richard W. Symonds
Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
22 days ago

Is there any data on worshippers/electoral roll members by diocese of residence rather than diocese of church? Almost certainly a rhetorical question, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to look at a sample of electoral rolls. I advised someone doing a project in Bristol years ago involving mapping (by hand in those days) the electoral rolls of various churches and the results were instructive. It makes intuitive sense that people travel to churches in the London diocese but (a) if they didn’t there is no reason to think they would worship locally (so this isn’t a zero sum game) and… Read more »

Nigel
Nigel
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
21 days ago

If I were to take HTB itself (not its plants) as an example in London – and I have no access to actual data, so this is a guess – I would say that less than 5% of people live in the parish (London SW7). This is perhaps not surprising as the congregration is (I would estimate) 70% young (below 40), highly diverse (45% BAME), and whilst full of university graduates and young professionals, I would say not particularly the highly paid professions (like bankers, lawyers). Having said that, I would say that 60% live in Diocese of London, 30%… Read more »

RobT
RobT
Reply to  Nigel
21 days ago

Even if not highly paid professions, those people attending who live in London are likely to have access to a travelcard for commuting where the cost of attending HTB rather than a local church is effectively zero as they have already paid for this travel as part of their commute. This may change if working from home becomes more widespread, but those people who like an HTB service will look for an HTB style service. It will be interesting to see what happens to attendance if commuting to the office (and the 7 day or longer travelcard that goes with… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  RobT
21 days ago

Of course so far this is all anecdotal. But it illustrates an interesting dimension. In fact quite a few people commute to inner London churches by car. I don’t know how much that will be affected by the congestion charge being extended to Sundays. I know that Farm Street RC church campaigned against the extension of parking charges a few years ago.

Not all London worshippers are young. Many have Freedom Passes!

Clearly this is a topic where proper evidence would be helpful.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
21 days ago

London residents over 60 are entitled to Freedoom Passes allowing them free travel on train and bus within London. Similar passes in Merseyside include ferries.
Prof S, with respect, maybe not everone knows this.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  T Pott
21 days ago

Thanks, T Pott, for additional clarification for readers. Everyone over pension age can get a pass for free bus travel anywhere in the country. But the Freedom pass (I like your variant spelling) in London is much more generous. Available from age 60 rather than 66, covers rail and underground as well as buses.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
21 days ago

When I was 60 I was nursing in East London, and I was delighted to get my freedom pass. I didn’t even have to think about travel cost. Although I lived North of the River, I travelled to Southwark on Sundays to the very welcoming St Johns in Waterloo, and for someone recently transitioned and lesbian, that was wonderful and I didn’t have to worry about the cost of travel as an issue. In some ways I would have preferred to attend my local church but they gave me such a frosty reception (as if I had some kind of… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
21 days ago

Interesting thread back and forth. The comment by Fr.DavidH seems to catch the theme. “The Christian Myth has lost its power and its story has little meaning to most people in our secular society.” The late William Stoeger SJ ( cosmologist. see link) has two essays: Scientific Accounts of Ultimate Catastrophe in Our Life Bearing Universe, and, Cultural Cosmology and the Impact of the Natural Sciences on Philosophy and Culture. (info below). The second essay is a critical appraisal of our current scientific culture and its reductive materialist impact of the application of the natural sciences on that culture, and… Read more »

Keith
Keith
21 days ago

Surely it’s about right to outline the general perception of the Christian faith as concerning: 1. a God who’s up there 2. a world which, on the whole, is bad 3. Jesus as a good man who had to die because you’re bad 4. the Church as a bearer of moral authority, and 5. The Bible as the most authoritative and important book known to mankind. You can carry on the exercise by trying the same with what you’ll find in many churches, or amongst Church leadership and teaching, on subjects such as race, climate, sexuality, the priorities of the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Keith
21 days ago

A wonderful quote from Ilia Delio. Thank you. That’s the thing. God’s Holy Spirit keeps on stirring us, revealing to us, and very much through our consciences: our God-given consciouses and capacity to open up to the love of God in new and widening prospect. It can take courage, but as Anais Nin wrote: ” Life contracts or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” I believe we need, collectively as communities, to find courage to respond to conscience, to step out joyfully and compassionately (and of course it will also be costly) because to fail to do so will be… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
21 days ago

London diocese’s slight growth needs to be set in the context that it got its decline in first. In many respects it is the worst performing diocese in a thousand years of Western European history.

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
21 days ago

City of God, how broad and far, outspread thy walls sublime! A promenade along the South Bank, from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge, is one of the best ways to appreciate the many cultural delights the capital has to offer on a human scale: the Globe, the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall, the Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral, etc. Those with a head for heights can take in the London Eye or the Shard. You can look across the river and admire the skyline to the north, in the direction of St Paul’s and the City across the Millennium Bridge,… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by αnδrεw
Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  αnδrεw
21 days ago

There is also an aspect of our capital city that is all fur and no drawers. The knife and gun crime, the modern day slavery, the pollution, the levels of homelessness, untreated or inadequately treated mental health problems and people trafficking. These problems are of course found elsewhere particularly in urban areas, but the contrast between the rich and powerful and the poor and disenfranchised always seems to me to be most stark in London, including south of the Thames. I love my trips to the ballet at the Royal Opera House but even on the short bus ride to… Read more »

αnδrεw
αnδrεw
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

Yes, you are absolutely right. There is a hidden London in plain sight, especially in the West End. Homeless people are very evident there, but it is though they were invisible in the melee thronging the streets.

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
19 days ago

According to Statistics for Mission 2019 ( the latest available) London has the lowest proportion of babies baptised within 12 months of birth and the lowest proportion of deaths marked by an Anglican funeral of any diocese. Expressed as a percentage of the population it is midranking in Worshiping Community , usual Sunday attendance and Easter attendance. It is towards the bottom in Christmas attendance. Part of the reason for increase in electoral roll is that the population as a whole has grown. I do concede that this applies to other dioceses which have seen electoral roll numbers fall. Some… Read more »

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