Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 August 2019

Martyn Percy delivered this lecture at Salisbury CathedralRedeeming Evangelism: Authentic Mission in the Church of England

Sumit Paul-Choudhury BBC Future Tomorrow’s Gods: What is the future of religion?
“Throughout history, people’s faith and their attachments to religious institutions have transformed, argues Sumit Paul-Choudhury. So what’s next?”

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Charles Read
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I am a charismatic evangelical. I agree with Martyn Percy. (Mostly).

It is perfectly possible to be a charismatic evangelical and be uneasy about where fresh expressions etc has gone. His most acute observation, I think, is that the HTB churches think they are cutting edge and radical when they are nothing like.

Ian Paul
Guest

Really? Surely I am not the only person to recognise that even the first paragraph is a bizarre, skewed and self-serving reading of Acts. It bears no relation to what the text says!

Richard W. Symonds
Guest
Richard W. Symonds

Martyn Percy: “Too often, our church leaders behave as though all that matters is the church. Sometimes, the reputation and safeguarding of the church can be put before justice, integrity and truth. Even before compassion”

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Thank you for pointing us towards two stimulating articles. It is clear from reading about the origins of religion that no faith is guaranteed to survive. If belief is part of our evolutionary DNA, change is inevitable with some groups becoming extinct. In the face of such a threat, the CofE responds with Messy Church, Fresh Expressions and people playing guitars and drums. Clearly our destiny is the same as that of the Dodo.

Kate
Guest
Kate

But if Christianity is the authentic, true faith then it is intrinsically different to all other faiths and what happens to the others cannot then be extrapolated to Christianity. Of course, secular writers won’t see it that way but surely any Christian will?

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

It will wither if people stop believing in it.

Kate
Guest
Kate

But if Christianity is the true, authentic religion it claims, the Spirit will not allow that to happen.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Kate is like those who believe the bible is true because its says so. In evolutionary terms, Christianity has been around for a nanosecond. Its existence isn’t guaranteed just because it says so.

Kate
Guest
Kate

That is the secular view. The Christian view is very different. Only time will show which is right.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Christianity is the authentic, true church — for its believers. Jesus is the only door, way, truth, life — for Christians. And even those Christian believers can question their church’s teachings, question its leaders, question God. Every religion has leaders, has believers, who think their faith is the ONLY true faith. An author of a rather mediocre book about the struggle between polytheism and monotheism in the Mediterranean region and Middle East during the Roman Empire did state one idea that, to me, rings absolutely true: All too often, monotheists not only believe in one God, they believe there is… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest

There is nothing wrong with “Messy Church, Fresh Expressions and people playing guitars and drums” – all this can be held within an Anglican ethos. And don’t forget that music groups are the older form of musical accompaniment in Church – before these ghastly modern organ thingies were invented.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Sorry, Charles Read. The organ, in an earlier form, pre-dates Christianity. How sad to see the ‘King of Instruments’ termed ‘ghastly modern’. Some organ-playing may be ghastly (I may be an offender) but I’m afraid as a generalisation your comment is really a reflection of average British current musical taste. A visiting priest from a different diocese chided us “We insult God with trivia”. I realise that that is also an over-generalisation, and was his personal view, but please don’t knock the organ or organist. He or she may have studied for a playing diploma, practises regularly and conscientiously, putting… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

I interpreted “ghastly modern organ thingies” as referring to electronic synthesizers masquerading as organs, not the real deal: An honest-to-God pipe organ.
A few Octobers ago, the cathedral organist here in Denver gave a free concert. One of the selections he played was Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D. When those base pipes opened up, the entire cathedral nave reverberated and you could feel it through the wooden floor. I also love Marcello’s “Psalm 19”.
I don’t know about “old-time religion”, but give me that real pipe organ any day.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Rock bands and “Contemporary Christian” music appeal to young people who can pretend they are at a concert. I have yet to hear a (modern) church band, completely with drum kit, perform anything that makes me feel that I am worshiping in “the beauty of holiness.”

Jonathan Jennings
Guest
Jonathan Jennings

Wooden floor? What’s wrong with stone? New fangled things. Can’t be doing with them …

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Martin Percy states that at the time the evangelicals promoted their own overt brand of faith the public stepped quietly back. Making a racket in Church may suit a particular kind of enthusiastic bible-based believer, but for those outside it is not very attractive, and is off-putting.

Kennedy Fraser
Guest
Kennedy Fraser
Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

Roland I think Charles was being ironic about the organ…I think you may have missed his point.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I didn’t expect to generate all these responses! The irony wasn’t evident to me and I’m obviously now gratified if I got it wrong! As an interesting aside, the very same church where the visiting preacher said that “we insult God with trivia” happens to have displayed in a glass case the surviving ‘serpent’ from the former church gallery band (as immortalised by Thomas Hardy). A serpent is a wind instrument and an ancestor of the tuba. There are two or three other ones, I think, scattered in churches around the country, but it’s a rare survivor and is treasured… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest

Rowland, turn on the irony detector on your computer.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Alternatively, I could say state your case clearly and unequivocally, so that simple souls aren’t misled by sophistry/ irony! Someone has to stand up for the organ, a noble instrument, and humble performers on it. Of course, there are some prima donna organists, but the majority are hard-working servants of the Church – and many doing it for no reward other than that service. End of my sermon on the subject!

Best wishes to all who responded.

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

Not for the first time, Martyn hits the bullseye and does it with depth of vision and depth of argument that makes the soul sing. I have been toying for some time with a notional article for the Church Times on ‘Church Growth: the modern heresy’ but it would be a blunt instrument from a blunter mind than Martyn’s. I am grateful for the doctrine of obliquity of which I realise am a deeply committed adherent and feeble practitioner. It is how I have always understood the doctrine of Tradition. For what it is worth referencing the great Joan Chittester… Read more »

Wm. Bill Paul
Guest
Wm. Bill Paul

I missed, in this article, the depth of argument, though he is capable of it. And though I would share some of the direction of his criticisms, this presentation, like some others of his, displays to my eye more of his frustration than a compelling way forward.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Martyn Percy is amazing

Sam Jones
Guest
Sam Jones

A very depressing article by Martyn Percy. He is advocating a secularised church which is little more than a welfare agency. What is distinctly Christian about this?

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

“Love your neighbor as yourself?”

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Far from depressing I have found it really stimulating and engaging and advocating an incarnational approach. That surely is very distinctly Christian.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

It’s fascinating, isn’t it. You read his article and see him advocating a secularised church that is not distinctively Christian. I (and I’m sure others) read it and see the exact opposite – him critiquing the current church for being secularised and not distinctively Christian, and advocating instead getting back to authentic Christianity. In similar ironic vein, there’s an article in Church Times about a vicar leaving the CofE to joining GAFCON, in which the vicar says: “The General Synod and the House of Bishops of the Church of England currently seem less concerned to stick with the Bible than… Read more »

Jane Thomas
Guest
Jane Thomas

Wasn’t the Church of England ‘secularised’ in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy and, subsequently, in 1559 when the so-called ‘Elizabethan Settlement made it possible for the monarch to by-pass the bishops and ask Parliament to legislate on doctrinal and liturgical matters? It all began long before alleging that Martyn Percy is part of the slippery slope!

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

I read Martyn Percy’s piece after listening to this week’s Great Lives on Radio 4, in which Ed Balls was talking about the English composer, Herbert Howells. It was striking that someone like Balls, very much of the edge of the Church, struggling with questions of faith and Christian identity, is nourished and sustained by great music that evokes the transcendent. Significantly, it is this music that keeps him in touch with the Church and its worshipping life. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0007bd2 Regardless of his politics, he is typical of so many intelligent, reflective people who will never – EVER – be touched… Read more »

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

From an article in this morning’s Tablet, in which a young (self-described ‘hippy’) encounters Christianity through the rhythm and discipline of monastic life and worship: “I had had no religious upbringing whatsoever… Yet this introduction to the monastic life – with its emphasis on praying rather than proselytising – probably made a convert of me. The wordiness of Christianity had put me off, but the stillness drew me in. After my visit to [a monastery] I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic Church. I was 21… Despite my difficulties with some of the positions the Church takes up, I… Read more »

Nick
Guest
Nick

I find a few of the comments here rather amusing. There are 16,000 churches in the CofE. The network of HTB churches is less than 100. Yet this network seems to cause so much (disproportionate) angst to posters on this site. Frankly, my advice to those concerned by HTB and the like is – ignore them. Focus on your own mission, live out your calling. If organ music is what the people want, there are probably about 15,000 of the 16,000 churches that deliver that, so there is plenty of that to go around for those that want it. The… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

There has been a dramatic fall in Church-going in the last few decades. I wonder why the Lord has chosen to let this happen. He is obviously not interested in Church growth.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“He [ the lord] is obviously not interested in Church growth.” Why would he be? As a friend of mine commented to me recently, how did the message of Jesus ever get mixed up with something like the church?

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

FrDavidH Are we also to assume that the Lord is obviously not interested in world poverty, war, climate change, immigrants drowning trying to reach Europe and many other things he is letting happen in this world at the moment?

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

I was responding to Nick’s assertion that the Lord will create Church growth if He feels like it. Obviously He doesn’t at present. It’s a large leap from that to observe God doesn’t intervene in human tragedies. I’m wondering what you mean by the Lord being “interested”. I’d have thought it’s a Christian duty for His followers to help victims of suffering.