Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 8 August 2020

Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Not Going into a Church for Private Prayer

Giles Fraser UnHerd The neoliberal revolution within the Church
“The ancient institution has been asset-stripped by an expanding bureaucracy of management-speak types”

Paul Bradbury His Light Material Is pioneer ministry a ‘neoliberal destruction’ of the parish system?

Janet Fife Surviving Church Bethel Sozo Part 2 Being Sozoed
Part 1 is here.

Kelvin Holdsworth Every Eucharist is a Virtual Eucharist

Religion Media Centre Holiness and desire: how the C of E can keep the conversation open

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Kate
Kate
1 month ago

“But I do think it’s a shame two people gave up their afternoons to sit in masks, ”

What an ungenerous view. I think it is wonderful. The elderly pair were giving of their time at a certain risk to themselves. That’s Christian service at its best..I shall pray for them.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

Diocesan advice to expend depleted parochial cash reserves – ‘because this is the rainy day for which they are held’ – raises eyebrows, especially in light of Giles Fraser’s analysis of Fresh Expressions. Historical parish wealth is locked up in the Commissioners’ bounty, generating 15% of the Church’s annual running costs in perpetuity, and financing pioneer missions such as the £3 million loan to the diocese of Winchester.   But what if – as a result of coronavirus – parishes end up with next to no reserves for sunny days, let alone rainy ones? Do they just go on funding… Read more »

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

I am guessing that there must be a tipping point in every parish when the money runs dry and the church building can no longer be repaired, for example, the magnificent parish church of St Mary in Shrewsbury. The congregation could no longer raise enough money to keep up with maintenance. Next year when PCC accounts start to be published, a much truer picture will emerge of how many churches have been forced into insolvency by being closed for months, maybe even a whole year. I am rather irritated by clergy who occasionally appear on tv or in newspapers complaining… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

Michael, although you could argue that our large, crumbling Gothic edifices are ideal places for socially-distanced collective worship or individual private prayer, a sense of fear and crippling red tape morph into a general air of malaise and apathy. Even when churches reopen, mask-wearing and lack of singing or social life lessen their attraction.   The absence of support for the heritage of the parish church in the Church Commissioners’ glossy annual reports is a glaring omission, in my view. Perhaps it was felt that sufficient provision was available elsewhere, or that buildings weren’t a priority for them. But the… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

Many thanks. The Taylor Review, which was several years in gestation, was published (deliberately?) shortly before Christmas 2017 (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/669667/Taylor_Review_Final.pdf); as I noted elsewhere at the time, it has sunk without trace.   A significant statement may be found on p. 23:   “In some situations it will not be possible to identify viable partners or alternative models of management and the building will be closed. In some cases the significance of the building will be such that it is accepted for long-term vesting in the Churches Conservation Trust but in the majority of situations this will not be possible. The… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Froghole

This is most interesting, thank you.   Actually, the last two years of the Cameron-Osborne era (2014-6) coincided with a high point in public funding (£115 million a year) of church restoration, as Taylor acknowledges. And after May and Hammond succeeded them, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committed to a pilot scheme, costing £1.8 million, in the dioceses of Manchester and St Edmundsbury & Ipswich (Church Times 6/4/18). This pilot trialled Taylor’s recommendations in three key respects: a minor-repairs ‘stitch-in-time’ fund, a major-repairs fund, and a team of advisers helping parishes with fabric assessments, grant applications and… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

Many thanks indeed for this detailed and cogent response.   As you probably know, the Treasury reduced subventions in two major ways, directly and indirectly: (i) in 2012 it removed the zero VAT rating for repairs to listed buildings; and (ii) it sanctioned the termination of the HLF grants for places of worship programme in 2017 (which I appreciate occurred shortly after Osborne had left). It was the termination of the latter and the refusal of the Holyrood administration to make up the shortfall which has led to the devastating Radical Action Plan in Scotland, for example.   I agree… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks again for this background information.   Let’s hope that when the pilot scheme is completed and reported on, there will be an opportunity to make further representations in light of its conclusions, to allow individuals and communities to suggest alternatives.   The Taylor Review accepted four elements as threats to the ongoing care of parish churches: declining congregations; lack of skilled assistance on the ground; scarcity of public funding; and the absence of an overall strategic approach.  You and others had high expectations, having been engaged with the consultation from the outset, and were sorely disappointed when the report… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

Many thanks for this. One of the reasons I have made such a thoroughgoing nuisance of myself on this and other sites since lockdown is my sense that the Church is so fragile, almost everywhere (and including in many urban areas) that it will not take much to tip much (most?) of it over the edge. The virus has rendered obsolete the information I had obtained about service patterns and strength of attendance. Also, my survey (which was really a worship pilgrimage and historical/topographical tour) was not scientific, though to paraphrase David Voas, it might have been on a scale… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Froghole

Please do continue banging the drum! In the social sciences nowadays, your epistemology and methodology would be regarded as having equal weight with more traditional approaches. You may wish to consider presenting your arguments in a formal context, incorporating as much relevant historical and anecdotal evidence as you see fit, against the backdrop of the pandemic.   The DCMS pilot will also need to take account of the social and economic impact of the virus and adjust its response accordingly. Major capital projects are likely to proceed unscathed as the country combats recession, given that improvements to infrastructure are regarded… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

Many thanks for this and for also broaching the points you have in recent weeks! I sent my draft bill to the Third Commissioner and have written to various people in authority, but it is clear there is no interest. This is probably because the model I was proposing would be too disruptive to too many interests. This puts me in mind of works by the likes of Mancur Olson (‘The Rise and Decline of Nations’ (1982)) or Joseph Tainter (‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’ (2011)): once a society, or organisation, is captured by its constituent interests meaningful reform becomes… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Froghole

Sorry, this ought to have ended “(noting that bishops and clergy alike are not trained to be administrators or financiers, or at least should not have taken orders for that purpose).”

Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago
Reply to  Froghole

I too encourage you, Froghole, to keep banging the drum. Andrew does a pretty fine job too. I don’t have the background and forensic skills in social sciences, law, and historical knowledge that you (plural) share, but I see with my eyes and hear with my ears the visceral truth of what you propound. I weep and despair at the way in which the CoE ignores the numinous that needs no words in favour of the kitchen sink that consumes words, words, words spewed into it in the mistaken and patronising belief that the wo/man on the Clapham omnibus can’t… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

I don’t have the depth of knowledge to contribute to the fascinating debate between Andrew and Froghole on this matter, but there is a very interesting article by Catherine Pepinster in the current edition of The Tablet, which reviews how the Roman church is facing up to the same problems. So many things are similar, such as the forthcoming financial armageddon, many people staying away from re-opened churches because they do not yet feel safe, and the great resistance to closing churches. But some things are very different – in the Diocese of Westminster (not surprisingly one of the wealthiest)… Read more »

Richard
Richard
1 month ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

I don’t disagree with you, but keep in mind that Roman Catholic priests do not have a family to provide for. Those who lobby for dropping the celibacy requirement likely don’t think of the costs involved.

ACI
ACI
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard

It would be an intriguing exercise to see just how many CofE clergy children there are, whether spouses work, etc. vis-a-vis the total number, and compare that to RC clergy wages.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

Thank you, Malcolm, for your reference to Catherine Pepinster’s article. I haven’t yet seen an equivalent analysis of CofE finances; I suppose administrators are busy number-crunching and stress-testing scenarios.   Those in favour of keeping our parish quota system will argue that it maximises risk-pooling, so that individuals aren’t exposed to the vicissitudes of sudden drops in parish income. As a result of coronavirus, RC priests find themselves caught between two stools – neither employee nor self-employed, and not automatically qualifying for Treasury relief. On the other hand, the curia can lobby the Chancellor to make an exception for hard-up… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

Dr Fraser refers to expropriations dating back to the 1970s. By that he means the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976, to which parliament devoted some time in an otherwise stressful year, and which was based in part on the precedent of the pooling and redistributory principles detailed in the Benefices (Stabilisation of Incomes) Measure 1951 (https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1976-11-15/debates/290098fd-cef7-4109-ae97-c3c6dfb44898/ChurchOfEngland(EndowMentsAndGlebeMeasure)). Also here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/1976-07-26/debates/242e21dd-c81c-4982-926e-5cb2de66387f/EndowmentsAndGlebeMeasure, with the Measure being introduced by Gerald Ellison, a staunch believer in the parish system. Note especially the speeches by Robert Banks, Michael Latham and Enoch Powell. A debate in the Commons of that kind would be almost impossible today: no… Read more »

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

I applaud Kelvin Holdsworth for his article and his replies to some of the comments.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
1 month ago

Bethel Sozo sounds worrying indeed. Meanwhile I really liked Kelvin Holdsworth’s piece and found the article about Jessica Martin’s book interesting. However (and here I may be being defensive), as someone who has written extensively from an affirming position and at times held leadership roles in campaigning organisations, I found the characterisation of two extremes rather puzzling. Even if I and many others have somehow given the impression we champion privatised sexual pleasure as an ideal, surely it is fairly obvious that books such as ‘Permanent, faithful, stable’ by Jeffrey John, a very well-known advocate of inclusion, do not?  … Read more »

John N Wall
John N Wall
1 month ago

Janet Fife’s second piece on the Bethel Sozo phenomenon demonstrates yet again how much BS there is in the world view of the Bethel Sozo folks. The real point to ponder in this matter is the question of why the world view of these people, including their imagining of demons, etc, has power and appeal to some folks. Shakespeare’s Duke Theseus, in A Midsummer Nights Dream, gets it right when he talks about the power of the human imagination both to give to aery nothingness a local habitation and a name and also to make a bush into a bear,… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

When I was a young Jewish lad, my parents sat my sisters and I in front of our family’s big black & white TV, let the picture tube warm up, and then we all watched Pope Paul VI celebrate Mass at the New York Yankees baseball stadium. My parents felt that we should be tolerant of and aware of other religious traditions. IIRC, the Mass was celebrated in Latin, and the TV network provided a “color commentator” (for lack of a better term) to explain to non-Catholics what was going on and to provide a running paraphrase of what the… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

I still can’t work out what Paul Bradbury actually does. I note he is a “self-supporting minister”, but to whom or what is very vague. Apart from Messy Church (called ‘Sunday School’ in my day) and Cafe Church (or cup of coffee) I can’t see through the gobbledegook of what a Pioneer Minister actually does. I realise that fewer people today come to meet the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but cannot see how well-intentioned evangelical mumbo-jumbo can set the nation alight as a replacement for what Our Lord commanded. Maybe people just don’t need or want religion. Conning… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Our Lord also commanded us to go out into all the world to preach the gospel. It’s right that this is done in as wide a variety of ways as there are people to hear or see. Evangelicalism may not appeal to you (nor to me, nowadays) but it does appeal to a lot of people. That’s obvious, as so many evangelical churches are full. And people can come to meet the risen Lord in the blessed sacrament just as well in a cafe as they can in an ancient church.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Evangelicalism may attract more worshippers at this time but is more likely to create antipathy amongst the general population. I’m not against having communion in a cafe if performed with dignity. i can’t understand why a confirmed Christian would wish to do so, however

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Because we’re all different, and God made us that way. Some people find incense helps them pray, others hate it. Some people feel vestments on a priest help them experience transcendence; others only feel alienated by them. Some find a worship band helps them praise God and feel his presence; others prefer Gregorian chant or an organ. It doesn’t matter. As long, that is, as we’re all catered for.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

I couldn’t agree more. But what on earth does a Pioneer Minister actually do?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  FrDavid H
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Sorry. That’s a lot of meaningless jargon which states Pioneers like to do new things. But what exactly?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

I wonder if such wide diversity of liturgical styles is altogether wise Janet. At what point is the very concept of “Common Worship”undermined? In 1559 we opted for an Act of Uniformity and a Prayer Book (plus articles of religion,true..but they never functioned quite like the continental Reformed Confessions). There have been big changes in my life time b 1949…and the “traditions” have moved further and further apart.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

My earlier reply seems to have been lost. I’m no fan of uniformity, especially when imposed on widely differing people, communities, and cultures. If nature teaches us anything about God, it’s that God loves variety. And where conformity is imposed or even expected (with concomitant pressure), it’s almost always this already marginalise who lose out.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Fair enough Janet. I was thinking less of a strict uniformity which has never existed but rather “a family resemblance” as Bishop David Hope once put it, and which I think we are losing. At what point does the C of E become simply a loose federation of congregations in a national body which have different takes on Christianity. Is that a Church? You wont agree but I suspect others do

David Rowett
David Rowett
1 month ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Has any work been done on the demography of congregations in ‘successful’ churches in the Evangelical tradition? I know of some work on such churches in the BAME community, and there was a study some years ago on the Christian Union and its long-term effect on Christian affiliation which came up with interesting findings, but is there anything more general going on?   I ask because I’m aware of evangelical churches (Anglican and non-Anglican) in UPA settings which struggle to survive despite valiant work serving their community and forms of worship which are resolutely not pitched at the articulate middle… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago
Reply to  David Rowett

Your last sentence, David, poses a key question. Here in Burton apart from the single RC church, the two biggest churches by number are Elim and Riverside (independent, not part of the chain). Elim is ethnically and socially mixed, Riverside is pretty much prosperous white middle class. From my conversations with the latter’s people and pastor, the attraction is not theology, or music style, or liturgy (of course they are ritualistic), or numinousness, or family loyalty going back generations. It’s quite simply social: activities, involvement, social action, friends. Anyone who wants to do something, or who has skills to offer,… Read more »

John Wallace
1 month ago
Reply to  David Rowett

My current and on-going doctoral research gives a hint that there might be something but until I’ve analysed the data, I cannot commit further. After my doctorate I will turn it into some form of accessible publication as it is not a vanity project but something I wish to give to the church. What I will say from what I have found so far is that it isn’t necessarily, theology, churchmanship or any of the usual ‘religious stuff’; it is more likely to be a sense of unconditional welcome, community and the dedication of a charismatic (in the normal non… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  John Wallace

Many thanks! This is so very true: the best churches I have encountered are the ones where I was immediately made to feel at home, where there was a general aura of kindness and sympathy, where there was a truly inspirational priest or other personality (it might be a reader or pastoral assistant) around whom everyone coalesced, but who was giving of him/herself to others, and where there was a true sense of engagement with the wider community (with no strings attached). Incidentally, these churches also had a good demographic spread. Instances that I recall with conspicuous affection were in… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Froghole
Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
1 month ago

I am with Father David H on this. I followed Janet Fife’s link and I am none the wiser. It is written in marketing-speak. In his article, Paul Bradbury said of Giles Fraser’s article: ‘It carped at the managerial tone of the language as a symptom of a deeper malaise of business-speak in the church’. His use of the word ‘carped’ and his later reference to as a piece of cynicism clearly identifies his attitude. The description of pioneer ministry is exactly the same. Kelvin Holdsworth posted an advertisement for a Chaplain at Durham University which, among other things suffered… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel Lamont

The upshot seems to be do as you feel led. The previous experiment back in the day was the 9 o’clock service in Sheffield and may be an example of what can happen. It was celebrated as out there and reaching people the parishes could not reach. The lack of accountability and the development of a cult-like situation ended up causing great harm with sexual abuse and spiritual abuse of people who became involved. I’m not sure a proper investigation was ever done on this. A ‘God told me….’ mentality caused great damage to many people. I’m not convinced any… Read more »

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