Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 8 January 2020

David Taylor A Blaze of Light Mixed-Mode or Residential? I’ve Done Both

Richard Harries Church Times Belief in a sceptical society
“In the first of three articles exploring apologetics in a secular age, Richard Harries surveys how life has changed since the 1960s”

Peter Anthony Saint Benet’s Kentish Town Christmas Attendance Statistics

The same title but two very different views of the year ahead
David Baker Christian Today What will happen to the Church of England and Anglicans in 2020?
Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News What Will Happen to the Church of England and Anglicans in 2020?

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Kate
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Kate

Thanks to Peter for sharing. Very interesting.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

It is gratifying to see a Church leader like Lord Harries acknowledge that no amount of reorganisation or moving the deck chairs will make a difference when secular society repudiates the content of any message we have to offer. What is the point of Church ‘planting’, for instance., if the product on offer is simplistic religious rubbish? I believe a secular nation would be open to a grown-up, inclusive message which makes sense to non-religious people in a scientific age. The CofE seems unable to present a believable faith to a post- christian era. Quoting Scripture at people just puts… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

“secular society repudiates the content…” I very much agree. In an age before the Enlightenment it may have been possible to carry a nation on the basis of that old Protestant paradigm that the Bible is authoritative in everything it says. Not any longer. I see it with young people today, and their acceptance of human relationships which the old Protestant paradigm vilifies and condemns. When a Christian, drawing on the authority of the Bible as ‘the Word of God’, condemns the relationships of their friends, or relatives, or themselves… they just – quite rightly – think that’s disgusting. They… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Yes. We should speak with confidence about the virtues of Christianity, but if that confidence rests on a Paper Pope, it rests on sand, and crumbles with each criticism of the gospels. Let our proclamation of the good news rest in the person of Christ himself, not the all-too-human attempts to frame him and his works to suit the agendas of their anonymous authors.

Wm. Bill Paul
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Wm. Bill Paul

What if, as at least a partial balance to your severing Christ and scriptures so completely, he had the power to generate faithful, or relatively faithful, adequate enough, testimonies to himself? What if the agendas you speak of included a desire to be faithful to the events?

James Byron
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James Byron

Outstanding article by Harries (that rare bishop who said interesting things *before* he left office). To expand on his point about apologetics, the church needs to get her mojo back. By church, I’m referring to the invisible church, not the rotting organization that brings her into such disrepute. Stop being crushed by collective guilt over the sins of evil men masquerading as priests, and those who covered up their crimes. All human institutions are corrupt, because we’re flawed to our core. Those evil acts are a sign that we need Christianity more, not less. Let us banish misplaced shame, and… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Amen!

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I am looking forward to reading the two articles Richard has promised will follow (TA team – if you choose, please may we have links to them when they appear?). This issue of what Father David (above) has called “secular society repudiating the content” of many Christian messages really merits close and careful consideration. Is it just the problem of the secularists, resisting God’s message? Or does the Church have a problem, because of the way it sometimes frames the Christian message and the nature of biblical authority? If young people are so often alienated from the Church’s message, is… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Great post!

Couldn’t agree more about the folly of allowing ourselves to be shackled to a dead paradigm, making an idol of flawed human assumptions, and allowing those wrong assumption to smother the Christian gospel.

We need a revival of Christian modernism, and we need it urgently. The further the church retreats into the dead-ends of fundamentalism and radical orthodoxy, both of which seek to deny modernity instead of deal with its challenges, the harder it’ll be for her to get a hearing when she at last stumbles out, blinking, into the light.

Kate
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Kate

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

I’m not sure many would see the Apostles’ Creed as a statement of the Good News. Rather it is a summary of doctrine. The Good News is about the Kingdom of God, not about a dogmatic system.

Kate
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Kate

The Apostles Creed is a short summary of the Good News

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

The Good News must include the statement ‘God is love’, which is absent from the Apostles Creed and all the creeds. A strange omission, but most of the creeds were compiled to define controversial matters (and thereby exclude some people). Presumably everyone agreed that God is love so it wasn’t worth including – but it badly needs including now.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

And as my Anabaptist friends so often point out, the creeds are deafeningly silent on the life and teaching of Jesus. They skip right from his virgin birth to his atoning death. How very convenient for an Empire that found his life and teaching too hot to handle.

By the way, I believe the creeds. I just find it very important to use them for what they are, not for what they aren’t—which is, an adequate summary of the Christian faith.

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

I believe the writings of such as Richard Dawkins provide sufficient meaning for lots of young people and others. Similarly, Humanism’s claims that we should glory in this life since it’s all there is, makes sense to many. (There has been a massive increase in Humanist funerals, for instance). The Church seems unable to communicate a way of life that adds anything worthwhile to people’s lives. Unlike secular society, we are perceived as judgemental, anachronistic and irrelevant. Singing worship songs, Messy Church and Fresh Expressions don’t cut it. Where is the modern, radical and inclusive Gospel being taught by the… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“Where is the modern, radical and inclusive Gospel being taught by the hierarchy.? It isn’t.” Of course not, they’ve gotten where they are by being good safe company men who pass the port and don’t rock the boat. Why change the habit of a lifetime, especially when its rewards are so many? Pressure will have to come from below. As for humanism, I’m all for it, especially given its Christian origins. They should be emphasized, and could form a bridge to those who cleave to it. I admit, I find atheism red in tooth and claw far more bracing and… Read more »

Charles K
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Charles K

Peter Anthony’s rather self-congratulatory graphs and comments are poor statistical analysis. You cant just add on extra services – no bad thing in itself – and then say that its great that more people are coming. What is really important is qualitative research on more regular attenders, and indeed a strategy for encouraging those who come once to come again. Attendance statistics need to be about listening to those who come, about asking them questions about the reasons why they came. A children’s service is different from one connected to a chaplaincy. I am sure the Diocesan stats department would… Read more »

Charles K
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Charles K

PS I would also add in that I wish this was part of the Cathedrals conversation, about increased attendance (which is mostly midweek, and not at all cathedrals). Whilst they rejoice that numbers are going up – no organisation worth its salt would just rejoice in increased footfall, but on greater engagement. At some point, there has to be commitment in whatever shape or form that might take. Tesco might get loads more people looking up and down the aisles (no pun intended!), but they would be challenged if no-one bought anything. We are not the spiritual wing of the… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Charles K ‘Whilst they rejoice that numbers are going up – no organisation worth its salt would just rejoice in increased footfall, but on greater engagement.’ You are right of course – but are you saying this isn’t happening? The two cathedrals I have close knowledge of are doing exactly that.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Sounds reasonable, but then how do you assess such a thing? ‘Greater engagement’ that can be measured might mean more involvement with churchy things like study groups or councils/committees. The real fruits of faith and commitment are seen elsewhere and might not be obvious for many years.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“We are not the spiritual wing of the National Trust.” Early contender for quote of 2020! Couldn’t agree more about footfall proving nothing by itself, especially in cathedrals, many of which are, outside services, pay-to-enter museums (are we really to assume that there aren’t considerable numbers of resourceful tourists who’ve worked out a neat way around the entry fee?). What other measure is there? Well, in England, some form of formal membership would be a good start. Now that Christendom’s no more, the CoE must adapt to survive, and the first step’s to recognize that its decline’s gotten so bad… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Actually, I heard Linda Woodhead at a conference a few years ago commending the National Trust as a potential model for understanding committed church membership.

Kate
Guest
Kate

The big question arising from Peter’s numbers ought to be what is wrong with the Easter Offering that similar numbers don’t attend then? It suggests strongly that we urgently need Easter equivalents of carol services – and much better music. And probably a much, much better Eucharist which at present is about the worst sacrament in the CofE offering and increasingly rejected because it is so poor. Weekly attendance isn’t needed. If we can get people there at Christmas and Easter then we can get the message across which is our goal. At present we are halfway there – and… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I couldn’t agree more that Easter should be (at least) equal to Christmas, and that the churches need to develop a much greater span of art around it. But even if that happens, what does biannual attendance actually achieve? People hear the Christmas message for decades on end without ever becoming committed Christians, after all. Weekly attendence isn’t, I agree, essential, and is in itself no guarantee of anything (as shown by the lamentable spectacle of parents “worshipping” for years to bag places in church schools, then vanishing once it’s achieved, with no noticable change in their lives). But some… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves from time to time that the NT word for church, ekklesia, means a gathering, even a town hall meeting. In order to be part of the ekklesia, you have to show up.

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

“Services at which the traditional musical repertoire… formed part of the liturgy attracted high attendance” says Peter Anthony. Exactly. Which is why churches need to wise-up and start investing realistically in their musical provision. PCCs don’t think twice about paying other professionals, such as architects, lawyers and even mission consultants the going rate. But musicians? It’s all part of wanting excellence on the cheap. Another crucial dimension is that churches which have childrens’ choirs are more likely to have young families in the congregation because they are supporting their children and siblings. Whether someone like Charles K regards this as… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Hear, hear MM, in every respect! I’ve been banging on about this in exactly these terms for almost half a century. You are right about unwillingness to pay musicians. In one of my last churches a strong voice said that church musicians should come from within the congregation. Like plumbers, roofers, scaffolders, electricians do – NOT. It was a losing battle since nobody but me, the vicar, challenged him. I decided that until they came to see the folly of this (lack of) strategy, I’d leave them stewing so long as organists on the rota were competed – as judged… Read more »

Charles K
Guest
Charles K

I agree with you Michael. Music and liturgy are a vital component here and the strength of cathedral and parish church choirs is all the more to be celebrated, supported and encouraged. You are right that there needs to be more exploration of the power of music and ritual. The more that can be done to see music as part of outreach, the better. And you are also right that psalmody – said or sung – is one of the best ways to engage in scripture. Remember St Augustine who said (allegedly) “He who sings well, prays twice”!