Thinking Anglicans

Religion Media Festival: Justin Welby, the BBC, and others

Updated

The Religion Media Centre held a day-long Religion Media Festival on Monday. The full programme of events is copied below the fold. Only a few of them have been reported on so far. If I find links to more reports I will add them, but so far all I have found is in this list:

Church of England decline is ‘a personal failure’ — Archbishop of Canterbury bares his soul

Archbishop Justin’s Speech at the Religion Media Festival

Welby: I practised crowning the King and Queen in a Clarence House bedroom

Our religious programming is universal and appeals to the ‘nones’ too, says BBC chief

Anglican leader does not have to be ‘white guy from England’, says Justin Welby

Our religious programming is universal and appeals to the ‘nones’ too, says BBC chief

Updates

Religion Media Festival 2023: The importance of reflecting religion in the media

Sixteen headlines from Justin Welby’s address and interview at the Religion Media Festival

Video recording of Justin Welby interview

 

10.50 Onjali Rauf – award winning children’s author of The Boy at the Back of the Class, founder of Making Herstory campaigning against trafficking of women and girls, and founder of O’s Refugee Aid Team supporting refugee families in Calais and Dunkirk. In conversation with Hannah Scott Joynt

11.30 The Influence of Religion on World Affairs – A panel discussion chaired by Roger Bolton with Michael Wegier, CEO of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Muddassar Ahmed, founder of the Concordia Forum for western Muslim leaders; Sheetal Parma, former BBC journalist and presenter; and Chine McDonald, Director of Theos

12.20 Polemic with Daisy Scalchi, BBC Head of Religion and Ethics, Television: “Why I’m targeting secular viewers: taking the genre out of its perceived silo and growing religious literacy with universal themes like love”.

12.45 Launch of Religion Media Centre community reporting award, presented by Leo Devine, former senior editor in the BBC regions, in conversation with Jacqui Merrington, Discovery Director, Reach PLC

14.00 Beyond Belief, BBC Radio 4 recording, presented by BBC Religion Editor Aleem Maqbool

15.00 Polemic – Professor Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, Director of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies at the University of Wolverhampton.

15.15 Reporting religion panel discussion – chaired by Rosie Dawson with guests including Kaya Burgess, science reporter and religious affairs correspondent The Times; Amardeep Bassey, freelance reporter specialising in social and community affairs; Justin Cohen, News Editor Jewish News; and Burhan Wazir, Editor of Hyphen

16.15 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in conversation with Julie Etchingham, ITV, plus audience questions

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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
11 months ago

“Anglican leader does not have to be ‘white guy from England’, says Justin Welby”
The Anglican leader can have any colour of skin and come from any country. But if she or he has virulently homophobic opinions that will be the time for the Church of England to leave the Anglican Communion.
If the Church of England has no moral and ethical red lines what is the point of the Church of England ?

Last edited 11 months ago by David Hawkins
Froghole
Froghole
11 months ago

With respect to Archbishop Welby’s remarks about accountability, I note that weekly attendance was about 850,000 in 2013, and it is now down to about 500,000, so the scarring from the pandemic was deep and, it would seem, permanent. As ‘growth’ was critical to the overall prospectus of his primacy, it suggests that the failure has been most profound where it matters the most. That the Church has been in run-off for at least 60 years (more likely c. 150 years) is not news, but absent a degree of flattening in 2012-15, the downward curve was becoming steeper from 2015… Read more »

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

Sixth, clergy have been insufficiently accountable. Some work assiduously, and should be commended, but others have given up and are doing the bare minimum in the remaining years before their retirement. Whatever their style and whatever their church tradition, clergy should be able to justify their stipend, and should have their effectiveness judged in one way or another. Effort alone isn’t sufficient to guarantee success, but it is necessary.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Oliver Miller
11 months ago

I do really sympathise Oliver but there are dangers in what you suggest. The duty of a priest is not just to minister to the majority and keep up the numbers. It is a vital job of a priest to minister to the sick in mind and body and the vulnerable and this time consuming work will not show up in the statistics. Box ticking will increase bureaucracy and will prioritize certain activities over others and this may not be to the benefit of the parish. “Accountability” may well result in an increase in the centralised management style so favoured… Read more »

Martyn
Martyn
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

The insights of Froghole are, as ever, first class. His perceptive insights on secularisation are worthy of a distinction. The recent work of Clive Field and Hugh McLeod corroborates the data now emerging. It will require an imaginative and wise leadership to chart some pathways ahead for all our churches in this era as we face a post-pandemic culture where many are now wholly disinvested from all types of institutions. Our churches have not helped themselves, alas, by failing to engage with public values, contemporary ethics and emerging millennial concerns. We are modern in our self-styling, which often feels rather… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Martyn
11 months ago

I agree with everything but would add one more. One reason, perhaps, why evangelical churches have been more ‘successful’ is that they don’t feel as bound by the shibboleth of authorised liturgy. Take a for instance. Imagine a (city?) church which once a week held a service focused on environmental concerns. The Christian input could be how God is revealed in His creation and our responsibility as stewards, but much of the content could echo secular concerns about the environment. I suspect it could be very popular, but it lies totally outside normal liturgical structures. Some would decry the politics… Read more »

Thomas G. Reilly
Thomas G. Reilly
Reply to  Kate
11 months ago

Kate,
Good liturgy is very earthed, e.g. the bread and the wine, and the water in baptism, and the oils in anointing. The problem is that we have spiritualised them in a very un-Christlike way. Jesus was very earthed, touched people, brought people back to this life. restored people to a proper earthly existence. But we don’t like an earthy God who gets involved in our earthly concerns and loves; we prefer something more spiritual and uplifting! Maybe that is why Jesus concentrated on the poor?

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Kate
11 months ago

You can do what you suggest with authorised / commended liturgy. CW is designed to be flexible. You have got to work really hard to produce ‘illegal’ worship in the Church of England. Some people do seem to manage to do it however…

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Martyn
11 months ago

Many thanks for your kind remarks. My views are a function of my having become a peripatetic worshipper on a frankly pathological (perhaps OCD) scale, but I have read a good deal of the secularisation literature associated with Bruce, Cox, Green, McLeod, Brown, etc. The successive volumes produced by Field have been especially useful to me, given that they have been based on hard statistical data (most recently ‘Counting Religion’ (2022)), and it would appear that the run-off started in earnest after the Toleration Act 1688. These works have made a great impression on me, and have made me appreciate… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

I raised the intergenerational issue as a curate (some years ago now) talking to a school 6th form, and I have commented in articles and sermons occasionally since then – but I hadn’t made the connection here, which is additional food for thought.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

From my experience of the CofE (even in France), right on target. This generational thing is distinctive — in my view — and makes the challenge you accurately describe a very real one. From rural France just now, thank you.

Froghole
Froghole
11 months ago

The Archbishop also remarks that the Church has been in worse places over the last 2,000 years. Perhaps, but not in England, whether in relative or absolute terms, since about the 7th century, and I include the dark days of the 9th and 10th centuries (before St Dunstan’s reform movement), the Commonwealth and Protectorate and the often mis-named ‘age of neglect’. We are presently in the pit and nadir of Christianity in this country, with little end in sight.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

Your interesting diagnosis helps to explain the various practical reasons for the downward spiral. You suggest that favoured plants have accelerated the decline of attendance at parish churches. I’m sure this is linked with the favoured conservative evangelical churchmanship which such planting usually entails. I also suggest this type of religion is off-putting to the English psyche, except for a particular, narrow constituency. I would cite Soul Survivor, Watford as a particularly favoured brand ( e.g. by Justin Welby and Nicky Gumbel) intended to be a panacea against decline. It’s recent alleged scandals are surely a warning sign that promoting… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  FrDavid H
11 months ago

Many thanks. I don’t think that plants are necessarily a bad thing, and I would note that they have kick-started the faith in some areas where it has been moribund: to see churches like, say, St Paul’s Hammersmith or St Peter’s Brighton or St Mary at Quay Ipswich brought back from near-death has been heartening indeed. However, that doesn’t quite mean that plants are always and everywhere an unalloyed good thing. For example, I have encountered places which have made heavy investments (at least heavy relative to available resources) in youth work only to see that investment compromised or dissipated… Read more »

RogerB
RogerB
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

Well, Froghole, I think you may have hit the nail on the head there – ‘the possibility that even if the Word is imparted clearly and cogently to younger generations they still remain indifferent because it does not spark any fire within them?’ ‘Thinking Anglicans’ is, of course, concerned with the institution of the Anglican church. I think many of us now believe that it is not a suitable vehicle through which the Holy Spirit can move to reach those born after, say, 1960. As a churchwarden I am committed to propping up my little corner of it, and I… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

It always seems odd to me that the Church of England knows from attendance figures that it is most attractive to people in later life but, rather than play to its strength, it expends most of its mission efforts on younger generations.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Kate
11 months ago

It always seems odd to me that the Church of England knows from attendance figures that it is most attractive to people in later life but, rather than play to its strength, it expends most of its mission efforts on younger generations. I am just about to leave the office to see a concert in a football stadium by Mr Springsteen. Our local symphony orchestra no longer puts tickets in the top level of its large hall on sale, because the audiences in the large city no longer justify it. They assumed — I know, because I spoke to the… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Interested Observer
Richard
Richard
Reply to  Kate
11 months ago

Would it make sense for a family to spend its time and resources on the grandparents while ignoring the young children? Those of us who are in later life will soon be the past. The younger generations will always be the future.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

You cite a couple of plants which revived some moribund parishes by importing formulaic happy-clappy meetings conducted by smiling men in jeans. This may be more attractive to small numbers of young people than sung mattins. Perhaps your assertion that a clearly imparted Word missing the target is more pertinent. Young people are much less judgemental and more accepting of each other than their forebears. To be invited to an organisation that suggests they are sinful ( and sometimes sexually deviant) may sound somewhat unnecessarily offensive and judgemental. Talking of raising of dead people, walking on water, ascending heavenwards, being… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  FrDavid H
11 months ago

Yes, I think there is much in that. For the great majority of the population, the Church is a self-interested and opportunistic bureaucracy which pedals a message that is essentially fantasy. Much of our scripture is perceived as being about as compelling as Gilgamesh or the Zend Avesta, which is to say, not at all. One can put ‘lipstick’ on it, but most people will walk on by and find other things to do within the short time allotted to them. From my perspective, the question is how best to harness the faith in order to provide for a better… Read more »

AJ Stewart
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

In my experience (academic, business, pastoral, and now entrepreneurial), the transactional and hierarchical nature of the clerical structure and the Church’s manufactured scarcity and one-way money-flow are deeply frustrating to those under 60. Institutions that are really hard to “get into” as a career or even just to have a voice are being walked away from: banking, publishing, academia, the church, etc. If we look at what’s successful and engaging – startups with agile work groups and rotating scrum masters – we find that’s a lot like how Jesus taught. Leaders create leaders… and then step aside to let them… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  AJ Stewart
11 months ago

Although I would struggle to manage a whelk stall, I have have had some experience of agile delivery, and have considerable sympathy with your frustrations (I am 47). I agree vehemently with your remarks about the necessity of driving economies of scale within the Church (the present system is designed to reduce economies of scale almost to the uttermost, wasting much scarce capital in the process), but it is indeed about creating economies of esteem and affection. Indeed, as the welfare state comes under increasing strain, the need for such communities will become more essential. What a tragedy it will… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
11 months ago

Funny how events have a way of putting things into perspective. The parents of the medical student killed this week in Nottingham were students of mine in Dublin, and her maternal grandparents were colleagues. We may never know the reasons that led the perpetrator to his actions, but that he was at the end of his tether seems indisputable. It all comes down to the provocation of the oppressed by the powerful in order that the latter can cling to privilege.   We have been shown a way of thinking and living to counter this disease, but the institution that claims to… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
11 months ago

The churches historically have treated the poor and the working poor with either contempt or condescension. However there are some models that have actually harnessed the preferential option for the poor into workable convivial economic development. I’ve attached 2 links: one to publications by the late Greg MacLeod, a second to a memoir from Commonweal. MacLeod was a Catholic priest, philosopher, and as it happens, a mentor of mine. He was involved with projects in Spain, Canada, and Mexico with a special interest in economic development for aboriginal peoples. I had a chat with him about the sex controversies in… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Rod Gillis
11 months ago

Thank you, Rod. It’s good to know one is not alone. You write “A great many working men from my youth supported their churches” and that was the case in the rural north of my youth. Not now – as I said in my (somewhat derided but I stick to my guns) comparison of church and gym, why would anyone support an institution that shields abusers, obstructs justice, and behaves like a club for the select.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rod Gillis
11 months ago

Quite. Too often the churches have ‘loved’ the poor, the better to control them and their aspirations, so that they do not prove a threat to the propertied interests which underwrite the churches. Christian socialism or reactionary phenomena like ‘Young England’ were, of course, reactions against industrialisation and the class strife which went with it. However, they were so often attempts to harness proletarian grievances, either to buy them off, or to co-opt them in order to secure existing class structures, or to manipulate them in order to fend off the advances of a rising bourgeois which subverted the power… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

I can go along with you, Stanley and Rod because of one specific incident in my youth. After a very difficult period of unemployment I’d just got my first real job. A visiting charismatic Anglican speaker came to our village church, preaching a message of the ‘supreme all powerful, sovereign God’ type whose home base, Corby was being decimated by Margaet Thatcher’s destruction of its primary industry. He said publicly that he rejoiced in every fresh wave of redundancies which she imposed – because people were being forced to trust in God…….. for some reason it began my political conversion… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Rod Gillis
11 months ago

Your first sentence is spot on. For generations (centuries?) the dominant Christian denomination in Central and South America used its bishops and priests to preach to the poor and landless workers, IMO, that yes, their life on Earth is harsh but they will be rewarded in Heaven. Which does nothing to help those workers feed or clothe their families. As much as I dislike the conservative evangelical movement, if those churches are growing in Central and South America because the pastors and preachers are actually trying to alleviate the poverty of the agricultural workers, more power to them. If they… Read more »

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
11 months ago

I am glad to hear JW admit that we’re he to start again ‘he would focus more on the renewal of “the little, the local, the ordinary parishes” rather than “flagship projects”’. That this realisation has taken 10 years of outlandish spending and brought the parish system to such a low ebb is a scandal. I pray that whatever seeds have been sown during his tenure will grow and bear fruit. His successor has a relatively easy task: bend the resources of the CofE towards the revival of parochial ministry and mission. That does not mean a return to the… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
11 months ago

Hear hear!!

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
11 months ago

Many thanks. If that is indeed the case, then what earthly excuse is there for programmes like the Lincoln Time to Change Together or Ely: 2025, which will result in the closure or mothballing of large numbers of churches? These programmes have effectively been Pavlovian responses to central diktats that have made it plain that perceived failure will not be subsidised (i.e., to those who have least, less shall be given). If the authorities wish to steam ahead with TTCT or Ely: 2025, it will presumably be akin to A. J. P. Taylor’s famous explanation of the start of WW1:… Read more »

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Froghole
11 months ago

If not truly embedded most visions fizzle out with the bishop / senior leadership team which promoted them. I think Chelmsford may be an example of a policy pause or partial reversal. The tone and culture set by the next ABC will hopefully give bishops space to reflect on the value of the current crop of diocesan visions/strategies, and give them a face saving way to lay down what some diocesan synods may have passed through loyalty, fear or disempowerment. Personally I think we need strong and independent dioceses and bishops, able to resist the national group think, and model… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
11 months ago

It is fascinating reading this thread in parallel with the one regarding safeguarding and the complaint hosted by the House of Survivors about William Nye. Some of us may remember the IICSA enquiry in 2018 which considered that the main issue with safeguarding in the Church of England was the absolute power of bishops , and an op Ed in Anglican.inc with the headline ‘Monsters in Mitres’. I’m not sure that lack of power and autonomy by our bishops is the reason for the current decline in church attendance – it could be one of the problems! We need to… Read more »

Mark
Mark
11 months ago

According to the Church Times report ‘Archbishop of Canterbury bares his soul’: ‘Asked about his recent intervention concerning the Church of Uganda’s support for the Ugandan parliament’s Anti-Homosexual Act, he reiterated that he disagreed “very strongly” with the criminalisation of gay people. But he also emphasised the need “to be fair to the Ugandans” when it came to the definitions in the legislation. “The issues they call aggravated homosexuality are rape, homosexual rape, and deliberate infection with AIDS, and paedophilia, which are very, very serious crimes, and rightly, in this country. And so that’s what I mean by presenting the… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Mark
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