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The Church is abandoning its flock The CofE's great leap forward will cull clergy and abandon parishioners

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. Credit: Carl Court/Getty

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. Credit: Carl Court/Getty


July 8, 2021   5 mins

“We don’t preach morality, we plant churches. We don’t preach therapeutic care, we plant churches.” Justin Welby, July 2021

There are some forms of Christianity that exist only in order to reproduce. Christians are here to make new Christians who, in turn, are called to go out there and make even more new ones. The purpose of church life is to beget more church life. Randy for converts, these good shepherds admire the sheep in the pews principally for their reproductive qualities. And you can tell it’s these sorts of Christians that are now running the show in the Church of England, because those of us who are deemed to be infertile or firing evangelistic blanks are being slated for the knacker’s yard. The latest group to be targeted for a cull are the clergy themselves. In more senses than one, we are being directed to Genesis chapter nine, verse seven: “Go forth and multiply!”

The new growth strategy from head office is code named Myriad, Greek for ten thousand. The idea is to have 10,000 new churches by 2030, creating a million new disciples. Don’t worry about the figures too much, they are nothing more than fantasy numbers plucked from the sky. As a general rule, church growth is inversely proportional to the big talk coming from head office. Of course, we are all supposed to nod along, as if this is some fabulous, exciting initiative. As Martyn Percy, the Dean of the Cathedral in Oxford, explained, it’s becoming a bit like one of those Stalinist 10-year plans, something we are all obliged to cheer, yet one that is totally disconnected to reality.

The latest Great Leap Forward for the C of E looks like this. Get rid of all those crumbling churches. Get rid of the clergy. Do away with all that expensive theological education. These are all “limiting factors”. Instead, focus relentlessly on young people. Growth, Young People, Forwards. Purge the church of all those clapped-out clergy pottering about in their parishes. Forget the Eucharist, or at least, put those who administer it on some sort of zero hours contract. Sell their vicarages. This is what our new shepherds want in their prize sheep: to be young, dumb, and full of evangelistic… zeal.

You think I am over-stating the matter? This is how Canon John McGinley recently explained the thinking behind Myriad:

“Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of the church 
 then we can release new people to lead and new churches to form. It also releases the discipleship of people. In church planting, there are no passengers.”

Project Myriad, or something like it, has been in the wings for several decades. When I was first a priest it was called The Decade of Evangelism. It was an embarrassing disaster. And throughout my time, there is always another tiresomely new initiative on the go with some enthusiastic sounding name like Springboard. Most of my clergy friends inwardly groan when they hear of yet another exciting new strategy.

But Covid has finally given its proponents the opportunity they need. When the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to celebrate and broadcast the Eucharist on Easter Day 2020 from his kitchen, rather than popping down a few stairs to Lambeth Palace’s fine 13th-century chapel, he was clearly making a point: all those old stones are holding us back, they are unnecessary. It’s called “a new way of being church”. Our new churches will meet in people’s homes, not in churches. Around 20-30 will gather in the living rooms of the wealthiest people in the parish — who else has a living room that can sit this many people?

Of course, the shepherds know that many of the sheep don’t like the direction in which they are being led. The recent revolt of the Diocese of Winchester against their Bishop is a case in point. They threatened a vote of no confidence and he has stepped back from ministry. As Jeremy Clarkson has recently discovered, sheep can be remarkably bolshy creatures with a mind of their own. So, inevitably, the shepherds are trying to calm their flock with soothing words. We want a mixed economy church, they say. We are not seeking to send unreproductive clergy to the knacker’s yard. We are not wanting to sell off your medieval church to be converted into yuppie flats. This isn’t about replacing the organ with the overhead projector or clearing out the books from the Vicar’s Study and replacing them with office equipment. Let many flowers bloom, they say.

But that is not how it works in practice. Follow the money. Parish churches are being stripped of their clergy. The Diocese of Chelmsford is culling 61 posts by 2021 with a further 49 under threat by 2026. Others are following suit. But as these “limiting factor” clergy are being culled, central funds are being directed towards new evangelistic initiatives through what is called Strategic Development Funding from the £9 billion piggy bank held by the fabulously wealthy Church Commissioners. Dioceses can now apply for money from a £45-million pot set aside to support this new look C of E. And many of the new jobs that are being funded are not for parish-based clergy, but for a whole new level of managers with new-fangled titles like assistant archdeacon and mission enablers. This is the mechanism by which the church is being transformed. Even those Bishops that want to resist this dismantling of traditional structures are being out manoeuvred.

Perhaps the most sinister phrase in Canon McGinley’s lecture is the disparagement of “passengers”. If you go to church to sit at the back, say your prayers, listen to the sermon and receive the Eucharist, or if you are bruised and just looking for a place of healing, that means you. If you are not a part of the great push forward, you are just so much baggage. Little wonder there is now a white-hot anger within the rank and file of the priesthood. Consider this from the former Dear of Exeter Cathedral, Jonathan Draper.

“It is ironic, of course, that these proposals are being pushed by those who have both presided over the church’s decline and had the long and expensive theological education which they would jettison. There is nothing from the leadership of the church that reflects on their own part in decline, their own ineptitude, bullying, sense of entitlement, and in the failure to connect with the very people they would like to see fill the houses of the sufficiently wealthy in this brave new ecclesial world.”

I have never seen this level of fury from within the church during my 25 years as a priest.

So, what is the answer? After all, the proponents of evangelism first do have a point – the Church of England is dying fast. First, I would say that all efforts to put evangelism first are self-defeating. The Church feels like a gauche teenage boy going out to the pub deliberately to find a girlfriend, covering himself with cheap aftershave and rehearsing his unconvincing chat-up lines. It’s all so cringeworthy and needy. The way you make yourself attractive to others is by being fully yourself, and having confidence in what you are – even if that is a little strange and different. It’s when you stop obsessing about attracting others that you become more attractive to them.

But also, the church is not called to be successful. It is called to be faithful. I would prefer for us to die with dignity, being faithful to our calling, rather than to turn ourselves inside out trying to be superficially attractive, thus abandoning the faith as we have understood it. Indeed, the Bible is full of stores of the faithful remnant. In Biblical theology, the remnant are those faithful people that survive some catastrophe. Today, these are the people who come to church, faithfully to say their prayers — people of devotion and not necessarily of evangelistic vim and vigour. They are the beating heart of the parish. Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie: these are my heroes. And long term, these are our most effective evangelists. I am deeply offended that they are now called passengers.

Secularisation is indeed a catastrophe for the churches. But we won’t outlast this period of history by being more business-like or by adopting slicker models of evangelistic marketing. We won’t be saved by panicky spread-sheet evangelists, Indeed, we must be more of what we have been called to be – more thoughtful, more prayerful, less fearful, more obedient to God’s call. We are resurrection people after all. Institutional death should hold out no terror for the faithful. And it will only be this lack of fear that can make us attractive once again.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Christopher Gelber
Christopher Gelber
2 years ago

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s gaucheness, which is doing such immense damage to what is left of the CofE, is thus explained. The Church has trashed its greatest opportunity for outreach in my lifetime. It should have said in March 2020 “No, we stand for something vital and valuable and our doors will remain open to all”. It did the opposite. And we know about Welby’s recent directive to all dioceses to attend to their statues, graveyards and stained-glass windows in search of offensive depictions, representations, colonial busts and Godaloneknowswhat. Jesus wept. If Welby thinks young people will as a result go “Whoa, the CofE is way cool!”, he’s nuts. The CofE needs, especially in a time when we are losing our social foundations and being instructed to believe things we know aren’t true, to be a rock, to stand for things which are true and not to bend with fashionable breezes. And yes, to suffer the slings and arrows for doing so. But under its current leadership, none of this will happen. I’m not even a Christian; I speak as someone who values the CofE as a cultural institution and is sad to see it dying on its knees like this.

Elizabeth Hilliard
Elizabeth Hilliard
2 years ago

You are so right Christopher Gelber, the ‘leadership’ of my beloved CofE has behaved appallingly since the beginning of the Covid outbreak. Such cowardice!

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
2 years ago

Their only success if this is followed will be to make themselves totally irrelevant. It’s death will follow.

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
2 years ago

This all rings true for me, I saw it in practice in Cornwall, where a Church administration based in Truro coldly dismissed parishioners’ concerns about rural church closures. The C of E is becoming like any other huge organisation these days, over-centralised and top heavy with ambitious administrators who are eager to overthrow centuries of tradition in order to impose the latest whims and fashions on the long-suffering public. There are many many problems within the Church, none of which will be solved by alienating those who keep it going on the ground.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I am not English, I don’t live in England and I don’t belong to the CofE or any church. Yet whatever I have read about Welby is off-putting.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
2 years ago

Your instincts are sound, Lesley.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Woke is anti-Christian, anti religion. Postmodernism is Woke, Woke is Postmodernism, from the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy:
“That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.”

Basically Postmodernism is the refutation of any absolute or ‘Ultimate’, and as Religion is ‘Belief in the Ultimate’ it is incompatible with Religion. Post Modernism is Existential, Nihilism, Solipsism (and with Freudian beliefs, it all goes back to the creators of ‘Critical Theory, Weimer Republic, Frankfurt School). (then Deraa and Foucault) PM teaches that self is all one can know, and that self identification is therefore truth; With no fixed and external truth of Morality and Ethics (even sex or gender), but instead relative Morality, Situational Ethics, and Flexible Honour.
There can be no 10 Commandments, no Good and Evil, but merely correct and incorrect, and rules do not have legitimacy unless they are what you agree with. It is a philosophy of self, anti society, and with no hope or meaning.
The Church joining woke is the Church going Pagan. Welby is the Missionary who went off to convert the headhunters, but instead became a head hunter himself.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Excellent rendition. I am inclined to also go further back to Kant but more precisely, Hegel. Hegel and his alchemy and his dialectical method. But of course that influenced marxism and the neo marxists that aligned with the postmodern presence rather than post modernism per se, to spawn ‘woke’ in all its manifestations. The dialectical method is explicitly mentioned throughout ‘woke’ literature.
James Lindsay’s podcast on Hegel traces Hegel’s thought in minute detail, right through to the neo marxist-postmodern Medusa and its manifested ‘woke’ snakes.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose
2 years ago

I, too, am neither English or Christian for that matter. But anyone interested in the moral and spiritual health of societies has to be rooting for Welby’s grand initiative to flounder badly.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
2 years ago

The CoE hierarchy are a Liberal Humanists political pressure group. The worship of God is a inconvenient diversion for them from their preferred goal of pushing Social Justice causes and campaigning for the Labour Party. I don’t understand why any Christian would support the Anglican church these days.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

As an Anglican clergyman I have to say that, sadly, there is a lot of truth in this. Fortunately, most of the worshippers actually believe.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

‘I don’t understand why any Christian would support the Anglican church these days.’
A pat answer might be – ‘If you are a baptised, confirmed member why wouldn’t you support it?’ Surely the days of interdenominational sniping should well behind us by now.
With regards congregating, the one major criticism I have is that a ‘mainstream’, traditional – neither Bible fundamentalist or overly ritualistic – Anglican parish church could be hard to find.
With regards worship, is not the essence of Christianity its emphasis on all of humanity’s absolute value and preciousness? We are made in the Image…

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

You are right that the CofE is an extremely varied organisation.
While interdenominational sniping has always been totally out of order, because some passages of the Bible can be variously translated, there is definitely room for various protestant denomiantions. They do not differ in recognising the definitive parts of Christianity, it is right that Baptists can choose not to baptise infants and Presbyterians to choose how their churches are governed.
Worship has a more essential role than you recognise.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

That’s exactly it and it’s a money grab . Church of England is a hugely rich organisation with massive investments . Alienating the old guard is intentional . Let them leave . They will be replaced with momentum activists with billions of pounds to play with

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
2 years ago

I think that Giles is saying what a young Joseph Ratzinger said in 1969:

“The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticise others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods

A smaller Church is, alas, inevitable. The question is whether it will just be smaller, or more concentrated.

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

That was a very prescient radio talk in 1969.

Giles Fraser
Giles Fraser
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Ohh, thats good to know.

Heidi M
Heidi M
2 years ago

The ironic bit is that one of the strongest points of attraction for younger people is exactly that: the tradition, the ritual, the challenge to live a life of faith. Just look at the younger generation in the Catholic church. Things like the Latin Mass and the Byzantine rite are wildly popular amongst younger people. Taking all of that away and dumbing things down to be easy and convenient is probably one of the reasons so many younger people have departed already.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Heidi M

I agree. I grew up, attending services which were little changed in hundreds of years, but when I attend a modern service, I feel that I don’t belong. I don’t even recognise about half of the hymns, which have banal tunes, in contrast to the hymns I learned as a child. And where have the psalms gone? Are they considered too ‘challenging’?

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

A question for Giles, reading your (always interesting) articles I don’t understand why you and your congregation don’t convert to Catholicism. What is the plus value offered by the CoE that is not already there in a more established institution? As a non CoE member I never really understood what its reason for existing is. If you are of the Anglo Catholic wing, just drop the “Anglo” bit. If you are more evangelical and happy clappy, there are loads of better evangelical denominations to choose from. The CoE seems to me trapped in the middle trying to be more than one thing at the same time, but then failing altogether.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea X
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Unless I’m mistaken its original reason for existing was so that Henry VIII could be its head. This was helpful because he wanted a divorce and the Pope wouldn’t give him one. So he outwitted God by inventing his own church, then appointed himself its head, applied to himself for a divorce, and considered his request carefully before granting himself one.
It’s persisted beyond its utility for the same reasons Stonehenge has. Almost nobody uses it for its supposed purpose any more and nobody can really remember what that was anyway, but it’s picturesque, it’s part of the landscape, it amuses tourists, it would actually be quite a hassle to demolish it, and you wouldn’t bother without a firm idea of what you’d replace it with that would be better.
It’s there because it’s there because it’s there.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Strictly speaking he wanted an annulment, which the Catholics of the Roman Rite are a bit capricious about granting. That stuff could have been fixed, but the liquidation of the monasteries was the real blow. I don’t think that you can have a God-centred church without monasteries.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Indeed. And I wonder why the dissolution of the monasteries does not get the same treatment we reserve to, say, slavers. After all it was not walk in the park with tea and coffee on offer…

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Nor was it a massacre, and England got off very lightly in comparison with the rest of Europe.
The fact is that the church had amassed enormous wealth, and although much good was accomplished with it in the way of education, treating sickness, and alleviating poverty, it was blindingly obvious that there was much which was venal in the church of the time.
It is true that some enriched themselves, but it can’t be said that the good things monasteries accomplished came to an end in the country. On the contrary, the country leapt ahead in many ways.
I can feel sorry that some good monks were summarily ejected into an uncomfortable world, but they took their learning with them, and many schools started at that time.
As shocks go, I think it was quite beneficial.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Do you think Welby thinks of himself as leading a second reformation . Getting rid of complacent old vicars and handing the church wealth over to momentum activists with a Christian veneer .

Zac Chave-Cox
Zac Chave-Cox
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

The dissolution of the monasteries is a truly shameful episode in British history. Thankfully the oxford movement led to a big revival in monasticism and today Anglican religious orders are doing pretty well (at least in England). Hopefully they survive Welby’s great leap forward…

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

I I think you are mistaken in thinking church members retiring from the world is necessary for having a God-centred church.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Unfortunately as a result the CoE became the stewards of our ancient, once-Catholic, churches. The Catholic Church in England had to build new ones, mostly ugly pseudo-Gothic or modernist. If the CoE doesn’t want its medieval buildings it should give them back to the Catholics. These are not just structures. They echo with the feet of countless generations of the faithful. To abandon them is not just vandalism, it’s spiritual vacuity.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

The C of E would clearly prefer to give old churches to anyone but the Catholic Church

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

good point

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

The Church of England is Catholic, namely that part of the Catholic Church which is established in England. [See Moore’s Introduction to English Canon Law, 3rd edition (London: Mowbray, 1992), page 11.

In this context, references to ‘once-Catholic churches’, ‘the Catholic Church’, the ‘Catholic Church in England’, and ‘the Catholics’ therefore only make sense when understood as ‘Roman Catholic’.

Likewise, the notion of giving the medieval churches back is lacking in logic.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Don’t be ridiculous. While attendance at our church is low, at least the majority of the parish is C of E, and incidentally, RC are welcome (I’m aware of some who attend).
And although we may suspect that the C of E hierarchy isn’t interested in the church’s future (perhaps overlooking our sizable financial contribution), I can assure you that all parishioners value it, including irregular or non-churchgoers, and even non-Christians.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Did Henry VIII invent his own church, though?

As a parallel: in leaving the European Union, was there any need to invent the United Kingdom? No, the United Kingdom remained what it had been before the EU was even dreamed up, and restored its autonomy by repudiating the EU’s interference in its affairs.

Christianity already existed in England before St Augustine, following orders from Pope Gregory the Great in Rome, pitched up in Kent in 597 AD.

Set those poor natives straight, and all that. A bit colonialist, really.

The Roman Catholic church has no monopoly on Christianity, any more than the EU has a monopoly on democracy.

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

You can see this line of argument at, for example, St Cyprians in Marylebone. It tries to claim that the Roman Church broke away from the real catholic church during the reformation. But nobody really believes it, do they? It would be impossible for a catholic church to accept women bishops, but the (milquetoast) Bishop of London rules over St Cyprians, and they don’t object. It’s all just dress-up and pretendy Catholicism.
The Church of Rome make no claim on monopoly on Christianity. There are many rites in communion with Rome – Coptic, Maronite, Syro-Malabar, the Ordinariate of Our Lady Of Walsingham – but it does claim the authority of Peter to say who is catholic and who isn’t. And the C of E isn’t.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

A Bloke: try the taxi-driver test. Get into a London taxi and ask the cabbie to take you to the nearest Catholic church. I don’t think he’ll drop you at any Anglican church, whatever its theology and liturgy may be like.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Your preferred authority on church history, canon law, or theological matters may be a taxi-driver.

It is not mine.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Jesus was a carpenter. Similarly humble taxi drivers are spirits talking in tongues who move us along the path of life. Give them their due. There’s no career bar to sanctity.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Sue Sims
Sue Sims
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Oh, I agree that the taxi-driver is unlikely to be an authority on any of those things. But he’s a pretty good authority on where the local Catholic church is.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Not really. According to your reasoning, he will make the assumption that ‘Catholic’ means ‘Roman Catholic’.

Which is a false assumption.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Ultimately though isn’t it a question of authority? If not the pope (in very limited ways in practice) then authority either rests with secular power or your own free spirit – either way, each to their own.
The difference with your analogy is that the EU did not exist before the United Kingdom. If the EU were more like the Holy Roman Empire, and we had been part of it for a thousand years and it had no real power to run our affairs, and we were no more or less English and anti-French, it may have been worth staying in it.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Set those poor natives straight, and all that. A bit colonialist, really.”

The only place where Roman Catholics can be found is in Rome where the Bishop of Rome resides. Every bishop in union with him is as much a bishop as he is. They are only “Roman” because they are in union with the Bishop of Rome. They preside over their own Church, more popularly known as a diocese.
This is why it is incorrect to call Cardinal Nicholls the “head of the Catholic Church in England & Wales”. He’s only “head” of the Church (diocese) of Westminster. The people of his diocese are “Westminster Catholics”. Not “Roman” Catholics.
The pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Pope, Peter’s successor as its head. This college has supreme and full authority over the universal Church but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Pope.
It all goes back to Peter being given the Keys of Christ’s church and being made the shepherd of the whole flock. (Mt 16:18-19 Jn 21: 15-17)
St Augustine didn’t “colonise”. He restored unity with the descendant of Peter and. through him, with the Catholic Churches throughout the world.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I disagree that that was the reason, although it may have been exploited. Protestantism was already advancing throughout Europe, and if it hadn’t come about under Henry VIII, it would have happened anyway, sooner or later.

Zac Chave-Cox
Zac Chave-Cox
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I don’t know about Giles, but I might be able to provide some insight as an Anglo-Catholic. The problem that myself and other Anglo-Catholics I’ve spoken to all have with the roman church is the approach to disagreement and hierarchy. In the roman church, once the top of the hierarchy (i.e. the Pope) has spoken, as long as they are considered to have been speaking in the correct authoritative context, that is now the doctrine of the church, and cannot be overturned later. If you’re an ordinary lay member who disagrees, well you’re stuffed and you can get excommunicated. In practice that doesn’t really happen – surveys suggest that the vast majority of Roman catholic laypeople don’t believe in the real presence in the eucharist, which is an excommunicable heresy. It’s not a system of unity that can actually be enforced, nor should it be, but that kind of top-down authority is still preached as being correct in the roman church. Our issue (not speaking for all anglo-catholics but this is definitely the overarching theme of those I’ve spoken to) is the same as that of the orthodox church – Rome not considering itself first among equals but instead as commander of the whole church – an approach to wielding power that is clearly at odds with Jesus’ teaching.
I for one am very happy that the structure of the anglican church means that Welby doesn’t get to issue decrees to command the entire anglican communion to conform to his theology. I desperately want to be in a unified catholic church but joining would mean I would either have to be dishonest during catechesis or accept the hypocrisy of a priest in allowing me in when I have various beliefs that would count me as a heretic.

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
2 years ago
Reply to  Zac Chave-Cox

Paradoxically, it is my experience that the Popes who have understood themselves to be placed in charge of the teachings of the Church are very careful about placing burdens on the conscience of believers. Benedict XVI has a reputation for conservatism, but his pontificate produced some lovely books about Jesus and a relaxation on the use of the restrictions around priests saying the pre-Vatican II form of the mass. I really can’t think of how a well-formed conscience could be troubled by it. Francis on the other hand, talks about “synodality” and “peripheries” but without any sense of restraint changes the Italian translation of the Lord’s Prayer and modifies the catechism to match his personal beliefs about capital punishment. From where I sit, looking at how Welby squeezes things he dislike and lavishes those he does, if you’re an Anglo-Catholic I think you’re a bit stuffed if you disagree with him.
Christ placed Peter (Matthew 16:18) above the other apostles as the rock of the Church, with the power to bind and loose. Legitimate authority should be exercised within the Church, and the Bishop of Rome seems like the most appropriate place for this legitimate authority to sit.

Zac Chave-Cox
Zac Chave-Cox
2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

I totally see your point, however there are still no strictures within the Anglican church for denying me communion or otherwise punishing me for not agreeing with the doctrines of the church. Welby can squeeze things he dislikes but provided the entire church hasn’t crumbled to dust before he’s gone, there will be a new archbishop after him, then another, and another, and none of them will leave a lasting binding on the church after they’re gone. That is true for the most part for catholics with respect to the pope, but there is always the risk of something being elevated to an infallible doctrine, never to be repealed which then becomes a border of acceptable belief around the church. Humans are always fallible, even if they’re the pope, sin could creep in at any point because we have free will; we deny that at our peril.
The best way I have heard this put is by an Anglican priest I know who used to be a roman catholic monk: that we should lead from the centre of the church rather than policing its boundaries.
Also I keep meaning to get round to reading pope benedict’s “jesus on nazareth”, i’ve heard it’s very good. Thanks for reminding me.

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
2 years ago
Reply to  Zac Chave-Cox

Jesus of Nazareth by Benedict is very good. It is a product of the world of German biblical scholarship, so it is a corrective to the German-speaking form of literary historical criticism that has de-divinised Jesus, so it might not really speak to English concerns in the way, say NT Wright does. But I liked it a lot, it is very strong on Jesus as a Jewish messiah.
On your main point, I think that any pope declaring a doctrine infallible is about as likely as the Queen witholding Royal Assent from a parliamentary bill. The doctrine of infallibility on matters accepted by the church is designed to restrain the pope, not to make him all-powerful. The infallible doctrines of Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary have been established for hundreds of years, I don’t see any other area in which a pope could reasonably claim infallibility. Although with Francis I grant that you can never be completely sure what crackpot ideas he is hatching.

Geoffrey Preston
Geoffrey Preston
2 years ago
Reply to  Zac Chave-Cox

How thoughtful and interesting – thank you. I now know more about the Anglo-Catholic position than I did before.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I should leave the answer to Giles who will be much better at it than me; but though the CofE was founded in the caprices of a monarch it became the vehicle for Protestantism; and that is the essential difference I think. In a protestant church I must answer to my own conscience, making my own mind up, but in the Roman Catholic church the Pope is always my intermediary with God. Personally (born and raised CofE, but drifted away, and now maybe returning thanks to a young strong and traditional local rector), although Roman Catholicism appeals in many ways, I am at my core Protestant. And whilst Benedict was appealing, any thought of conversion has vanished with Francis. At least with the present Canterbury and even more, York, I can ignore them and follow my own conscience.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

But why keep the trappings with none of the substance?

Anyway, there were other comments I wanted to reply to, but I can’t see them anymore.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Because in the weakness of the human condition the trappings remind us and symbolise what the substance once was; and in that lies hope we may regain the substance.
That is the silent appeal of Britain’s ruined monasteries to me; they remind me that a very powerful faith was once here.

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I like this way of looking at it.

Sheila Dowling
Sheila Dowling
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I can talk to God myself, thanks , I don’t need an intermediary.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Sheila Dowling

Wow. Is this your second time here on earth? And Unherd is the medium!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Then you clearly do not grasp the key difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. You address God via formal confessions through a hierarchy of clergy with the Pope at its summit. We speak directly with God through our consciences. As this hideous transformation progresses, I will just be a church- less Protestant. Never a Catholic.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

But that makes sense to me and indeed, as I said in my original post, there is a plethora of protestant churches to choose from.
What I still don’t get is the Anglo-Catholics.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
2 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

You must have a very reliable and well informed conscience. Personally, and as a perpetually wobbling Catholic, I need all the help I can get.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

The Church of England is Catholic.

It is also unfortunate that you have used the phrase ‘a more established institution’ when the Church of England is in fact the Established Church in England.

Please search (if you are interested) for other comments by ‘A Bloke’ on this page.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

I chose those words on purpose 😉

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Andrea, with regards worship & doctrine, is there a reason why a blend of the outwardly traditional, ritualistic (Catholic) and the protesting & enquiring (Reformed) cannot work?
Truism: due the inauspicious beginings, i.e., the renunciation of Papal authority and the subsequent attempted accomodations, the CoE has always been prey to attacks by puritans everywhere, but loss of that old ‘broad church’ mentality, which made it distinct, should be lamented, I feel.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

As an outsider it makes no sense to me. If you want to appeal to too many, you end up appealing to noone.
If you are a Catholic the rituals have meaning, if you are Anglican they are more like a choreography. To me the Anglican (high) church is some sort of half way house, neither fish nor fowl.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea X
James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Historically, ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ could be the ‘waiting-room’ just before reception into the Church of Rome – or more rarely, the reverse, the home for wandering Roman Catholics.
But for others, it was a re-emphasis of what was always there in the Anglican Church, but which was lost in the 18th century.
The lace, smoke and bells etc., could be seen as ‘theatrical’, a captivating ‘show’* as you imply. But, underneath all that, outside, there is or certainly used to be a mission to the local working populations.
Having worshipped for several years at a Walsingham-connected church in Brighton, I know of what I speak.
(*Of course the doctrine of consubstantiation makes the Anglican Eucharist no less a sacrament.)

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Thank you, James – I am in much the same boat as you. And thank you, Father Giles, for your powerful words. There are many of us Catholics (not necessarily Roman) who still hold to the traditional understanding of the sacramental ministry and the importance of sacred spaces – to both of which today’s C of E hierarchy seem to sit lightly!.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

“…the Church of Rome”

Strictly speaking the the Church of Rome is in Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides. Only the people of that Church are “Roman” Catholics.

The Catholics of the Church of Arundel & Brighton whose Bishop is in union with the Bishop of Rome are Arundel & Brighton Catholics. Their Bishop is as much a bishop as the Pope. He’s not some kind of senior manager with the Pope as CEO.

The ï»żCatechism of the Catholic (n.b.) Church develops this in paragraphs 880-887.

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Giles Fraser
Giles Fraser
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I am a catholic, Andrea. Just not a Roman one.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Fraser

It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Anyway, an excellent but terribly sad article, at least it has set of some interesting exchanges. A few more years and you and the (Roman) Catholic survivors of their own useless leadership will be clinging to the same wreckage, if not sharing the same cells. And worshipping the same Lord.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis is in danger of adopting much the same kind of disastrous “woke” agenda. But as Catholicism is so vast, so culturally diverse, so ancient and so spiritually rich, there is at least more hope of survival, even as a much smaller congregation of faithful.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Popes come and go. The Church has been through a lot worse (assuming the period we live in can be classified as “bad”).

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

Yes. Hopefully the RC will recover . It would be a great blessing if Cardinal Sarah became the next Pope

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

For a start, I don’t believe in transubstantiation. Nor do I believe that priests should be celibate. I prefer to walk a few hundred yards to my church, rather than travel 14 miles there and back. It is the church in which all of my children were baptised. I could go on.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

This happened at my local church. The existing congregation, several hundred, were referred to not as ‘passengers’ but ‘pew warmers’; a new ‘mission statement’ was crafted full of management speak like ‘enabling’ and ‘intentionality’; a ‘head of mission’ was appointed from parish funds, and a full time assistant through whom, among other things, all access to the Vicar was then to be funelled, (although he was soon to become just the apex of the Strategic Leadership Team [SLT], parishioners being referred to whomsoever the assistant felt most suitable under the circumstances). Sermons became increasingly hectoring in tone and much longer, God had chosen our Church for a radical transformation and expansion, the collection plate was removed (to encourage contributions to be by DD apparantly), tea after the main service became tea before it to try apparantly to increase mixing between the early BCP service and the later family service, old banners were removed, including the handmade one of the Mothers’ Union, and replaced by slick event-style hangings repleat with quotes from the new mission statement. What was once a happy, thriving prosperous congregation became increasingly fractured. But the much preached about new believers didn’t arrive. It was our fault of course for being insufficiently welcoming, so, having already endured an evangelising course with little cartoon drawings and break out groups, we were all enjoined to do a ‘welcoming course’ which was a further patronising series of lessons written by middle-class metropolitans for recalcitrant country folk, but still they didn’t come. Then money began to run out as expenses rose and contributions fell. A deficit budget was set, bequests were reallocated, but not to worry, God would provide if we were of sufficient faith (our fault again if not). But it was the beginning of the end. After just over a year the Vicar was suddenly no longer in Church. Mysterious announcements were made, but never published, to say he would be away indefinitely but no reasons were ever given. One congregant was told by a warden ‘if you knew the reason you’d know why it’s better not to know’. The curate, recovering from a serious illness did a fine job standing in and after a year on full pay at the vicarage without doing any work (although he managed a sponsored run in the London marathon), the Vicar moved on to another Parish… he left my local church depleted of souls and money, athough still somehow able to meet its Parish Share… the new disciples never did appear in the way that the Vicar said God had foretold to him. Perhaps He was mistaken.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

What a dreadful story – my heart goes out to you. And my own church (without an incumbent) is now being asked to redraft its “mission statement” .. words fail me.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
2 years ago

I’m not a believer. My eleven years of compulsory daily religious worship and weekly RE failed to convince me there’s anyone listening. I am grateful for the culture knowledge which enables me to understand better the motivation of most people in the history of this country. I’m also ridiculously fond of parish churches particularly the tiny Saxon ones. I contribute financially to the maintenance of four of my favourites. I’ve some sympathy therefore for the views of believers who don’t want to waste their efforts to preserve ancient stones but would rather save souls. Without turning the CofE out of the churches perhaps a new arrangement could be made where they still hold services in them but the expense was the responsibility of local trusts. Many small rural churches are the only public buildings and access is at the whim of a vicar who attends one week in four. The buildings originally built by congregations in each locality. They weren’t owned by a national church.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

I doubt that access is at the whim of the vicar, as there will be a parochial church council and churchwardens for each church, who will probably have more interest in how things are done than the incumbent. Our church is unlocked daily, although not during the epidemic, when it was ordered to be kept locked, which seems somewhat strange, to me, as the building is not conducive to transmission of viruses, and the times perhaps called for more spiritual comfort than less.
Our rector cannot give services weekly, because he has six parishes to cover, so services are few and usually ministered by someone else.
The building is ancient, and historically valuable, but by far the greatest financial burden is in sending funds to the diocese. The parish rectory was sold long ago, and the funds absorbed by the Church Commissioners.
I have no idea what the local bishops or other officials do (although I see one interviewed occasionally, as though she represents us, which she doesn’t), and I have no interest.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

The CofE has become an incoherent huddle of insiders bickering in a bubble: floating off into space whilst the nation wonders “what on earth were they on about?” A core narrative and moral leadership in hard times might help more than a new zealotry, or the likely new US-style crystal churches will be on Mars. The sheep can hardly be blamed for wandering to new pastures while shepherds on furlough bark at the moon.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Natasha Felicia
Natasha Felicia
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

FYI the famous Crystal Cathedral in Orange County (Suburb of LA) is now Catholic. Renamed Christ Cathedral and with a refurbishment of the entire campus for Catholic worship and education.
https://christcathedralcalifornia.org/

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

The lockdown of course will in any event hasten the decline in C of E and RC Church attendance. Again, the leaders of the respective churches are responsible for that. Private prayer could have been allowed within the ambits of the law. Confessions could have taken place outside. Too many clergy were lazy, conformist and not interested enough in the sacraments and the needs of their flock

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Absolutely correct. Both C of E and Catholic churches failed their congregations last year, and in many ways continue to do so. After masked-up on the altar Mass in my own (Catholic) parish the other day I was handed an envelope with a invitation to contribute to a “secret collection” to reward our priest for “everything he’s done for us during the pandemic”. Our church has been closed between services since it reopened festooned in yellow and black hazard tape ‐ no opportunities for private prayer. Confessions only resumed a few weeks ago, no longer using the privacy of the confessional but sitting with the priest in the sacristy with the door open, masked and two metres apart. The priest announced two weeks ago in the bulletin that he would now begin to visit the housebound again with Holy Communion – but only a “doorstep visit”, passing the sacrament to the recipient at the door like a postman delivering a parcel. He has ignored the needs of the frail, lonely and housebound all throughout lockdown, asking us to pray for them instead. I wonder if I am lacking in charity for hesitating to put money in the envelope.

Last edited 2 years ago by Hilary LW
Toby Bray
Toby Bray
2 years ago

It seems perfectly plausible to me that Christianity could be reinvigorated by grass-roots followers gathering in their own homes.
But if this did happen, it probably wouldn’t be anything to do with the CofE. And certainly nothing to do with the CofE leaders.

Paul Ansell
Paul Ansell
2 years ago

When I was younger I watched various iterations of the “trendy vicar” trying on new ways to “relate” to young people…..it was cringeworthy and didn’t last, about the only good thing about it.
The CofE does need to change inasmuch as it needs to recover its belief in its traditions ie back to the future…..
It could be argued that in an increasingly technological age, where we are bombarded with news and comments 24/7, a lot of people would find this old-fashioned way therapeutic.

Caroline Martin
Caroline Martin
2 years ago

I am a Christian. But Church, going to it, seems not inviting. I live in the country and the services here are to me, I know this sounds bad, not to my taste. They have little sense of holiness. The vicar is chummy and this seems to exclude me as I am not. It seems to me that those who approve are part of a clique to which I do not belong. The hymns I like are rarely sung. Instead there are tuneless dirges which I think may be evangelical. I would prefer more, but not exclusively, the Book of Common prayer. I miss the beauty of it. I remember, in my youth, being struck by a sense of wonder and holiness in Church. Not many attend now where I live. So if these services disappeared I would not miss them very much and there are few who would.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

The lockdown will have the effect of hastening the decline in church attendance. The clergy couldn’t be bothered to make provision for private prayer in churches. If too many people wanted to attend Mass there should have been one Mass per hour for smaller numbers . The Cof E and RC clergy have been found wanting at a critical time

Heidi M
Heidi M
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Indeed. There is a stark difference between the old saints who did anything and everything to minister to the people and our current clergy who seem to have not an ounce of courage for their faith.

Stephen Rose
Stephen Rose
2 years ago

A couple of years ago I was asked to paint a devotional image for a devout Catholic. Not my usual gig, but I thought deeply about what form this should take and what purpose an icon should perform as a conduit for faith and intercession. I struggle with religious faith, but see wisdom in belief.
The family were very appreciative of my effort.
When I showed the image to a member of the C of E, I received a lecture on the unsuitability of the image, because I had depicted the mother of God as white and had reinforced a particular image of Christian worship.The person in question recolled in horror at the very idea of a physical manifestation of faith. I pointed out that Ethiopian Churches, depict the Holy family as Ethiopians, but this point didn’t register. This C of E seems to be consumed by embarrassment at demonstrations of faith.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Rose

People of Palestine are not particularly dark-skinned or even Arabic-looking. I was once collared by three young men in Akko in the West Bank, who pretended to be police presumably to show how it felt under occupation. They looked just like any other European. In Morocco – a bit father away admittedly – I was invited into the simple dwelling of a young woman below Kasbah bab Ourika. She could have graced any image of the Mother of God.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Sounds to me like the law of unintended consequences might be at work. The C of E leadership may be unintentionally fertilizing the soil for a new church to emerge from the ashes of the old, although the new church will be built by the same people of faith the bishops currently denigrate, and may have little use for the bishops themselves.
Leave the bishops alone, Giles Fraser. They’ll ‘revolutionize’ themselves into irrelevance.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Meanwhile, they misspend our wealth and that of our ancestors.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

CS Lewis once expressed the view that ‘ liberals’ in the C of E and RC thought they would come together but he said that it was the orthodox Christians from each Church who would end up united in faith.i hope that comes to pass .

Graham Pycock
Graham Pycock
2 years ago

It is all too obvious that young people’s search for meaning is not being met by the C of E, but that many have embraced a deeply divisive and self-righteous devotion to the cause of “social justice”. This is framed in a Marxist conflict model of identity politics, especially of white oppressors and non-white victims. A religious or secular-based ethics is replaced by an ideological creed which is intolerant, unforgiving and, on Communist precedents, deeply totalitarian. Surely Christianity is incompatible with woke politics? The church’s embrace of identity politics may be seen as an historic capitulation to cultural division. Giles’ heart-felt objection to the hierarchy’s managerial plan is focused on the existing, much abused, church membership. But the established church has traditionally had huge influence beyond the institution to the nation as a whole. The new politicised message seems both resentful of our national achievement and patronising of our people. Perhaps Giles Fraser is too pessimistic and it will not come to a “faithful remnant” keeping the flame alive. If enough good people stand firm for free speech against the “woke”, both without and within the church, then the truth will out, and the C of E can again play its enlightening role.
Graham Pycock

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
2 years ago

Oh, that ghastly Welby man is still here? For God’s sake GO!

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

It happens in the RC Church too. They sold a beautiful pastoral centre n London Colney that had been a retreat for school students to.learn about the faith. It had been bequeathed to the Church by an order of nuns. They now lie buried not far from the site they thought could be trusted to the Church. Too much money . Not enough belief in Christ.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Alas, the Catholic Church has made a point of closing churches left, right and centre.
I know that if you have no priests and no congregation they are just an extra cost, but still…

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago

I am a Roman Catholic and I kind of like the Myriad plan. For a short time before 1989, I was a member of underground Church in a Soviet satellite. Liturgy in a living room around a dining table seems to be more Christian (or more authentic) to me than liturgy in a church with an altar and long row of pews. And I know that secretly ordained priests with education from underground home-based lectures then preached and spread the Gospel better than today’s properly educated parish priests. Even many of former underground priests who later became regular parish priests did a better job then than they do today.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

There’s a distinction. In the old Eastern Bloc, that kind of evangelism WAS pushing back against the culture. It was NOT trying to fit in. In the culture we live in today, at least here in the west, what you have described would be exactly what Giles Fraser has likened to the gauche teenage boy, above. You’ll be aware that traditional Catholicism — Latin rite — is the only part of the Church which is growing and drawing people in, and, like the C of E, the controlling powers in the Church are trying to stamp it into the dirt.

Crispin Jewitt
Crispin Jewitt
2 years ago

Yes, it is a hard truth that Christianity grows with persecution, and declines when accommodating with the secular world. From the outside it appears that the C of E leadership has either forgotten this, or maybe is trapped by its roots as a state-sanctioned church.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
2 years ago

Well said, Francis. And I love Giles’ “gauche teenage boy” image. It is indeed when we or the Church are most true to ourselves that we become most attractive and effective. For the Catholic Church or the C of E this has to be when we are pushing against the prevailing secular culture, providing a clear alternative, whether through a traditional Latin Mass, or an underground Mass around a kitchen table, or just a church open to all for prayer, comfort and adoration.
It’s interesting that the only priest in our area offering any kind of public religious service during the lockdown last year was saying a daily Latin Mass, quietly letting it be known that “sometimes I may forget to close the doors..” He was breaking the rules of course, but somehow he got away with it. Since that particular church officially opened the weekly Latin sung Mass is attended by 40-50 people of all ages most Sundays – before lockdown they’d struggle to reach double figures. Unfortunately it’s an hour’s drive from where I live, but I attend when I can.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

We may have to hope you are right, as we old fashioned worshippers are driven away. But maybe we can restart in our kitchens, and re-emerge with a new and finer church. Pity to loose the buildings though, they are a manifestation of faith and a symbol of its survival

Natasha Felicia
Natasha Felicia
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Also once these new groups meeting at the largest house in the neighborhood grow bigger than a living room can accommodate won’t they need a public building (church)?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

A priest in a Soviet satellite would clearly have to have true faith. In contrast, someone appointed to an influential position in the C of E needs to be saying what is considered modern, fashionable and acceptable.
Indeed, such qualities would perhaps be more likely to apply to an apparatchik.

David NebeskĂœ
David NebeskĂœ
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

In fact, most of the PARISH priests (with the exception of Poland) were collaborators of the secret police. The braver ones were involuntary collaborators, the bravest ones admitted it in private. Those who did not cooperate were at best thrown out of the priestly service and got manual work.
Underground church was different, but not entirely different.

Natasha Felicia
Natasha Felicia
2 years ago

So David those priests were still receiving an intense theological education and Ordination compatible with the Catholic Catechism and passing on their knowledge to the congregations they met with. The C of E is talking about doing away with a long period of formation for ministers such as this.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Superb article, Giles. But what can we do to win back our church? Those Puritans of the C17th who cried “no Bishops” really did have a point

Rosalind Schogger
Rosalind Schogger
2 years ago

With Replacement Theology devotees ignorantly trying to replace Judaism as the foundation stone of Christianity, it is not surprising that the Church does not know where it is going. It has lost its roots and its branches are withering.

Cathedrals like Winchester and Salisbury have impregnated their surrounding churches and villages with this nonsense. I have met some of these parishioners. If you think Corbyn is an antisemite, listen to these so-called Christians.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

Anti- semitism has been with the Church since it split from Judaism. The Church has much blood on its hands. There was much improvement in matters until the old anti- semitism appeared in the new form of denying Israel’s right to exist. Neither the Anglican nor RC Churches care much about thr now dwindling number Christians persecuted in Muslim countries. Its all about the Jews again and the few Christians in ‘ Palestine.’

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter Shaw
Natasha Felicia
Natasha Felicia
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

You may like to contribute to Aid to the Church in Need which supports persecuted Christians in the Middle East and around the world.
https://acninternational.org/regional-activity/middle-east/

John Tyler
John Tyler
2 years ago

I’m sure GF is correct in much of what he says, but I suspect that, as one would expect from most people in C of E, he believes in the basic principle that the institution has some useful function in furthering what Jesus taught. Jesus clearly and repeatedly told his disciples, and by extension his future disciples, that we should stop focusing on form and focus instead on faith. In other words, forget the trappings of institutionalised religion such as priestly hierarchies, dress, rituals, etc., for these forms mean nothing to God; all he demands is faith in the supreme love and redeeming power of Jesus.

“Faith” does not mean loyalty to tradition or an institution, nor does it mean being loyal to God or a book; it means having absolute trust – set aside our reliance on material possessions, philosophies and intellectual knowledge in favour of the work and teachings of Jesus. None of this means giving up possessions, destroying other people’s beliefs or traditions, or dismissing the intellect. It simply means that such things are of spiritual insignificance.

Forgive my ramblings! I am not trying to denigrate anyone else’s traditions or beliefs, merely to point out that arguments about how churches are managed, between the merits of Catholicism and Protestantism, or the ‘correct’ way to worship or pray, all miss the real point. I sincerely hope I am not offending anyone, but if I have, again, I can only ask your forgiveness.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago

William Blake would call it Generation – the state of mind infatuated with growth and dark satanic mills that replicate for replication’s sake, all the while falling into depressed Ulro, single vision and Newton’s sleep.

Richard Collier
Richard Collier
2 years ago

Thank you Giles. In our little country church we experience much of the frustration and bewilderment that you voice so eloquently. It seems that the House of Bishops is incapable of seeing beyond anything that might challenge their own cosy self-satisfaction. The numbers of Bishops should be reduced by a minimum of 50%. The bureaucrats should be thanked and dispensed with, and the parish clergy strengthened and affirmed. For now, we shall seek to be a faithful remnant to hold our church in trust for those who will follow us when this idiocy is passed.
Rev.Richard Collier

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago

The C of E hierarchy seem to want some sort of hippy, commune lifestyle. If that is their vocation I wish them well. I just wish that they would resign and follow their vocation.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

But if they did, whose money would they spend?

Lindsay Jenkins
Lindsay Jenkins
2 years ago

On discovering that his father was not Welby but Montague, the great man wrote a cloying piece in the MSM that it made no difference to him – his real father was in heaven and he and his wife were unaffected. His dying real father asked to meet him just once but Welby claimed he did not have time in the weeks running up to his installation as archbishop. Welby is thoroughly unchristian.

Campbell P
Campbell P
2 years ago

Giles in typically forthright manner but being more than a little disingenuous here and betraying his woolly theological liberalism and CofE as a branch of the social services ‘churchmanship’ rather than a community with a missionary task given it by its Founder. He does get some things right but a lot completely wrong. He would rather the C of E simply fade away so that he and his liberal academic cronies can write yet another useless doctorate or favour currying opinion piece about how the Evangelicals are destroying everything. People like Giles and his ‘groaning clergy friends’ who have never had to run a business and keep it in profit but lived off grants and handouts all their careers do not understand that in order to keep what you have you need to grow otherwise you will atrophy.and die. Had Fraser, Percy, Draper and the other churchy, socially libertarian and politically neo-Marxist clerics who did their best to derail Carey’s Decade of Evangelism got off their academic chairs and up from their high tables and actually shared the ‘Good News’, we wouldn’t be in the dire situation we are now. But then most of them don’t believe either in the ‘Good News’ or in the Founder – except as He reveals himself to them privately as a mirror of their social and political preferences and prejudices – for they are thoroughly ‘modern’ churchmen, not to mention the most arrogant of all as they call the kettle black. Be fair, not to mention accurate: when was the last traditional Evangelical bishop appointed? Not in over 20 years, so how can he and they blame the Evangelicals for the present malaise and the cohort of middle managers we have now? One has to admire the Anglican hierarchy and the Crown Appointments Office however for their typically Anglican legerdemain with the whole leadership thing: if you cannot find or do not want to select leaders with the character and competence to lead but, rather, ‘company men and women’ instead who will not rock the boat, why then you just change the definition of leadership to fit around the characters and competence of those selected; problem solved! Well, no; you just create an even greater one – people who cannot bring themselves to make tough decisions but instead hide behind the infamous great Anglican three Cs – Committee, Collegiality, Collaboration. Such people may describe themselves as ‘evangelical’ but their ‘Gospel’ is simply a reflection of the Zeitgeist in the ridiculously vain attempt to appeal to minority groups and CRT activists at the same time as insulting the great majority of CofE parishioners for being – poor benighted things – white and therefore innately ‘privileged’ and ‘prejudiced’. Giles, you would be so much more persuasive with the things you rightly criticise if you would just stop maligning ordinary middle-of-the-roaders like me, neither Complementarian nor quasi-Christian who agree with a lot of what you say but still actually can say the creed without crossing our fingers behind our backs and want to share the ‘Good News’ of the Christ of the New Testament and not some ersatz modern nonsense lacking in credibility and genuine grace. And be honest here: why are the biblically orthodox and creedal churches the ones which are growing whilst the theologically liberal ones are largely in decline? Is it perhaps that the orthodoxy that has survived 2000 years actually can transform individual lives and therefore communities and even society, whereas the latest political and social theories cannot?

Last edited 2 years ago by Campbell P
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

I was brought up in a strict Roman Catholic tradition until I left secondary school. At present I consider myself an atheist but with a decidedly Jordan Peterson bent.
The issue for me was that I could not conjure or was not subject to revelation or any motivation to resort to ‘faith’ in the existence of a deity in the christian sense. However, Peterson’s analysis of biblical texts as nested within his synthesis as outlined in his book Maps of Meaning, was some sort of revelation for me and answered in part by the biblical texts survived.
In my view, this interpretation has significant meaning if the numbers of views on his biblical series on YouTube is anything to go by.

Davina Heyhoe
Davina Heyhoe
2 years ago

‘Church in the home’ is not a new way of ‘doing church’, it’s how the church started.
‘Lay people leading churches’ is not a new way of ‘doing church’, it’s how the church started.
‘Church’ is not the building, it’s the people. Christians were never meant to sit waiting for someone else to ‘do church’ to them.

Campbell P
Campbell P
2 years ago
Reply to  Davina Heyhoe

Well done, Davina! In a nutshell. But you would have to admit that it has not been handled well and that there needs to be close not distant oversight and that there must be plenty of room for different interpretations of second and tertiary issues, not to mention a whole lot more realism regarding what would actually be possible.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

10,000 new ‘ at home’ new churches led by self- appointed Messiahs should keep the criminal courts very busy in the years ahead. I hope some of the money the C of E has set aside is being ring- fenced for the victims of sexual abuse who will be the most obvious losers in this mad-cap scheme.

Arthur Green
Arthur Green
2 years ago

At the begining of the decade of evangelism, its author, Archbishop Carey, opined that the CoE was like a gibbering old crone huddled in the corner. At the end of the decade, nothing had changed. The current business-like and faithless “evangelism” is another means of church destruction. The true church may well end up as a plethora of small house churches, but they will have nothing to do with the CoE. What price the Westminster Confession now?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago

Sounds like this is modelled on the Corbynite momentum thing .
Justin surely sees Jesus /Jeremy as the great white hope.The massive funds of the Church Commissioners will be deployed to finance full time political activists , or drug dealers posing as political activists

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
gwoods20
gwoods20
2 years ago

There is a strange either/or quality to Giles’ article. It is very difficult indeed to read the Gospels or the New Testament letters and not recognise the centrality of the so-called Great Commission, however embarrassing sophisticated clergy may find that. Similarly, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the kind of church community described is one which loves, nurtures and supports those in pain, in need of solace, the weak, the poor and the wounded. These qualities are, presumably, to co-exist. Indeed, the NT appears to suggest that they cannot exist as they are supposed to without the other.
As for ancient church buildings, they are lovely and a marvellous part of our heritage as a nation. Let’s see them as such, not some essential part of the Christian faith.

Graham Dunn
Graham Dunn
2 years ago

Unfortunately the CofE has not been fit for purpose for a couple of generations. The parish structure is unwieldy and a throwback to a pre-industrial age. There is an imbalance of building and clergy with country villages being over resourced and large population centres being under resourced. I speak relatively!

An overhaul is overdue and what better way than to look at which churches are being fruitful. Many clergy seem to like their sleepy parishes and Victorian rectory but this is unsustainable unless they actively encourage growth. If not stop taking a stipend, hand in the keys and live on faith not hand outs from ‘head office’.

Campbell P
Campbell P
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Dunn

My only quibble with this would be ‘country villages being over resourced’. There are really only two considerations, regardless of location and numbers in the parish (a HUGE strategic mistake already made by the middle managers who do not understand the concept of strategic growth), and this in words which combine the spiritual, the strategic, and the financial: Are they being BOTH faithful AND effective? What annoys our parochial church council (we are a rural parish) is being asked to bail out town and city parishes that refuse to be either, a situation compounded by the diocese remaining determined to keep ‘an Anglican presence’ at the expense of fruitfulness. Such a lack of worldly nous and dogged adherence to a financially unsustainable ideal has resulted in an average ÂŁ3/4m deficit on the diocese’s current account for the last 10 years. Apply the Luke 13:6-9 principle EVERYWHERE

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Dunn

How is the parish structure unwieldy? It works despite he sucking out of most of the locally-generated resources. What I see as unwieldy is a hierarchy somewhere else outside the parish which intrudes occasionally, such as in ordering the church to be locked for months on end, but is mostly evident in occasional national news reports concerning things which have little relevance locally.
Over-resourced? The ancient resources were centralised long ago, the rectory sold-off, the parish priest removed, leaving us as one amongst six parishes ministered to by a priest. Meanwhile, by far and away the heaviest financial burden is the quota we pay, more than enough for a share of the small stipend he is paid.

Natasha Felicia
Natasha Felicia
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Strange to hear people knocking the parish system which of course originated from Catholicism. As a Catholic the parish seems the perfect way to serve the local community and respond to their needs. I am in a ten year old parish in the USA, we already have 4 Sunday Masses, and a daily mass that are well attended and thousands of families registered as parishioners. But then Catholicism does believe in a sense of place and that the Church is visible and not just a spiritual entity but embodied sacramentally. We serve the community and evangelise. A famous quote is “The Church exists to evangelize”. Having a strong sense of place where people can find the Catholic community at prayer and worship is essential but also being complacent is dangerous, we always have to be finding ways to reach out and bring those searching to Christ, otherwise we are not living the Gospel.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago

I endured kitchen Anglicanism at school, refused confirmation at 13, and took communion only once – in a living room – out of respect for my host. I would not call myself devoid of spirituality, but not since schooldays have I felt the need for an imaginary friend. I stand the heat of the moral and existential kitchen in my own way. However, I do appreciate the historical value and atmosphere of physical churches and am delighted that they find uses other than ‘worship’, like theatre, music, arts and crafts, and charitable activities. I have to say I find the idea of ‘worshipping’ anything, visible or otherwise, horrific. Thank goodness the days of god-kings in any form are largely over. And yet, David Nebesky reminds me that that I have had a privileged and easy life, and elsewhere and in other times persecution is real. I think of people who starved and froze in the gulags. I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In a local town is a memorial to 17 Protestants who were burned in the reign of queen Mary. In the face of relentless power, people have need of binding, even where there is no hope. Unfortunately, religion cuts both ways, as all too evident to those subject to fundamentalist forms whether in Afghanistan, Palestine or small-town America. It’s all about power really. Christianity has been on both sides of the equation. Now that its power is slipping away, it seeks other avenues to survival, like Myriad. I see nothing healthy in Christianity returning to its origins as a secret society that conducts bizarre rituals behind closed doors. At the same time I find the robes and rote of religious ceremony absurd, and its continuing association with monarchy and social hierarchy, at least in this country, stultifying and at variance with a modern constitution. I accept there is danger in detaching our rope from the belay of a God who is theoretically independent of human weakness. Sadly, that all-too-human invention is anything but independent. Endlessly re-inventing religion will get nowhere that hasn’t already been visited and abandoned. We need to do better, especially at this time when according to some views humanity and everything in the world face existential threats.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
2 years ago

What is so wrong about existential threats ?

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Nothing – they are natural, but it is also natural to respond to them, which we seem to have put ourselves into a position of responsibility to respond on behalf of other species too. As intelligent animals, we can do more – examine our own nature and behaviour.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

“The Church has forsaken its flock”: are you sure that God has not forsaken the Church of England?

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago

I’ve always thought that the title the Church of England (or the same here in Ireland) was a tad presumptive. Times have changed, the Anglican Church is now just one in a wide variety of modern expressions of Christianity. Interestingly the greatest places of growth aren’t in the western world anyway. Much like the growth of technology, the centres of power are shifting east & the ‘old guard’ (used to telling others how it should be) are no longer in control.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago

While on this tack, I have been speculating on how the composition and role of the the CofE might evolve, and listening idly to the services broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday mornings, and in particular to the voices of clergy and congregation (except maybe in Northern Ireland), I wonder whether the next Archbishop, or maybe the one after that, might be of a different gender from those past and present. I even have a name in mind. According to some ideas, this might also represent a return to the origins of Christianity.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas Taylor
Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago

This so goes back to the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. with cell groups. The loss of theological literacy frightening to contemplate. We are called to be yeast and salt and light not just to make disciples. The chaplains in prisons and hospitals and hospices, education and the military with their huge range of skills are not easily replaced solely by volunteers.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

One of my father’s occasional sayings, of things he found preposterous, was “If this didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent it today.” Examples were things like insurance (where you’d pay to be compensated if something bad happens, but when it did, you’d find the payees, obviously, had spent much of your premiums and their time finding pretexts not to pay). Another was credit cards (spend next month’s salary now; if you can’t pay it back, just borrow even more; 40% APR; what can possibly go wrong?).
In the same spirit, if the C of E didn’t exist, would anybody invent it today?
Almost nobody goes to a church except to attend weddings and funerals. They also function as social clubs for older people. But churches convert into quite nice flats, and they’d make good gyms in many cases or swimming pools in others. So why not flog them all off individually, allow them to be explicitly repurposed as the party and event venues they more or less are, but where necessary attach the stipulation that twice a week or whatever, the event hosted has to be weak tea and a church service for the oldsters?

Dr Anne Kelley
Dr Anne Kelley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I think you would have to have attended a local church for a number of years in order to understand exactly what a good minister and a faithful congregation can offer both to the congregants and to the local community. It’s a great deal more than you suggest.

Mary McFarlane
Mary McFarlane
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr Anne Kelley

I happen, as my name might indicate, to be a contrary personality and hate being organised or belonging to clubs, but believe in community. This means that I go to church, feel rather put off by the ritual, but appreciate the gathering. I am astonished at how the Church of England has forsaken its flock during Covid at a time when they could have provided succour and comfort, they appeared to think it wasn’t their job, the congregation had to seek them out, not find them in their midst. I hope it will be the more simple charitable denominations that flourish in future rather than the Church of England business plan.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary McFarlane

My impression was that during this time of pestilence, the church ‘bosses’ confused themselves with industrial CEOs, and issued orders to the parishes, rather than considering the parishes as self-contained entities with the duty to provide spiritual guidance locally. I suppose this followed on naturally to accepting centralised corporate culpability for abuse.

anthonydurkin094
anthonydurkin094
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The one sentence in Giles Frazer’s thoughtful and provocative article that stands out for me is, “Follow the money.” And there you have it! Until we discover/re-discover a Holy Spirit led theology of ‘giving’ which is not generated via the subterraneous mechanism of parish plans or other trendy management initiatives then the institutional Churches will undoubtedly die. Whether we look outwards from the inside or from the outside inwards, there is something rotten and unwholesome about our preoccupation with money, forced on us because the Spirit of caring for all and all caring for each has been subsumed by the dreaded Parish Share – and there is a misnomer if ever there was one! I lump this energy sapping preoccupation with money alongside the preoccupation with the numbers game. Neither preoccupation is helpful or relevant to the Church’s mission in this turbulent 21st century, in my view.