Stats for Mission 2
Church of England

Church of England continues its decline – but is revival stirring?

 

The Church of England has published its attendance stats (‘Statistics for Mission‘) for 2014. Don’t yawn. Yes, the interesting Anglican stuff is leavening this week in a Canterbury crypt, but there’s a sense in which it’s all theological if England’s national church already lies a-mouldering in the grave. Quite why we have to wait until 2016 for 2014’s figures is something of a mystery: data-gatherers and number-crunchers really ought to be able to analyse figures for October 2014 by the middle of 2015: it isn’t a complex qualitative or mixed methodology. As it stands, this announcement gives the impression of a church already two years behind monitoring its own rot. If, in 2014, the worm and moth feasted upon Anglican communicants to take weekly attendance below one million for the first time, we’ve lost at least another 20,000 since, and we won’t get confirmation of that until 2018. Good job the Research & Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council aren’t responsible for cancer projections or foodbank expansion.

So, in October 2014, 980,000 people were attending their parish church each week: 830,000 adults and 150,000 children. This rose to 2.4 million for Christmas (2014) and 1.3 million at Easter. The Church of England performed just under 1,000 weddings, 2,000 baptisms, and almost 3,000 funerals every week of the year. Interestingly, some 12% of births during 2014 were marked by a Church of England infant baptism or thanksgiving service, and 31% of deaths were marked by a Church of England funeral. Babies and dead bodies are the optimal props for captive evangelism.

But the trend is clear:

Stats for Mission 3

There has been a 12% decline in attendance over the past decade, representing just over 1% a year. It is, however, worth pointing out that the methodology changed in 2013 (when “attendance at school services was separated from attendance at other church services and fresh expressions; this question was further clarified in 2014 to specify that it referred only to school services taking place in church buildings, not to services in schools [e.g. school assemblies]”). Speaking on the publication of the statistics, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev’d Graham James, said:

The 2014 figures are not in any way a surprise. Whilst the recent trend of the past decade continues, it has been anticipated and is being acted on radically. As part of a prayerful and considered response to these trends the Church is embarking upon the biggest renewal and reform process in over 150 years focusing our resources on prayer, evangelism, discipleship, vocations, leadership & training.

That’s good to hear, but it’s a carefully-worded response, almost crafted with a slap aimed at the cheeks of both the National Secular Society and certain recalcitrant Anglican theologians. The response is “prayerful and considered”: it has the sanctity of divinity and the inspiration of corporate spirituality. It is unarguable. This is “renewal and reform” focusing on everything that should lead to revival. But then:

We do not expect that trend to change imminently or immediately over the next few years due to demographics. We lose approximately 1% of our churchgoers to death each year. Given the age profile of the CofE, the next few years will continue to have downward pressure as people die or become housebound and unable to attend church.

Ah, the inexpressible joy of boundless faith! The zeal of missional expectation; the assurance of belief; the confidence that the Holy Spirit will burst forth with waves of repentance and revival! Compare Bishop Graham’s calculated circumspection with Archbishop Justin’s fervent prescription to the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury:

..The East African Revival teaches us the need for holiness. We must be renewed as a holy church, defined by our passionate worship and its content, with every Christian knowing scripture, prayerful, humble and evangelistic. In a sentence, we must be those who are, to the outside world, visibly disciples of Jesus Christ.

His whole ministry is founded on the seared memory of mission: his salvation had its origins in holiness and revival:

..it was the East African Revival that set the pattern for holiness, for a vigour of lifestyle in relationship with Christ that so impressed an 18 year old teaching at Kiburu Secondary school. That same 18 year old then had the seed of the gospel sown into the ground prepared, when three Ugandan Bishops, led by Festo Kivengere came to England in 1975. And a few weeks later I gave my life to Christ. So for me it was indigenous Kenyan and Ugandan faith, through the Revival’s legacy, that brought me salvation. I do not forget that.

Yes, the Bishop of Norwich tells the media: “As a Church we are unashamedly committed to following the teachings of Jesus Christ in our worship of God, discipleship and service to the poor and the marginalised.” And he proclaims: “Our confidence, resilience and service is rooted in Jesus,” but (here’s the thing) there is no captivating personal testimony; no enthralling tale of destitution and inner transformation: just facts and figures; arid stats and vapid percentages.

Compare Bishop Graham’s message to the world:

During 2013-14 some dioceses continued to increase their attendance. In the past 12 months alone there are examples of growth and new churches across the country. In my own diocese the church of St. Thomas Norwich has grown from 50 to 450 people in the past two years. In Bournemouth, St Swithin’s – a church which started in 2014 – now sees 500 people attending every week whilst in Birmingham St Luke’s Gas Street in is already attracting hundreds of young people since its beginning in 2015. There are many others like these and each is a sign of hope.

..with Archbishop Justin’s message to the Church:

..In all Provinces there are forms of corruption, none of us is without sin. There is litigation, the use of civil courts for church matters in some places. Sexual morality divides us over same sex issues, where we are seen as either compromising or homophobic..

..Jesus did not come to a group of well-established disciples and send them, but to failures, who had fled, denied, abandoned. Paul in the letters to Corinth does not write to a well-functioning church of good disciples, but to those who were divided, immoral, filled with rivalry and hatred. We are a Jesus centred people, and we serve the God who raised Jesus from the dead and raises us. At the heart of the life of the church is not power, or structure, or authority, but the person of Jesus Christ, present by His Spirit, whose plans for good, whose love for the lost is our calling and our urging.

We see good news as well as knowing good news. Around the world the church is growing, evangelising, leading people to life in Christ, without whom there is no true life. The Anglican churches are everywhere caring for the sick, educating children, influencing society, and most normally of all, in bringing people to reconciliation with God in Christ, the only decisive reconciliation, they are also bringing reconciliation in society. In so many places, especially at the local level, by the grace of God alone, Anglicanism is a church of the Beatitudes.

You have to wonder why CofE comms hasn’t got it the other way round. Indeed, at the time of writing (2.00pm), the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address to the Primates’ Meeting has neither been disseminated by Church House nor posted on the Lambeth Palace website: it doesn’t appear to be in circulation at all. Doubtless it is imminent, but (with huge respect to the labourers) it was delivered yesterday, and the news moves on, chop-chop. Justin Welby’s prescription for effective mission and personal testimony of salvation are vastly more interesting and evangelistic than something prosaically called ‘Statistics for Mission’.

We can either listen to church bureaucrats, ecclesial managers and the elite ‘talent pool’ who chorus that it would take “at least 5 years” to reverse the Church of England’s decline; and we can heed the headline story of ‘Church of England attendance falls below one million’; and quibble over the NSS/BHA crowing over an apparent 2.4% decline (due to change in the statistical method of counting), or we can instead articulate what the Church of England is doing now, and doing radically. Let Archbishop Justin broadcast the good news to the nation:

In this country many talk of the post Christian society, but the C of E educate more than 1,000,000 children in our schools. We are involved in almost all the food banks as, for the first time since the 1930s, we have hunger in this country. We are still a major part of the glue that holds society together. A recent attempt to introduce assisted suicide was crushingly defeated in Parliament. We are exempted from the same sex marriage act, showing that our voice is still heard against the prevailing wind of our society, and at much cost to ourselves, by the way. The Church of England is still a primary source of leadership for communities, to the dismay of the secularists. It is a struggle, but we are not losing. And we are also in the middle of the biggest reform of the church since the mid 19th century. We are planting churches. The ABY (Archbishop of York) is on an evangelistic pilgrimage, I imagine the first ABY to do that in centuries, even perhaps over 1,000 years. And the Bench of Bishops is described by the longer standing members as the most orthodox since WWII.

Around the world it is Anglicans who serve Christ in every possible way, supporting one another in bringing peace, in defending the oppressed, in education and health, and who are active in evangelism, bringing salvation to the lost. Diocesan partnerships are often strong, and mutually beneficial. We must not despair, because for all our faults God is at work by His Spirit, and we are in the end those who are sent by Jesus as the Father sent Him.

Finally, let us look at the world around us. It is one in which God, the Holy Trinity, calls the Church to action. Religious war is spreading, and the secular world has no answer to it, does not even understand the nature of religion. Climate change is a huge danger. New powers are emerging rapidly such as China and India, the former with a large church that is seeking to be part of world Christianity. India needs the truth of Christ, more so as wealth and poverty become more extreme. Between them those two great countries have a third of the world’s people. Are we supporting their churches in preaching ? How do we respond?

Islam is engaged in more and more violent activity in its civil war. Its violent arms subvert, attack, kill and destroy without mercy or conscience, as Christians did during the reformation. Islam’s mainstream leaders, at peace but much menaced, look for friends, how do we respond?

Many parts of the world represented here are suffering terribly from climate change, are literally drowning. Where is the Anglican voice?

In some areas oppressive government clings to power, provoking killing that threatens life itself. Are we in active support in united strength?

All of us here need a body that is mutually supportive, that loves one another, that stoops to lift the fallen and kneels to bind the wounds of the injured. Without each other we are deeply weakened, because we have a mission that is only sustainable when we conform to the image of Christ, which is first to love one another. The idea is often put forward that truth and unity are in conflict, or in tension. That is not true. Disunity presents to the world an untrue image of Jesus Christ. Lack of truth corrodes and destroys unity. They are bound together, but the binding is love. In a world of war, of rapid communications, of instant hearing and misunderstanding where the response is only hatred and separation, the Holy Spirit whose creative and sustaining gifting of the church is done in diversity, demands that diversity of history, culture, gift, vision be expressed in a unity of love. That is what a Spirit filled church looks like.

So with all our grave difficulties we face a world in darkness, lostness and suffering, knowing that we serve Jesus who sends us and that those whom he sends he equips. Our responsibility this week is therefore to be making the church more ready for action, as a body around the world.

..we are sent, by being outward looking. Every time we act or conclude an action we must ask ourselves, will this lead a world of lostness nearer to Christ Jesus and His salvation. Even when we disagree, even if we decide we must walk separately, we must not in the way we do that imperil the salvation of one person outside this room.

We are sent. Many here set us wonderful examples of what that means in their own actions. As I said, I am the beneficiary to all eternity of the Revival. But we are sent as the Father sent Jesus, so when we get to the end of our time together this week, may we be inspired afresh as those who are indeed sent, filled with the peace of Christ.

Too long for a press release, for sure. But vastly more fascinating – religiously, theologically, ecclesiologically and humanly – for any journalist to write about. And far more interesting for any sinner to ponder than ‘Statistics for Mission’ accompanied by humdrum key facts and a few commendable name-checks.

  • preacher

    I feel it’s important to point out that the statistics are only for the C of E & don’t include the free Churches or other ‘new’ & diverse Christian fellowships that are growing & thriving. It’s true to say that some of them may be better than others, but it would show that the Christian faith is not on the decline in general, in fact quite the opposite.

    • Mike Stallard

      Don’t kid yourself.
      In Singapore there is a religious upsurge and you cannot miss it. 6000 people went to (Catholic) midnight mass when I was there. There were five priests (all living on the church compound) and about forty servers – all teenage boys neatly robed. The archbishop preached a sermon on the Christian family, how it was central to the Christian message.
      A nun played the organ and led the singing which was marvellously uplifting.
      All over Singapore there were masses at 8,9,10 and a Mandarin mass at 11 every Sunday with hundreds of people in all of them.
      Free churches in UK? Ours is a garage – or was until the roof fell in.

      • preacher

        Gad to hear it Mike, as long as the gospel is preached I’m happy ! But Singapore is a long way from England & the statistics were not about Churches of all or no denominations but about the Anglican Church.
        Blessings. P.

    • David

      Exactly ! Globally it thrives. Here too there are vibrant “Free” churches, we have three with their own church buildings, in our nearby small market town, plus two very recent, pop-up churches that use empty schools on the w/end. Then there’s the Catholics who seem to be holding up their numbers, plus the Methodists, and the Baptists who are thriving, and then the fringe ones, like Seventh Day Adventists etc. Christianity is far more alive than the liberal, secular media wants the nation to know about. They enjoy the gloomy reports. But it’s so easy just to collect the published, collated C of E statistics and pretend that’s all there is.

  • We are still a major part of the glue that holds society together—Welby

    If the Church of England believes that society should be held together, why has it, since the middle of the last century, preached the blessings of mass immigration, diversity and multiculturalism, all of which are calculated to destroy the English way of life?

    The Church could have defended the identity of England as a white Christian nation. Instead, it betrayed both the English and, by its acceptance of Islamization, Christianity itself. The English look at the Church and see not a pastor but a traitor.

    • The Explorer

      If you haven’t seen it, Hugh_Oxford’s comment on the previous thread is worth a read. Was near the top, but now quite a long way down. Shortly after the second ‘Loads More comments’ bar, unless loads more comments have been added recently.

      • @ The Explorer—It’s the top-rated comment so it was easy to find. I agree with most of what he says except where he blames ‘us’—the European man in the street—for Islamization, and where he thinks the Christian world can save itself by jettisoning the C of E. Would that it were that easy. Christianity prospered in the past because it had powerful friends in high places. Today, it has powerful enemies in high places.

        • Inspector General

          The volk has arisen, JR….

  • Mike Stallard

    OK our local church is more or less abandoned except for Remembrance Sunday and Midnight Mass. There is a handful of people twice a month and a Bright Hour once a month when the Vicar (from another parish) sits in the church waiting for people to flood in for refreshments and a chat with her.
    I have often wondered if I could, as an ex anglican, do anything to spread the love of Christ round our benighted and isolated and lonely parish rapidly filling up with new people.
    Well, first of all I would need her permission. This might well involve a course of training. She might well feel that everything was going swimmingly under her efficient and hard working leadership at the moment thank you very much.
    Then I would have to go round visiting people and inviting them for – what exactly? An hour in a cold, damp building with three people over 80 years old to welcome them and show them the ropes?
    Let us say that happened.
    Then what? Say there were suddenly 100 people crowded in to hear the Bible read and the word preached and some lively hymns (who will be the organist?) sung?
    Almost immediately we would get the bill/parish share. And it would run into thousands of pounds. Then there are the fabric repairs…

    • Stephen M Day

      But have you *actually* asked the vicar? Or is this supposition? So much defeatism in such a short message!

      • Bob

        Defeatism or realism?

        When the roof caves in on your place of worship, you can’t ignore the reality of decline.

        • The Explorer

          More of an issue, perhaps, when it’s the foundations that collapse. They you really ARE in trouble.

      • Mike Stallard

        Yup.

    • Old Nick

      The church I go to (some distance away) has a group of half-a-dozen who turn up for half an hour every Tuesday and Thursday evening and sing Vespers together. Their chanting has become pretty good. Others of us join in when we are around. Snowballs start with snowflakes.

      • Mike Stallard

        I want to thank you very much for that excellent suggestion. I shall look for people who would like to do this. A very helpful comment.

  • Inspector General

    David Bowie, of all people, showed an interest in the divine towards the end. One always had him down as a hedonist, and his personal behaviour in the 1970s was certainly that. Still, interest it was, and to date, none of the usual suspects have broken ground to mock him.

    These high level ‘celebrities’ whom the mob adore carry tremendous influence, and who can say what Bowie’s legacy will be in the realm of religion. His influence in the musical side will be around for a very long time, and there was much that was positive about him. Contrast his death with that of Lennon, who’s passing generated a similar sense of loss, but whose emptiness and narcissism was all too apparent, as was his ambiguousness in any belief in God. He left us nothing but his part in the Beatles. Having said that, the latter died much younger and still had a fair amount of, let’s call it unsettled anger about him. Bowie on the other hand was a much more serene fellow, but did he leave concern for his soul just a tad too late, if concern it was?

    • Anton

      Really? Both brilliant rock musicians but I never had Bowie down as anything other than the implicit New Ager that Lennon certainly was. What’s your basis for saying that he “showed an interest in the divine towards the end”, please?

      • Inspector General

        BBC online “The last person David Bowie followed on Twitter was God – or a play about God “

        • Anton

          Have you read the article? I’m not convinced.

          • Inspector General

            One believes he had a spiritual side, but it was like grain on stony ground…

          • Anton

            EVERYBODY has a spiritual side, just as much they have a physical body. It’s what they do with it that counts.

          • Who’s to say Bowie didn’t turn to Christ during his last days? God alone knows and God alone will judge him.

            “He told talk show host/comedian Ellen DeGeneres in 2004 that his spiritual road had been a long one: “I was young, fancy free, and Tibetan Buddhism appealed to me at that time. I thought, ‘There’s salvation.’ It didn’t really work. Then I went through Nietzsche, Satanism, Christianity … pottery, and ended up singing. It’s been a long road.”

            “Questioning my spiritual life has always been germane to what I was writing. Always,” he said in a 2003 interview with BeliefNet. “It’s because I’m not quite an atheist and it worries me. There’s that little bit that holds on: Well, I’m almost an atheist. Give me a couple of months…”

            “That’s the shock: All clichés are true,” he continued. “The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God — so do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are true …. Hell, don’t pose me that one.”

            http://www.cruxnow.com/life/2016/01/11/the-vatican-pays-tribute-to-david-bowie/

          • Anton

            Steady on Jack! The Inspector hinted that Bowie had, I asked for his source, and poured cold water on that source. If you want to preach on not judging, please consider the Inspector’s comments about stony ground.

            All I am saying is that I see no public interest in genuine Christianity in him, to the end. What happened in private near the end, I haven’t pretended to know.

          • Fair comment, Anton.

        • sarky

          He also said the lords prayer to the crowd, prior to his appearance at the freddy mercury memorial concert.

    • carl jacobs

      They were both of them little more than purveyors of the narcissistic adolescent whine that emerged from the 60s. They won’t be remembered for music. They will be remembered by the sentimental 60s generation that is staring down the November of its life and mistakes aesthetics for religion.

      Was there ever a decade as bad as the 60s?

      • “They were both of them little more than purveyors of the narcissistic adolescent whine that emerged from the 60s.”

        Er …. Bowie released albums over 5 decades and not just the 1960’s. Some of his music was superb.

        “Was there ever a decade as bad as the 60s?”

        The 1920’s and 1930’s laid the *intellectual* groundwork for the 1960’s and the sexual revolution. And the 1940’s weren’t that great either.

        • Anton

          Don’t mention the war!

          • Jack’s point is that all decades manifest spiritual warfare in one form or another.

        • carl jacobs

          Yes, yes. I’m aware. I always knew you were a Lennonist, Jack.

          • grutchyngfysch

            When my wife (then girlfriend) first told me she could imagine no more obnoxious a song than Imagine, I knew that I’d met my soulmate.

          • carl jacobs

            Think about this for a moment, grutch.

            When did these bands/rock groups/whatever establish themselves? When they were in their early adulthood. Well, OK. “Adulthood.” Are we possibly supposed to take seriously the drug-addled, sex-crazed self-absorbed insights that pass for thought amongst this group of individuals who couldn’t so much as wipe themselves without adult supervision? Who thought wisdom was pre-tearing the condom wrapper. They hadn’t lived long enough to think let along have a credible thought about something. And here they were giving voice to a generation.

            “Imagine” is a perfect example of what I am talking about. It’s a maudlin piece of shallow wish fulfillment. There isn’t a credible thought in the entire piece. “You may say I’m a dreamer.” No, I think you are a perpetual adolescent who hasn’t learned about responsibility and life because you never had to do so. Instead you made a lot of money by telling other adolescents exactly what they wanted to hear. It’s so easy to make money by flattering people. By raising their petty problems to a level of significance and angst. By pandering to their desires.

            And then we tell ourselves how profound and inspirational the music is. No. We are reliving the memories of our youth through that music and telling ourselves how profound and inspirational we were – and still are. That’s why this music – the Beatles, Davie Bowie, whoever – it will all die with us. It was never about the music. It was always about us.

            I love Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Why? Because it was released the year I went to college, and when I hear it, the music takes me right back. But I know that. I admit it. I don’t invest metaphysical significance in my memories. But maybe that’s because I have something else to hold onto.

          • grutchyngfysch

            There was a bloke with a portable piano touring the sites where Jihadis murdered Parisians who played Imagine. The news-station that reported this obviously intended me to take this as a positive story, but I couldn’t help but think that in a small way that it was precisely the sort of thing that’s left us collectively helpless. The very sentiment of pursuing only the things that aren’t “hard to do” doesn’t just disarm you against the kinds of people who will try very hard to inflict their particular forms of evil on the world, it actively tears down the basis of labour, intellectual inquiry, and spiritual struggle.

            I know that upsets the kind of people who want to wander through life leaving only footprints and wicker handbaskets, but there we go. Perhaps one day they’ll join us… and grow up.

          • carl jacobs

            That’s what the 60’s was all about, you know – a rebellion against growing up. Drugs and free sex were just manifestations of the larger rejection of responsibility. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” I don’t think anyone should be allowed to vote until he is 30.

            They’ll say “What if you join the army?” Yeah, OK. I was always kind of half-partial to Heinlein’s ideas, anyways. I could go with that. At least it would keep academics and lawyers and journalists out of gov’t.

          • Anton

            Early Beatles were a lot more fun than the hippie version. It all grew out of Rock n roll, of course, and when you listen to “How much is that doggie in the window” it does sound rather like the window was asking to be smashed.

      • sarky

        They won’t be remembered for music? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Ian G

    Liberal DDOs have stopped many a good man from being ordained. Selection and training needs to be much more biblical and ordination needs to be a much wider concept.

    • Anton

      On the contrary, it needs to be abolished, for all Christians are priests!

      • Inspector General

        What do you do about the bad priests, then. You know the types, the anything goes lot…

        • Anton

          Do you mean among the ordained priests or among the unordained priests?

          • Inspector General

            You said yourself all Christians are priests. Now, answer the question….

          • The Explorer

            Isn’t part of the answer that whether or not all Christians are priests, some priests are not Christians?

          • Inspector General

            We are our own doctors most of the time, but when faced with something serious we go to those trained in that field. Just as priests are. Of course, you can have bad priests, but what if they are accepted as priests by bad examiners….

          • The Explorer

            Bad doctors can be struck off. Priests can be unfrocked. The problem in both professions is those who remain unidentified.

          • Inspector General

            Not with them who ordained them priests?

          • The Explorer

            Them too. And those who passed that doctor fit for service in the NHS when he could not understand English: with fatal consequences, if I remember. Back to you and Anton.

          • magnolia

            The problem is also, (sadly, as they are often really lovely people) the innocents who always believe the best about everyone, even when confronted with damning evidence about serial victim-makers.

            There needs to be a strategy that helps such people to entertain thoughts that they would rather avoid, and not hide behind the ” I must never ever be judgemental ” mantra that so damaged the Church in the Chichester debacle, and which can be a dangerous (also misunderstood and interpreted) cop-out. Certainly it doesn’t help victims.

          • The Explorer

            “Judge not that ye be not judged” has been an absolute curse.

          • magnolia

            It’s been very misinterpreted indeed. Someone has worked on separating out those meanings of judgement, but I cannot find it right now! I guess Christians in Law will have done work on that.

          • Anton

            I will, just as soon as I understand it.

      • Ian G

        There is a difference between the priesthood of all believers and setting people aside for specific ministry such as apostles, prophets and the like or deacons, presbyters, overseers all of which are scriptural.

        • Anton

          I agree – but why then call them “priests”?

          • Ian G

            Our word priest comes from ‘presbyter’ meaning ‘elder’ (Greek presbuteros). We also use it to translate ‘hieros’. The royal priesthood is ‘hieros’.The Aaronic priesthood is ‘hieros’ as are Hindu priests for their gods or Greek and Roman priests for their gods etc. etc. A ‘hieros’ is a go-between. He represents the people to the god and the god to the people. The Church is a witness to the world and intercedes for it. It is ‘hieros’. The assorted church offices are whatever they are called and generally presbyter, deacon or bishop.When the presbuteros starts to behave like a hieros is when the confusion comes in, that and some dodgy translation.

          • Anton

            The words have changed their meanings from those in the NT and that is indeed a source of confusion. Theologically, though, all Christians are priests and Jesus is our High Priest. If ceremonies are to be held when someone is acknowledged to become a presbyteros, episkopos or pastor or whatever, let them use those those words rather than “ordained as a priest” with the clear implication that the guy was not one before and that the reset of the congregation still aren’t. Such churches have a civil service model of Christianity rather than an all-person ministry, and the “priest”/vicar either does little (if lazy) or has so much to do (if conscientious) that he burns out.

  • Bob

    The decline continues.

    The Church is dying out and what’s left of it is splintering into two mutually antagonistic camps. The liberals will die out soon enough as their religion is absorbed by secular society. And the traditionalists will dwindle into a minor cult with little influence and no power.

    Other splinter groups litter the landscape and claim to be growing exponentially, because three new people were spotted in the pews last Sunday, so of course that means this time next year they’ll be ruling the world. In their dreams…

    This is all MOST satisfactory for the secular cause. Religion is loosening its grip on society and we’ll all benefit as a result. There is still much to do. Once ISIS is dealt with, Islam will need to be addressed. And who knows what cults may arise in the future? Mankind has a habit of resorting to magic and superstition in the face of danger and threat. But sense will prevail.

    I’m very confident of that.

    • Anton

      History reveals that it is possible to be very confident and wrong at the same time.

      Do tell me, how will you “address” Islam?

      • Bob

        As I said above, I do not have a crystal ball. But the tide of history is moving in a certain direction and it isn’t hard to see what it’s going to sweep away next.

        Time will tell and I’m perfectly content to wait until it does.

        • Anton

          “Addressing” is an active human process but you are now talking about how the tide of history will sweep Islam away. Perhaps it will, but you have changed your tune.

          • Bob

            The prime movers of history are human beings. Our active processes are what constitute it.

            These Christians really are very confused about the meaning of things. Is it some kind of intellectual handicap?

          • Anton

            Readers may judge for themselves whether you were really saying that secularism would pro-actively “address” Islam.

    • The Explorer

      “Once ISIS is dealt with, Islam will need to be addressed.”
      Quite a few issues in that breezy sentence.

      1. Who, exactly, is going to deal with ISIS? And how? As far as I can see, the force most likely to deal with ISIS is ISIS itself. Do you agree?

      2. Which Islam will need to be addressed? Global Islam? Middle-Eastern Islam? The Islam already in Europe? The Islam planning to move to Europe in the future? Please elucidate.

      • Bob

        I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t see into the future. But I can make an educated guess about what may happen.

        ISIS probably will degenerate into chaos from within and then be mopped up by exterior forces, which may or may not include Western firepower. That remains to be seen.

        Islam in the West will follow the trail blazed by Christianity. After a period of fundamentalist fervour, it will decay into a part time faith with believers who are Muslim by social convention, but secular in practice. Like Christianity, as it dwindles, its influence on society will wane. As it has never been and never will be a majority faith in the West, this will happen quickly in comparison to the decline of Christianity. Within a generation all religions will be viewed as oddities espoused by the elderly and other weird and marginal characters who live in the past. Within a couple of generations, it will essentially have gone underground, but will live on as a series of cults whose membership is drawn from extreme personality types who espouse it as a means of marking themselves out from the crowd and being different, a bit like modern day witches and warlocks.

        You probably won’t live to see those predictions come true, and I may not either. I can’t tell you if that’s exactly what will happen, but the general gist of it seems pretty likely to me.

        • The Explorer

          Thank you. Intelligent and reasonable suppositions.

    • Inspector General

      Your empty message of no hope fits in well with the cold temperature outside right now.

      Anyway, are you still being knocked senseless by bit of rough hubby when you trouble him with your concerns?

      • The Explorer

        We’ve only Linus’ word for it that he ever did get married: and we know how reliable that is.

        In fact, now that Linus has deleted all the details about himself, we’ve only our memory of Linus’ word for it. Presumably HG could recover the undeleted threads from the archives to show Linus that he said the things he now denies having said, but it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

        • CliveM

          It certainly wouldn’t.

        • grutchyngfysch

          Seriously, what is the point of engaging with this chap beyond the niceties of debate? Half the feeds are now taken up with these arguments. It’s such a waste of time, and nobody is failing in their duties to the Gospel to shake the sand off their trainers once in a while.

          (Not picking on you particularly Explorer, or the quality of everyone’s rebuttals/rebukes, just seems such a pointless expenditure of energy.)

          • The Explorer

            Yes and no. The issue here is method.
            Linus claims that there is no evidence outside the NT for the existence of Christ. That happens to be untrue, but his point is the need to rely on external evidence.
            Linus claimed that his partner had become his husband, and some on the Blog took him at face value. But where’s the evidence, beyond the self-declaration in the Gospel of Linus? (Now deleted anyway.) This from the one who tells us to rely on external evidence.
            Evidence: that’s what I’m getting at. There’s obviously been an atheist conference somewhere which agreed that lack of evidence is the new weapon for proving the non-existence of God.

      • Bob

        It looks like mad old men hallucinating about things that just don’t exist are in the majority on this blog.

        You go right ahead and entertain your decaying mind with images of domestic violence, old bigot. You clearly get a kick out of the idea. And who am I to interfere with the few pleasures an old geezer like you still gets out of what’s left of his life?

        • “I act like an adolescent bitch and scratch everyone’s eyes out.”

          Linus VI

          • magnolia

            Agreed- with the caveat that it is deeply unfair to real lady dogs, even the pit bulls!

    • chiefofsinners

      The decline continues.

      Bob is dying out and what’s left of him is splintering into an infinity of mutually antagonistic identities. The Linuses will die out soon enough as their vitriol is absorbed by secular stupidity. And the Tutenakai will dwindle into a minor cult with little influence and no power.

      Other splinter identities litter the landscape and seem to be growing exponentially, because three new ones were spotted on the web last Sunday, so of course that means this time next year they’ll be ruling the world. In their dreams…

      This is all MOST satisfactory for the Christian cause. Irreligion is loosening its grip on society and we’ll all benefit as a result. There is still much to do. Once In Perfect Ignorance is dealt with, Pink News will need to be addressed. And who knows what clots may arise in the future? Bobkind has a habit of resorting to necromancy in the face of danger and threat. But Christ will prevail.

      I’m very confident of that.

      • Bob

        A valiant effort at parody, but unfortunately I’m still here and going strong. It’s your church that’s dying out. The figures speak for themselves.

        • The Explorer

          Is Chief of SInners an Anglican?

          • Bob

            I thought that Protestants believed in the universal Church. It gives them and the handful of others who believe in the particular subset of beliefs they believe in a sense of belonging.

            Christianity as a whole is dying out, but as in all famines, it’s the larger species with the massive calorie requirements who die first. Smaller creatures survive on the scraps until there are none left.

            Where Anglicanism is now going, other churches will follow. It’s just a question of time.

          • Anton

            “Christianity as a whole is dying out”

            You are SO eurocentric…

          • Bob

            Uh huh. Europe leads the way. Where we go, the rest of the world follows.

            Or hadn’t you noticed?

          • carl jacobs

            BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

            Please. You’re killing me. My side hurts so bad. I can hardly breathe. If you are going to say something like that, at least bury it in a longer post so I don’t accidentally read it.

          • Bob

            The American Christian Taliban has a sense of humour?

            I doubt it somehow…

          • Anton

            I’ve yet to see yours.

          • Bob

            Having no sense of humour is a typical Christian character trait.

            Interesting to know you conform to the stereotype.

          • Anton

            And also with you!

          • magnolia

            Just shows how little time the man has spent actually in the company of Christians, or in actually listening to anyone here.

            I actually believe Christians have the best sense of humour and some of the funniest people are in the church. Some of us have even been known to make people laugh without intending to.

            Some very funny authors too……

            The man is missing out. But then if you proceed by unexamined caricature, you do….

          • Bob

            And the scintillating and original repartee…!

            Could you be any more of a Christian stereotype? Do you also have razor sharp creases ironed down the front of your supermarket jeans? It would complete the picture of the perfect Christian nerd…

          • Anton

            The Chinese haven’t noticed. Secular communism is on the wane among 1/4 – 1/3 of the human race there, and Christianity on the rise.

          • Bob

            The Chinese have noticed. Consumerism is now the majority faith in China, and European luxury brands are the offering of choice on every household altar in China.

            Christianity is just one of a number of competing cults experiencing rapid growth in China. It’s all relative though. China has an enormous population, so even a tiny percentage of that makes for a huge number.

            Various estimates state that between 2 and 4 percent of the Chinese are Christians. This is hardly a majority.

            It may well be that Christianity experiences further growth, but it’s going to have to coexist alongside the established consumerist values of modern Chinese society and historic cultural influences based on Taoism and Confucianism. Any hope that Chinese Christianity will become some kind of pure and fundamentalist wellspring from which the West can draw renewed faith is so vain as to be really rather amusing. Chinese culture absorbs and adapts whatever philosophies come its way and changes them into something uniquely Chinese. That’s the future of Christianity in China, as one element in a syncretist belief system that has little or nothing to do with Western fundamentalism.

          • Anton

            China might be syncretist as a nation but its churches aren’t (unlike too many of ours) and that’s the point. Also you have subtly shifted again, from saying Christianity is on the wane to admitting it is on the rise in China – just as I said. Neither of us knows the future.

          • Bob

            The past informs the future. The history of Christianity in China is one of absorption and transformation into something that becomes uniquely Chinese and not recognizably Christian. Every outbreak of Christianity in China has followed this path. The latest infection is bound to do the same.

            And no, I have not shifted at all. Christianity is dying out in the West. It will die out in the East and in Africa in time. It’s a question of education. Christianity only thrives in the midst of ignorance and superstition. Educate people to think for themselves and you eradicate the power of Christianity to do their thinking for them.

          • Anton

            You are joking, aren’t you? It was the church that kept education and learning alive during Western Europe’s dark ages.

            As for China, it is impressive to be knowledgeable about its history but more impressive still about its future. You will forgive a little scepticism? How many Roman governors, persecuting Christians under Diocletian, dreamt of what happened next?

          • Bob

            Chinese history speaks for itself.

            And the Church’s history of engagement with learning is one of attempted suppression of any ideas or knowledge that disagree with its dogma.

          • Anton

            Funny, then, that it was so interested in the ideas of pagan ancient Greece…

          • Bob

            The Church’s only interest is in cherrypicking ideas and knowledge to prop up its preconceived dogma. All data that do not agree are discarded as irrelevant.

            Christianity and education are mutually exclusive concepts. The only kind of education the Church is interested in promoting is the kind that teaches minds to stay closed and reject anything that doesn’t agree with its dogmatic certainties.

          • Anton

            Upon what beliefs do you build your life?

          • Bob

            Beliefs are the individual’s way of attempting to assert control over the world. They tell us nothing about how the world is, but only how the individual wants it to be. As such you cannot “build your life” on beliefs because beliefs have no foundation.

            Facts are the only basis from which we can work because they’re the only things that can be independently verified.

          • Anton

            And when people disagree about what the facts are they call them beliefs… now would you like to answer my question?

          • Malcolm Smith

            “Christianity as a whole is dying out …”
            Good grief! You really haven’t been keeping up with trends. In China it has been doubling every 5½ years. South Korea was 2% Christian in 1945 and 29.2 in 2005. In Singapore it has been growing by 15% to 20% a decade. And, of course, as far back as the 1980s it was noticed that sub-Saharan Africa was rapidly becoming predominantly Christian.
            And even in the developed world, the fact remains that churchgoers are breeding faster than the non-religious (a phenomenon Rodney Starke recognized for the Roman Empire as well). Google Phillip Longman’s article, “Survival of the Godliest.”

          • grutchyngfysch

            I haven’t looked at the stats for a while, but it certainly used to be the case that Evangelical Christianity was the fastest growing religion in terms of adult converts (which I think comprised slightly more than children “born into” the Church).

          • Malcolm Smith

            This is likely the case. When we look at the polling service, Latinoobarómetro, Latin America was 81% Roman Catholic and 4% Evangelical in 1996, while in 2010 the figures were 70% and 13% respectively. While this would imply that Evangelicals are growing at the expense of the RCs rather than the “nones”, a more likely interpretation is that nominal, but not active RCs are converting as adults to a more vibrant form of Protestantism.
            God is not dead; He is just busy conquering the Third World.

          • Bob

            In the secular West, religion is dying out.

            China and Africa will catch up with us once their citizens have free access to education. Until then, they’ll remain vulnerable to all sorts of different cults that spread their superstitious nonsense among the ignorant and underprivileged.

          • DanJ0

            Do you have a hypothesis for why it is expanding in those particular countries and regions?

          • The Explorer

            Bob would say Christianity is growing in the areas of greatest poverty and ignorance. It’s the sort of argument Bertrand Russell used to make: Catholicism opposed birth control in order to keep families large. That would keep them poor, and so keep them loyal to the Church. (In evolutionary terms, it keeps the numbers up, and gives the religious who breed an advantage over the irreligious who don’t; although Russell didn’t say that, as far as I know.)

            Christ did say, however, that the Gospel would be preached throughout the world before the end. Not that it would be accepted everywhere, which is a different thing, but that it would be preached everywhere. For those who, like me, accept biblical prophecy as a reality, it’s evidence that there will be Christians everywhere; although not everyone will be Christian.

            Once could add that the evidence of decline in the West and expansion elsewhere (both predicted) are signs that the end is nigh, but saying stuff like that gets you labelled as a religious nut, so I won’t.

        • chiefofsinners

          50 years ago in Russia and China the government statistics were a lot worse than this. Today there are more Christians in these countries than the entire UK population. The figures do indeed speak for themselves.

          • Bob

            If you suppress something then once the restrictions are lifted, it tends to bounce back. It’s the whole action/reaction thing.

            I don’t think Christianity should be repressed. Just allowed to die out naturally.

            That’s what’s happening in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. It will also happen in countries where Christianity has been suppressed in the past, or still is, but only once the restrictions are lifted and the so-called “revival” has run its course.

          • chiefofsinners

            Yes, I know what you mean. Things you think you’ve got rid of tend to Bob back up.

          • Jack doffs his hat to that one. Very good.

          • chiefofsinners

            Everybody’s good at something. I’m good at toilet humour.
            Thanks, you old doffer.

  • carl jacobs

    If the CoE wants to grow, maybe it should stop groveling before the spirit of the age, and start kicking it in the testicles. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Spirits don’t have testicles. And neither for that matter do sterile emasculated churches.

    • The Explorer

      The spirit of the age seems committed to losing its testicles as well.

      • carl jacobs

        To be judged is to be given over to your own desires. The foolish crowd never understands this. It will chase its own desires until it loses everything it has.

    • dannybhoy

      The Church of England needs to stop acting like an alternative to The Mothers Union or a washed up branch of Alcoholics Anonymous.
      “Yeah, I’ve had a really rough week this week brothers.
      Sleeping rough, staying in the shadows..
      Tried to stay clean, tried to avoid going in for another fix .
      Temoatation was saying -whispering in my ear..
      “Just one more. Get in get your gear on and get out. No harm done ….(sobs)
      So I did.
      I got my gear on, practiced the bows and the nods..
      And now I can’t stay away! I’m hooked!!
      Synod, it’s just such a buzz…

  • The Church Will Become Small

    “The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.

    She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges … As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

    It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek … The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution – when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain … But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

    And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

    • magnolia

      Looks a bit like the wolf of discouragement in sheep’s clothing to me. These miserable sorts of words can become self-fulfilling prophesies if we don’t watch out…..

      I think resurgence and renewal are extremely possible. If we shrank considerably from the 1950s or so, we can pick up equally well within the same time span, if not better.

      Some of what is believed now will become deeply unfashionable within a decade or so. Eventually it becomes so obvious something doesn’t work or doesn’t happen that people proceed to new ideas.

      And Jesus is still around!! Quite a number of Muslims have had dreams of him out of the blue and come to know him like that. No previous knowledge. All is possible because it is not men nor women who are the prime movers!

      Hope your health is improving. All best wishes.

      • The Explorer

        “Some of what is believed now will become deeply unfashionable within a decade or so.”

        Very true. Remember how certain it was that Luke was a bad historian because Quiriinius was not governor of Syria and there weren’t proconsuls. Then certain archaeological discoveries were made… Remember that the Christology of John’s Gospel was too advanced for the First Century, and the work must date from around 200 AD. Then came the carbon dating of the Rylands Papyrus, and a whole school of Teutonic biblical certainty simply folded.

        • Anton

          I agree with your conclusions but are you sure that the Rylands papyri were dated by the carbon isotope method? There’s no mention of that on their Wikipedia page and indeed I don’t think it would be accurate to better than a century or two at a range of 2000 years.

          • The Explorer

            Pretty sure. I haven’t seen the Wicki entry, and am going by people like Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans and John Lennox. They’re all pretty confident of a date around 130AD. The fact that it’s in Coptic has a bearing. Allowing for the translation procedures of the time, that would would put the Greek original around 90 AD.

          • Anton

            I’ve no reason to doubt their dating, but I’m questioning whether radiocarbon dating was part of the process. Googling “rylands papyrus” together with “carbon” doesn’t look promising, although it’s hard to prove a negative. Does anybody *know*?

          • The Explorer

            There’s other factors like the type of papyrus. SInce all my sources are from books rather than online, and one is currently on loan to someone, and another is in storage, I can’t give you a quick answer.

          • sarky
          • The Explorer

            Good article. I agree (and as a non-expert) that there isn’t any one factor in dating ancient manuscripts.

            Take The Gospel of Thomas. There are those who would like to date it to the First Century AD. But the author quotes the ‘Diatessaron’ of Tatian. We have Tatian’s approximate dates, and we know that he composed his work around 164 AD. That’s a useful criterion for dating ‘Thomas’. So is knowledge about Syriac to Greek, Greek to Syriac translation patterns. And so on.

      • My health is greatly improved, thank you Magnolia. Hopefully be out of hospital soon.

        These words of Joseph Ratzinger back in 1969 were prophetic and Jack read them as very hopeful. The message to faithful Christians is to hang on in there and stay true to the Gospel because man will return to Christ once he experiences the poverty and loneliness of His absence.

        This part was extremely optimistic and empowering:

        “But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.”

    • Anton

      He’s right (if we be permitted to take “the Church” to mean the collective of all who have faith in Christ), although he doesn’t seem to be aware that a universal persecution at a time of globalisation relates directly to the prophesied events in the Book of Revelation. Indeed we could have done without his call for a world government in Caritas in Veritate (2009, para 67).

      Is he writing anything now, do we know?

      • Jack is unaware of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recent writings. He has been republishing some of his earlier speeches.
        As you know the Magisterium of Catholic Church doesn’t really go in for speculation about the Book of Revelation and End Time prophecies.

        • Anton

          But it must have a view; after all, it has a view about everything else.

          Globalisation and a world government were prophesied 2000 years ago and you can see it coming today, as never before; eyes open!

          • Ambrose Bierce once described the Book of Revelations as “a famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.”

            There is no settled Catholic view. It’s probably correct to say the mainstream view follows Augustine of Hippo. Throughout time and history, Augustine taught, the City of God and the City of Man were constantly in tension with one another. At the end of time, at the Last Judgment, the citizens of these two cities finally will be separated – the sheep from the goats. Augustine saw God orchestrating time and history like an “unchanging conductor,” ordering events according to his will. Most Catholics accepted it as a reasonable conclusion.

            The book of Revelation is undoubtedly difficult and full of mysteries. It reveals Christ for who he is – Lord of the Cosmos – and is full of rich liturgical and heavenly images.

          • grutchyngfysch

            I like that a lot – but then I would, since I share the view that much of Revelation awaits to be fully revealed in the passage of time (even the bits that have already happened and are happening).

          • Anton

            On the understanding (Jack) that I’m not opening a front about the Reformation, here is a comment about the Book of Revelation and then a few questions addressed to anybody who wishes to mine it.

            John has only the language of 2000 years ago to describe events such as meteorite strikes and nuclear war. That is the real explanation of its ‘apocalyptic’ style. The Book of Revelation speaks of the final triumph of Christ over evil, but states that evil must first grow to a horrendous climax. We are told of the breaking of seven seals in heaven on a prophetic scroll of woe, the blowing of seven trumpets by angels announcing woes on earth, and the pouring out of seven bowls of God’s wrath. These events in heaven – meaning the spiritual realms – have counterparts on earth, which are specified. The action in the book switches between the spiritual realms (heaven) and earth. The earthly events do not match events in history, so they are yet to happen. Making sense of the passage is that simple, although disputes among four schools of thought (called preterist, historicist, futurist, idealist) have led to confusion and division. The differences stem from
            different ‘hermeneutics’ – ways to read the book, based on differing assumptions. God’s words can challenge any human assumption, however. Consider these questions about his words:

            * If the book of Revelation depicts only spiritual battle between good and evil in the heavenly places (the idealist view), then why does the action in its midpart alternate between heaven and earth? What does each detail mean?

            * If the book looks ahead prophetically but is entirely spiritual, how could you know when these prophecies have been fulfilled?

            * If the book is prophetic mainly about the early church era in which John lived (the preterist view), then to what in the history books does each detail of those prophecies correspond?

            * If God came bodily to this earth as Jesus once within human history, why not again? Do those Christians who doubt his bodily Second Coming really differ in attitude from someone who, before Christ, scoffed at Isaiah’s prophecy (9:6) of the Incarnation?

            * Do the letters in the Book of Revelation to seven congregations in Asia Minor really fit successive eras of church history (the ‘historicist’ view), once the neglected tales of Christianity outside the historic boundaries of the Roman Empire is taken into account, and of dissident churches within its boundaries (such as the Lollards and the Waldenses)?

            Some scholars date the book before AD70 because it makes no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in that year. But the book itself states that it is the record of a vision jotted down in real time and forbidden to be edited afterwards, even by John. And there is a good (if inconclusive) argument why it might be a short time after. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus deliberately mingled prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem with prophecies about the end of the age and his return. The young church might have been confused that he didn’t return at the former event, and now would be the time to explain that God was again talking about the whole world and all men and a longer timescale, not just Israel or the Roman Empire or one generation forward. Think big!

            The Jews are back in their land and globalisation is a reality… Come, Lord Jesus.

          • Jack wouldn’t dispute any of you commentary, Anton. However, he was raised to avoid End Time speculation. It’s just not an area he delves into.
            One thing he would add though, about Israel, is that the return of Jesus (which of course Catholics believe in as a matter of dogma) will, according to Saint Paul, only come after a mass conversion of the Jews to Christianity. Jack can’t see this any indications of this happening any time soon. Can you?
            Jack shares you prayer – “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

          • Anton

            But we have been given this book as part of our scriptures, so we are meant to ponder it. It is to avoid “speculation” that I prefer to ask questions, as above.

            Yes Jack, I bring glad tidings: back in their land the Jews are turning to Jesus. Here is some information, taken from the book Through my enemy’s eyes written jointly by Salim Munayer and Lisa Loden, respectively an Arab Christian and a Jewish Christian and both living in the Holy Land (chapter titled “An introduction to Israeli Messianic Jewish identity”).

            During the British Mandate period there were between 100 and 200 Jews who believed in Jesus in the Holy Land, mainly in congregations (founded by the Brethren) in Haifa, Jerusalem and Jaffa. All but 12 (ha!) took ship to Liverpool in early May 1948, during the intensifying Arab-Jew fighting and days before Britain quit. By 1967 the number had grown again to between 100 and 200, partly by immigration of ethnic Jews who already believed; the pattern of growth is consistently both conversion in the land and immigration from outside it. The 6-day war of that year in which Jerusalem was regained was regarded as a key prophetic event by this small community. By the mid-1970s numbers had doubled to the 300s and by the end of that decade there were about 15 Hebrew-speaking congregations. A decade later there were about 45 congregations and 2500-3000 ‘Messianic’ Jews who believed in Jesus. The 1990s saw massive immigration following the fall of the Iron Curtain and by the end of that decade there were some 5000 Messianic Jews and 80 congregations, mostly Hebrew-speaking in their meetings although about 40% Russian speakers. Numbers at this point are more authoritative because of a survey made in 1999, Facts and myths about the Messianic congregations in Israel (published by Caspari Ministries and available via Amazon.com, authors Kai Kjaer-Hansen and Bodil Skjott). Today one estimate is 10-15 thousand and another is 23000. There are differences over attitude to Mosaic Law, and this community has its own problems with Arians (in context, Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah but deny he is divine), but the point is that it’s happening! You will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”…

          • dannybhoy

            If it was written by John the Apostle in exile on Patmos, isn’t it wonderful to think that our Lord would have given him this revelation. That the Lord knew where he was and what was going on with him in time and space.

            Seen in the context of,
            “12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I sawseven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, andhis voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
            Revelation 1

            the judgements on the seven churches should give us all concern.

          • magnolia

            I always thought the seven lampstands would be like a menora, but it now occurs to me that in order to be in the middle of them they must have been in a semi-circle or a circle, as you cannot be in the middle of a number like 7 otherwise!

    • David

      Hello H. Jack, I remember reading those prescient words some years ago. He had foresight, as his prediction is coming nearer day by day across the west.

      • Thank you, David. I’m feeling much better and getting stronger by the day.

        • David

          Good !
          God Bless.

    • grutchyngfysch

      I have some sympathy with this argument – and have made it myself – but there’s also a part of me that thinks this isn’t actually prescient, let alone prophetic, it’s just justificatory of the situation we find ourselves in in the West. A varnish on an unpleasant situation, if you will.

      A lot of the stuff written and published today on and from the CofE smacks of that: “we know it’s happening, but here’s five reasons why it isn’t really a bad thing.”

      It is a bad thing – oh, not for the elect, but it’s a catastrophic thing for those outside of salvation. My feeling is that the Church will “recover” visibly when it moves from the twin positions of self-comfort and the false piety of seeing decline as synonymous with persecution, to a real and visceral awareness that when the Church fails in its mission, souls perish.

      When we care enough about our fellow man to pursue the salvation of their souls with as serious a commitment as we do the preservation of our cultural presence, we shall see revival.

      • carl jacobs

        For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

      • Cardinal Ratzinger recognised it as a bad thing too. Indeed, as Pope, he dedicated his life to very agenda you outlined. However, one has to recognise that in the West the Church is shrinking as people abandon God and there is apostasy and heresy amongst its leaders. As for the salvation of souls, one can be certain that those who God foreknows as His own will not and cannot be lost.

  • chiefofsinners

    All humanity and all human creations are in decline from the day they are born. That includes the Church of England.
    The church of Christ, however, is a new creation which continues to grow and spread throughout the world.

  • Manfarang

    “the biggest renewal and reform process ”
    That will happen when the Church of England is disestablished.

    • Inspector General

      Manfarang. Disestablishment is not the answer. Such a move would only serve to consign the Church of England to the dustbin of history quicker than even its wayward clerics are managing by themselves…

      • Manfarang

        The Church of Ireland was not consigned to the dustbin of history when it was disestablished.
        “This event (1869), hailed at the time as a triumph for Dissenters of all creeds and classes, was in reality the greatest blow which Dissent in Ireland had ever sustained.By removing any ground for active opposition and placing the Episcopalian and the erewhile Dissenter on an equality, the way was paved for the ambitious Presbyterian to pass over easily into the ranks of the more fashionable church.This happened to a considerable extent.” (Campbell: A Short History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland 1914)

        • Inspector General

          The Church of Ireland was less than 3% of the population.

          • Manfarang

            The Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown substantial growth in the last two national censuses; its membership is now back to the levels of sixty years ago (albeit with fewer churches as many have been closed). Church membership increased by 8.7% in the period 2002–2006, during which the population as a whole increased by only 8.2%.

  • Welshboy

    Your Grace,

    I would like to make it clear that as a non-conformist Christian, I believe that I am not bound by the teachings and rituals that comes from a national church attached to the state.

    Therefore, when reading upon these statistics, it is clear that as the CofE is becoming more liberal and less bible confident, it drives people away either to atheism or the more evangelical bible confident churches as either of these choices have one thing in common and that is ‘Freedom’.

    Now a lot of me would find it disheartening that these people become atheists because of this lapsed notion that ‘evolution is true’ but whilst we are on this earth, it is never too late for them to turn back to Christ.

    As a result, I feel that now is the time for the CofE to become de-established as a state church if it wants to become more bible confident and thrive and not rely on taxpayers money. That way, the state can run itself into oblivion and we can start again with a smaller less dependent state and more freedom to ourselves.

  • Shadrach Fire

    ‘UK Church Statistics’ indicates that the total UK church membership for 2015 was estimated as 5,190,000. The Guardian quoted it saying;
    In 2013, there were 5.4 million church members in the UK, 10% of the adult population, taken as 15 and over, 300,000 fewer than five years previously in 2008, when it was 12%. It is likely to continue to decline at about the same rate for the next 12 years, reaching 9% by 2020 and 8% by 2025, if present trends continue.

    If those figures are true and the CofE has now less than one million attendees, where are all the others going? The Charismaic and Pentecostal churches will account for at least as many and yet the CofE have umpteen Bishops in the House of Lords and the others have none.

    • magnolia

      Partly patterns of churchgoing have changed. People are not so enthusiastic about attending weekly, and give themselves Sundays off, especially if they are going to a Bible Study or Wedding or Funeral within a few days of Sunday. Also they are more likely to split church attendance between Sunday and weekdays, and also for some of them there is “virtual” church attendance. I could make up a service sitting here, from youtube clips, and websites, choosing musical and preaching style. Not as good as meeting real people and the synergy and sympathy, but you don’t need to make yourself smart, nor maybe meet your awkward neighbour, nor contribute anything: for some these are advantages, and for the shy, the ill, the housebound, or agoraphobics they are a lifeline.

      One part of the question is whether we are really comparing like to like.

  • len

    Can the bones of the Reformation live?.
    Adam and Eve became spiritually dead through listening to the whisperings of the deceiver in the Garden of Eden.Separation from God IS spiritual death.

    ‘The World’ in greater part became spiritually dead through listening to the selfsame deceiver speaking through the mouth of Charles Darwin.Much of’ the Church’ has become complicit in this false Darwinian philosophy and now ‘the Church’ wonders why it has become irrelevant in the eyes of ‘the World’.
    Satan knew that if he could destroy(in the eyes of many) the Foundation of the Word of God he could render the whole Word of God void (in the eyes of many) remove the credibility of Genesis and the foundation is destroyed ,(in ‘the eyes of many’ not in actuality)

    The first deception worked so well for satan that all he has to do is to keep re -stating it.

  • johnb1945

    The church cannot be a church while it is established. It has to mouth government policy aligned platitudes and graciously accept incoming fire as any other government body must.

    It is also comfortable. There is no real need to innovate and get out there to the – literally millions – of nominal and cultural Christians who retain some reverence for Christianity and its values but wouldn’t ordinarily go to a church.

    The current arrangement is an ancient settlement, but does it really work in the interests of the church?

    We need the church more than ever to show that it represents a practical, living and moral faith. It has representatives administering food banks, collecting for and organising charity, ministering to the poor, prisoners and other marginal people in society.

    I’m not sure it can do this while it is on a lead.

    Thoughts?

  • ….

    • carl jacobs

      Jack! That’s the most profound comment you’ve ever made!

      • ……

        • scottspeig

          – …. .- –
          – — — -.-
          — .
          .-
          .– … .. .-.. .!
          –. .-. .-.!

      • –. .-. .-. .-. .-.

  • Trevor

    how many people in this forum believes in the evolution theory?
    can apes truly change into humans?
    just cause humans share similar DNA does not necessarily mean Humans are a product of evolution.
    rather it reveals that humans cannot yet explain properly why Humans and apes share DNA but differ in many distinct ways.
    what about The Churches?
    isn’t it strange that Christianity began as a means of spreading a message of hope to all people
    but has now changed into a confusing ragbag of contradictory doctrines?
    for example the so called “christian celebration” known as Christmas is actually rooted in pagan sun worship,
    and despite the bible showing no evidence that First century Christians practiced “sun worship” dressed up in the name of Christianity every December 25th
    the church who claim to serve god’s interests,
    have consistently promoted Christmas as a christian celebration of the birth of Jesus,
    despite the fact that nowhere in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures does it say what month or date he was born on.
    and even if the intention of Christmas was that focus is put upon Jesus in order to remind the people of the significance of his life and death,
    would you say that people take it seriously?
    isn’t Christmas really a time for people to eat drink and spend money like it is going out of fashion?
    and who benefits from that?
    isn’t it the business world and the chancellor?
    how many people make room in their minds and lives for Jesus and God throughout the rest of the year?
    if parents claim to not have enough time to make their children a proper nutritious meal each evening,
    then does that not suggest that more focus is put on earning money?
    nothing wrong of course with earning money…but didn’t Jesus say that people should keep seeking first god’s kingdom and his righteousness
    and all the other things (such as the necessities of life) will be added to you?
    that of course does not mean that we should sit on our backsides with the bible in our hands and expect to be sent manna from heaven each day.
    rather it means that if we put faith in god and simplify our lives and leave room and time for worship of god
    he will ensure that we get what we need to get us through each day.
    but the world despite observing Christmas (which is not a Christian celebration)
    puts pressure on people and as a result people have less time to feed themselves and their children let alone make room for god.
    and the church who claims to serve god has helped to increase that pressure by continuing to promote Christmas.
    a society that has been truly influenced by Christianity does not promote money spending pagan rooted celebrations which pressures people into spending money they can barely afford.
    neither does it approve or back unnatural unions between people of the same gender.
    because the bible it self serves as a tutor
    helping its readers to see how god views human activities and if they find that a certain lifestyle which is acceptable in society but unacceptable to god
    they show humility and make the needed changes in order to be acceptable to god
    as the first century people did upon hearing about god’s standards by the Apostles.
    and the more god’s standards are revealed to the people and the more they show humility and make the changes to be acceptable to god
    the more society benefits.
    cause god’s standards go beyond influencing the way we conduct ourselves within a relationship,
    it also extends to the way we deal with one another.
    it urges us to be honest and reliable with with each other.
    it urges us to be considerate and long suffering towards each other.
    it urges us to respect the lives of one another.
    when those things are applied on a daily basis in the name of Christianity it tends towards peace and it brings praise to god from whom the inspiration for good conduct comes from.
    but if the people who are meant to be serving as god’s representatives do not teach preach or practice in accord with what the apostles did
    then society ends up being shaped not by god but by people who falsely claim to serve god.
    they are in fact apostates.
    who take up the name of Christianity but don’t honor its founder
    and bring dishonor upon him.
    that is what has been happening from the time of the roman Emperor Constantine to the present day.
    therefor should we be surprised to know that church attendance is falling by the day and people instead observe Christmas even though it does not originate with Christianity?
    this is what happens when Christianity is “hijacked by apostates”
    in fact the apostasy was foretold by the Apostle Paul and the Disciple John.
    and we can see that it has indeed come true in our day.
    the clergy have turned Christianity into a farce in which men and women who should know better
    go around misrepresenting god while either rightly condemning same gender lifestyles within the clean realm of Christianity
    or hypocritically condoning it.
    and as if that wasn’t enough
    they go further by continuing to promote pagan celebrations such as Easter and Christmas
    while teaching people lies about hell and the trinity etc etc.
    and this they do despite the book of revelation clearly showing that god has long forewarned by the bible that he intends to judge all the apostates who mislead people in the clean name of Christianity.
    for good reason god also urges through the bible for people to abandon the apostates before the day finally arrives and he passes judgement on the apostates which result in them being brought to nothing at the hands of the political elements.
    people have long viewed that as nonsense…but what if it actually comes true in our day?
    remember that Christianity is gods property and he therefore reserves the right to judge all those who corrupt his property and lead people astray in his name.
    I personally long to see that day arrive.
    it is more than high time for the world to get a much needed wake up call from the god it has long ignored ridiculed and misrepresented.
    just because god is long suffering towards us
    it does not mean that is to be taken for granted.
    just as people who smoke assume that cause they are able to pollute their bodies for decades
    and carry on as normal
    does not mean it won’t catch up with them and perhaps at a time they don’t expect?
    the clergy will therefore get its wake up call.