Rethink Church
Church of England

How to prevent the extinction of the Church of England

 

If anyone isn’t aware that the Church of England is slowly walking down the statistical road to oblivion, the publication of the 2015 British Election Study last week should be enough to convince them that this is not just the dream of hopeful secularists.

This wide-ranging and extensive survey carried out earlier this year takes a look at historical trends of religious affiliation according to denomination and age. What we see is that Roman Catholics are doing pretty well, with their numbers staying more-or-less stable over the last 50 years, whereas the number of Anglicans has halved and other Christian denominations have fared even worse, dropping down by about two thirds.

Christianity still has its nose ahead in the overall statistics nationally at 48 per cent, just in front of the ‘Nones’ at 45 per cent, with other religions, including Islam, making up the final 7 per cent.

This makes for pretty grim reading for our church leaders, unless they happen to be Roman Catholic. But it is widely acknowledged that this stability in Roman Catholic affiliation is entirely down to the large number of strongly religious Eastern Europeans who have made themselves at home here over the last few years.

If current trends are to continue, then Methodism could be little more than a memory in a few decades time, and the Church of England will be preparing for its own funeral sometime around the end of the century.

Now, so often when these religious attendance and affiliation numbers are published, someone from Church House or the Archbishops’ Council is trotted out to tell us that things aren’t anywhere near as bad as the numbers suggest. Sure, there are still more people who call themselves Christian than not, but if current trends continue – and they most certainly will – by the time the next survey is carried out in five years’ time, ‘No religion’ will be the most popular choice and there is a good chance that there will be more people attending mosques each week than going to an Anglican church on a Sunday.

For once, though, there has been no positive spin pushed out from the CofE. Instead, quite the opposite has happened, which suggests that the game of papering over the ever-widening cracks may well be up.

Instead, the Bishop of Blackburn Julian Henderson has stepped up to the plate and issued a stark warning to those in his own Diocese: unless the church reinvents itself, it will disappear like the region’s textile industry. His Archdeacon, John Hawley, has set the extinction date for the Church of England in Lancashire at 2050.

To Bishop Julian’s credit, rather than just blaming secularism and the rise of Islam in his Diocese, he has taken the bull by the horns: “I am convinced that we need to embark on radical change. We need to reinvent ourselves for the 21st century… A few tweaks and adjustments will not suffice.”

He has set out an ambitious 12-year plan to turn round the fortunes of his churches. In his document entitled Where are we heading? he calls for heavy investment in youth groups, flexible patterns of worship and plans to grow new congregations. He also suggests the Diocese should “unashamedly seek to bring others to faith in Christ”, and foster closer integration between different churches.

All good, sensible stuff. The biggest reason that church numbers are falling away rapidly is that at the top end members are dying off, but at the other end, children are just not joining, or choosing to leave without returning later on. And who can blame them? How many children would rather spend Sunday in bed, on the Xbox or out with their friends, than be stuck in an old building repeating the same liturgy week-to-week and being bored out of their minds listening to sermons that talk about God in a way that makes little sense and has virtually nothing to do with their everyday experience of life? Some will be able to enjoy good quality children’s work for a few years, but sooner or later they’ll be thrown in with the adults and be expected to fit the mould.

Bishop Julian is right to focus on the young, but the real job is to convince churches that they seriously need to take a long hard look at what church is and should be. Unless a church fully understands the need for mission to be part of its culture and is actually willing to do something about it, then the battle has already been lost. Buying in a load of youth workers is only a start, as is playing with different service times and days. Is that enough to fix a deep-seated problem? I don’t think so. I’ve talk about this extensively at various points this year at ‘God and Politics’, setting out a vision for where the Church should be in 2024 and explaining why the churches really need to wake up and smell the coffee over church growth and decline.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle, though (and there are plenty to choose from), is that too many churches and ministers are obsessed with their Sunday services. If we have a fantastic Sunday service, then people will come to our church and the young people will want to stay and maybe even bring their friends!

Well, this might not be a popular thing to say, especially to the clergy. But a lot of people I know, including many of whom would describe their churches as “lively”, often find services dull. No matter how hard you try to put on an interesting service, whether that be through contemporary music, making them more interactive, or producing well-delivered sermons, it will not be enough to attract and keep people, and the younger they are, the more this will be the case. There really is no magic structure that will turn round a church’s fortunes. Let’s be honest, church services are not the most important part of the Christian Faith.

What was Jesus’ Great Commission?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

What did Jesus say when he sent out his 12 into the towns and villages?

As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

Jesus didn’t have a good relationship with religious services. The recorded incidents of him preaching in synagogues ended up with him upsetting the congregation even to the point of them trying to throw him off a cliff afterwards.

Later on, once Paul began trying to establish some order in the churches he had planted, the majority of his teaching focused on the work of the Holy Spirit and building community.

How far have we allowed ourselves to lose sight of what church communities should look like? This is a fundamental question, because our answer gives an important indication as to whether we are willing to do what it will take to allow the Christian Faith to flourish and grow over the coming years.

In a former life, I went to work for a church as its salaried youth worker. When I arrived, the number in the youth group could be counted on one hand, but by the time I had finished three-and-a-half years later, the youth work had become so large and expansive that it was too big for the church to cope with. We ended up having to set up a separate charity which became the biggest single youth agency in the county. If there was a secret, it was that we put God first and the young people second. After that came everything else. We spent as much time outside the church walls as in them. We discipled the young people, introduced them to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and they were so confident in their faith and the forms of church that they became the missionaries in their own community.

The irony was that even though I had a vision for where God wanted the work to go, I almost lost my job after six months because some of the church leaders couldn’t make sense of what I was doing. It was outside of their paradigm of what church should be, even though the church saw itself as forward-thinking.

The point of this is not to boast, but to illustrate how a plan – such as the one Bishop Julian proposes – will only work when it is acted out radically; when God is put at the heart of it all, and churches are willing to completely re-evaluate what church should be.

When churches do this, not only can it transform them from the inside, but it can reach the communities around them, too. One such church is Causeway Coast Vineyard in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. In the last seven months they have seen 2,200 people become Christians in their town. This is remarkable, but they are keen not to label it as a revival. It is the fruit of 10 years of presence in their local community, which God is now blessing in an incredible way. This is the church that employs Peter Lynas, who heads up the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland, and Mark Marx, who established the Healing on the Streets ministry which has spread across the UK, with members of churches going out to their towns and city centres offering prayer for healing to anyone who might want it.

Alan Scott, the church’s Lead Pastor, has said that the surprising aspect of these numbers is that:

More than 60 percent of those coming to faith have surrendered their yes to Jesus on the streets of our town and surrounding area. The move of God we are experiencing is happening beyond the building. It is not a movement IN the church, it is a movement OF the church.

In this short video on what he has learnt about evangelism and church, he talks about how the church, several years ago, believed that by putting on the most welcoming services and events, people would be drawn in. What soon became apparent was that this was not enough to be truly genuine to the Church’s calling. He makes the observation:

Jesus said that he would build his church, but instead we’ve been trying to do the job for him. Instead we’ve been asking him to do our job – to go out into the world and gather people – because we’ve been building the church. We’ve realised that something incredible happens in the community when the church shows up amongst the people and demonstrates the Kingdom with authority and compassion.

There is no denying that services and other established church structures have their place, and we should aim to do the best possible. But if the Church of England and other churches want not just to survive but actually grow, some sacred cows will need to be addressed. The Christian Faith is a beautiful and wondrous thing that displays God’s glory, and the Church should reflect this. It’s time for visionaries following God’s Spirit to rise up and lead the way.

  • len

    ‘Compromise’ is killing the C of E and any Church linked to the State will have the ‘values’ of the State imposed upon the church which will eat away at any moral stance the Church takes until the church is just a mere reflection of the ‘value system’ of the State.

    Compromise is not only affecting the C of E it is having a devastating affect on the Church in America . The ‘world’ has entered the Church and is destroying it from within. As’ Albert’ has stated on another thread the Catholic church has narrowly escaped a move to make it more’ appealing ‘ and ‘inclusive’. There seems to be division in the RCC between the conservative and liberal wings “If a same-sex couple has been in a relationship
    for 30 years, I can’t call that nothing,” said Mgr Georges Pontier,
    President of the French Bishops’ Conference. “Exclusion is not the
    language of the Church,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of
    Munich. “You cannot tell Catholics living in irregular family
    situations, ‘you are a second-rate Christians’.”

    The pressures to conform to world opinions and moral attitudes or to remain true to the Word of God is a conflict the church must face and decide where its loyalties lie.

    • cacheton

      But you are assuming that ‘world opinions and moral attitudes’ are inferior to the so-called Word of God. Maybe the Church needs to face up to the fact that a God who is Unconditional Love could not possibly have written or inspired a lot of the Bible. Spiritual leadership is needed to discern which of the Bible’s teachings – there are several – really are timeless and of a spiritual nature and beneficient to the human race long term, and discard those which are not, those which have been superseded by ‘world opinions and moral attitudes’ because human consciousness is not where it was 2000 years ago.

      • Albert

        It’s not often I write in defence of Len, but he isn’t assuming that (at least not uncritically). He is proclaiming it, quite self-consciously.

        there are several – really are timeless and of a spiritual nature and beneficient to the human race long term, and discard those which are not

        And how is one to do that? What are the criteria?

        those which have been superseded by ‘world opinions and moral attitudes’ because human consciousness is not where it was 2000 years ago.

        I’m just wondering if you could put some flesh on that, please.

        • sarky

          The problem is not the delivery of the message but the message itself. People these days either believe that when your dead your dead, or they have dimissed any idea of hell and believe that everyone goes to their happy place. Without this christianity has nothing to offer. Eternal life is a meaningless concept to most people. Christianity can try rebranding the product, but people are not stupid and soon realise its the same old same old and dont buy into it. With nothing to offer a modern world christianity will die.

          • Albert

            You make some good points. But the most striking thing about modernity is its diversity. Thus there are plenty of people still interested in life after death, and others who worry about punishment. Hence, the truth is that Christianity may decline, but not die. In any case, the culture of modernity itself is mortal, and Christianity will outlive it, as it has outlived so many other things.

          • cacheton

            Oh Albert dear – the only reason people worry about punishment is because the Church teaches them they should worry about it. Emotional blackmail for greater control, possibly necessary in the distant past.
            Now, is that beneficial to humans or not? Come on! Does that sound like a timeless spiritual teaching to you?

          • Albert

            I take it you’ve never read Immanuel Kant. Anyway, let’s inject some reality into this. You ask if removing a source of justice and the place to restore justice is beneficial to human beings or not. Well let’s ask some people who knew a thing or two about this matter. Try Joseph “I out murdered Adolf Hitler” Stalin:

            One of Ivan the Terrible’s mistakes was to overlook (i.e. not annihilate) the five great feudal families…God got in his way.

            Just to show this kind of craziness is not limited to the high and mighty. How about this from one of his victims:

            The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no Hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.

            So when you ask me if believing in punishment is beneficial to humans or not, I say it is beneficial.

          • cacheton

            let’s inject some reality into this – YES, LET’S!

            You ask if removing a source of justice and the place to restore justice is beneficial to human beings or not.

            Removing a source of justice? Do you mean removing God? Can we agree that is not possible!!
            I think you are talking about carrots and sticks – does the carrot and stick doctrine benefit humans or not? I would agree with you that in some cases it does, many Christians agree that they do not know whether the doctrine is true or not, but they know that it has helped them become better people. The reality is, however, that many people nowadays recognise that doctrine for what it is, a psychological game, and therefore do not find it attractive. That is because – here we go again – psychological games are not spiritual teachings. If you recognise that this game has made you a better person, then fine, but you (the church I mean) should not be surprised if many other people do not want to play.

          • Albert

            I’m struggling a bit to hold together all the things you say. One minute you are saying punishment is not a timeless teaching because, it is

            Emotional blackmail for greater control, possibly necessary in the distant past.
            Now, is that beneficial to humans or not? Come on! Does that sound like a timeless spiritual teaching to you?

            But now you agree with me that

            I would agree with you that in some cases it does [benefit humans]

            See my problem?

            The reality is, however, that many people nowadays recognise that doctrine for what it is, a psychological game

            You state that as if it is a fact. I agree that all beliefs (religious or not) are likely or inevitably to have psychological elements in them. But it does not follow from that, that they are just psychological games. That belief (which also has a good deal of psychological elements in it) must come from somewhere else, and I have to say, you haven’t given one bit of reasoning or evidence in defence of that belief.

          • cacheton

            In the cases where people recognise that the carrot-stick game makes them feel better about themselves, then it can be said to be beneficial at a certain stage of personal development. Ultimately it is not, however, because it is a game, and such games do not lead to spiritual fulfilment. If you keep playing you are doing things out of fear of punishment, and that is not freedom.

            Beliefs ‘must come from somewhere else’? Beliefs are what make up human ego – yes that is a fact, it’s basic psychology. Spiritual fulfilment comes when they are no longer needed.

          • Albert

            In the cases where people recognise that the carrot-stick game makes them feel better about themselves, then it can be said to be beneficial at a certain stage of personal development. Ultimately it is not, however, because it is a game, and such games do not lead to spiritual fulfilment. If you keep playing you are doing things out of fear of punishment, and that is not freedom.

            You are missing the point. You are thinking in far too individualistic terms. You claimed that:

            the only reason people worry about punishment is because the Church teaches them they should worry about it. Emotional blackmail for greater control, possibly necessary in the distant past.
            Now, is that beneficial to humans or not? Come on! Does that sound like a timeless spiritual teaching to you?

            and I pointed out some examples of how fear of punishment did people good. If you were one of Stalin’s victims then, knowing that quotation of his about Ivan the Terrible, you would have to say it would have been beneficial, had Stalin believed God would punish him for his wickedness. Similarly, Stalin did himself no good by behaving so wickedly, so had the fear of punishment caused him to draw back from his wickedness, he wouldn’t have done so much harm to himself. But all you seem to talk about is some kind of self-help and personal fulfilment. The reality of evil is far greater than you seem to imagine.

            Ultimately it is not, however, because it is a game, and such games do not lead to spiritual fulfilment.

            You think justice is a game? You think reward and punishment is a game? How do you know this? And do you really think Kant was a game player?

            Beliefs ‘must come from somewhere else’? Beliefs are what make up human ego – yes that is a fact, it’s basic psychology. Spiritual fulfilment comes when they are no longer needed.

            In which case, that applies to your own beliefs contained in that paragraph, in which case again, you will gain spiritual fulfilment when the beliefs set out in that paragraph are no longer needed. And what that means is that you and I are strangely in agreement: you will be spiritually fulfilled when you give up on these self-refuting doctrines.

          • cacheton

            I don’t find it strange that we are in agreement on certain things.

            So, is it possible for you to give up doctrines which do not have love and compassion as their aim?

            Or are you abdicating responsibility for deciding whether your doctrines have love and compassion as their aim, because you believe the bible is the word of God who is love and compassion, therefore even if the doctrine seems not to result in love it is not your responsibility to rethink it.

            Oh hang on, I don’t think we even agreed that God was love and compassion, did we?

          • Albert

            Obviously, we can’t agree that God is love and compassion, because you keep denying right or wrong here. We can only agree that God being love and compassion would be a beneficial belief. But then we would need to examine whether that statement was right or wrong, and so on. The problem I find with this ditching of truth is not just that if truth is ditched, then God is love cannot be true, but also, I do not know what “God is love” means, without accepting God is some kind of relationship like the Trinity. But that means including a lot of doctrine.

            So, is it possible for you to give up doctrines which do not have love and compassion as their aim?

            All Christian doctrines have love and compassion as their aim, for God is love.

            Or are you abdicating responsibility for deciding whether your doctrines have love and compassion as their aim, because you believe the bible is the word of God who is love and compassion, therefore even if the doctrine seems not to result in love it is not your responsibility to rethink it.

            If you mean, am I prepared to judge God by an abstract notion of love and compassion, one which I have produced from my own (rather limited) mind and moral grasp, then no. That would be highly irresponsible. My question to you would be, are you using your notion of love and compassion to prevent God from critiquing your own sinfulness and limited human reason?

          • cacheton

            We can only agree that God being love and compassion would be a beneficial belief.

            OK – I can go with that.

            All Christian doctrines have love and compassion as their aim, for God is love.

            OK. But how does discrimination against women and homosexuals (the two first reasons people give for not wanting to identify with the church) have love and compassion as its’ aim?

            Your last paragraph seems to imply that we can have an idea of what God is, but can never know him, despite Jesus coming to show us that we can. And I deduce that your notion of love and compassion includes critique. How come?

          • Albert

            Is it not important that it be true that God is love and compassion? After all, if he isn’t, how can it be beneficial to believe it?

            But how does discrimination against women and homosexuals (the two first reasons people give for not wanting to identify with the church) have love and compassion as its’ aim?

            You speak as if discrimination is a bad thing. But actually, we all discriminate. An employer discriminates between job applicants. A teacher discriminates between her charges – who is doing well, who needs extra help. A director discriminates between actors etc. What you need to show is that the Catholic supports unjust discrimination against people with a homosexual orientation and against women. But you can’t do that without establishing that it is true that they are justly entitled to something that they are being denied. But that would be a truth claim, and you’ve denied that truth claims are to the issue.

            Your last paragraph seems to imply that we can have an idea of what God is, but can never know him, despite Jesus coming to show us that we can.

            I am saying that we can know God as he is in Jesus. Therefore, I cannot come before him with an idea of what I think he should be, and impose it on him.

            And I deduce that your notion of love and compassion includes critique. How come?

            I can only assume you do not have children of your own. Sin just is a form of self-harm. Understand that (even if you can’t understand why one thing is a sin and another is not), and you realise the need for my sin to be critiqued. How else can I be guided away from what is harmful to me (and other people)?

          • cacheton

            It can be observed that it is beneficial.

            I see a difference between discriminate and choose. But if you don’t, what reasons do Catholics use to choose men over women and homosexuals?

            Sin just is a form of self-harm. Something else we can agree on. But lovingly and compassionately guided away from it can be done without critique, punishment. The realisation that one has sinned, self-harmed, is punishment enough.

          • Albert

            I see a difference between discriminate and choose.

            Go on, explain it.

            what reasons do Catholics use to choose men over women and homosexuals?

            Oh no. You’ve set out a range of accusations against Catholicism on this point (granted, you’ve actually expressed them as questions, but that is presumably rhetorical). My contention is that you are unjust and uncharitable because you have made those accusations and judgements before you know the reasons for those decisions. The reasons Catholics give are widely available. Don’t you think you should have read up on this one, before you made such accusations?

            But lovingly and compassionately guided away from it can be done without critique, punishment. The realisation that one has sinned, self-harmed, is punishment enough.

            For some people, some of the time, perhaps. But to suggest that works for everyone all of the time, is just false.

          • cacheton

            discriminate – show prejudice
            choose – pick, select

            If you discriminate in choosing someone for a job for example, you would use gender/race/sexuality as a criteria for choice, where those things have nothing to do with whether the person would do a good job or not. You choose/pick/select someone because you believe they would be the best person for the job.

            But I think you knew that already Albert didn’t you.

            I think I understand the reasons that the church discriminates against homosexuals, though those reasons have at their core ‘because the bible says so’. It is difficult to imagine that, had the bible not contained any references to homosexuality, the church would have argued that ‘natural law’ is the reason why homosexuality is wrong.

            However i have had no luck with the reasons for discrimination against women I’m afraid.

          • Albert

            But I think you knew that already Albert didn’t you.

            Actually, no. I don’t think you are right. I think there is a clearer difference between discriminate and prejudice than you seem to allow. I can show prejudice (e.g. making a sexist comment) without discriminating. On the other hand, as you have indicated, I can discriminate without showing prejudice.

            where those things have nothing to do with whether the person would do a good job or not.

            Thus it is best to speak of unjust discrimination.

            So before you say the Church is guilty of discrimination (in any bad sense) you need to be able to articulate and answer the reasons the Church has for not including women in the priesthood (for example). But this you cannot do. So you are guilty of prejudice, insofar as you have assumed that the Church will not have an adequate answer.

            It is difficult to imagine that, had the bible not contained any references to homosexuality, the church would have argued that ‘natural law’ is the reason why homosexuality is wrong.

            Do you know what the Catholic Church teaches about artificial contraception, and why it teaches it?

          • cacheton

            Well we are going to have to agree to disagree here I think – I would say it is best to speak of discrimination as unjust choice. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/discriminate?s=t There are 2 definitions here. If I observe a difference, between men and women say (2nd meaning), I have to also show that this difference justifies making a distinction in favour of one (1st meaning), rather than their merit for priesthood (say).

            Kind of back to square 1 – what is the ‘adequate answer’ to the question on women? I have read several things which merely state historical viewpoints based on what past theologians said (all men of course), claiming that women are of ‘inferior intelligence’, only men are made in the image of God etc etc. What is your ‘adequate answer’ Albert, or rather the Church’s ‘adequate answer’, as I have understood that yours could not be different?

            Do you ever think for yourself Albert?

            However I have had more luck with the contraception question – yes I do know what the Catholic Church teaches on that and why.

          • Albert

            If you say discrimination is unjust choice then I deny the Catholic church is guilty of discrimination concerning women:

            rather than their merit for priesthood

            But you say that, but you don’t seem to have any idea of why the Church does not ordain women to the priesthood. Therefore, you don’t understand the priesthood, and so you cannot judge whether or not there is (what you call) discrimination. These things should be clarified before you judge – at least if compassion and love are in play.

            I have read several things which merely state historical viewpoints based on what past theologians said (all men of course), claiming that women are of ‘inferior intelligence’, only men are made in the image of God etc etc.

            You haven’t read very much then. There are two issues, I think. Firstly, the will of God as expressed in the choice Jesus made for apostles. He chose only men. Secondly, the priest at the altar represents Christ. He acts in persona Christi capitis. It is therefore, no more discriminatory to exclude women from the priesthood than it is to exclude women from the short list to play the title role of the film Jesus of Nazareth.

            Do you ever think for yourself Albert?

            Do I sound like I never think for myself? I wasn’t born a Catholic. I converted after years of study and thought. I stand against the culture of our times – that is not usually the position of someone who never thinks for themselves.

            However I have had more luck with the contraception question – yes I do know what the Catholic Church teaches on that and why.

            In which case, you now understand why the Church thinks homosexual acts are wrong. And notice: the Catholic Church is absolutely consistent in her teaching, it applies to everyone, from married couples to everyone else. You may not agree with the teaching, you may not like it, but you cannot accuse the Catholic Church of discrimination, on this point.

          • cacheton

            These 2 issues then: Jesus chose only men as apostles. Given the society and the values of the time, that seems pretty wise. You are suggesting however that he did this because they had a penis. Second: the priest at the altar represents Christ, and Christ had a man’s body. Again you are suggesting that the qualities one needs to be a priest somehow include the physical attributes of the body the priest finds him/herself in. And you accuse me of not understanding priesthood!!

            But here we are back where this conversation started – with my charge that the church is unable to distinguish what is and what isn’t a spiritual truth. This is a very good example.

            Re thinking for oneself: you seem to be someone who has a good thinking brain, and during this exchange you have not bombarded me with bible quotes as answers to questions, which is what happens most of the time in my experience, and which disenables any proper discussion. I really appreciate that – thankyou – because it has enabled me to better understand your line of thought.

            But it has also highlighted where the sticking points are, which is the unreasoned belief that the bible is the word of/inspired by god, and the unwillingness, due to the law of unintended consequences which you say is a natural law (and there I was thinking you were talking about the laws of physics! – learnt something there too) to question certain apparent teachings, though others, such as six day creationism or women being unclean for longer after they have given birth to a girl than a boy, can be disregarded. Why can your thinking brain not think past this Albert? I seems like it could, but for some reason it doesn’t want to. What are you frightened of?

          • Albert

            I’m terminating this discussion, because you have utterly compromised your intelligence here. Three things;

            Given the society and the values of the time, that seems pretty wise.

            Since Jesus is God made man, it is absurd to believe he followed what was wrong with his society, rather than doing the will of God.

            You are suggesting however that he did this because they had a penis.

            You seriously think that is the only difference between men and women? Really?

            Again you are suggesting that the qualities one needs to be a priest somehow include the physical attributes of the body the priest finds him/herself in. And you accuse me of not understanding priesthood!!

            These are the things the Catholic Church teaches about the Catholic priesthood. If you seriously think you know better about the Catholic priesthood than the Catholic Church, then I see no value in discussing with you – your arrogance, if nothing else, prevents further communication.

          • ‘Age of Aquarius’, and all that, Cacheton? These “timeless spiritual teachings” if only we had the ‘knowledge’ and wisdom?

        • cacheton

          How do you tell which teachings are beneficial long term and which are not? Observation, common sense, historical perspective and other God-given gifts humans have.

          For example much of the teaching about sex and marriage was likely entirely appropriate 2000 years ago, for reasons of social cohesion, hygiene/health – guidance was needed, and what better way to get people to follow it than to say that it was God’s orders.
          Now we observe that those reasons are no longer valid – the social cohesion and hygiene/health reasons can be managed, resulting in greater numbers of people finding fulfillment in sex and marriage, and the possibility of dissolving the marriage if it becomes abusive, suffocating or no longer fulfilling, rather than having to live in misery. We can observe that the issues around sexuality and marriage are not spiritual ones – whether you have sex or not, and who you have it with (as long as it is consensual of course) does not have a bearing on how spiritually fulfilled or not a person can be. We can also observe that monogamous marriage is excellent for spiritual growth if that is what the partners want, but it is not the only way.

          Loving your neighbour as yourself is one of the more obvious examples of a timeless spiritual teaching, though unfortunately due to the lack of method in the Bible on how to actually do that, it tends not to be followed much these days…..

          • Albert

            How do you tell which teachings are beneficial long term and which are not? Observation, common sense, historical perspective and other God-given gifts humans have.

            So I’m thinking that what you mean is that you want to dilute biblical teaching with modern assumptions, on the basis of progress etc. And guess what happens?!:

            For example much of the teaching about sex and marriage was likely entirely appropriate 2000 years ago, for reasons of social cohesion, hygiene/health – guidance was needed, and what better way to get people to follow it than to say that it was God’s orders.

            You seem extremely confident that that exhaustively was the reason and so you can change it:

            Now we observe that those reasons are no longer valid

            So my question is, how do you know that

            much of the teaching about sex and marriage was likely entirely appropriate 2000 years ago, for reasons of social cohesion, hygiene/health – guidance was needed, and what better way to get people to follow it than to say that it was God’s orders.

            …is exhaustively the reason for biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality? I’d like some evidence, please.

          • cacheton

            If observing that certain teachings are no longer serving the wellbeing of humanity, that certain prejudices are fuelling hate rather than love – if that is ‘diluting biblical teaching’, then why not. Greater wellbeing and less unfounded prejudice are not ‘modern assumptions’, they can be observed to be fostering greater peace in the world. And yes, I call that progress. Wouldn’t you?

            The very fact that you are mentioning ‘diluting’ suggests that you don’t think the bible can be looked at critically, or that some teachings cannot be considered more than others. Why not? Where is the evidence that the bible is the word of God and cannot/should not be looked at critically?

            What benefits is the church (or its leaders) getting for failing to discern which bible teachings are timeless and which are out of date? At this rate the whole lot will disappear – the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater!

          • Albert

            If observing that certain teachings are no longer serving the wellbeing of humanity, that certain prejudices are fuelling hate rather than love

            You haven’t observed that, you’ve asserted it, and it hasn’t distracted me from the fact that you are evading the exegetical question I asked about you knowing the reason for some biblical teachings.

            Greater wellbeing and less unfounded prejudice are not ‘modern assumptions’

            I’m a Catholic. I know how my beliefs differ from other people’s. I know the ways in which people think my beliefs are prejudices etc. I also have a pretty good understanding of why people hold different beliefs from mine. I also know that most people who think my beliefs are prejudices are pretty poor at knowing the reasoning behind them (your post is, I am afraid, a case in point). To put it another way, a lot of the attacks on my faith are founded in prejudice. But what makes that prejudice particularly dangerous is that those who have those prejudices don’t know they are prejudices.

            Here’s a case in point of you having no idea what you are dealing with:

            The very fact that you are mentioning ‘diluting’ suggests that you don’t think the bible can be looked at critically, or that some teachings cannot be considered more than others.

            That is an extraordinary non-sequitur.

            You go on:

            What benefits is the church (or its leaders) getting for failing to discern which bible teachings are timeless and which are out of date?

            Again I ask (and I note I am not the only one to ask), how do you know which are timeless and which are out of date? What is the basis of your morality? Are you just another utilitarian trying to judge Christ by the stands of JS Mill? And what is the evidence that is so compelling?

            Let’s remember that it is commonplace for people to proclaim that they have found the way to modernity and progress. The 20th Century was full of such self-confidence. It tended to result in misery for ordinary people on a scale never before imagined. What makes you so sure, you aren’t making the same mistake?

          • Jack suspects Cacheton is a theosophist.

          • Albert

            Albert suspects he is a sophomore.

          • cacheton

            The answer to your ‘exegetical question’ is in the post above – Observation, common sense, historical perspective and other God-given gifts humans have.

            So maybe you could answer mine. ‘Where is the evidence that the bible is the word of God and cannot/should not be looked at critically?’ Or you could show you are prepared to critically evaluate your beliefs by outlining one which you know that other people consider a prejudice, and explaining the reasoning behind it, so we can see what you are talking about. Note that if you cannot answer my question, then you cannot use ‘the Bible is the word of god’ as part of your reasoning.

            What is the basis of my morality? Love, compassion, peace – all those things that God is. It really is very simple. If a teaching does not inspire these, but seeks instead to promote hatred, separation, intolerance etc, then how could it be God-inspired? Maybe you could have a go at answering that too.

          • Albert

            Cacheton,

            The answer to your ‘exegetical question’ is in the post above – Observation, common sense, historical perspective and other God-given gifts humans have.

            That’s not an answer at all. I asked how you know that you have exhausted the reason for that particular teaching. You have provided a series of generalised ideas which you could reasonably use in interpreting the passages. But you haven’t actually shown how the use of those things demonstrates you have exhausted the reason for that particular teaching, neither have you actually used them to prove anything. I would say that, as a matter of basic reasoning those thing cannot tell you the exhaustive reason, since to do so, you would either need to turn your interpretation into an analytic proposition, whereby the exclusive necessity of the conclusion was established, or you will have to prove a negative. Now no historical, or indeed a posteriori mode of reasoning can do that, so we can say with absolute certainty, that you cannot establish the exhaustive meaning of those passages. And that means that you cannot ditch them on the basis of your reasoning.

            ‘Where is the evidence that the bible is the word of God and cannot/should not be looked at critically?’

            Sufficient evidence is the evidence of faith. Now, the question then arises as to whether you have faith in the Christian sense. If you do, then the question would not arise. If you don’t then you need to come clean and say that Christianity is not the fundamental truth in your view, and that whatever norms all your other norms is something else. In which case, of course, you are going to dismiss the Bible, but it should be the Bible that is dismissed, the interpretation is superfluous.

            The evidence that it should be looked at critically is that, although it is inspired, it is still a human book. As the Catholic Church teaches:

            However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.

            To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another.

            To put the matter another way, I expect to be able to use any genuine critical tool that is available. But I als expect to be able to critique the tool as well.

            Or you could show you are prepared to critically evaluate your beliefs by outlining one which you know that other people consider a prejudice, and explaining the reasoning behind it, so we can see what you are talking about.

            I doubt that there are many people who have read my posts who think I need to prove that. But as you ask, let me give you an example. It would often be assumed that as a Catholic who takes the Bible seriously, I must believe in six day creationism. I would argue against this on several points: firstly,the Catholic principle, stemming from the ancient Church that one should not interpret scripture in a way that conflicts with observation. Since six day creation conflicts with that observation it is a misinterpretation. I would point out further that the Church has never required such an interpretation. I would say further that it is evident from Genesis 1 & 2 that there are two contradictory stories of creation in Genesis, showing one cannot be a literalist (at least not on both) on these matters. Further I would point out that there are problems with a literal reading of Genesis 1 in that things happen in impossible orders – light is created before any source of light (hence it is not light as we know it), and that there can be no days in the usual sense since there is no sun to mark them. I would add that interpreters of the calibre of Augustine and Origen have interpreted this part of the Bible in a non-literal sense. Is that critical enough for you?

            Note that if you cannot answer my question, then you cannot use ‘the Bible is the word of god’ as part of your reasoning.

            Well I have answered it, so I can.

            What is the basis of my morality? Love, compassion, peace – all those things that God is. It really is very simple.

            That’s nice to say, but some of these concepts are more complicated in application than you seem to realize. I mean you speak of peace, but what is that? The absence of conflict or the presence of justice?

            If a teaching does not inspire these, but seeks instead to promote hatred, separation, intolerance etc, then how could it be God-inspired?

            How can separation be an evil? Sometimes it is, but always? You speak of intolerance, but injustice shouldn’t be tolerated should it?

          • cacheton

            So, I get from your first paragraph that the meaning of any passage in the bible cannot be exhaustively established. May I ask then why you believe it is the word of God?

            ‘Evidence of faith’. Hmm. Like if you wear a certain pair of glasses you see everything differently. And your view that Christianity is true is because you are wearing the glasses. I do not dismiss the bible, as I have already said. I suggest looking at it without the glasses on, to find the relevance some of the things it says have to people who do not wear glasses, and who need convincing reasons why they should put them on. The church is currently not providing those. It is increasingly obvious that it cannot, which is why it is dying.

            ‘one should not interpret scripture in a way that conflicts with observation’. Agreed – that was one of my tools for criticism, remember? I observe that certain teachings fuel hate and prejudice, not love. Therefore I can deduce they are not God inspired. Or that God is not love.

            ‘some of these concepts are more complicated in application than you seem to realize.’ That is surely the Church’s role, to explain how to apply those, rather than continue to teach things which are incompatible with the unconditional love of God, or irrelevant.

            Injustice does not have to be tolerated – we have laws. By separation I meant people seeing themselves as separate from each other, and separate from God.

            FGM? Forbidden on the grounds of unjustifiable physical harm. What reasons would there be to tolerate unjustifiable physical harm carried out against the wishes of the person it is being done to, or before they are old enough to decide for themselves?

          • Albert

            So, I get from your first paragraph that the meaning of any passage in the bible cannot be exhaustively established. May I ask then why you believe it is the word of God?

            Well, that’s a non sequitur again. I do not need to be able to establish the exhaustive meaning of a text to know who the author is.

            I suggest looking at it without the glasses on, to find the relevance some of the things it says have to people who do not wear glasses, and who need convincing reasons why they should put them on.

            That would be fair enough. But that’s not what you have been arguing. You have been arguing that you know better than the Bible, and that therefore you can dismiss those parts of the Bible that you don’t agree with. That’s quite different from what you say here. The Church does in fact do what you say – for example, we have a rigorous teaching on natural law.

            Agreed – that was one of my tools for criticism, remember?

            If you remember, what I was doing was answering your question about a critical use of the Bible. If you permit a critical use of the Bible, then obviously we will agree.

            I observe that certain teachings fuel hate and prejudice, not love.

            But if you’ll forgive me for saying this, you seem very prejudiced to me. Sure you’re not prejudiced against the wrong people, you are prejudiced against religious conservatives. This is why you keep coming up with non sequiturs for me to falsify. On the subject of hate, oughtn’t we to hate injustice and wrong doing (but not the wrong-doer)? Thus, you cannot reduce morality so quickly as you think you can, or your position will become circular.

            That is surely the Church’s role, to explain how to apply those, rather than continue to teach things which are incompatible with the unconditional love of God, or irrelevant.

            So give us some specifics. What is the Church teaching which is incompatible with the unconditional love of God, or is irrelevant?

            Injustice does not have to be tolerated

            So intolerance is not an unadulterated good, but must be assessed in the light of justice and truth. Do you see the problem?

            Forbidden on the grounds of unjustifiable physical harm. What reasons would there be to tolerate unjustifiable physical harm carried out against the wishes of the person it is being done to, or before they are old enough to decide for themselves?

            So you are intolerant of it – see my previous line. But while we’re on this point, why can’t someone be an amoralist or a follower of Nietzsche or Marx and just have a totally different world-view on these things?

          • cacheton

            So we don’t know what is meant by the teachings in the bible, but you know that God wrote it, even though you can’t explain how you know that? Blimey. Really?

            I have been arguing that society is sufficiently different to what it was when the bible was written to be able to discern what is and what isn’t a spiritual teaching. This is why the church is dying, because it will not integrate all the knowledge we have acquired since then. You have integrated some, as you explained with your six day creationism explanation, but there is still some way to go. I don’t ‘disagree with’ the bible, I observe that much of it is no longer useful.

            ‘you are prejudiced against religious conservatives’. No, I observe that it is their failure to distinguish between spiritual teachings and teachings which fuel the ego and its need for grievances and prejudices which is killing the church. They, predictably, think the opposite, because they are identified with their ego rather than with God who is love, peace and compassion. Other people can see this and do not want to be associated with it.

          • Albert

            So we don’t know what is meant by the teachings in the bible, but you know that God wrote it, even though you can’t explain how you know that? Blimey. Really?

            No, not really. I didn’t say that, or anything remotely like that. I said:

            I do not need to be able to establish the exhaustive meaning of a text to know who the author is.

            You go on:

            I have been arguing that society is sufficiently different to what it was when the bible was written to be able to discern what is and what isn’t a spiritual teaching.

            No you haven’t. What you have done is claim that the only meaning of a text that you will accept is to do with compassion & peace. You said nothing at all about why those things are the criterion (except that you want them to be, I suppose), and you certainly haven’t given any reason to think society thinks that or is able to discern how to apply that principle.

            This is why the church is dying, because it will not integrate all the knowledge we have acquired since then.

            Obviously the Church cannot integrate all the knowledge for no group of people can possibly know all the knowledge. But the Church learns lessons from the modern world, but at the same time the Church must critique the modern world. After all, the modern world is not exactly pure Love, compassion, peace and it certainly lacks justice.

            You have integrated some, as you explained with your six day creationism explanation

            Actually, that’s a mistake, I gave exegetical reason to think that six day creationism is false. I also added observation, but even without observation, I wouldn’t be a six day creationist. Your problem here is lack of historical knowledge. Six day creationism is not orthodox or traditional at all, but a very modern phenomenon. Rejecting it does not require modern knowledge, ancient will do.

            I don’t ‘disagree with’ the bible, I observe that much of it is no longer useful.

            I asked for specifics, but I don’t think you have given any.

            No, I observe that it is their failure to distinguish between spiritual teachings and teachings which fuel the ego and its need for grievances and prejudices which is killing the church.

            You are claiming that those who disagree with you are fuelling their egos. Ironic, eh?

            rather than with God who is love, peace and compassion.

            Do you actually believe this God exists, i.e. beyond the created mind?

            Other people can see this and do not want to be associated with it.

            Let’s have an example, then.

          • cacheton

            Albert, how do you know that God wrote the Bible?

            Do I believe this God exists? Yes. Beyond the created mind? No. That might be because you and I have different understandings of what the created mind is, however!

            People who don’t want to be associated with the egoic teachings of the church are the people who don’t go to church! That’s what the article is about. Therefore that leaves a spiritual vacuum, as spiritual and ego are presented by the church as equally valid teachings.

          • Albert

            I would steer clear of the language of God “wrote the Bible”. I would say God inspired the Bible. I know this, because the Church commends the Bible to me as inspired and I believe the Church.

            Beyond the created mind? No. That might be because you and I have different understandings of what the created mind is, however!

            Then I think you are an atheist for all real purposes.

            People who don’t want to be associated with the egoic teachings of the church are the people who don’t go to church!

            Forgive me but you come across as rather haughty. You seem convinced that you are some kind of elite spiritual person who can see further than everyone else. By denying questions of right and wrong, you safely shield your opinions from critique, you are still right (and others are wrong), even though thinking that you are still right is impossible on your own intellectual world-view.
            That’s what the article is about. Therefore that leaves a spiritual vacuum, as spiritual and ego are presented by the church as equally valid teachings.

          • cacheton

            Why do you believe the Church?

            Nobody is preventing you from disagreeing with me, but to be convincing surely you have to explain why. Reasons like ‘because it says so in the bible’, or ‘the church says the bible is god inspired therefore it is’ kind of don’t quite cut the mustard for most people nowadays!

            I don’t think I am ‘right’ – I am arguing from a viewpoint that I find beneficial (to me at least!) and which I think could render the church useful and inspiring, instead of stuck in out of date doctrines that have nothing to do with God being love and compassion (recognised by most thinking people, including many in the church) and which are set to make the church extinct.

          • Albert

            Cacheton, as anyone who has posted on here for any length of time will tell you, I can give you endless reasons for all those things. I can argue from reason and I can argue from scripture and the Church’s teaching. I see you don’t accept the latter authorities. Very well. I can argue from reason. My arguments would be standard natural law defences. Do you have answers to those?

            As for this beneficial thing, I think if you jettison truth, then you will eventually be left with nothing more than contradiction. Moreover, you are wrong to think that the Church is becoming extinct because it is conservative. The liberal churches are dying, the traditional ones are growing.

          • cacheton

            Wonderful – i would be really interested in your arguments from reason on why the bible is the word of god, inspired by god, and why its apparent teachings should be adhered to even if it is observable that they do not promote love and compassion, but hatred and discrimination.

          • Albert

            Well why don’t you ask a question that, to answer properly would take about a week? This isn’t simple stuff. In outline then: I believe in Jesus as the fulness of God’s revelation (I believe this as a result of reason and grace). Part of my faith that Jesus is God’s revelation is the belief that the revelation will not be lost in any generation, but on the contrary, it will always be possible for any individual to identify where this revelation is to be found. By a process of elimination, I discover that there is only one Church which can seriously claim this, and it is Roman. I therefore receive the teaching and scriptures of this Church as she does.

            why its apparent teachings should be adhered to even if it is observable that they do not promote love and compassion, but hatred and discrimination.

            You haven’t given me any reason to think that is observable.

          • cacheton

            I’m unclear what this one Church can claim – something to do with revelation – are you saying this is the only place God is revealed? If so, what are your criteria for elimination?

            And surely all this does not mean you can/should abdicate critical evaluation of those teachings.

          • Albert

            are you saying this is the only place God is revealed?

            No, I am saying it is the only place where the fulness of God’s revelation is preserved.

            what are your criteria for elimination?

            Any Christian body which requires me to sit in judgement on the contents of the revelation, to decide what is true or not, is one that gets eliminated. The generosity of God is that he has revealed himself. The mystery surpasses human judgement.

            And surely all this does not mean you can/should abdicate critical evaluation of those teachings.

            If a teaching has been given with (say) infallible authority then it is true. That’s not abdicating responsibility, it is accepting it. It does however mean I cannot gainsay it. However, I should test whether my understanding is correct and whether the teaching could be better expressed, applied etc.

          • cacheton

            Except that the mystery doesn’t surpass human judgment, as Jesus himself was human, just the same as you or me.

            In order to say whether a teaching has been given with infallible authority, you have to reason how the book the teaching came from is the inspired word of that authority. You haven’t done that yet.

            How do you test whether your understanding on women is correct?

          • Albert

            Except that the mystery doesn’t surpass human judgment, as Jesus himself was human, just the same as you or me.

            Jesus is God and Man. What he reveals is God himself. That surpasses human judgement.

            In order to say whether a teaching has been given with infallible authority, you have to reason how the book the teaching came from is the inspired word of that authority.

            I can perfectly easily judge the authority of a given teaching of the Church. That is quite different from being able to judge the contents of that teaching.

          • cacheton

            Jesus is God and Man. So are you.

            What he reveals is God himself. So could you.

            That surpasses human judgement. But not human observation.

            I can perfectly easily judge the authority of a given teaching of the Church. HOW?

          • Albert

            How do you test whether your understanding on women is correct?

            I look at Church teachings.

          • Albert

            As a matter of interest, how do you know God is love, compassion and peace?

          • cacheton

            If this site accepted smilies, or if I knew how to post one, then there would be large cheesy one right here.

            Would you have God as being anything else?

          • Albert

            What are you, some kind of non-realist? What I want God to be is irrelevant to what God is.

          • cacheton

            And what is God?

          • Albert

            Well, let’s just stick to God as creator:God is the transcendent creator of the universe. He is outside of time and space, and is without body, parts or passions.

          • cacheton

            God must have some degree of passion otherwise he would not have any reason to critique would he? Or so I understood from another of your posts I just answered…

          • Albert

            I think you have an anthropomorphic view of God. If I misled you into that, then I apologise!

          • cacheton

            Ah – and I thought you had an anthropomorphic view of God – wrath, punishment and all that…

          • Albert

            In that case, may I suggest you read Question 13 of the first part of the Summa Theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas?

          • alternative_perspective

            Look at society cacheton,
            its screwed up and getting worse… all because its following its own ways.
            Today we spend approximately £50bn / annum subsidising our liberal society, trying to put right the crap that liberal policies create. The estimated cost in the late 50s was about £0.5bn.
            This figure is growing exponentially.
            Eventually our ability to pay for the treatment of society’s symptoms will be eclipsed by the cost.
            When the cost can no longer be met there will be two options on the table: authoritarian liberalism (you know things have gone wrong when those two words end up side by side) and waking up.
            Which do you think most people will choose? A return to sexual, familial and cultural traditions that cost society next to nothing or a curtailing of people’s sexual and political freedoms?
            The people will never choose the moral, sustainable solution over personal liberty thus we know all we need to know about the morals of society.

          • cacheton

            I agree that liberal policies are not the answer – we have a crisis in political leadership as well, where inequality is growing and the planet is being destroyed.
            Waking up to what? Many people have woken up, just not politicians and economists. But we have a general election next year.

            A moral sustainable solution will be chosen when everybody, including those politicians and economists, understands that it is in their best interests as well as the best interests of everybody else, ‘best interest’ at the moment being ‘quantity of money’ and nothing else. Those at the ‘top’ have no idea how those at the ‘bottom’ live, and seem not to care. This is a spiritual crisis aswell which the church could help with, but is currently unable to due to this apparent inability to distinguish the spiritual from the irrelevant in its doctrine.

      • carl jacobs

        Cacheton

        What parsing function would you use to separate the beneficial from the non-beneficial? Your own wisdom? Informed by what? Your own desires? Constrained by what? All you have said is that you will do what you think is right in your own eyes. You can do that, of course. But please. Don’t dragoon God into sanctioning what is nothing more than your assertion of your own authority. He doesn’t have anything to do with it.

        • cacheton

          This is where the spiritual leadership comes in. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are unhelpful in this, ‘inspiring’ and ‘harmful’ are probably more useful, plus the timeless teaching ‘Know thyself’. The more self-aware you are, the more your actions and decisions will inspire people (including yourself) rather than harming them. It is when you think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are written in a book, with no thought input as to why that might be and what the consequences of enforcing it are, that problems start.

          • Albert

            ^I’m just wondering if this comment is right or wrong.

          • cacheton

            Is that how you live, wondering whether actions are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ all the time and not actually observing what the consequences are?

            Look what IS are doing in Iraq and Syria, all because they think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are written in a book!

          • Albert

            You really are missing the irony of things aren’t you. You said, ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are unhelpful in this, and I simply asked myself if your comment was right or wrong. After all, if you say, when assessing this discussion “right and wrong are unhelpful, how can you even speak of the claim ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are unhelpful in this as being right or wrong? Your whole position descends into absurdity.

            and not actually observing what the consequences are?

            Seriously? You think I have said we shouldn’t consider consequences? You also think I haven’t heard of consequentialism? I do consider consequences, but I am not a consequentialist because I do not consider the consequences are the only thing at issue in a moral judgement. When you have found a way to know all the consequences of your actions, and you have a consequentialist way of measuring which are good and which are bad, and grounding all that in a wider, cogent, ethical theory, then I might think you have something worthwhile to say.

            Look what IS are doing in Iraq and Syria, all because they think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are written in a book!

            Wrong book, wrong interpretation. No conclusion can reasonably be drawn from that. It’s just another non-sequitur.

          • alternative_perspective

            There is no such things as truth…

            the most self-defeating and yet most proclaimed principle of our time.
            Says something about out culture does it not!

            What cacheton doesn’t really seem to grasp is that “harm” is also relative and depends on how one defines it. One mans poison etc.
            Personally, I wouldn’t let him get away with it, he needs to prefix with… “in my opinion” if he wants to play this game.

          • Albert

            Excellent comment, alternative perspective.

            What cacheton doesn’t really seem to grasp is that “harm” is also relative and depends on how one defines it.

            And that is exactly why people like cacheton are so intolerant and dangerous. They make truth claims for their own opinions, while denying them for everyone else, and therefore never realise that their opinions are, well, just opinions.

          • cacheton

            Please show me where I am making a truth claim.

            Do you not see a difference between disagreement and prejudice, or between observation and intolerance?

          • Albert

            Please show me where I am making a truth claim.

            All over the place. Here’s an example:

            ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are unhelpful in this, ‘inspiring’ and ‘harmful’ are probably more useful

            You continue:

            Do you not see a difference between disagreement and prejudice, or between observation and intolerance?

            I cannot for the life of me so why you would accuse me of not being able to see the difference there, but then, I think you left the sunny shores of logic long ago…

          • cacheton

            Hang on, where have I said that any of what I write is absolute truth and nothing could prove me wrong?

            And I don’t quite understand your last sentence – oh – ‘so’ should be ‘see’, right?

            if so, I asked you that because you accused me of being prejudiced against religious conservatives, when I disagree with them. And I observe that FGM and rape are harmful.

          • Albert

            Hang on, where have I said that any of what I write is absolute truth and nothing could prove me wrong?

            I’m losing the thread. Where did I accuse you of that?

            And I don’t quite understand your last sentence – oh – ‘so’ should be ‘see’, right?

            Correct. My apologies.

            if so, I asked you that because you accused me of being prejudiced against religious conservatives, when I disagree with them.

            I think we are struggling in this debate because of your unwillingness to put your accusations into any kind of specifics. Which teachings of the Church do you think are opposed to love and compassion?

          • cacheton

            Discrimination against certain groups of people, threats of divine wrath, hell, purgatory etc, all emotional blackmail – if you do/don’t do X, you will go to hell.

            One thing I find particularly disturbing is the teaching on repentance, where several people think that they can do what they like and repent, and everything will be fine – Jesus loves me anyway kind of thing. I am sure you are not one of these but there are several, and I do not see the church giving much guidance on this.

          • Albert

            Is it me, or is this post contradictory. On the one hand you complain about consequences for sin (wrath, purgatory, hell), then on the other you complain about forgiveness.

            Wrath, hell purgatory etc. are not emotional blackmail, they are the outworking of justice. Justice is a good thing. They are also ways of warning people not to harm other people. As my post about Stalin showed, warning people not to harm other people is a good thing. They are also a warning to prevent people harming themselves. Warning people not to harm themselves is a good thing.

            One thing I find particularly disturbing is the teaching on repentance, where several people think that they can do what they like and repent, and everything will be fine – Jesus loves me anyway kind of thing.

            God’s forgiveness is without limit, but it requires a change of heart and of life. So it’s not about saying to people “You indulge yourself, God will forgive you.” It is about saying to people “God loves you, do not sin against someone who loves you…oh, you’ve sinned already, God will forgive you if you repent, but you must resolve never to commit that sin again.”

            I do not see the church giving much guidance on this.

            Where have you looked?

          • cacheton

            But whose justice? Who gets to decide what is just and what is not?

            I know it’s not about saying to people “You indulge yourself, God will forgive you.” But that is how many people understand it, and how they live. And if you resolve never to do X again, but ‘can’t help it’ and do do it again. And again and again, many people see the church as condoning this because there is no obvious guidance on how to break the cycle. But maybe that is because I have not seen where……

          • Albert

            But whose justice? Who gets to decide what is just and what is not?

            Do you not think that these questions apply equally to you? Whose compassion? Whose love? Who gets to decide which acts are loving and compassionate and which are not?

            As far as justice is concerned, as ever I see reason perfected by grace. That is, I can look at natural law and the teaching of scripture and the Church. What do you look at?

            But that is how many people understand it, and how they live.

            I think that is how other people judge other people, certainly. But I cannot see that that is how any proper Christian lives.

            And if you resolve never to do X again, but ‘can’t help it’ and do do it again. And again and again, many people see the church as condoning this because there is no obvious guidance on how to break the cycle.

            The Church isn’t condoning anything by helping someone to turn from their sins. On the contrary, they are condemning the sins. There is plenty of guidance on how to break the cycle. It begins with faith and prayer. It is rooted in 2000 years of experience. We can call on psychology and other forms of knowledge to understand how behaviour works, and we can seek to change the circumstances that might make the sin more likely. All this the Church does, day in day out. If you didn’t know that, you were unjust and uncharitable to judge the Church as you did.

            What the Church cannot do is decide for anyone whether they will sin or not. She can only offer forgiveness when they do.

            Incidentally, you did not answer the charge that your position is self-contradictory.

          • cacheton

            Absolutely I think it applies to me.

            But I’m starting to pull things together (I think) – you think those things do not apply to you, because God is beyond your (merely human) comprehension/knowing and so you leave it to him to decide what love, compassion, justice etc are. As you believe he inspired a particular book which was written 2000 years ago (you haven’t reasoned why yet) you look to that book (or certain interpretations of that book) for guidance.

            That is a dangerous abdication of responsibility, isn’t it?

            Yes natural law is interesting, though I don’t see any reasoning behind homosexual sex being against it just because it will not result in reproduction.

            Please summarise this self-contradictory charge so I can tackle it – thanks!

          • Albert

            Cacheton,

            But I’m starting to pull things together (I think) – you think those things do not apply to you, because God is beyond your (merely human) comprehension/knowing and so you leave it to him to decide what love, compassion, justice etc are.

            I’ll go with that.

            As you believe he inspired a particular book which was written 2000 years ago (you haven’t reasoned why yet) you look to that book (or certain interpretations of that book) for guidance.

            Certainly, but I allow the possibility of my misinterpretation. I have explained why I believe scripture is inspired – the Church commends it to me as such and I believe in the Church.

            That is a dangerous abdication of responsibility, isn’t it?

            If we are talking about revealed truth, it would be dangerously irresponsible to deny it (quite apart from downright irrational). Sometimes one has to appeal to authorities greater than oneself, and in such situations it would be highly irresponsible to appeal to one’s own judgement rather than that authority.

            Yes natural law is interesting, though I don’t see any reasoning behind homosexual sex being against it just because it will not result in reproduction.

            Well then you haven’t understood. Look, I don’t object to you not believing what I believe. I don’t mind you not understanding what I believe. What I object to is you telling me my position is lacking in compassion, even though you haven’t understood it. That’s just prejudice. The fact that you do so in in the context of proclaiming (what you think is) compassion and love is baffling. After all, if you think it is possible that you doctrine of compassion and love is false (as you say here), oughtn’t you to withhold judgement about things you feel may be in contradiction with compassion and love?

            Regarding self-contradiction, in the same post you complained about forgiveness and you complained about punishment.

          • cacheton

            You say the reason you believe the bible is inspired by God is because the church says it is. I am sure you understand why most thinking people would not accept that as a reason!

            Please could you explain what you mean by ‘revealed truth’. Do you mean ‘Jesus’?

            It seems you think that none of the church’s teachings could possibly be lacking in compassion (or be discriminatory) because they are based on what it says in the bible, and the author of the bible is compassion itself. You seem to be saying that you do not, and cannot, have much idea about what compassion and love are, so you look to the bible to tell you. And you accept what it says, or what the church says it says, without question, because any questioning would assume that you know better than the church, or even God.

            So I suppose the question is – how do you know that God is compassion and love, if you say you do not and cannot have any idea what those are? And what makes you think that you do not infact know what compassion and love are?

          • Albert

            You say the reason you believe the bible is inspired by God is because the church says it is. I am sure you understand why most thinking people would not accept that as a reason!

            No, it is a reason, it is just a reason that wouldn’t necessarily persuade someone else. I have also given reasons to believe in the Church.

            Please could you explain what you mean by ‘revealed truth’. Do you mean ‘Jesus’?

            I mean God showing us truths and reality that we could not otherwise know (unless he shows them). Jesus is the supreme revelation.

            It seems you think that none of the church’s teachings could possibly be lacking in compassion (or be discriminatory) because they are based on what it says in the bible, and the author of the bible is compassion itself.

            That’s not quite what I am saying. It is possible that they are expressed poorly. But if you mean, can you have a better idea of compassion than God reveals? then I think you can’t.

            You seem to be saying that you do not, and cannot, have much idea about what compassion and love are, so you look to the bible to tell you.

            No. I am saying my idea is imperfect, but God’s is perfect.

            And you accept what it says, or what the church says it says, without question, because any questioning would assume that you know better than the church, or even God.

            That is certainly the case if it is infallible teaching and with the caveat given above.

            So I suppose the question is – how do you know that God is compassion and love, if you say you do not and cannot have any idea what those are? And what makes you think that you do not infact know what compassion and love are?

            Because He says so and he is the first and highest truth, who always speaks truly or there’s nothing true. On the other hand, given your admission that you might be mistaken, how do you know that, particularly on particular issues, you know what the compassionate and loving thing to do is?

          • cacheton

            How can you say that your human idea of compassion and love is less perfect than God’s, if you also maintain that’s God’s fullest revelation was human?

            How do I know what the compassionate and loving thing to do is? I don’t always – I haven’t reached Jesus’s level of perfection yet Albert, to be honest – but I am confident that inflicting physical and emotional harm are not compassionate and loving ways to behave. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that you could never take the responsibility for being confident about that, and I find that rather worrying.

          • Albert

            How can you say that your human idea of compassion and love is less perfect than God’s, if you also maintain that’s God’s fullest revelation was human?

            Human judgement is damaged by sin. Jesus was no sinner.

            but I am confident that inflicting physical and emotional harm are not compassionate and loving ways to behave. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that you could never take the responsibility for being confident about that, and I find that rather worrying.

            You are missing the most active law in any human activity: the law of unintended consequences.

          • cacheton

            Jesus came to show that it is possible for human judgement not to be damaged by sin. Do you agree with that?

            The law of unintended consequences seems to me like an excuse not to have adequately thought through what the consequences of a given action might be.

          • cacheton

            So you would have truth as absolute, and something to do with what is written in the bible, even though Albert says that we can never know what it actually means.

            But harm is relative, so we cannot agree that FGM or cutting someone’s head off are harmful.

            I see.

            I wonder what Jesus might say about that.

          • cacheton

            if you say, when assessing this discussion “right and wrong are unhelpful, how can you even speak of the claim ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ are unhelpful in this as being right or wrong?

            I didn’t. You did.

            Wrong book, wrong interpretation.

            And how do you know that?

          • Albert

            If you are not claiming your statement was right, then why should I bother with it?

            And how do you know that?

            You’re missing the point. I was faulting your logic. This is what you said:

            Look what IS are doing in Iraq and Syria, all because they think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are written in a book!

            So what? Nothing follows logically from one example. To set out the logic, let me put your position as a syllogism:

            1. Some interpretations of religious texts lead to wrong actions (this is my interpretation of your position).
            2. Christianity is an interpretation of a religious text (actually, I think it is more than that, but let it stand).
            3. Therefore….

            Nothing follows, you see.

          • cacheton

            Not right, inspiring (or not…)
            Not wrong, harmful (or not…)
            But I am repeating myself.

          • Albert

            Yes, but is what you say here true and right? If it is, then things cannot be reduced simply to inspiring or harmful, if it isn’t, then I don’t need to bother with it. Do you see that there is an internal incoherence in your position? If true, it undermines itself and dissolves in its own acid.

          • cacheton

            This is an internet forum. We are writing words, which are not the best means of communicating things about God (understatement!). Make of them what you make of them, bother with them or not.

            But consider that being ‘right’, thereby making others ‘wrong’, is the hallmark of the ego.

            God isn’t right or wrong, he simply and lovingly is. Jesus demonstrated that it is possible for humans to live with an ego which is transparent to God, and invited us to follow him. An ego cluttered with rights and wrongs is not transparent.

          • Albert

            This is an internet forum. We are writing words, which are not the best means of communicating things about God (understatement!). Make of them what you make of them, bother with them or not.

            I thought in this bit we were talking about human flourishing, and that can talked about a good deal more easily.

            But consider that being ‘right’, thereby making others ‘wrong’, is the hallmark of the ego.

            Presumably, you wrote that because you thought it was right. How enormous your ego must be!

            God isn’t right or wrong, he simply and lovingly is.

            If so, it isn’t right to claim that he “simply and lovingly is.”

            Jesus demonstrated that it is possible for humans to live with an ego which is transparent to God, and invited us to follow him. An ego cluttered with rights and wrongs is not transparent.

            Yes, an he also said, “Know the truth” and on one occasion “You are quite wrong.”

          • cacheton

            We agree! Hallelujah.

          • alternative_perspective

            Are you not assuming that what they’re doing is wrong when you criticised them? And if its just harmful, that’s merely your opinion.

          • cacheton

            Where have I criticised them?

            And there is a difference between observation and opinion isn’t there? If we can’t agree that cutting people’s heads off and raping people is harmful, then I’m not sure there’s much else to say….

    • Albert

      Len, I think I would want to clarify this idea of narrow escape. What happened was a very dodgy report was published, midway through the Synod. Even if the bishops had voted for it, it still wouldn’t have had any authority as such, for it was not a general meeting of bishops (like an Ecumenical Council), but a meeting of a smaller number of bishops with a view to advising the Holy Father. There will be another Synod next year, doing the same thing, and then after that, the Pope will produce some kind of teahcing document or pastoral letter. As I understand it, it is only that document that will be authoritative.

      As it happened, the report was binned, and then a perfectly orthodox version was created. By now, though, some of the bishops seem to have been so worried about conveying a sense of liberalism that they refused even some of those perfectly orthodox paragraphs.

    • Len, the Catholic Church is facing a great threat and Jack is watching aghast at recent events. Thank God these representatives from France and Germany did not succeed in dragging the Church into the ways of the 21st century and that solid Bishops and Cardinals stood up and resisted what was going on.

  • carl jacobs

    Gillan

    Given the Theological trajectory of the CoE, it needs to die. It deserves to die. It is ten years behind TEC, racing along the same wide road to destruction. Its leadership is shot through with the corruption of false religion. What with the imminent onset of new cohort of heterodox (female) bishops and the inevitable justification of homosexuality that will follow, the CoE will soon fall into a full-throated version of that ersatz Christianity known as Liberalism. At which point it would be better to see its bishops begging bread than preaching poison from a religious sinecure.

    At some point, it becomes futile to try and revive the body. Declare it dead, bury it, and move on. The Church is greater than one denomination.

    That said, I have a few comments.

    It is easy to bring in large numbers of people to no purpose. The point of Christianity is not entertainment however. So we have to be careful about what we attract them with. Theology matters. The Church can’t build upon a foundation of “Jesus is your best buddy. Let’s build a community and run a soup kitchen.” The Gospel begins with sin. Producing a large number of people who call themselves Christians is not the same thing as growing the Church. (cough) Joel Osteen. (cough) In all this re-imagining you can’t drop the offensive parts or you won’t have the Gospel anymore. You will just have a religion. I’m not saying you did this. I am only saying that it is a strong temptation in the general case.

    Second. The real problem the Church faces is that its giving answers to questions that people no longer ask. We live among a spiritually dull people. They are satisfied that moral freedom is worth the price of meaninglessness. One should see it for what it is – a judgment. So we should not change the message for the sake of dull ears who would rather not hear the Truth. You don’t shape the content for the unbeliever. You shape the unbeliever with the content.

    carl

    • Julian12345

      Yuk.

      • Ayn Randall

        Is that the sound trolls make? I’ve been wondering for a while now.

        • Julian12345

          Its the sound the church makes when disappearing down the plug.

          • Guest

            The same church that has outlived all its pallbearers? I highly doubt it.

          • Ayn Randall

            Disqus should really work on fixing its comment delete system.

          • Ayn Randall

            The same church that has outlived all its pallbearers? I doubt you’ll be an exception.

    • DrCrackles

      Totally agree.

      We should look to the remnant and not at what is crashing to destruction.

    • Albert

      Well said. The heart of the problem is that people don’t want truth. They want (what they think is) freedom.

    • JCF

      “It is ten years behind TEC”

      On this much we agree. [You say “Highway to Hell”, I say “following the Holy Spirit”]

      • carl jacobs

        JCF

        In twenty years, TEC will consist of a couple hundred thousand people concentrated in the NE and a few major population centers. It will inhabit the religious landscape like an unseen ghost stalking the abandoned family Manor – grieving for its former corporeal state but incapable of making its grief heard.

        The CoE is facing that outcome as well.

  • Julian12345

    ‘Surrender your yes to Jesus’. Does he have his knee on your windpipe?

    • Royinsouthwest

      You probably know what Gillan Scott meant since your interview with the Bishop of London showed that you are not as obtuse as your question above suggests.

      http://philosophyforlife.org/the-bishop-of-london-on-christian-contemplation/

      • Julian12345

        Not having a go at her, I just find that phrase (from the Vineyard guy) a bit weird. I liked what the Bishop had to say in that interview though – he’s right that people, including agnostics, are longing for forms of spiritual practice that transform them and heal them. Thats not just about crash-bang-wallop movements of the Holy Spirit and thousands of people making public surrenders to Jesus. It’s also about a contemplative revival. Both the extrovert and the introvert side of things. Sorry for being obtuse, grumpy Friday afternoon.

        • Nick

          Oh. Gillan is male. But chin up, God loves us especially when we make a faux pas (believe me I know).

          I love the idea of a contemplative revival – it speaks of a more inclusive awakening. I think that is a good point.

        • Royinsouthwest

          No need to apologise! Your reply is pretty thoughtful. Enjoy your weekend!

  • preacher

    Excellent post.
    The Church has survived because God’s hand has rescued it many times with revivals, powered by the Holy Spirit but carried by Christians to the communities in their areas. Often in the past the Church has settled for a traditional & ritualistic ‘safe’
    form of existence that eventually rolls to a halt. This is contrary to the Church that Jesus commissioned. The deadly spiritual diseases of lethargy & apathy quickly suffocate all signs of life.
    Only where the Church believes in Christ’s message being of greatest importance to people & their eternal destiny to the point of self sacrifice will it grow strong & be the blessing it was intended to be.
    Only when we stand for the love of God demonstrated in Christ Jesus & His death for restitution of our sins to bring about salvation to a lost World will the Father send His Holy Spirit to endorse the message with signs, wonders & healing’s.
    Time to repent & pray Brethren!.

  • While not disagreeing with any of the post, we mustn’t forget the sovereignty of God. There may be times when he chooses to bring real blessing and growth, despite what the churches are doing. And there may be times when he chooses to withhold blessing and growth, even though the churches are doing nothing wrong.

    • dannybhoy

      Hmmm..

      Yes to the sovereignty of God.

      Yes to the freewill of man.

      Yes to the Christian church’s role in preaching the Gospel and putting aside peripheral differences and issues.

      But,
      “And there may be times when he chooses to withhold blessing and growth, even though the churches are doing nothing wrong.”

      Hmmmmmm. Not sure about that one.

      • Nick

        I like that one. Maybe it’s for his greater glory or something?

        Usually we end up blaming each other (under the ‘some Christians are rubbish’ heading) but Anthony has rather well avoided this cliche.

  • DrCrackles

    If the church wishes too survive then the church must rigorously promote the following:

    Promotion of marriage and rejection of all other lifestyles.
    Promotion of birth and larger families.
    Promotion of Christian education and utter rejection of secular and multi-faith dogma.

    • Coniston

      ‘Promotion of birth and larger families.’ I think I understand where you are coming from. The ‘culture of death’ (particularly abortion) & the pursuit of a ‘career’ ahead of having children is very alarming, indeed frightening. Nethertheless those urging larger families (for ever?) should state what is likely to be an optimum population for any country, or indeed for the world, or at least accept that there is, or will be, a limit. The human population cannot go on increasing for ever; eventually (who knows when?) we, in this country (one of the world’s most densely populated countries) and the world, shall have to accept a stable population, or disaster – shortages of food and water especially – will be inevitable. We have one earth to live on; its carrying capacity for humans is not unlimited, and I for one would not wish to live in a teeming ant heap of people. Unless, that is, we intend to continue population growth by colonising other planets.

      • Nick

        ‘God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. That is one commandment we can tick off, even if we struggle with all the others.’

        Yeah – maybe we’re doing really well! Why does no-one ever, ever, ever say that!

        Ever?

        • cacheton

          So you are saying we should obey this commandment, even though as Coniston has pointed out it will end up destroying the planet we live on.

          This is precisely the kind of non-logic that puts so many off the church!

          • Nick

            Okay. Fine. Well done you. Another win.

          • Nick

            Hold on!? I haven’t even been blessed with children!!!??!!! 😀

          • Nick, hold on in there.
            This life is full of paradox. God, in His wisdom, has given us a natural way to responsibly plan parenthood. Of course, it calls for sexual restraint and that’s something man is not terribly good at.

          • John Knox’s left foot

            I think the Lord is referring to more than procreation; the fruits of human culture can supply resources for multitudes.

            But ether way, there is no future in not multiplying. Is that what you really want?

      • Touch of despair in there ,Coniston.

        Ask why both parents must work in the West these days and consider the slavery of modern capitalism. Also, ask yourself if there are God given ways of limiting the number of children. We want it all – cars, houses, holidays, modern technology, etc. etc. Things are all getting out of hand.

    • The Church really has just got to preach the Gospel. The rest follows.

  • So, Gillan, I think what you’re basically saying is:

    “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather round them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:2-5)

  • Nick

    Part of the problem is not so much that we don’t engage in evangelism so much as we treat each other badly when we do become Christians.

    To be fair, part of the reason for us turning on each other is to do with being provoked to do so (clearly I’m only speaking for myself here). When we are treated badly as a community by those in authority then we are more likely to take that out on each other as we feel very stressed and even oppressed by that.

    Understanding that a fellow Christian may have wronged you because of pressures from outside forces is important because it can help with the process of forgiveness.

    This Con-Dem nation has treated Christians worse than we have been treated for a long time. If you have thrived under the present Government as a Christian then well done, but please be aware that there are many Christians who are struggling.

    Whether things will get better or worse is known only to God. A change in Government or Monarchy may help, but in the meantime we are called to attempt to love each other even when we do not agree.

    If the decline really is our fault and responsibilty then we simply apologise to God for it. In a way God has responsibilities too.

    • cacheton

      And what would God’s responsibilities be? I can’t think of anything except ‘remain true to unconditional love’ which cannot be too hard if you are unconditional love can it.

      I think the decline is ‘our’ fault, Christianity has descended largely into tribalism, the very thing against which most of Jesus’s teaching is aimed.

      • Nick

        God has huge responsibilities. He created us. He has to help us.

        It’s his job.

        You can say, we are to blame and need to accept communal responsibility. Fine, we need to repent – but repentance should be ongoing. Repentance involves loving and showing mercy and trying to do the things that Christ talked about.

        I admit to blaming God, but in doing so I also admit that God exists. God can take it. He knows that we blame him when he is not to blame. He knows the pressures we are under. It doesn’t mean that we have to brow-beat each other to death!

        • cacheton

          God is. God does not have a ‘job’. He does not have to do anything at all, nor does he have responsibilities. He gave us free will – the responsibility is ours.

          And that responsibility includes admitting things are not going well with the institution which is supposed to be a beacon of Jesus’s teaching, and this is largely because from the outside it looks as if this institution is riddled with those very ‘sins’ that Jesus cautioned against. And from the inside, as you say, people seem to be so concerned with the ‘rightness’ of their understanding of this teaching that they squabble endlessly. They are stuck in ego and do not even seem to realise it.

          • Nick

            Okay you win. I concede. God only has rights, no responsibilities. I give up. Well done.

          • Albert

            God does not have responsibilities. To have responsibilities there needs to be something which says you are supposed to do X. But how can anything be set up over God? If there is anything higher than God, he isn’t God. If he is higher than all things, then he is not under anything which could require him to do something. Thus, however we look at it, God does not have responsibilities.

          • “has huge responsibilities. He created us. He has to help us.”

            Perhaps Nick is choosing his words wrongly. God’s nature and attributes means He just acts in certain ways and one of those ways is to help His creation and the people He loves.

            Not that unreasonable a statement?

            Jack would say that time, and time, and time again, God does and has and will continue to help us. Part of that help for individuals and for societies is suffering the consequences of our behaviour so we learn and put things right.

          • Albert

            Certainly God acts according to how he is (that would be true of anything), but the key thing is God’s absolute freedom. Nothing compels God to do anything. There is no goodness that he must create or perform. That’s why it’s so amazing that he becomes a human being and dies for us. Take away his freedom, impose some kind of necessity or requirement on him and it ceases to be love and becomes a duty.

          • Jack completely agrees.

            He was trying to frame Nick’s plea in more helpful terms so he could understand that God, being Love, always watches over His creation and His Divine Plan of Salvation is just where it has to be – for individuals and for nations and for the world.

          • Royinsouthwest

            God may not have a “job” but the Bible tells us that He does
            work! As He has made promises in His covenants He also has responsibilities. Furthermore, Jesus took the responsibility for our sins.

        • Have a read of the Book of Job …..

    • dannybhoy

      As the Chuch in Great Britain we have had our ‘Kevin moments’ rebelling against this, rebelling against that,
      “You just don’t get it do you Archbish..!”
      For a while now we seem to have been going through a “Laodicean phase. Despite falling numbers and a gradual sidelining by society at large, we have been content to be left alone and play our ecclesiatical games, rubbing shoulders with celebs, designing new robes and ceremonies, learning how to tweet etc.
      Now I think God is telling us it’s time to remember what He called us to be. He will achieve what He intends to achieve, but whether we will be an active part of that is up to us.

      • Nick

        But we have been told we are lukewarm for as long as I’ve been a Christian – 20 odd years (I emphasize the ‘odd’).

        We don’t get any encouragement. All we get is the constant criticism. No wonder we don’t do so well. It’s really hard.

        And if anyone dares to grumble ‘It’s really hard’ they get told to quit their complainin’.

        • dannybhoy

          We don’t get any encouragement from whom?
          You ain’t a clergyman are you Nick?
          That’s a tough and sometimes lonely job, methinks.
          We should all be encouragers.

          • Nick

            No, I’m not a clergyman dannybhoy.

            I’m a trained Christian writer and journalist and I’m finding that this site stretches me immensely. I want to listen to Christians, but I am finding this site very hard to engage with and thinking of leaving. Perhaps it is because I am very liberal in many of my perspectives (including politically). But all I seem to see here is a kind of parroting of a Government line to the nth degree.

            I’m not a closed-minded person and I am a man of integrity. At least I consider myself to be so. But this is really challenging for me – I bear people here no ill-will, but I can’t seem to relate to so much that is said.

            If I do go it is just because it is so difficult to relate here. Perhaps I am being naive?

            My point has always been this: That Government cause division in the Christian community – that this results in us attacking each other. It is also partly spiritual, to deny this would be to ignore the truth.

            If I leave here it it just because I feel too bullied by the whole system here and I have been through too much to allow myself to stay in any position in which I feel that way.

          • Rasher Bacon

            Evening Nick – what government line do you mean?

          • Nick

            Good evening. I mean the Government line in which all immigrants and Muslims are inferred to be second-class citizens whether they were born here or moved here.

            I mean the Government line in which the only gift of the Spirit which will ever be accepted is the gift of self-control. I mean the Government line in which each choice a person makes is the responsibility of that person no matter what the mitigating circumstances. I mean the Government line in which work is the only way to acceptance. I mean the Government line in which Christians are treated badly because what they believe is an afront to those in authority. I mean the Government line in which a lack of compassion must be expressed within the population for acceptance.

            Cold isn’t it? I’m not talking about the weather.

          • Royinsouthwest

            Don’t leave, Nick, even if you think your liberal views are in the minority. There would be no point in discussing things if everybody thought in exactly the same way. Even the apostles didn’t always see eye to eye as when Paul criticised Peter for trying to appease those Christians who thought that gentile converts should observe all the laws and customs that Jews were expected to observe.

          • Nick

            Thank you Roy. By the end of this I’m sure I will have my mind expanded one way or the other. Genuinely – thank you.

          • dannybhoy

            Nick,
            One of the great things about a blog is hearing different opinions and pov. We can be challenged/inspired by other peoples’ experiences and erudition.
            I think our unity should be around our Lord and our attitude to others tempered by an awareness of our own faults and failings.
            “And yet I show unto you a more excellent way..”
            1 Corinthians 12:31
            Don’t be discouraged, don’t feel bullied, don’t be afraid to express your true feelings.
            Christians should love and support each other Nick.

    • Rasher Bacon

      Ah – I see the government line to which you refer – hidden under a ‘see more’ thingy. I think a bit of opposition brings us back into Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:14 – “I have given them thy word and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil.”

      I don’t know what liberal means these days, but that prayer was clear enough, and has power enough for me and thee.

      • Nick

        Thank you.

  • dannybhoy

    I (he said in a hoarse whisper) am our Cof E church’s deanery and diocesan representative.
    Ssshh! Not a lot of people know that..
    We had a synod meeting last Saturday, and true to type like a curate’s egg it were good in parts..
    There is an initiative called “Fresh Expressions” which allows for Christian grouops to reach out in various ways under the umbrella of the Church of England. There are other things going on too. Yet a lot of our synod time is spent on money worries and old church buildings and how to attain our parish share of costs.
    God can and does use the Church of England where He is allowed, but we won’t see real fruitfulness until we put the preaching of the Gospel above hierarchy and bureaucracy and accept that we can’t do deals with the Establishment lest we end up being pawns of the Establishment.
    No man can serve two masters..

    • Nick

      Completely agree. Half of the trouble is that the C of E is seen as the establishment. It’s clearly the devil’s fault.

  • Uncle Brian

    Yes, Gillan: members of churches going out to their towns and city centres offering prayer for healing to anyone who might want it. That looks good, on paper. But haven’t we been reading, all too often, about people who get arrested for doing just that?

    • Stephen Raftery

      The point is to not mind that you might get arrested

      If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
      Dan 3:17–18

  • Albert

    But it is widely acknowledged that this stability in Roman Catholic affiliation is entirely down to the large number of strongly religious Eastern Europeans who have made themselves at home here over the last few years

    To put the matter another way, the Catholic Church is stable because it is Catholic.

    • Hi Albert,

      Or because of immigration from Europe??

      • Albert

        In a sense, that’s my point. If the Church is Catholic (i.e. universal) it will exist throughout the world (or nearly so). Which means that when one part of it is weak, other parts can help out. But if the Church is national or even more fractured, then, when the culture is against the Church, there is no one to lend a hand.

        • Hi Albert,

          Good point and the church of England is definitely English or an English concept. No offence there, but that’s the history (I think!).

          • Albert

            Quite, and where the Anglican Communion is doing best is because it has, to some extent imitated Catholicism, by creating a global communion – and so, although one might feel worried about the future of the CofE, the future of Anglicanism seems assured for now. Unfortunately, the size of the Anglican Communion (about 4% of all Christians, and most of those Anglicans are non-practicing in England) means there aren’t enough foreign Anglicans coming in to the UK to take the strain. In contrast, over 50% of all Christians are Catholics, so the arrival of immigrants typically brings a lot of Catholics. The OP is wrong I think in suggesting this is from Eastern Europe. If my parish is anything to go by, it’s global immigration that is driving Church growth.

          • Uncle Brian

            I know there’s at least one church in London that has a mass in Brazilian Portuguese regularly (though I don’t know whether it’s as often as once a week). Filipinos, I believe, are the most numerous community of Catholic immigrants from outside Europe.

          • Albert

            What surprises me is how many Indians in the UK turn out to be Catholic!

          • dannybhoy

            “Quite, and where the Anglican Communion is doing best is because it has, to some extent imitated Catholicism..”
            The CofE is the black sheep of the Catholic flock…. 😉

          • One of the lost sheep ………..

  • Hi Gillan

    I’m a Jew for Judaism, so I often try and get my secular or OTD Jewish friends to participate and get to know religious Judaism, by inviting them to meals and home events, because the centre of our religion is the home as much as the synagogue. During sukkot I held a fancy dress party, which was lot’s of fun (I dressed as a etrog or what looks like a lemon) and recently we’ve started a campaign to get Jews to celebrate Shabbat meals …an idea that came from south Africa and now has been launched in the UK and US, endorsed by community figures such as the British Ashkenazi chief rabbi and celebrities such as Paula Abdul (who is a sephardi Jew and x factor judge in the US series).

    But anyways Shabbat shalom!

    • dannybhoy

      what does OTD stand for?

      • Hi Danny ,

        Off the derech or off the path (or frum orthodox Jews who have been brought up and stopped being observant or religious). Now I must go as Shabbat is starting and I’m about to light candles, pray and usher in Shabbat! (:

        • Uncle Brian

          “Off the derech.” I knew about Franglais, Spanglish and Japlish, but until now I didn’t know there was such a language as Heblish. Or should that be Engrew?

          Shabat shalom, Hannah! Sof shevuah tov!

          • Hi uncle Brian,

            Google Yeshivish (:

          • Uncle Brian

            Well, well, Hannah. That’s something nayes I’ve learnt bayom. Thank you for that!
            Regards
            Brian

  • Graham Wood

    Revival, or renewal, without reformation is presumptuous. On another blog but related I posted this with reference to the several so called “reform” movements in the C of E.

    Others over the centuries have sought reform, but to no avail and were left with the only option to leave.
    I suggest that unless and until a substantial majority within and outside the formal ministry of the church have their spiritual eyes opened as to the need for structural reform in reality, then nothing will happen.
    Where to begin? As ever of course, with the New Testament, and specifically to a basic reappraisal of the NT’s own doctrine of the church and its function.
    There is no shortage of material both in terms of principle and practice. One can only touch on a few points briefly.
    One priority would be to dismantle entirely the artificial clerical hierarchy structure which acts as ‘glue’ as to how much of the C of E functions so that the existing clergy/laity divide is abolished. The NT knows nothing of such a divide.
    Secondly the shibboleth of ordination, creating a special and professional class who alone largely undertake ministry should also go. (all pay lip service to the priesthood of ALL believers, but it is wholly denied in practice).
    Thirdly, one wonders why the ritualistic “worship service”, institutionalised and stereotyped as uniformly practised should be set in stone? This is so far from both spirit and letter of the NT concept of the church meeting as to be not only an anachronism, but often a real stumbling block for the uninitiated, or unbeliever?
    Real reformation would return to the pattern of the NT of a free, open, and Spirit led meeting in which all had the potential to contribute and multiple ministries as Paul sets out in 1 Corinthian 12-14 and Ephesians 4:1-11 to mention but two of the many similar passages that describe the actual practice of the early churches to which the NT devotes such a major discussion.
    Of course, such steps as outlined for real reform would be so radical and revolutionary as to mean the destruction of the C of E as we know it.
    But then the ‘always reforming’ principle constantly involves the deepest personal or collective sacrifices if the church is to remain the ‘pillar and ground of the truth’

  • disqus_N9Jawtu8Uw

    The CofE could do the really odd thing of believing in Christianity again and the 39 articles (many which point to the truth of Scripture).

    As you said yourself:
    “If there was a secret, it was that we put God first and the young people second. After that came everything else.”

    Around the whole world Churches that believe in Christianity are actually growing.
    Even ACNA, in the USA, is growing whereas TEC is declining. The difference between the two is belief in the Bible.

    Many of the clergy now don’t believe fully in the Bible other than the bits with which they agree and see themselves as religious social workers. Actually clergy should get back to Christianity.

  • Darter Noster

    If I were to dust off my old marketing hat and put it on again, I would first ask for a clear description of what churches are selling. What unique product or service are they asking people to buy into? What are they offering?

    The rock bottom answer is salvation; eternal life in a happy place after death, instead of oblivion or torment. Churches offer a means to achieve that through participation in their rituals, philosophy, or way of life. The bonus offering is a sense of fulfilment, purpose or inner peace in this life. This is a bonus offering because there are potentially other ways to achieve that. The unique selling point of a church, compared to a non-religious organisation, is a happy after-life.

    The next question is who is the target market? The obvious answer is all of humanity, but here we encounter demographic problems. Spirituality, responsiveness to the message of a world beyond the physical, is not evenly distributed, which limits our market from the word go; there are simply some people who we’ll never be able to sell this product to because they do not accept the possibility of the need for it. Age is another issue; young people are always much less likely to be interested in a product whose main benefits appear after death. Life insurance is much better targeted at the over 50s, who can imagine their own death, than the under 30s who can’t, even though in principle they know it to be inevitable.

    • Darter Noster

      Continued due to technical difficulties….

      Then we move on to cultural issues. Whilst a huge number of people in the west profess spirituality, they have little or no brand loyalty. The prevailing culture finds it very difficult to accept that adherence to one brand or another will bring better results; just be a good person generally and the after life will work out ok.

      Against this background the Churches have an enormous problem, because they are offering a product which very few people feel any need to buy into. Were I a marketeer advising churches on whether or not to invest in the western market, I would advise them to concentrate on legacy clients primarily.

      • Nick

        But we’re not salesmen and women. The Sales Boss has gone missing and half of us are losing sales and getting bashed out of the competitive scheme through some kind of weird bonus scheme in which you get some kind of reward for praising the boss no matter what the motive. How are we supposed to share the gospel when environment is so competitive? Half of the sales team don’t even dare to ask for their wages because it might mean some kind of weird punishment.

        The sales team are suffering and demand their wages!

        • Darter Noster

          But that’s exactly what we are, if we consider evangelisation to be important. We have to sell a product in a market which is considerably more hostile than it used to be. Businesses have the ability to adapt their product; religions are much more limited in that respect unless they are willing to ditch much of their former belief. Fortunately, in a radically secular culture most religions can still attract customers by providing an alternative to that culture. The CoE however still sees itself as a monopoly provider, and it has diluted its product until no one is entirely sure what it is anymore. Other religions are not dependent upon numbers in the same way that the CoE is, because the CoE is defending a position as ‘national church’.

          • Nick

            I refer you to Arthur Miller’s work ‘Death of a Salesman’ in which the protagonist is used and abused by a system in which the salesman cannot win. Like Willy Loman I am now going out to plant seeds in the garden under the moonlight because that is where Christianity has pushed me. Goodnight Sir. Please forgive my folly.

          • The “product” actually sells itself through the workings of the Holy Spirit and grace. The “job” of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel and sustain us through its ministry. Apostates in the Church don’t help. However, God still saves who He choses.

          • dannybhoy

            “However, God still saves who He choses..”

            A great and wonderful mystery HJ. God looks into hearts and sees who we really are. Yet we mustn’t be so complacent as to believe He acts without human agency. We in our generation are called to compel them to come in..

            “”Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
            Luke 14:23
            Think back on how the Wesley brothers, George Whitfield and so many other saints down through the ages have preached the Gospel under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and seen the Lord God save whom He chooses..

        • Rasher Bacon

          The Lord giveth, The Lord taketh away.. Then comes the difficult bit – the bit that’s been said through gritted teeth after a bit of swearing, but meant nonetheless…

          Blessed be the name of the Lord.

          He who owns the storehouses of the snow, and knows the number of hairs left on dear Dickie Dawkins’ head.

      • Darter Noster

        Cont again due to technical difficulties

        Those clients are dying off at a worrying rate. The imperatives that drove people to religion in the past, and the nostalgia that they maintain for it, are much weaker.

        The only thing churches can offer that might attract young people in this climate must be new and counter-cultural – different to what is on offer elsewhere.

        As the culture secularises that becomes easier, but the Church of England has a particular difficulty in that is committed to be a monopoly provider. It has particular obligations that other services do not have. It has a potentially huge legacy clientele but it is losing those rapidly.

        How can the Church of England be new and radical without offending its legacy clients or breaching its monopoly provider obligations? I don’t know. That’s why I became a Roman Catholic :o)

  • David

    I watched the video clip and I must confess I did not understand what the very sincere man was saying. He was far from clear, but maybe I am thick.
    The main problem is that not enough of the UK paid clergy are fully 39 Articles believing Anglican Christians. In those parts of the Commonwealth, and the US, where the reformed, orthodox Anglican faith is believed, the denomination grows steadily. You have to believe in the faith if it is to be grown.
    The successful, steadily growing parts of Anglicanism in England are the churches that practise full-on orthodox, protestant Anglicanism complete with The 39 Articles. Anglicanism will survive, but only because those who follow the full faith pass it on. The large liberal section will decline, because they believe not. It is not that difficult to understand what is happening, if you have an orthodox Anglican faith.

    • Many Episcopalians and growing numbers of Anglicans are actually Arians these days.

  • sarky

    The problem is the c of e is like a football team that has been the home team for many years with the crowd just turning up. All of a sudden Its become theaway team and the crowd just arent following it any more. I just think that traditional worship has had its day. Christianity has had 2000 years to get it right and has totally blown it. Prehaps its time something else had a shot.

  • At a recent diocesan conference I answered this question with ‘prayer on the streets’ and ‘renewed confidence in the 7 sacraments’. At heart biblical, catholic & charismatic faith demands life changing encounter with God.

    Do some in the CofE resist this? Clergy? Laity? Congregations? Bishops? Perhaps.

  • Jack has been searching for a creedal statement of Vineyard churches and cannot find one – anywhere. How do they approach the ‘divisive’ moral issues of our times with young people?

    • I went to a local Vineyard church a few times and they seemed big on welcome and worship, light on doctrine. But that is a view based on little research. Didn’t feel it was for me.

    • dannybhoy

      Jack they don’t. They address the need for salvation and apparently it works.
      Here’s one vineyard church we have visited..
      http://www.thevineyardchurch.co.uk/
      Here’s a link to their core beliefs..
      http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/about/what-we-believe

      • Albert

        How can you address sin without addressing moral issues? And if you do not address sin, how can you offer salvation?

        • dannybhoy

          Albert,
          Where did you read that they don’t address moral issues or sin??

          • Albert

            Where did you read that they don’t address moral issues or sin??

            Well, Jack said,

            How do they approach the ‘divisive’ moral issues of our times with young people?

            And you replied

            Jack they don’t.

            Is my comment so unreasonable?

          • dannybhoy

            Who said anything about unreasonable? It was perfectly valid.
            Happy Jack said…
            “Jack has been searching for a creedal statement of Vineyard churches and cannot find one – anywhere. How do they approach the ‘divisive’ moral issues of our times with young people?”
            My response to HJ was a bit quick granted, but I had in my mind that he is an intelligent and skilled scholarly type. Most young people would probably not think too much about the divisive moral issues, but they would understand depression and broken relationships and disillusionment.
            So apologies Albert, and Jack if I misrepresented your views.

          • Albert

            No problem at all. I was just puzzled, that’s all!

          • dannybhoy

            Thank you Albert!

          • ” …. but I had in my mind that he (Happy Jack) is an intelligent and skilled scholarly type.”

            Oh he is; he is. Ask the long-term regulars here.

            Jack has been reading those links and assorted information. Vineyard seems to be a hybrid Evangelical/Pentecostal movement and reaches out with the message of the Gospel.

            Fine. Then what? Jack has considerable scepticism about the long tern sustainability of a faith that lacks a clearly stated doctrine and a clear position on what turning away from sin and turning to Christ means.

          • dannybhoy

            “Fine. Then what? After the initial ‘hook’, then what? Jack has
            considerable scepticism about the long tern sustainability of a faith
            that lacks a clearly stated doctrine and a clear position on what
            turning away from sin and turning to Christ means in the Year of Our
            Lord 2014.”

            Well then perhaps as is the way of these things many will drift to other churches, perhaps more traditional denominations, perhaps not.
            As I recall, the Holy Spirit greatly used Billy Graham to bring thousands to Christ through his preaching. He didn’t form a church for these new converts, they were funnelled back into the established churches. Many are still around, still loving and serving the Lord.
            After various forms of Christian full time service, working with Christians from other backgrounds and then baptist. methodist and ‘house churches’ I never expected to end up back in a Church of England setting; but I believe it’s where I’m supposed to be for now.
            It’s the relationship that’s important, surely? The theological stuff comes along in its own good time and causes us to re-think our understanding on variuos issues. Yet it’s not correction of doctrine or theological soundness that touches peoples’ lives; it’s God’s love and the conviction of His Holy Spirit moving through us.
            Doncha think?

          • Jack does think and he agrees.
            However. There always is one Jack. Have you noticed?
            However, to stay grounded in our faith and grow, we need solid meat after the initial milk, as Saint Paul says. And its not good to drift around between churches. We are called to community and group living and worship.

          • dannybhoy

            ” And its not good to drift around between churches…”
            “This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?”
            “All these calls to go back to the simplicity of first century
            Christianity, overlooks he fact we cannot throw out 2000 years of growth
            and development of both liturgy, theology and morality.”

            Au contraire Rodney, au contraire.. 🙂
            (I feel a Del and Rodney moment coming on…)

            Most Christians, in fact the vast majority don’t “drift.”

            We both agree that sanctification is an ongoing process. That it begins when we receive salvation and the Holy Spirit begins that work within our innermost being.

            So in the beginning we are indeed being fed milk, in the sheer joy and newness of our “rebirth” we accept uncritically what we are taught.

            As spiritual children we begin our growth, from baby to toddler to infant to child to teen etc etc. In that process we will change our understanding, we will be challenged in our beliefs, and personal events will quite likely knock us sideways in our faith.

            Then of course all churches change. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes big. So everything is to a greater or smaller degree, in flux.
            So let’s put that one to bed.We must accept that “He who has begun a good work in you will continue it until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
            Philippians 1:6

            Then Pope Benedict:
            “This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?”

            It is saying the God reaches out to the lost through whichever human agency is available to the Holy Spirit to move through.
            End of.
            I mentioned Billy Graham; greatly used by God to bring people into the Kingdom. A lovely humble man, called as an evangelist. His ministry fed into the existing churches because at that time many of them were still Bible centred and believed in evangelism.
            Perhaps whilst established churches are repositories of wisdom and sound doctrine, the flip side could be that they end up worshipping the structure and thus restricting the free movement of the Holy Spirit? We humans like stability and predictabilty. We can’t cope with continuous excitement and upheaval, so perhaps that’s why the Holy Spirit gives some as teachers, pastors, prophets and evangelists?

            Perhaps that’s one of the lessons of the seven churches of Revelation, that we (all Churches and Christians) can fall into complacency, legalism, pride and error?

  • Shadrach Fire

    Gillan,

    To my mind this an excellent article. Plain speaking and no philosophical clap trap.

    Bishop Julian Henderson suggests the Diocese should “unashamedly seek to bring others to faith in Christ”. Well there’s a radical thought for the CofE. Unfortunately it has confounded itself by an overbearing organisation where life has been extinguished from it soul.
    It is encouraging to see churches such as this Vineyard Church in Colerain seemingly succeed like the Hillsong Churches around the world. However I am anxious that popularism is not necessarily a guide as to the validity of the quality of the believers. Just as Gay Churches become popular, does not mean they are right and true. Unfortunately such growth can give a wrong signal to others.
    The Scripture tells us that we are Co Workers with God and as such we must do that which we are told to do by the Father and then he will do his part.

  • “If this is man’s design or man’s undertaking, it will be overthrown; if it is God’s, you will have no power to overthrow it.”

  • Mrs Goggins

    A thought provoking article. Thank you.

    I ask myself why not allow the Church of England to thin down. It seems to me far too top heavy with bishops and archdeacons and the like and to keep such a top heavy creaking ship going needs too much internal energy, it is debilitating.

    I also can’t help thinking people involved with church growth are not united in their vision or purpose. What is the purpose of increasing the church? Should the church grow because the aim is to make every a Christian? Or do we just want more churchgoers? Or just a certain number more committed christians? Or is it because we’ve a costly insititution and we need more people so they can give and keep it going?

    But then isn’t the Church meant to be like yeast – and I’d not want too much of that in my bread!

  • I don’t think there is a formula for church growth that we can say will work if implemented. We ought to be faithful, penitent, bold, generous, engaged and diligent but that can’t guarantee success.
    Read the book of Acts.
    Certainly though I and half a dozen other Evangelicals have left my local Anglican church to attend other churches where there was lively contemporary worship and more biblical teaching. And my FIEC affiliated reformed bible centred church is growing.

  • Albert

    I’m just looking at these figures now, and they make interesting reading. The CofE figures have dropped by more than half (64.5% in 1963 to 31.1% now). The Catholic figures have actually gone up (8.6% in 1963 to 9.1% now). Perhaps most interesting though is the ages of members. 46.4% of Anglicans were aged 65-74 years and only 14.2% were 18-24, while in the Catholic Church the proportion of Catholics is steady across the entire age ranges (about 8.5 for each).

    • sarky

      Whats even more interesting is that once you take cultural christians out of the equation, the percentage of regular churchgoing christians is at 4%. Not looking good is it???

      • Albert

        How are you defining “cultural Christians” and how do you know the figure is 4%? I’m just not sure what you are getting at.

        • sarky

          By cultural christians I mean people who identify themselves as christian, but only go near a church for weddings and funerals. The figure of 4% comes from a study a couple of years ago that looked at actual church attendance. The point I’m trying to make is that the outlook is a lot bleaker and that the figure quoted of 48% is misleading. If 48% of the population attended church, we wouldnt be having this conversation.

          • Albert

            This is true, although the 4% figure is perhaps too low. Wikipedia cites figures of weekly attendance from between 4%-12% depending on the page. Although I think a Christian should be in Church every week, I don’t think someone who attends only once a fortnight or once a month can really be described as non-practising. Moreover, older people often can’t get to Church – it only needs to be icy for them to stay at home, and younger people often have jobs which simply prevent them attending when they would like to.

            But even if we say only 6% of people attend Church (the 4% is a projection of where things will be in 2020), that still means 3.8 million people are in Church every week. Compare that with football attendance of only about 850000 per week. Compare it again with the number of people in the local political parties and you find the latter are dwarfed by Christian observance (despite the fact that to be a member of a party all you need to do is send off a cheque and never attend anything). And if all Christians attended as Catholics do (who make up the largest Church attendance in the UK, despite having less than half the membership of the CofE), then Christian attendance in the UK would look a whole lot more healthy.

            But what I am not saying is that there is no problem. I am just saying that in a disparate and fractured society, Christianity, even measured only as weekly practising, is still the single strongest cultural practice in the UK – probably by a long way. Threw in all the other religions, and you can only conclude that, despite all the propaganda, and the laziness, things aren’t looking that good for secularism.

          • sarky

            Sorry??? With secularists at around a min of 25 million and growing, Its definately not secularism thats not looking good. To put it in perspective 3 times as many people listen to Chris Evans every week than go to church. You have to get your head out of the sand, christianity is dying and its on your watch!!!

          • Albert

            What is secularism in this claim? If you say it is how people self-identify, then you would have to beef up the religious people as well, as those who self-identify as religious. 33% of people in the UK say religion plays an important part in their lives. In contrast only 8% say they are atheists, while 34% of people believe in a deity and 19% pray every day.

            But this is well away from your original position, which was to do with religious practice. Sure, Christian practice is low, but it is higher than any other kind practice in the country – hence the comparison that is needed is with other activities.

            Moreover, our culture currently supports secularism, and yet it is still utterly failing to vanquish religion. Secularism claims to be to our culture what Catholicism was to Medieval Europe. Do you seriously think Catholicism was ever as unsuccessful as secularism is here and now?When the culture changes (and it will eventually), then who knows what will happen next. One thing is certain: when secularism is rejected as the tired, vacuous, often self-contradictory default position of the complacent, Christianity will be here still, still preaching the same Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

            And as for it being my watch, that’s not really true either. It is the CofE that has taken responsibility for this country. If Protestants attended Church at the rate that Catholics do, this discussion would be very different. On the other hand, it is very hard for Catholicism to make much of an evangelistic impact in this country because of all the years of persecution and prejudice. Amazingly, your average Englishman thinks Catholicism is something foreign!

          • sarky

            I wouldn’t get too smug about catholicism, if it wasnt for the influx of eastern europeans you would be in the same position as the c of e.
            As for secularism being rejected, I dont see it. People have looked at christianity and it is christianity that has been rejected. I agree that It will probably survive in some form, but will be just another minority religion.
            People do seem to be more spiritual, as you suggest, but have rejected the judeo christian religions in favour of new age and paganism.
            I just dont see how christianity can remain as a force in the uk without ripping up the rule book and starting again.

          • Albert

            I wasn’t being smug, just realistic. The reality is that, even among non-immigrants, Catholics go to Mass much more than Anglicans go to church. Besides, as I have pointed out already, the strength of the Catholic Church is that it is Catholic – so having our numbers filled up by foreigners is not something foreign to the Church. It is, rather, of the essence of the Church.

            As for secularism being rejected, I dont see it.

            Not at the moment, may be. But I didn’t claim that. You don’t seriously think that secularism will last for ever do you? Learn the lessons of history. Who in the years running up to the Protestant Reformation would have thought that the Catholic world would collapse in so many of its strongholds? Again, before the French Revolution, who would have thought that what was perceived to be the natural order would collapse in such a short period of time?

            Secularist smugness is like Communist smugness. Weirdly, the non-religious mind has kept the sense of progress and hope that only makes sense on a religious world-view. Hence, 30 years ago, there were still plenty of people in the West and East who thought that some kind of world socialist revolution was an inevitability brought about by some absolute law of nature (even while they denied there were absolutes!). Yet, where is the Communist empire now? If you had lived in Germany during WWI, witnessed the Bolshevik revolution there and then seen Germany repeatedly move towards Communism, you might have bought into the Communist view of inevitability. Fast forward to the war and the collapse of Nazi Germany before the Communist onslaught, and you would have found yourself powerless to stop it. It was all inevitable, gravity itself seemed to be pulling towards communism and it was all going to last for ever. But it didn’t.

            Secularism will not last longer than the money lasts. Even a half-wit can see consumerism, its only remedy for the human condition does not really remedy the human condition. How can it last once the money stops making consumerism an option?

            Empires rise and fall. Ideologies come and go. The idea that secularism, which is so intellectually weak and lacking in content, will be the exception is naive in the extreme.

          • Just keep an eye on creeping Arianism and Deism – the *New Religion*. These forces have been around since before Christianity and regained a foothold during the Enlightenment. Wedded to global capitalism and the world’s financial systems, they are arguably more threatening than secularism.

          • Albert

            I’m not sure why you say Arianism?

          • De-throne Jesus as God incarnate and he becomes a human prophet – a ‘wise man’ rather than a Person of the Triune God. Scripture then becomes myth and allegory, along with other holy texts from different faith systems. It’s a short step from then saying Christianity was *invented* after His death by Saul of Tarsus.

          • Albert

            Yes, sure. I was confused by you saying it had been around from before Christianity. Within Christianity, Nestorianism is a problem, too. It allows the reduction of Jesus, while maintaining the Trinity, so it appear orthodox.

          • Nestorianism, along with Manichaeism, damaged the growth of Christianity throughout Asia. Islam and Buddhism benefited, as did Hinduism.

            “If only ….. “ Then, that’s the way God permitted man to go. And now all these world views are coming back to haunt the Western Church.

            How Satan must hate the Roman Catholic Church for standing against all these man made faith systems. Long may the Church remain orthodox.

          • Albert

            I sometimes think all heresy is a form of manichaeism. It is the denial of the possibility of reconciling God and man. Even modern liberalism is based on a depressingly despairing view of humanity. In the end, it denies that grace can make man transcend his condition.

  • The Church of England doesn’t have a prayer – quite literally. It has steadily abandoned Christian doctrine and moral teaching, and has spent forty years alienating its churchgoing core with nonsense like “The Myth of God Incarnate”, women clergy and now gay bishops. Sadly it is incapable of reforming itself, as the lunatics are in firm control of the asylum.

    • steroflex

      Love the letter “n” well done!

  • James

    The problem is of course being hectored by dykes and queers. No one in their right mind is going to subject themselves to the indignity.

    • steroflex

      Unpopular idea this. But I could not agree more.

      Here is a golden rule which we disregard at our peril:
      Men are the best.
      Boys drive out men.
      Girls drive out boys.
      Grannies drive out everybody.

  • magnolia

    It has become my sad awareness that not all of the heirarchy WANT the church to grow. One diocesan Bishop even reportedly advised his clergy to go “failing onwards”. What possessed him? God only knows…..

    I

    • dannybhoy

      I offer this as a kind of off centre explanation towards the lack of growth of Christianity in the UK, and to further bolster my belief that young people are not won to faith by doctrine or liturgy. It’s something much more elemental than that..

      “Because, for all the awesome social services and consumer goods it can offer, Europe has become incapable of endowing the lives of its citizens, Muslim or not, with meaning. A generation of young European Muslims are giving up their relatively easy lives in Malmö, Marseilles, and Manchester for the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, because Europe is devoid of values worth living—or dying—for. They are leaving for the same reason that Europe’s Jews are moving to Israel: Strength and a sense of purpose can be found elsewhere, whether it’s ISIS, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khameni, or the IDF.”

      Granted that the article is not related directly to Christianity but what it is pointing out is that young people look for meaning and purpose.

      You can read the rest of the article here…

      http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/186397/teenage-girls-europe-isis?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=13fceabab3-Sunday_October_26_201410_24_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-13fceabab3-207200397

  • A recent report suggests some of what’s going wrong with the Christian Church Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, delivered a speech on October 21st to faculty and students of Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome.

    He said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.”
    He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church’s size or power but to “share the joy of knowing Christ.”

    This is the critical part:

    “Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace? ….

    “The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

    “It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine.”

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/3466/pope_emeritus_benedict_xvi_dialogue_cannot_substitute_for_mission.aspx

  • The first thing to note is that we have been living through the greatest worldwide expansion of Christianity that the world has ever seen. In China and India, Nepal and Mongolia, many parts of Africa and in South America, evangelical Christianity is moving forward by leaps and bounds. In Iran, where there were no more than 50evangelicals living when the Shah was deposed, there are now more than 100,000 despite the most vicious persecution. Even in France, where there were no more than 5,000 Protestants 30 years ago, there are now around a quarter of a million.
    So we can say with the prophet, ‘Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear……..’ (Isaiah 59:1). So what’s the problem? ‘…..But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear, for your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does anyone plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity’ (vs. 2-4).
    If we believe that God is dead, then we should certainly be discussing how we can market Christianity better and make our churches more ‘user-friendly,’ but if we believe that God is still very much alive and still rules over the affairs of men, then we need to think very differently. The call must be for repentance; if judgement must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), then the true churches should be coming together to pray for God to forgive the sins of the nation and to revive us once more (Psalm 80). If one considers some of the great prayers in the Old Testament such as Ezra 9, Nehemiah 1 and Daniel 9, these men first of all acknowledged and bewailed the sins of the nation, and then reminded God of His covenant promises before laying the situation before Him and beseeching His aid.
    Until we have done this, anything else is going to be wasted effort (cf. Numbers 14:39-45).
    The second thing is that Bible-believing Christians need to separate from the others (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). The Churches Together movement is a snare and a trap and inevitably leads to a feeble, milquetoast version of Christianity which God will not bless. There are some Anglican churches that are large, vibrant and growing; almost invariably they are evangelical. They need to separate from the Church of England which is bleeding them dry to support its failed and apostate structures. Bible-believing churches among the Methodists, U.R.C. and the Baptist Union also need to separate from their liberal, unbelieving denominations. In short, we need a new Reformation- a turning back to the word of God and a re-statement of the principles of the first Reformers: Christ alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone.

    • Uncle Brian

      Martin, I think you underestimate the recent growth of Christianity around the world. In South Korea, for instance, where the first missionaries arrived barely two hundred years ago, over a quarter of the 50 million inhabitants now identify themselves as Christian: 8 million Protestants, or 17 percent, and 5 million Catholics, 10 percent. Korea, however, is by no means typical of Asia as whole. The figures there are in sharp contrast with the situation in Japan, where European missionaries arrived much earlier – nearly five hundred years ago, in 1549 – but where the total number of Christians, Protestants plus Catholics, remains stuck at around 1 million, or less than 1 percent of the 128 million population.

      http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350817?eng=y

    • You got it Martin! I had 3 evangelical students from my new Reformed FIEC church round for lunch yesterday and was asked to explain Anglicanism to an Austrian. Wasn’t easy!

  • CliveM

    I think we all need to take a serious look at what is happening with Church attendance in the whole of the UK. Although individual Churches seem to do well, the trend amongst the indigenous population (for the lack of a better description) is declining attendance amongst all denomination. I suspect that even those Churches doing well are simply attracting those who either already go to Church or those closely connected to a church already. How much significant headway is any Church making amongst those with no Church connection?
    I hope the CofE does recover and start to grow (I say that as a Prespyterian!) and that we see growth from all Churches. I want more people turning again towards God.

    • dannybhoy

      Clive,
      I agree. Maybe it is because Christianity is currently seen as both defeated by the theory of evolution, sidelined by consumerism and pop culture and unnecessary in a secure stable culture where most needs are met?
      That link I gave about young Muslims looking for a cause, a challenge, and an identity may equally apply to our own young. Maybe they see the Church as for fuddy duddies and wimpy people?

      • CliveM

        Hi Dannyboy

        Their almost seems to be glee at the problems facing the CofE. I’m not sure if any of the Churches are in a position to laugh and point when Christianity in this country is in such a poor position. We should all be striving harder for the kingdom.

        • dannybhoy

          Hello Clive,
          The thing that has to be avoided -and Lord, don’t let me be guilty of it – is to judge another, or other churches. We are all the Body of Christ and none of us should gloat or feel superior over the other, should we? It’s all about helping, encouraging and being aware of our own weaknesses.
          What kind of Presbyterian are you Clive? I mean Scots or Irish or what?
          Just being nosey… 😉

          • CliveM

            Gloating is bad enough if you have something to gloat about. You look rediculous if you don’t have anything to gloat about but do! I agree we have enough ‘enemies’ in the world without making enemies of our friends.

            What sort of Prespyterian am I? A bad one! (But I am a Scot, now living in the SW).

          • dannybhoy

            “But I am a Scot, now living in the SW).”

            On the run, huh?
            Goodnight.

          • CliveM

            Goodnight

      • CliveM

        When people say evolution has defeated Christianity it is because they understand neither science or faith.

        • Tokyo Nambu

          But many churches either demand that faith requires a rejection of evolution, or are insufficient clear that they do not think this (ie, they cede the narrative to the fundamentalists). That way lies extinction: there are not enough young-earth creationists, or people likely to become young-earth creationists, to operate a small cult, never mind a national church.

          And of course, the elephant in the room is homophobia. Just as churches are largely either YEC or unwilling to confront YECs, they are mostly either homophobic or unwilling to confront homophobia. The Church of England resisted same-sex marriage tooth and nail, and is now fighting a doomed rear-guard action; most other denominations are in a similar position. The number of people under forty willing to sign up to an openly or covertly homophobic organisation, causing all those around them to see them as homophobes, is small.

          If Christianity wants to survive, it needs to show there is a place for people who are not anti-intellectual, anti-science bigots. At the moment, the large majority of Christians who are not anti-intellectual, anti-science bigots are unwilling to confront their fellow Christians who are, so outsiders get the wrong impression.

          • CliveM

            Hi Tokyo Nambu

            You make two interesting posts. I was deliberately ambiguous with regards my own position on evolution as I didn’t want the discussion to be hijacked into an argument about it. I believe in evolution and I do share your concern that certain Churches risk vein seen as anti science and intellectualism. Indeed some are.

            With regards homophobia and your comments on the CofE’s position, your perception is interesting as their are several on this site who think the exact opposite ie they didn’t fight hard enough. Sadly homosexuality is one of those issues that causes great hurt on both sides of the argument and people seem unable to debate the issue charitably. I hate a lot if the language used, although I am quite traditional in my views. I tend not to get involved in those discussions as more heat then light is generated. I also think their is a tendency to see gays as somehow the other. They aren’t, we are all Gods children.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            “there are several on this site who think the exact opposite ie they didn’t fight hard enough.”

            It wouldn’t have mattered how hard they fought, the outcome would have been precisely the same: civil same-sex marriage, with exemptions for religious organisations. Imagine you are the head of every major UK Christian denomination rolled into one person, and have the power to speak ex cathaedra on behalf of all of them: how do you see the outcome of the debate being different? This isn’t a comment about the language, ideology or policy, this is a comment about realpolitik: that legislation was going to be passed whatever the churches did.

          • CliveM

            Well yes I think the political establishment had agreed on the inevitability of the outcome on this issue. However from a point of principle, just because something seems inevitable, if you fundamentally disagree it is right you register your dissent. Provided it is done in the proper manner.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            I don’t think anyone was left in any doubt as to the position held by many conservative Christians.

            Do you seriously think that had they shouted louder and more unpleasant abuse at homosexuals it would have made the churches more popular? That there’s an untapped well of people whose main reason for remaining outside organised Christianity is that it is insufficiently harsh to homosexuals? It’s a theory, I suppose.

          • CliveM

            Its maybe my inability to explain, but I am certainly NOT saying that the Churches should have been more unpleasant or if they had been it would have worked. In fact I thought I had said that the language by many Christians was uncharitable enough already.

            I have re-read what I said. I don’t think what appears to be your understanding of it is accurate.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            OK, so shouting abuse wouldn’t be on your agendfa. So what are you proposing? Welby spoke against the bill, and voted against it. He then found that he had (for practical purposes) no support and abstained from then on, as I recall. What do you propose he should have done instead? Continued to vote against it? OK, but aside from those who read Lord Hansard voting lists, who would have known, never mind cared?

          • CliveM

            I said some on this site felt Welby and the CofE didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t say I felt that. I don’t. I believe the CofE stated their position adequately and fairly. I also said I feel this debate generates more heat then light, as people get very emotional about the issue.

            I feel that more then ever. Please consider what I am saying. Not what you think I have said.

          • There also needs to be a place where people who disagree with you aren’t told they are homophobic, anti-science bigots.

          • dannybhoy

            Why do you think Christians are anti intellectual or anti science bigots?
            There are plenty of men of science who believe in God, there are Christians in every field of human endeavour. In fact most Christians I know are intelligent and willing to discuss the important issues.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            I don’t. As I wrote “the large majority of Christians who are not anti-intellectual, anti-science bigots”.

            But I went on to say:

            ” are unwilling to confront their fellow Christians who are, so outsiders get the wrong impression.”

            YEC Christians are vanishingly rare. But if you ask the man in the street to state the positions of the mainstream churches, they will often say “YEC” (well, not those three letters, but “creationists”). No mainstream denomination is YEC, or anything remotely close to it. But because of a reluctance to criticise fellow Christians, that’s not getting across, and Dawkins’ (et al’s) ludicrous broad-brush accusations get a lot of traction.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes, apologies TN, I misread your sentence.
            I was brought up on a six day creation model, and perhaps because Christianity still exerted a strong influence on society few people I mixed with questioned it.
            Now?
            I believe more in adaptability and Creation, not abiogenesis oe evolution. Six literal days?
            Dunno.
            God most certainly could create the cosmos in the blink of an eye, and actually as far as I understand it there was no time anyway before creation..
            Perhaps the six day thing isn’t as important as the creation of man?
            The reason I don’t accept evolution (apart from all the sneaky references to “life overcoming” and ‘nature finding a way..”)
            is because if man is just the end result of genetic mutations in a cosmic “Alice in Wonderland freakcident”, then there is no sin, no need of salvation and no need of a Saviour Jesus born of Mary and the Holy Spirit.

      • sarky

        You may have hit on something in your last sentence. The church hardly projects itself as a strong institution, in fact it seems to have become more and more feminised in recent times. All this happy clappy love stuff is incredibly off putting and dare I say it, cringy to the majority of people. Also the churches response to events is always with a wimper not a roar. The church needs strong role models that appeal to the larger population, role models that are currently non existent.

        • dannybhoy

          I suppose it all goes back to our understanding of what the Lord Jesus in His humanity was like.
          The Victorian portrayal of Him as a rather pale (white?) young man, gentle and sensitive, does not to my mind fit the description painted in the Gospels. Nor indeed the disciples. In fact you could almost see them as a bunch of rugby union supporters off to a match..
          The point being that they were men and all that men often are. Loud, prone to bragging, awkward where emotion is involved, occasionally brave, often nervous or afraid.
          The sort of blokes you might meet on a building site. I bet they laughed together and pulled each other’s legs.
          And they loved their leader, their rabbi Yeshua HaMeshiach.

          This manliness is not un Christian. American Christians are well represented in sport , the police, fire service and the military. Billy Graham of course. General Sir Richard Dannatt another.
          Our own General Booth was manly. Jason Robinson, a Chrstian who played for England is manly. We are drawn to ‘manly’ men.
          It’s not that gentle men are ‘non men’ but I don’t see them exhibiting the leadership qualities one would associate with our Lord. He could be gentle, he treated women with courtesy and dignity, he loved children.
          I doubt any who heard Him take on those who opposed Him or the traders whose tables He overturned by the temple saw Him as anything other than a real man.

          • sarky

            Your right, but this is not the image christianty projects. Lets be honest, the lamb of god is hardly a macho tag is it. We live in a tough world where weakness is dismissed, hence christianity is dismissed. In the UK I cant think of one ‘relevent’ christian on tv, in music, or in sport. The only one was Jonathan Edwards but even he has now come out as an atheist. People dont want to be associated with christianity because its career suicide, they would rather come out as gay than a christian.

          • Albert

            In fact at times you could almost see them as a bunch of rugby union supporters off to a match..

            Jesus was a Northerner and we know his disciples spoke with a Northern accent. I like to think of him as a scouser or a geordie.

          • CliveM

            How about a Dundonian accent! That’s Northern.

          • Albert

            I’m just wondering if that would make him a Samaritan!

          • CliveM

            LOL!

          • dannybhoy

            My heritage is Geordie and I love Scouse humour.
            The first time I ever saw the man in the shroud of Turin, I thought,
            “Yes, that could be the face of the Lord Jesus Christ..”
            I found it very compelling. But of course we don’t know what He looks like yet.

          • CliveM

            I think one of the problem in the UK is that the strong man is also seen to be a drinker and a fighter. Loud, rude and unpleasant! It shouldn’t need to be like that and needs to be reclaimed. But their is a lads mags culture to manliness currently.

          • dannybhoy

            Clive I think that’s an immature view that is an inevitable result of failing family structures where a boy loses a positive role model (or mole roddle if you prefer).
            There are no perfect men.
            Ask your Missus..
            Christ Jesus is the role model for us redeemed males.

            My own observation of my sex (i.e. me), is that men tend to be more selfish than women, put their own needs and interests first, and we tend to overestimate our own importance in the scheme of things…. 🙂
            We could of course take a look at feminine characteristics, but that’s not what this is about.
            A man needs to be willing to lead, to set an example, to delegate and to praise. Most of all though to support and be there for his wife (if he has one. Dunno how it works with concubines.)

          • CliveM

            My missus thinks I epitomise manliness!! :)))

            As I said a proper image of manliness needs to be reclaimed.

          • dannybhoy

            “My missus thinks I epitomise manliness!! :)))”

            Most women are prepared to make the best of a bad lot Clive. Where would us men be without our wives?

          • CliveM

            She has a lot to put up with! Mainly she says this site!!

          • dannybhoy

            I think our ladies take it as an insult when we do more blogging than talking..
            Which is fair enough, kinda..
            As I get older I seem to suffer more and more from selective deafness.. 🙂

        • Albert

          One only needs to look at the popularity of UKIP and Nigel Farage to see the truth of what you say. Sometimes taking a strong line on things is attractive, especially if you do so in a counter-cultural way.

    • Albert

      I think we have to realize that the culture is against us for now. The crucial thing is to remain faithful in this time of (not terribly painful) testing. The culture will turn, at an hour we do not expect. We need to be ready. That means being robust in our faith and not allowing it to be watered down. He who marries the spirit of the age becomes a widow in the next, as the saying goes. This secular era will pass away, and when it does, we need to show we opposed it.

      • CliveM

        Albert

        I agree. I also agree with your comment re the testing. I think we have to keep perspective on this. Christians in Mosul are persecuted, we are merely inconvenienced (at worst).
        We need to keep faith, otherwise what God is it we worship?

  • steroflex

    OK so I am number 155 and nobody will read this.
    Ours is a Catholic Church in a run down town in the Fens.
    We had a Sikh priest who, single handedly built our Parish hall into a Gurdwara – which he named after Rosmini the founder of his order.
    We welcome everyone. We have a Rape Crisis Group. We have lots of County People Discussing Serious Matters. We even have Social Workers and Trades Union Officials.
    But we offer the place for anyone – drunk Russians, mad Africans, people “sleeping city” who have been thrown out of the Christian Centre for the Demon Drink. We are a home for anyone who cares to turn up. Marvellous fun it is too. I love it. The Direktorka (Manager) scrabbles round for money and we have a complete staff of Baltic people.
    Quite a few come to Church, and of course, there is a nucleus of hard core Church people who do the boring bits.
    It is a real privilege to be working in a place where God actually comes first – but do you know what – is rarely mentioned!

    • Albert

      I read it! And I’m a bit confused about the Sikh priest in a Catholic Church who was a Rosminian and turned the hall into a Gurdwara. I’d love to know more!

      • Uncle Brian

        Me too. Isn’t Sikhism a religion? Was the priest an ex-Sikh? Or does “Once a Sikh, always a Sikh” apply?

        • Blessed Antonio Rosmini-Serbati was an Italian Roman Catholic priest and philosopher. In 1998 he was named by Saint Pope John Paul II as one of the greater Christian thinkers. He was beatified by Pope Benedict on 18 November 2007.

          Originally his writings were placed on the Index and in 1887 however, Leo XIII condemned forty of Rosmini’s propositions.

          From what Jack can detect, the centre in Wisbech is a charitable community centre. The members of the religious community, the Institute of Charity, might be priests or laymen, who devote themselves to preaching, education, and works of universal charity – material, spiritual and intellectual.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Would that be Grunty Fen? A strange place indeed…

          • Yes, indeed. Jack hears there’s a chap there named Dennis who lives with his grandma in a converted railway carriage.

          • Albert

            Thanks Happy Jack. Where did the Sikhism come in?!

          • Now that remains a mystery ….

      • Albert – see my answer to Uncle Brian below.

    • dannybhoy

      I read it. You mean God is rarely mentioned or your place of worship is rarely mentioned?
      What are the boring bits anway?

  • SidneyDeane

    Ah youve got no chance of reviving the CofE lol. God has stopped revealing himself to people. (Except, oddly, the children of existing CofE members). God has thrown in the towel. haha.
    “Bishop Julian is right to focus on the young…”
    Why is that Gillian?
    And why should the inevitable extincion of the CofE be prevented? You make no case for it to be so.
    Your article paints religion exactly as it is and has been over history: a constant popularity contest

  • SidneyDeane

    Have you ever stopped and thought that with better access to information and an age where atheists are no longer silenced people have just come to consider that the church’s claims are bogus and that the theory of evolution provides a far better and, crucially, evidenced explanation of how we came to be here as humans?
    Churches don’t actually offer an explanation. You offer a story. You relate passages or sermons or cherry pick maxims and examples of morality and just expect people to simply take them at your word. You never touch on why anyone should take anything youve said seriously. Even kids are becoming too smart for that. And thats when you know (don’t you Gillian), that you truly are f***ed when it comes to saving the Church.
    If you want to survive you need to come up with a credible narrative.

    • Albert

      Evolution is not the property of atheism – Darwin himself ended up proclaiming himself a theist. Moreover, atheism cannot provide any proper explanation, since to do so would be to find a cause or explanation for the universe – one that would be sufficient to terminate the series of questions (what caused that then?). This cannot be done. An atheist is likely simply to reply with Russell “The universe is just there, that is all.” To which the theist will (once he’s stopped laughing) ask “How do you know? and do you really expect me to believe that is an explanation?” If you cannot explain the universe, it is a feeble explanation appealing to science.

      • Tokyo Nambu

        The problem with these allegedly unanswerable cases for theism is that no-one apart from the already believing takes them seriously. You’re left agreeing with your friends about how compelling your case is, while around you no-one else is convinced.

        • Albert

          I didn’t say it was unanswerable, I said that atheism cannot provide an answer. On the other hand, I would point out that Anthony Flew was the most important atheist philosopher of religion in the second half of the 20th Century. He devoted his life to answering arguments for the existence of God. Eventually, he came to the realisation that he had misunderstood some of those arguments and accepted that God does exist. For the most part, atheists do not respond to the arguments themselves, but to what they think are the arguments.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            “I said that atheism cannot provide an answer.”

            I’m not sure it sets out to provide one. Oh, actually, I am: it doesn’t set out to provide one. Atheism holds that God does not exist (or, equivalently, that there is no evidence that God exists). That’s it. Simply accusing it of sophism gets you nowhere, because precisely the same arguments can be used against theists.

            “Anthony Flew was the most important atheist philosopher of religion”. He was, but by the time you write of he was a man in his eighties, with no scientific background or training, who had been taken taken in by the charlatanism of “intelligent design”. Again, it’s an argument that works only in an echo chamber: whatever Flew’s earlier work might have been, any argument of the form “intelligent design is good and competent science, therefore there is a god” inevitably fails in its own terms, because “intelligent design” is laughable nonsense. He account is essentially an upmarket version of that presented in Kitzmiller v Dover Board of Education, with longer words reflecting his intellect, but just as factually and scientifically hollow.

            What you’re repeatedly doing is the “how theists don’t win arguments”. You reframe the issue (about providing answers, for example, when what you are criticising doesn’t set out to do it) and then produce “authorities”, and sit back and wait for the applause. It’s simply not a workable line of argument. Earlier work doesn’t make you right: Einstein was a great physicist, but his rejection of quantum theory was wholly and entirely wrong; Shockley was completely wrong about race; Pauling was completely wrong about Vitamin C. At a less exalted level, Susan Greenfield has published good work in her youth, but her current writing on the Internet is junk, and Dawkins did important work in biology but is now a self-regarding blowhard. Someone once said that all political careers end in failure; sadly, too many academic ones do as well.

          • SidneyDeane

            Spot on.
            Sadly, you’ll never change them on here. He’ll just go and repeat that same nonsense in another thread in a few weeks time.
            At least we can take pride in the fact that the extinction of the CofE is inevitable. hahahha.

          • Albert

            I’m not sure it sets out to provide one.

            I agree, it doesn’t, but the issue of explanation was raised by Sidney Deane. He said:

            the theory of evolution provides a far better and, crucially, evidenced explanation of how we came to be here as humans?

            and while agree with that, I pointed out the limits of any explanation on atheism, because it cannot provide an explanation of the universe itself. That’s not to accuse it of sophism, at all, it is just to say that, if explanations are important, it is odd to just stop where it suits. And remember, it was Sidney who raised the issue of explanation.

            precisely the same arguments can be used against theists.

            I really can’t see how, but you’re welcome to have a go…

            by the time you write of he was a man in his eighties, with no scientific background or training, who had been taken taken in by the charlatanism of “intelligent design”.

            I don’t see what his age was to do with it, neither do I see what difference his lack of scientific training makes. The issues are metaphysical not physical. I agree, he was overly impressed by ID, but that was not his only reason for coming to believe in God.

            You reframe the issue (about providing answers

            No at all. I was simply following where Sidney was leading – read the thread above – and indeed your own comment. You claimed (rather naively, I think):

            The problem with these allegedly unanswerable cases for theism is that no-one apart from the already believing takes them seriously.

            And I simply falsified your argument with evidence (Anthony Flew). I am not primarily arguing from authority here, but simply providing evidence that you (unevidenced) claim was false. I find it rather amusing that you have decided to change the subject (or to use your words “reframe the issue”), and accuse me of reframing the issue, when all I have done is answer your own case. I find it rather ironic that you keep attacking me simply for following the argument where it leads – for that of course, is exactly what Flew said he was doing when he turned from atheism to theism (or perhaps deism).

          • Tokyo Nambu

            “you’re welcome to have a go…”

            “God did it” and “We don’t know” have precisely the same predictive and explanatory power.

            “And I simply falsified your argument with evidence (Anthony Flew).”

            You have a weak sense of “evidence”. An elderly bloke, who by his own admission was unable to write books and got someone else to do it for him, comes up with a rather rambling account based around an utterly ludicrous a-scientific mess that embarrasses most Christians, in order to justify what amounts to a death bed conversion. You’re welcome to dress that up as someone being convinced by a finely argued case.

            And again, you’re reduced to the argument from authority: that someone who had done interesting work should be taken seriously in all their writing. You and I are both using computers with transistors in them: use of transistors does not force us to also believe in the inherent inferiority of non-white races, even though the one followed the other in Shockley’s work. I can marvel at the predictive power of relativity and also of the Quantum theory, even though the architect of the one denied the other. And so on.

            Elderly bloke who was by his own admission past writing seriously allows to be published under his name a book that happens to agree with you. Well done. Now, aside from yourself (an existing believer) how many people do you think Flew’s late work convinced?

          • Albert

            “God did it” and “We don’t know” have precisely the same predictive and explanatory power.

            Those aren’t the alternatives, and in any case, they don’t have the same explanatory power. It is true that they are identical in predictive power, but what difference does that make?

            An elderly bloke, who by his own admission was unable to write books and got someone else to do it for him, comes up with a rather rambling account based around an utterly ludicrous a-scientific mess that embarrasses most Christians, in order to justify what amounts to a death bed conversion. You’re welcome to dress that up as someone being convinced by a finely argued case.

            A friend of mine went to hear him speak after he changed his mind. She is philosophically trained, and rather a sceptic, but she said that the depiction, by atheists (as found here) was quite false. He was totally lucid in his reasoning and argumentation. Moreover, you haven’t done your research on the man, just believed what people have told you. He didn’t have a death bed conversion. He didn’t become a Christian, or come to believe in life after death. In any case, I can give other examples of such thinkers, Ed Feser for example. But in order to falsify your unevidenced claim, I only need one example, and I have that.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            “But in order to falsify your unevidenced claim, I only need one example, and I have that.”

            Well done you. That takes you from convincing no one but yourself, to convincing no one but yourself. But continue to admire your own argumentation: I’m sure people are flocking back to churches in response to it.

            “Ed Feser”

            Bloke who can’t get tenure and whose academic highspot is teaching at a community college (but it has got 1019 paperbacks in its library) claims to have switched from Christianity to atheism and back again in response to his own reading of books, and writes a book which is published by what amounts to a religious vanity press whose other volumes include climate change denial and a load of out of copyright “classics” to pad out the list. Do you keep a list of this stuff? Has it ever changed anyone’s opinion?

          • Albert

            The fact is, Tokyo, you made a claim. Here is it:

            these allegedly unanswerable cases for theism is that no-one apart from the already believing takes them seriously.

            You offered no evidence, and I have falsified it. It doesn’t matter that you keep trying to “reframe” my position as an argument from authority. I am quite to prepared to argue my own case. I have appealed to such people simply to show your claim was false. You have attempted to belittle my falsification apparently to cover up the fact that you cannot falsify it. I again came back with reason to think your belittling itself was wrong. At some point, you might just like to admit that your claim was wrong. And in any case, I don’t need to falsify it, for, as so many atheists like to claim: what is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

            Similarly, to belittle Ed Feser as you do, is ignorant. You only have to look at Anthony Kenny’s review of it, to see that. Why don’t you try reading either his book THe Last Superstition or Aquinas and get back to me?

            In the meantime, you seem a little coy about defending your comment about: “God did it” and “We don’t know” have precisely the same predictive and explanatory power.

            When you’re making unevidenced claims which are being falsified, it’s easier to engage in an ad hominem than to engage in the substance, I suppose.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            I’ve just read the introduction to his book (see below). It’s rambling, turgid bollocks, and if you think that constitutes intellectual writing your standards are non-existent.

            But anyway, if it makes you feel better, well done: you’ve found a few counter examples to the general contention that these sort of arguments convince no-one. They convince a tiny number of people, including third rate pub bore school teachers (my PhD supervisor would kill me if I tried to publish stuff like that, and unlike him I have an Erdos Number and stuff) and a bloke with a ghost-writer at the end of his career. Fair enough: you win.

            But you take Feser seriously? Third rate is flattering him.

          • Albert

            It’s strange isn’t it, how someone who complains about people arguing from authorities, himself commits the opposite fallacy of ad hominem?

            It’s rambling, turgid bollocks, and if you think that constitutes intellectual writing your standards are non-existent.

            So I was right not to expect you to answer the arguments.

            But you take Feser seriously? Third rate is flattering him.

            You say that without reading more than the introduction to his book?! And you expect to be taken seriously?! But if Feser isn’t to your taste, why not look at other philosophers of his type? I do not know if any of these were atheists who converted because of such arguments (Maritain at least was an atheist who converted and later defended such arguments): Garrigou-Lagrange, Jacques Maritain, Brian Davies, Herbert McCabe, GEM Anscombe.

            P.S. You might need to read a little more than the Introduction to these philosophers’ books.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            Why do I need to read beyond the introduction of a “serious” book which argues that all atheists are people who strangle children while sodomizing goats? It’s easy to spot books that aren’t serious: they refer to the people they’re arguing against as “sophomoric jackasses”, “vulgarians” and so on (pp. 14–15). That’s not academic writing, or even remotely serious writing, and no serious publishing house would touch his work (which is why they haven’t). Have you read his book? Could you explain to me why, based on the introduction, he isn’t simply a rambling pub bore?

            “Maritain at least was an atheist ”

            When? He was raised protestant, and was a practicing Catholic by his mid-20s. He was never an atheist of any sort.

          • Albert

            Why do I need to read beyond the introduction of a “serious” book which argues that all atheists are people who strangle children while sodomizing goats? It’s easy to spot books that aren’t serious: they refer to the people they’re arguing against as “sophomoric jackasses”, “vulgarians” and so on (pp. 14–15).

            You need to read the book in its context. It is an answer to books like The God Delusion, it answers it by saying that there are serious metaphysical assumptions at play in the God debate, and these need to be challenged. That’s serious academic stuff – and it is widely debated, but in itself, it is unlikely to attract a large enough readership to get people to realise how philosophically weak the so-called New Atheism is. So, he wrote in the same kind of tone as the New Atheists. But you raised The Last Superstition before I did. If you look at his other work in this field, his book on Aquinas, you will find that it is purely serious, and lacks the tone you dislike. It’s not unreasonable for a serious writer to write a popular version of his work, is it? Personally, though, I found it grating at times.

            Have you read his book? Could you explain to me why, based on the introduction, he isn’t simply a rambling pub bore?

            Yes, I have. No pub bore has ever taken me through a history of metaphysics from Plato through to modernity to isolate the moves that shape our “modern” world-view. (I put modern in “” because, as Feser, and other books have shown, the metaphysical assumptions of our age are actually medieval and highly questionable.

            But as I have said, if you don’t like Feser, read some of the other authors I have mentioned.

            Now while we’re on the subject of authorities, I am puzzled by something in one of your earlier posts. You said this:

            my PhD supervisor would kill me if I tried to publish stuff like that

            At first I thought you were trying to intimidate me with your reference to your PhD. But then I thought, that can’t be so, because that would be to argue from authority, which you have eschewed, and in any case, Feser has a doctorate too, and he is “third-rate”. So I couldn’t see the relevance of all this. Can you shed any light?

            When? He was raised protestant, and was a practicing Catholic by his mid-20s. He was never an atheist of any sort.

            Well what an interesting comment. He wasn’t raised a Protestant. Here’s what the first book I picked up on my shelves says about him:

            Jacques [was baptized] according to the nominal faith of his mother [Protestantism]; in reality his upbringing was secular, the forthright Genevieve [his mother] who reverted to her maiden name and never remarried, making no secret of her hostility to Christianity in all of its forms.

            “making no secret of her hostility to Christianity in all of its forms.” Not really “being raised Protestant is it”? If you then read on in his conversion story (I’m afraid you probably need to read a book, and go beyond the introduction), you will see that, as this author explains, he and his girlfriend Raissa thought

            in the absence of any ultimate metaphysical justification for existence life was absurd. It was Camus’ mythe de Sisyphe forty years in advance

            This sounds no more theistic to me than his Protestantism sounded Protestant. So it seems to me that, again, you have set out a range of unevidenced opinions for me to knock down with evidence. This history of Maritain is actually quite well-known. But you seem to hold strong, condescending opinions about things that you know nothing about.

          • CliveM

            Hi Albert

            I don’t really know where this guy is coming from. He seems to enjoy deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting what is being said, simply to fabricate some sort of argument.

          • Albert

            Thanks Clive. I don’t think he is deliberately misunderstanding. I think he is trying to use ad hominem style arguments to evade looking at the issues themselves. But it’s not working out very well because he keeps making claims that are evidentially questionable.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            “Actually, my contention was that they are generally misunderstood and become convincing when they are properly understood”

            Your hero Flew is commonly credited with the characterisation of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. And here we have it in living colour. Anyone who isn’t convinced, of course, didn’t properly understand the argument. Those clever enough to understand will be convinced; those who are not convinced are not clever enough.

            It’s not likely that Dominican monks, who make up the majority of your reading list, are starting from a position of atheism and slowing arguing themselves around, so it’s not quite clear why you think their writing will have that effect on others.

          • Albert

            I never said that Flew was my hero. Neither did I say that my list of “Dominican monks” [sic] were starting out as atheists. In fact, I raised the warning that they weren’t. But that the arguments for the existence of God are widely misunderstood is pretty clear. A friend of mine who has taught philosophy at universities on both sides of the Atlantic didn’t understand them (despite having taught them!).

            It’s also strange that you appeal to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, given that your position appears to be that anyone who does find these arguments convincing can be dismissed.

          • Tokyo Nambu

            Gawd, your hero Feser’s a real man of breadth, isn’t he? On page 16 of his book he knocks down same-sex marriage, vegetarianism, recycling, dolphins and the Toyota Prius, and then on page 17 he lays into atheists as people who strangle children and sodomize goats (it’s not clear if they do these things simultaneously or in parallel). To paraphrase Clive James, students of philosophy at Pasadena Community College will be familiar with Dr Feser’s breadth, but for those of us in the provinces it is all a little daunting. Still, it’s probably the first time the connective “Similarly” has been used to jump, in successive sentences, from the JFK assassination (he’s got that one wrapped up, too) to the existence of God. Do you really find this sort of rambling pub bore stuff convincing, and think it the highspot of intellectual achievement? You must have very, very low standards.

  • Graham Goldsmith

    The narrative is already there but how it is understood or interpreted is often coloured by our own experience. Traditional forms of church will no doubt decline but fresh expressions are much more interesting and better connected to communities. The number of people who self identify as christians will decrease because many are ”cultural”.at least in the short term. Expect less Christians being more active. When churches get out and work for their communities and convey Jesus in a more radical interesting and authentic way they tend to thrive. Whatever scientific theory you put forward it is unlikely to be able to satisfy the human soul and many aspects of secular living can be pretty vacuous. The potential for growth is there and there is still a lot of curiosity and spiritual yearning in our society. Its up to us as Christians to get out there as disciples and do as jesus did. A holy huddle once a week is just one part of what we do.

  • Recently the articles in many Church publications are asking the question “How do we reach out?” The response is listen to the Holy Spirit in what you see, hear and find in the communities you live in. Not every corner of every part of this country, has a homeless, or marginalized person. You might find what you are looking for, listening to a a friend, with concerns, needs, and will accept your assistance. That is the true mission of the people. You can find incredible benefits, and share your faith in God’s love, throughout your own home town, every day.

  • BigMach

    Canon Andrew White seems to have no trouble attracting people to the Saviour. Giles Fraser and Bishop Pete are not the answer.

    • Enders_Shadow

      Ever since Giles Fraser encouraged gay clergy to lie to their bishops about their domestic arrangements if they needed to, I’ve had no time for him. But Bishop Pete Broadbent seems to be part of a diocese that is enabling church growth in London, so I’ve some time for him, if that’s who you mean?

  • len

    Christianity can only be brought back to be’ relevant’ to a dying world when the broken foundations are restored all else is meaningless until this happens!.
    Secularists attacked the very foundations of Christianity (the Genesis account) because they knew that if the foundations could be discredited then the whole Word of God could be made’ irrelevant’.
    And this is how the secular world see the Word of God….. discredited and irrelevant.
    When the apostles preached the Gospel they were able to build on a foundation that the people already had but now the foundations have been discredited by the secularist onslaught (backed by governments) anyone who wants to preach the Gospel must go back and rebuild the foundations as Paul did when he preached to the Pagans.
    We are essentially living in a Pagan culture in the West and must return to basics if we want to be listened to.
    This following article explains very precisely the problem and the solution to preaching the gospel in a pagan world.

    https://answersingenesis.org/answers/books/the-lie-evolution/

  • gbsblogs

    I’ve written a similar article to this, with the Scottish referendum as a hook:

    http://honestgodstuff.tumblr.com/post/97803363536/in-todays-society-the-church-like-the-union-has-to

  • Cymrugel

    Personally I’d say it seems pretty obvious that to many vicars do not seem to believe the very religion they are charged with preaching.

    The COE gives the impression that It would rather talk about practically anything other than the actual teachings of JC. They just seem to want to be popular and try to cling to every passing fad. It’s like watching middle aged parents trying to get down and be cool wiv da kids – an embarrassment.

    Compare and contrast with the evangelical churches which are packing them in with a far too literalist message.

    Just stop trying to be everything – social club, political group, counselling centre and all the rest rolled into one and get back to what you are supposed to be doing.

    And have a clear out of all those cynical lazy judas priests who seem to think a congregation is some sort of captive audience for their own batty ideas while you are at it.

    • Anne Argent

      I’m sorry but I think you are being a bit harsh about the C of E. Condemnation isn’t the way forward – it is divisive. What is needed is unity – unity of God’s family as a whole, accepting the differences. In my town exciting things are happening now that the whole Body of Christ here is uniting in Prayer, Street Pastors and other initiatives. Condemnation of other Christians is NOT helpful. It lessens our witness when the World sees us divided and critical. Let’s focus on prayer seeking God’s way forward, and obeying Him in carrying His kingdom forward in compassion and love.

      • Cymrugel

        It’s a bit difficult to unite Gods family when you have a significant minority of the clergy who either do not believe in God or his family ; who think they can simply cook up their own personal theology and inflict it on their parishioners; whose beliefs are completely different from that of the professed theology of the COE or who don’t see any difference between religions.
        Such people are not really Christian at all in any meaningful sense even using the most flexible interpretation of the term.
        To use a political analogy; if you had a politician who advocated selling off and privatising everything in sight but who yet stoutly insisted he was a socialist would you believe him? Or if a Tory he wanted all industry nationalised and all property publicly owned would you take him seriously?
        There is a difference between tolerance and stupidity. I am indifferent to many supposed controversies in the church; women bishops, gay marriage etc. What I am concerned with is the belief in Christ as saviour and the fundamental teachings of Christianity.
        I spent some years working in local radio and got involved with the religious aspect of programming and had a lot of interaction with local clergy of different denominations.
        Many were excellent but there was a large minority from the COE and other protestant denominations who seemed to me to be lazy, stupid, self obsessed – in one or two cases possibly unbalanced – and in many quite unsuited to meeting the needs of their congregation – who simply went elsewhere or just gave up.
        The core problem many had was a combination of self absorption and a disbelief in the very religion they were charged with preaching. One wondered why they became clergy at all. These were people who, if they had any sense of self respect or ethics would have resigned and sought employment elsewhere.
        It simply isn’t good enough to say that effectively JC was a jolly nice chap who wandered about Galilee handing out sensible advice for three years and that everything is all “symbolic” and can be reinterpreted by anyone in any way that suits them.
        The COE is dying on its feet because we have a clergy who are lacking in faith – who are in may cases actively opposed to the teachings of Christianity – and who leap on any passing bandwagon in order to gain plaudits from people who are often hostile to the core teaching’s of the church.
        If it was a private company it would have been bought out and closed down long ago.

  • Iloveourelderly

    The phrases , ‘When you lead a group’. ‘When you become……. When you are running your church’, should never be far from the lips of anyone who leads a group of Christian youngsters. Instilling a sense of expectation that God’s work will go on through them and into the next generations is Biblical and imperative. It’s as important to our spiritual DNA in Heaven as it is to our physical DNA here on earth; It takes an act of participation, co-operation at an intense level and passion to duplicate our DNA. Also, learning to recognise Christ at work in others and seeing with the soul rather than prejudiced eyes can release people who are in the congregation into His work. If a Christian (especially a minister) can’t look at people and perceive them in their church because their wallet is not big enough, they don’t dress adequately, they are not well enough educated, they irritate and so forth, then they miss the point that God fills His church fills firstly with those who have not rejected us and they may well be the undesirables of the world “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (NIV Luke 14:23) There is the matter of being frightened to ‘let go and let God’ do something new through others. That is not necessarily changing what is, but putting a stop to the ‘crushing to climb’ the hierarchy. No one needs to be ‘in control’ of someone else, we are there to serve one another. The only ladders up to heaven are descended and ascended by angels and angels alone, and crushing others is not an act of love. All this aside, the church can be a fun place to be, filled with good food, music and laughter. It’s a place to love others and be loved too, to seek healing and be included, and perhaps not enough people know all of this 🙂

  • Jeremy Forbes

    Out of the box thinking is required but we don’t do this well at all, we have become to use to thinking that the only creativity there is can come out of church committees, it is the last place we are likely to get it. A few years ago, a clergyman who had grown a church from near closure in SW London, suggested that school leaders and teachers should be given access to theological education. Sadly, the hierarchy stamped on an idea that had strong merit. The clergyman argued that growing churches is difficult in itself, he says he spent hours in the evening introducing intelligent people to the Christian world view. What if young people in our church schools are introduced to the Christian world view by teachers and headteachers who have a strong grasp and preferably a lived experience of the faith? They would be in a position, if they had access to theological education, to offer a balanced and nuanced explanation of the Christian world view, which will allow young people to reject Christianity on the basis of knowledge not of ignorance.

  • Texas_Pete

    When you have a need to “reinvent” or “change” your religion to fit the people, consider it over. Very encouraged by the British people to evolve at this great pace, hope this trend will continue here in USA as we are a religious mess.

  • Mike Burke

    I think that Alan Scott has hit the nail on the head. Reform or change management is not the way forward. The Biblical model is death & resurrection – the cross & the empty tomb – laying down your life (or church) in order to receive it back again. We will only see real change and ‘growth’ (numerical & spiritual) when we are prepared to lay down some of our cherished models of church & attractional evangelism.