justin-welby-martyn-percy-adrian-hilton
Church of England

Martyn Percy: the Church of England is being “reformed by bankers.. theology is ruthlessly excluded.. populism and narcissism are in the ascendancy”

Following Martyn Percy’s first letter and Adrian Hilton’s response, here is Martyn Percy’s response to Adrian Hilton’s first letter:

Dear Adrian,

Thanks for your letter, which gave me plenty to think about. Let me respond to one of your points at the outset. There is no sense in which I am arguing or wishing for ++Justin to be something he is not. He is not a ‘philosopher-king’, or an academic, and I am not criticising him for this fact. Nor do I think that theologians have any special pre-eminence in governing and shaping the church. They do have a role, however, and a very real contribution to make. In that regard, I guess one of the disappointing and alarming features of ++Justin’s primacy is his refusal to birth his proposed reforms in any good theology. If the changes he is augmenting don’t have a theological root and depth, then the risk is that the change is one of mere pragmatism and expedient managerialism.

++Justin’s refusal to engage in theology was manifest in the Green Report – a document that fundamentally re-shaped the selection and training of (so-called) ‘senior leaders’ in the church: our Bishops, Deans, Archdeacons, etc. The Green Report – in over eighty pages – mentioned God just twice. The Green Report did not call on any known theologians to help its work, or even consult prominent scholars in the field of leadership studies.

There are shades of Michael Gove’s assertion backing the campaign to Vote Leave (on the EU), and refuting the government: ‘we have had enough of experts’, he said (Daily Telegraph 10th June 2016). In other words, we’re just going to get on with the job. We all know what the people really want. The experts are part of the liberal elite who get in the way of the peoples’ will. They just overcomplicate things. They deconstruct the demagogues, and must be resisted.

If proof were needed of this, I need only recount a conversation with one of ++Justin’s most trusted lieutenants, John Spence. Spence runs the finances of the Archbishops’ Council, and I asked him why his report on reforming the whole of the CofE’s theological training for clergy made no reference to any previous reports that covered the ground, or to any academic literature on the subject. His reply was that we – the ‘we’ here is ++Justin’s hierarchy, speaking and acting for the whole church – ‘could not be expected to wade through pages of theology before getting to main meat of the change-agenda’. I asked why, in the case of the Green Report, I had to wade through eighty pages of passé managerial tosh? Was that any better than a few dozen pages of theology? There was no comment.

Bishops are supposed to be teachers of the faith. That is one their primary vocations and responsibilities. That is what their throne represents in a cathedral: it is basically a chair in theology (for teaching). So theology is very, very important for bishops. But for ++Justin’s major programme of ‘Reform and Renewal’ – and most of his reforming initiatives, in fact – there is no engagement with theology at all. Indeed, he has adopted a curious anti-intellectualism, with a preference for quite ruthless pragmatism to replace thinking and reflection.

There is the populism of ++Justin. I say ‘populism’ here rather than ‘popularity’, because I think the distinction is the key to understanding this moment in the life of the church. Tony Blair made the Labour Party electable again by cherry-picking socialism, and playing down the breadth and complexity of the Labour movement. From a platform of over-simplification he was able to project simplistic sentiments into the media, which galvanised support from a wider public, and, for a while, many elements from within the Labour Party.

But this modus operandi, although it gained initial popularity, also marginalised dissenters and more cautious reflectors. Such people were demonised as deviants (not ‘on message’), or as ‘ideological dinosaurs’. They quickly become exiles and aliens within their own Party. Jeremy Corbyn’s populism is ironically built on precisely the same foundations – they’re just different political agendas. From ‘Vote Blair’ to ‘Jez We Can’, Labour has lost its soul to both forms of populism: ultimately, demagogues despise democracy.

The same danger is there for the Church of England and ++Justin. To be sure, locking the Archbishop into some reflective, broad and thoughtful theological conversations would bring about slower progress. It would lead to more reflection and far less pragmatism. But it would achieve a broader buy-in, and deeper consensus. The danger of populism is that it forms a personality cult, and eventually a culture of narcissism: ‘demagogue-danger’. Cultures of narcissism and populism have a nasty habit of becoming bullying and sectarian.

For that reason alone, I think ++Justin needs to take theology much more seriously than he does, and allow his ideas and agenda to be challenged by robust intellectual debates. That said, what troubles me most about his ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda is the near-total-absence of God. The church finds itself being reformed by bankers (i.e., John Spence and Lord Green, etc.), neither of whom have any expertise in the fields they are wielding power in – theological education and leadership studies respectively. Theology should be a key foundation in these initiatives.

Instead, theology is treated as a potential encumbrance, and ruthlessly excluded. That gifts an open, defenceless road for one proposed initiative of the ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda: namely to divert funds away from needy and over-stretched rural parishes, and hand the money over to successful, ‘growing’ suburban parishes. This all makes sense to the bankers running ++Justin’s strategy. But what this does to the identity and mission of a national church is utterly despicable. And, frankly, how this reflects the gospel is (theologically) incomprehensible.

But if populism and narcissism are in the ascendancy, some ‘quick wins’ and ‘success’ further perpetuate the aura of the righteous reformers. Let’s face it: no-one has the patience or time to develop saintliness and wisdom these days – even in the church. Decisive demagogues are championed; we laud the new winners and heroes. Just make sure those theologians don’t stick an oar in with their complex objections.

Adrian, I know you cite ++Justin’s ‘priorities’ for his arch-episcopacy, and that these are prayer and the religious life; reconciliation; evangelism and witness. Yet the very fact that these emerge as ‘priorities’ at all ought to alert us to the populism being propagated here. For example, why is ‘evangelism’ preferred to that much broader and richer term, ‘mission’? If ‘reconciliation’ is a priority, then why was it expedient to demonise and marginalise the American Episcopal Church?

There is a real gap between the rhetoric and the reality. And it is growing all the time. The priorities and slogans are the politics and pragmatics of populism. They belong with ‘Brexit means Brexit’; ‘I am anti-austerity’; or ‘Read my lips – our priorities are education, education, education…’. These phrases, as we now know, held some sway at the time of utterance – in a kind of bread-and-circus manner – and they please and placate the masses, to whom they are directed. They are high on impact; but low on detail and delivery.

In short, none of this is a substitute for substance. And we need an Archbishop who has some theological substance, and is unafraid – and possibly not embarrassed? – of deploying some rich theology into our discourse to help to shape public life, drawing broadly on the traditions and breadth of the church’s wisdom, in order to speak up in times of national crises and angst. Skilful populism won’t do as a substitute for this.

So my main concern in this is ++Justin’s bewildering reluctance to talk about God. Our calling is not to heroically rescue the church, or to save the world. God, in Christ, has already done both of these. It is this God we need to hear more about – and less about how people currently claim to be operating in his name.

Yours faithfully,

Martyn

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    It is often said – and heard – that the Church of England doesn’t believe in anything, a popular misconception it is true, but certainly mainstream. Where indeed does the fault lay? If church leaders are not focused on the Word of God, on propagating the Gospel, on theology, then there is little wonder people ‘move on – nothing to see here’. Ask the man or woman (or transgendered) in the street what the Church of England stands for and they will say ‘Women priests and LGBT clergy’ and this can’t be right.

    • Mike Stallard

      In our village, the church is permanently locked except for funerals and Remembrance Sunday. The Vicar is absentee with several unvisited parishes in the “Benefice”. Religion seems to have died out completely as new people stream in to flee from the rapidly changing towns. It is certainly not discussed in the local shop! And, thanks to the silence of the Church, nobody knows anyone any more. This is the very deep Zeitgeist which we are talking about here.

    • Anton

      On retreat this week, Mrs Proudie?

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Enlightenment merely postponed, dear Anton…

  • Mike Stallard

    “There is a real gap between the rhetoric and the reality.”
    I went into a church this week which was a typical Victorian barn. I expected it to be locked, but ,no, this was the first Tuesday of the month and a handful of people – a couple of grey heads, one loony , a young mum with baby and a white haired lady were taking powdered coffee together out of white pottery. With spoons. The white haired lady asked if I would like to see inside the Church.
    I went in through a nice pine door, neatly varnished. The Victorian interior had been cut in half by a pine partition – nicely done – with windows into the coffee area. The altar had been moved into the nave and the old space, full of 1860s carvings, had been simply left alone except for the old reading desk which had a nice little cross made up of silver birch twigs. the chairs in the nave were made of yellow wood, upright, with smart blue covers, marshalled in rows. At the back was a small area for the Kiddies to play during the worship.Someone – I presume the white haired lady Vicar had saved a church from destruction.
    So well Done! (For a change)
    I did not see ++++Justin in the building.

  • Anton

    The absolute priority for the CoE is to remove the liberals from all positions of influence. Nothing else is remotely as important. I make no comment about the plausibility of this happening: it is simply what needs to happen.

    • Dreadnaught

      Re-arranging the deck-chairs while the ship is sinking may seem a good idea at the time but it is essentially futile.

      • Anton

        What do you mean, please?

        • Dreadnaught

          The absolute priority for the CoE is to remove the liberals from all positions of influence. Nothing else is remotely as important.

          I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.

          • Anton

            No. That’s why I asked.

            If you mean that our culture is going down the tubes, the job of the church is to save souls out of that culture, and to do that it needs to purge itself of its liberals.

          • Dreadnaught

            Our culture is what it is. Its different today than it was two hundred years ago. Its your religion that is the issue.
            Broad brushing ‘Liberals’ as the most important contributors to your dilemma is symptomatic of somene who points a finger at the crowd and says “its your fault”. It is directed at no one and everyone at the same time but identifies no one in particular, no issue in particular nor offers any alternative of his own to remedy perceived discepancies.

          • Anton

            If you don’t believe in God then why should I be interested in discussing the church with you? Come to Christ first.

          • Dreadnaught

            Cop-out.

          • Anton

            If you don’t believe in God then why are you interested in discussing the church?

          • Dreadnaught

            Yup – thats the way to get your converts – epic fail.

          • Anton

            What you believe is up to you, Dreaders, and I wish you well, but don’t accuse me of ducking questions after that response!

          • Dreadnaught

            Another cop-out.

          • Anton

            You are welcome to think that if you wish, but I’d still like to know: If you don’t believe in God then why are you interested in discussing the church?

          • Dreadnaught

            I think it is more constructive to respond to my first proposition exlained 12 minutes ago before backsliding into another tangent.

          • Anton

            By “liberals” I meant “liberal theologians” who take a particular view of the Bible, not liberals in the cultural sense of the word. I am sorry if that wasn’t clear. Please answer my most recent question, though.

          • Dreadnaught

            Name them and their pronouncements and I will glady look them up.

          • Anton

            Certainly; let’s start with Julius Wellhausen. More recently, David Jenkins (ex-Bishop of Durham) and Don Cupitt.

            Please satisfy my curiosity, though; why, if you don’t believe in God, are you interested in discussing the church?

          • Dreadnaught

            Because as you say – its an important part of our cultural past.

          • Anton

            Thank you! I look forward to discussing Wellhausen et al with you.

          • Dreadnaught

            I fail to see how a hundred years dead German, is pertenent to your perception of the Church’s problems today.
            So the Bishop of Durham was outspoken of his position on some of the Church’s traditional holy-cows. Didn’t Jesus question the assumtions and positions of the established Hebrew priests of his time?
            And what about Cupitt; Wiki says of him Cupitt sometimes describes himself as Christian non-realist, by which he means that he follows certain spiritual practices and attempts to live by ethical standards traditionally associated with Christianity but without believing in the actual existence of the underlying metaphysical entities (such as “Christ” and “God”). He calls this way of being a non-realist Christian “solar living”. Doesn’t sound like such a bad chap to me. As such I find no reference to his direct influence on Welby’s suitability as head honcho or in being responsible for what irks you.
            It appears to me that you have the position that your interpretation of immutable truths are never to be questioned as you are consistently vague in your accusations and pronouncements. But no matter, I’m sure you will remain comfortable on your computer tucked away in your imagined castle of certainty. We all make of life what we will, but an ‘after-life’ as the basis for living today? That is still a toughie to explain I imagine, for you or Welby, while expounding any logical ‘truth’ of such a position. At this late stage in the history of the CoE, I suggest that the man has been handed the inherited ever burning torch of illumination the wrong way round.
            I know nothing of you obviously, but have you, ever been or are an Archbishop or similar?

          • Anton

            I am in a congregation that doesn’t even believe in ordination.

            You asked me to name some liberal theologians, so I did. To use their views as a springboard to launch a personal attack on me is out of order.

          • chefofsinners

            Ah well, the crucifixion was out of order too. That’s what you get when you love people enough to explain the truth.

          • But the gospel is always foolishness to those who are perishing. It reverses the world’s values and expectations. To give up to any degree our autonomy for obedience to Christ, and our life in this world for a world yet to come is incomprehensible to any steeped in this world’s mindset.

            Yet Christ did. And millions who have followed him have done the same. I look at some of these I have read about and some I have known and their lives are ones I value. They have had something solid, good, holy, truly human that I want to follow. They have been the salt of the earth. I look at Christ and I see someone not only with a humanity superior to all other (unlike Mohammed he did not kill his enemies but submitted to them out of love for them) that I want to emulate but something about him that the category of human does not exhaust; I see someone I do merely admire and wish to be like but someone I am compelled to worship.

            In the face of this I am immune to cynicism. When you find true treasure you’ll sacrifice everything and be sidetracked by no one to obtain it and keep it. When you discover the sun you don’t want to live in darkness.

          • Dreadnaught

            Nice to open your response with a touch of intimidation – nice touch.
            Your arrogance is astounding; based on nothing but myth and superstition. At the age I am I am happy to accept that one day I won’t wake up and that holds no fear. I am not greedy for life in excess of what my body is capable of enduring. The Afterlife is your delusion and if it helps you through your day – fine.
            Ive had a good life compared to billions of others on this planet for whom your god blessed, with suffering and distress for his own caprice so it seems.
            I have passed on my genes. My daughters are contributors to making life better for others through their chosen professions. My grandsons are fit and healthy and well cared for.
            I will be content when my time comes to die.

          • ‘Your arrogance is astounding; based on nothing but myth and superstition.’

            O the irony of this statement.

          • Dreadnaught

            Superstition or mythology does not influence my take on life. Your retort on inferred lost irony is witless and without merit.

          • The irony was your accusation of arrogance. Your atheism is a faith position. As is your claim that Christianity is mere myth. In each case, at best you can say, ‘I believe there is no God… that Christianity is myth’.

      • Martin

        Dreadnaught

        Chucking the dead wood overboard and lightening the ship would seem an excellent idea.

        • Dreadnaught

          Martin, you are a one off on this blog and I think that the politics of the CoE’s board of management structure and corporate directions and appointments are best left to the critics of same.

          • Martin

            Dreadnaught

            I was correcting your misapprehension of what was suggested.

    • David

      Agreed on all points. Those sections that are not dominated by liberals are burgeoning, an example being “Reform”.

  • CliveM

    Is it me, or are those on the left increasingly incapable of responding to events they don’t agree with in a non hysterical and calm manner. Talk about hyperbolic.

    • David

      Point well made and taken. Their two recent strategic defeats, the Referendum vote and now Trump’s victory, are proving “difficult” for them, poor dears. For half a century the broad right has experienced defeat, whilst the left, surging forward, has developed a very aristocratic sense of entitlement. This now reveals itself in foot stamping. Expect much more !

      • CliveM

        Well let’s hope they can be given plenty of reasons to stamp their feet!

  • Dreadnaught

    I have seen how unquestioned belief in the existence of a god by which I mean the Muslim god Allah, is used by men to further the dominance of other human beings by coersion and direct violence. The CoE above all other Christians have not contested its presence in this Country but openly encouraged acceptance of its presence whereas just one hundred years ago, its response would have been much more robust in its evangelistic approach to seek the conversion of Muslims wishing to become British citizens. Moaning like ninnys today about one man’s responsibility for the Church’s failure to correct one hundred years of complacency is completely futile.
    The truth is that, in this age of open acces to information, history and global events, the prospect of convincing people that the existence of one God or many gods is a factual reality, simply does not convince many people to draw the same conclusion.
    Christianity no longer puts people to death for not believing in it’s God: Islam still does [and worse].
    God or Allah are constructs of men for the furtherance of men, rooted in a primitive tribal, desert logic that has bee superceded by exposure to evolving knowledge of natural phenomena.
    There is not one iota of evidence for the existance of anyone’s god of their choice.

    • Martin

      Dreadnaught

      You think that God was not in control of what Hitler did?

      • Dreadnaught

        I certainly do not – even though he was brought up Catholic.

        • Anton

          Hitler once grumbled about Charles Martel seeing off Islam from Western Europe in the 8th century because he reckoned that Islam’s martial spirit was better suited to Germanic peoples than was Christianity. A man who chooses between religions on grounds of expediency really is secular. Hitler never got confirmed, and you can’t really accuse him of being a Catholic. He’s a pretty strong argument against baby baptism, though.

          • Dreadnaught

            Hitler said a lot of things which were abject ramblings of a deluded socipath.

          • Anton

            I agree with you about that!

        • Martin

          Dreadnaught

          What does it matter how Hitler was brought up? The Bible tells us that God can cause the rulers to do as He wills. Without a doubt, left to himself Hitler would have been even worse.

          • Dreadnaught

            Well if that is the case we are better of without the bugger.

    • ‘There is not one iota of evidence for the existence of anyone’s god of their choice’

      Now there’s a balanced thoughtful statement. And one from someone with authority who has examined all faith claims thoroughly and found not an iota, not a scintilla, of evidence.

  • David

    No one doubts that the C of E needs to bring far more people to meet God. This is the main purpose of the Church, to win souls for Christ. Similarly it is widely agreed that the rambling, inefficient, almost medieval organisational ways need streamlining. Renewal and reform is needed on there two levels. Paramount is the need for spiritual renewal and growth, which is crucial to fulfil our “standing orders”, the Great Commission. But secondly there is the need for a root and branch organisational reform, to make the processes and procedures of the Church less wasteful, less time consuming and more efficient. Freeing up time, resources and energy will facilitate mission, although ultimately it is only God who can converts.
    It is clear that Justin Welby sees himself as a Christian, who must act now, and decisively, as a reforming Chief Operating Officer. This article searches for an unneeded complexity. If we waited for theologians to inform the process of organisational reform we would wait for ever; that would be just complicate things, especially with different sections of the C of E emphasising different theologies. Given the inherently riven and discursive nature of the C of E, only a top down, press ahead, style of reorganisation will make any impact on such a huge structure within the tenure of a single archbishop.
    At the end of this exercise, with a streamlined organisation, all the rich theological inheritance of the C of E will still be available to do God’s work of curing souls. But with a leaner machine in which to operate preachers, vicars, priests, pastoralists, and all the myriad servants of God, will spend less time, effort and money on maintaining the over-complex, creaking machinery; thereby they will have more resources available to reach out to the lost, show them the love of God, and save souls.
    Whilst I criticise Justin’s lack of adherence to conservative theology, this humble Lay Minister within that vast organisation, urges him to take courage in both hands and organisationally, reform, cut and prune, sweeping away the medieval rules, handicaps and procedures to free resources that can be used to win souls for Christ. Justin, God bless you !

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Sweep away the medieval? Goodness…I am shocked!

  • len

    Those who wish to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ can no longer start with the assumption that people know what preachers are talking about when they attempt(when permitted ) to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Parts of western society are now pagan and the Gospel of Jesus Christ has no meaning or relevance to their lives. Our youth has been educated in those ‘Universities of Secularism’ our education system.

    So (like St Paul on Mars Hill) preachers of the Gospel must re- lay the Foundations of the Gospel and start from the very basics in order to’ make sense’ of the Gospel.

    The C of E and the RCC appear to be focus on’ the Social Gospel’ in order to be ‘relevant’ but this is a service equally carried out by secular organisations and is effort (well spent) but largely ineffective for the purposes of spreading the Gospel.

    God has placed everything IN Christ and it is Christ that must be raised up not just’ a social Gospel’.

    • len

      (Following the above advice I have illustrated further St Paul on Mars Hill.)

      17:16-21: “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods, “ because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.(Book Of Acts)

      • Martin

        Len

        It is worth noting that Paul starts at the beginning:

        The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
        (Acts 17:24-27 [ESV])

        So churches need to start with Genesis, to teach Creation, to teach the Fall, to teach the Flood and the division of the Nations. Nothing in life makes any sense apart from that.

        • Sarky

          Nothing in life makes sense with that!

          • Martin

            Sarky

            What makes you think you understand anything?

          • Sarky

            I understand plenty Martin …..except perhaps you!

          • Martin

            Sarky

            No, you haven’t a clue, your every post demonstrates it.

          • Sarky

            As does yours.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            Indeed, my posts demonstrate your ignorance.

          • Sarky

            Erm……how?

          • Martin

            Sarky

            By your not understanding how. You think yourself rational, but your pretence betrays you.

        • Dominic Stockford

          That is my favourite Brexit passage…

        • len

          Thanks Martin. The Foundation of the Gospel is so very important.

    • IanCad

      Yes Len,
      This is a now dark land. What an awful indictment upon two generations of parents whose children may well ask them one day: “Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?”

      • len

        Our once great Christian Nation has been ruthless attacked and its Foundations undermined for too long.

        • David

          Yes but with God’s help, we can build anew !

          • Dreadnaught

            So what are you waiting for?

          • David

            What “waiting”?
            Administrative reform has already started, as the article bemoans.
            Converting the nation can only be, ultimately, triggered by God. His timescale is neither yours nor mine.

        • Anton

          Name a year in which it was a Christian nation.

          • len

            The UK once sent missionaries into the world we need them here now…

          • Rhoda

            Thank God some are already here.

          • Sarky

            Mormons?

          • Rhoda

            No, evangelical Christians from many parts of the world.

          • Sarky

            Where are they then?

          • Rhoda

            Where you’d least expect them and where they are most needed.

          • Sarky

            The British humanist association?

          • Old Nick

            1851

          • Anton

            Workhouses that kept husband and wife apart, ghastly conditions in prisons, plentiful street violence, and all that Engels chronicles in his Condition of the Working Classes in England – a book that is distressingly good at diagnosis albeit not at proposing a solution.

          • HedgehogFive

            But look who Engels teamed up with: here are some quotes from Karl Marx: http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communism/marx.htm

            Many people take these to imply that Marx was a Satanist. Certainly a most disturbed young man with a tendency to fantasize (as was a certain other young man who grew a toothbrush moustache.)

          • Anton

            Hedgehog, I spend a fair amount of time elsewhere explaining that Engels isn’t Marx, the charlatan would-be philosopher-king of evil. Every chapter of Engels chronicles dispassionately and movingly what life is like for the industrialised poor and then ends with a paragraph saying that communism can sort it out. That’s why I said that Engels is good at diagnosis but not at solution. Those latter paragraphs are easily ignored, and 90% of the book is a telling and moving document. You’ll be able to read it for free online to get the flavour.

          • HedgehogFive

            Point taken.

          • Old Nick

            I did not say 1851 was perfect, I did say it was Christian. Consider the work of Anglo-Catholic priests in the East End (e.g. Fr. Lowder and Fr. MacKonochie and parishes such as S. Peter’s London Docks) – vigorously hampered of course by Protestant bigots. Consider the various settlements and other Christian efforts run by many leading public schools and Oxbridge colleges in the those same slums. And more than half the population was in church on Census Sunday.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            But didn’t the 1851 religious census cause panic amongst the clerical establishment because it revealed the extent of non-church attendance?

          • Old Nick

            Yes, it was only a bit over 50% of the population – on an average Sunday (after Trinity, if I recall rightly).

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            I remember it well …

          • grutchyngfysch

            People didn’t take attendance censuses in the middle ages, but you can use the fulfilment of parochial obligations as a reasonable proxy. Let’s just say that the overall majority of wills I’ve read contain provision for years’ worth of outstanding payments.

          • At its most Christian, Britain has had at best a small percentage of its population truly Christian.

          • CliveM

            I find it fascinating how people are able to be sure of a persons or societies state of salvation 6 to 700 years down the line. You don’t need to be theologically pristine to be. Christian.

            Why are you so certain?

          • In the first instance because Jesus teaches that out of the whole a small group believe (few there be that find it). It is unlikely (though not impossible) that the greater part of a society will be believers.

            Secondly, there is nothing I’m aware of in British history that leads me to think that the nation was ever predominantly authentically Christian.

            Even in the C1 church, toward the end of the apostolic era, an increasing number of false believers began to emerge and dominate.
            These were identified by their jettisoning of apostolic teaching on faith and practice. Theology need not be pristine but it must be ‘sound’ (a biblical word).

            In one sense, we must all tremble. I am not arrogantly asserting my own salvation while denigrating others. Believers have a confidence they are saved but it is never an arrogant presumption. It is a confidence married to a humble trust.

            The following Scriptures set the tone of saving faith.

            (NIV) 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
            He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
            “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
            26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
            27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you came from. Depart from me all you evil doers. Luke 13

            (NIV) 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Roms 11

            (NIV) These are the ones I look on with favor:
            those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
            and who tremble at my word. Isa 66

            (NIV) “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
            what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4

            (NIV) 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
            5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
            10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet 1

            (NIV) 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil 2

            (NIV) 18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
            shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
            19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
            they do not know what makes them stumble.
            20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
            turn your ear to my words.
            21 Do not let them out of your sight,
            keep them within your heart;
            22 for they are life to those who find them
            and health to one’s whole body.
            23 Above all else, guard your heart,
            for everything you do flows from it.
            24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
            keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
            25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
            fix your gaze directly before you.
            26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
            and be steadfast in all your ways.
            27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Proverbs 4

            There are lots of Scriptures that call us away from presumption, warn us to guard our heart, and demand a holiness without which we will not see the Lord. Little wonder Jesus says,

            (NIV) Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

          • Old Nick

            Truly Christian being defined as “those who agree with your theology”.
            We are the sweet selected few
            The rest of you are damned.
            There’s lots of room in Hell for you
            We don’t want Heaven crammed.
            I hope you are forgiven for your arrogance.

          • No. True Christians are those who believe the gospel, God’s theology. See also my comment to CliveM

          • Old Nick

            God’s theology which just so happens to be yours.

          • I hope I am trusting the true gospel. I believe I am. I am confident I am. But God knows.

            It’s not arrogant to believe you know the truth. It is not humility to doubt and lack conviction. Chesterton said it well

            ‘What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.’

            In fact, it’s impossible to be a Christian without firm belief. It’s possible to think you are a Christian and to be misguided and wrong because you are believing a false gospel. But if you have no conviction, no firm belief, no non-negotiable ‘truth’ then you are certainly not a Christian.

            I doubt if anyone has ever done anything worthwhile who has not had strong convictions and beliefs. You may mock what I believe, you may believe I have it badly wrong, but to mock belief/conviction/truth/certainty itself is folly.

          • Old Nick

            Thank you for consigning me to Hell. I hope to see you there.

          • I do not consign you to hell. I know nothing about you. God knows everything about you and even he does not consign you to hell. You consign yourself to hell if you refuse to bow to Christ and embrace him as Saviour.

          • grutchyngfysch

            Old Nick, my PhD research was on the middle ages – arguably the height of Christendom, and while I’d not feel competent to judge the extend as only small, I’d not disagree with John that the extent of belief can easily be overestimated. I’d also agree with you that the impact of Christianity on culture had substantial benefits. Integrating the two positions, the view I have arrived at for my own period of study (but see no particular reason why it shouldn’t hold in others) is that there was substantial sincere engagement with cultural Christianity, which was not always synonymous with personal belief. In some cases, those traditions could exist antagonistically with ecclesiastical authority, just as ecclesiastical authorities didn’t always have a frictionless relationship with secular power – and I am absolutely certain that there were more than a few clerics, bishops, cardinals, and even one or two popes, the quality of whose beliefs was worth very little.

            The advantage of a system which embeds Christian theology and philosophy is of course that its politics and traditions will tend to be closer to Christianity. The disadvantage is that if one must be seen to be a Christian to get on in life… well the benchmark becomes the performance of belief, rather than the sincerity thereof.

          • Old Nick

            I am astonished that any scholar (let alone Christian) could think that the ‘sincerity’ or ‘value’ of any man’s faith can be measured. I suggest that 30 years of teaching patristics in a thoroughly secular university might suggest to you and the sweet selected few on this site that there is both value and sincerity in what you condescendingly call ‘cultural Christianity’. You won’t value it until you lose it.

          • grutchyngfysch

            There are men and women who maintain the form of belief while inwardly denying the power thereof. Men and women who will preach Christ, but be rejected by Him on the final day. Culture will not avail them.

            I certainly don’t think it is easy to quantify sincerity of belief at all, which is why I am extremely circumspect about drawing concrete conclusions in individual cases, particularly where they are distantly removed in history. Nevertheless, it is, I think, possible to comment on the extent to which in a Christian culture it is possible to “signal” belief without actually holding it – and that sometimes the signal may become more valuable to the culture than any concern over the health of a soul. I think there is more than enough material demonstrating concern for precisely that possibility in contemporary accounts (both Catholic and later Protestant) to indicate that this isn’t just a spectre of historiography.

            My own view is that the “value” of such cultural Christianity is never long-term, and ultimately feeds into and precedes a collapse of that same culture where people are no longer worried about confessing their unbelief. This is why the guardians of such culture are usually highly concerned to maintain outward conformity with it: so long as people fear (either literally via coercive force, or socially through potential loss of standing) expressing public disbelief, they will hold their tongue. Their disbelief is precisely what enables them to hold in falsehood: why risk your neck if there’s no heaven?

            Once that disbelief can be freely expressed – or adherence to a different belief takes root (as the religion of Enlightenment succeeded in) – the culture fairly rapidly contracts to its traditional strongholds, within which you might still find more than one unbelieving officiant. Look at the liberal church today: when priests lose any sense of the value of faith, they retain their sense of the value of their stipend.

            So my view is simply that in the absence of true belief, the sustaining force of a culture – no matter how proximate to Christianity – is largely predicated on material terms. So long as it is profitable to rank among the faithful, people engage, and when it is not, they depart from a Church they were never part of.

          • Old Nick

            On the contrary, “cultural Christianity” as you term it from the heights of theological correctitude, has been exceedingly long-term. It has lasted since Constantine, it is called Christendom and you are going to miss it when it is gone.

          • grutchyngfysch

            It’s already gone, and it has not been a consistent or unalloyed good in the world. It has been, like any earthly dominion, a mixed bag, better in some places, worse in others. Where it has existed apart from actual faith, it has not participated in the work of the Gospel, but has salved men into their graves. Faith isn’t complacent – at least not faith in a God who taught that it is better to pluck out one’s eye and enter heaven half blind than veer full-sighted into hell.

            Does it make things easier? Yes. Am I conscious of the loss of social influence, of prestige, of respect that has come about through secularization? You betcha. Do I lament the decline in even broad interest in philosophical inquiry? Yes. But I know enough about Christendom to know that it could offer all of these things without ever quite getting round to Christ. Not that it never worked to the benefit of the Gospel, not that men and women were not saved under its aegis: as sure as I am that there were men and women who believed not a jot in anything but what they could grasp, I am sure there are many who are known by Christ. As to which is in which group, I only dare guess. But its fruits were not always sweet, and some were downright withered before they fell. Culture, tradition, even social justice: all these can bring glory to God, but they can only supplement and are not sufficient to save in the absence of faith.

          • Pubcrawler

            As a (lapsed) Classicist this period is outside my ‘official’ expertise so I have no academic credentials to brandish; but I have inclined towards the mediaeval in recent times so I am interested in this discussion. In response to your comment, I ask in the spirit of enquiry what you make of the apparent growth in private spirituality, especially the contemplatives such as Julian of Norwich and the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, and the growth Lollardy, in the period immediately following the Black Death. It seems to me that this was a driving force of faith outside of ‘cultural Christianity’ as you describe it, especially as it appealed to those who had no access to advancement through traditional church structures.

          • grutchyngfysch

            Would totally agree – there was a lot of heterogeneity with different groups (reflective of a surprisingly heterogeneous wider Church culture – bear in mind this is the age in which many of the key theological debates are being settled, and the height of Conciliarism) but one of the key features (or accusations, depending on your perspective) of many was private engagement with religious instruction. Protestants do sometimes overplay their hand in the historiography on that point: “Lollard” groups (I use scare quotes because it’s not clear that there was a single “Lollard” movement) had a strong appetite for vernacular Scripture which would be recycled throughout various Reformation and eventually Counter-Reformation movements. But equally you had wealthier people (mostly women) engaging with orthodox Catholic theology through Friars and enclosed Orders who were based in urban centres. This is also the age when having the right to hold private masses at portable altars was the social equivalent that owning a yacht would be today. It would also be quite wrong to imagine that there weren’t orthodox Catholic commentators with concerns over the closeness of the institutions of the Church with temporal power. But like most things medieval, it was rarely monolithic in distribution, and like today, there was a strong urban/rural divide in both the practices and participation in religious activity.

            That’s why some of the magisterial pieces of scholarship seeking to trace the detail of religious observance and belief have gone with rural case studies (Duffy’s Voices of Morebath pre-eminent among them). Not that I think anyone would imagine the country was 100% authentic and the city 100% counterfeit – but it was definitely a factor.

            Personally, I’d argue you can use a number of pieces of evidence to cautiously scope the extent of beliefs. The first is accounts of early “Reformation” revolts, where you get all kinds of strange activities going on from the commonly brutal (thugs pissing on statuary) to the downright performative (crowds literally hauling statues of Christ into the town square, demanding “if you are the Christ, save yourself” – what on earth was going on there I don’t think will ever satisfactorily be explained). At least a part of those “breaches” was, I’d argue, something of a valve going off over public assent to doctrine which was neither particularly well understood or wholly believed. The second is heresy trials, whether “proto-Protestant” or otherwise. You get people being put on trial (rarely executed initially – social shame is usually sufficient, and corporal punishment remains the pleasure of secular powers who tended to become far more willing to dole it out when their own positions get precarious) for denial of doctrines. Some of them because they have a different view of Scripture or Church traditions – but some because they literally deny that there’s any truth in it. One guy deliberately disrupted masses by taking counter-cyclical routes and mocking the priest, and when pressed on why he would want to mock the Body of Christ retorted that only social convention made the act have any value. You also get budding mystics who are a little bit beyond the pale in terms of theology – and some who are downright pagan (though I don’t for a moment buy the Margaret Murray thesis that there is unbroken pre-Christian paganism in survival).

            If you want an interesting read, I’d suggest Carlo Ginzburg’s “The Cheese and the Worms”. It’s very readable, and will give you a flavour of one heretic’s particular sauce, as well as the extent to which he was essentially able to fly under the radar and push the limits for quite some time before finally (and mortally) being reined in.

          • Pubcrawler

            Thank you. That’s fleshed out my general impression and given me things to inwardly digest. I will sleep on it.

          • Anton

            The point I’m making by asking for a year is that there is no such thing as a Christian country. There won’t be until Christ returns. The New Covenant is with the individual believer and the collective of believers is the church, not any nation. The church is called out of every nation. A nation may have a legal code but you cannot legislate Christianity because Christianity is about grace set in contrast to law. Of course there are countries, including ours, whose history has been influenced for the better by a “few good men” (meaning men made good by Christ), but that isn’t the same thing. Give me a year and a nation and I’ll be able to quote back at you various entrenched institutional injustices.

          • The actual number of ‘Christians’ – and I am talking of committed and properly taught believers rather than nominal Christians – was always small even in the ‘Christian’ nations of Europe. This partly accounts for many of the past injustices such as the slave trade and the oppression of the poor, or the present legalisation of abortion and greed of the bankers.

            Still it is not incorrect to call these nations ‘Christian’ because the laws, social and family values are to a large extent based on Christian teaching, and these values are different to what you might expect in a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or even Jewish nation. Additionally, true Christians, despite being in a minority, are in a better position to fight existing injustices, and to bring about social reform in a ‘Christian’ nation than in the non-Christian ones, because the existing social consensus and conscience are at least partially based on Christian values.

          • Anton

            I agree entirely with your first paragraph. Regarding your second, where do Christians get a good idea of just laws from? There’s a divinely given legal code in the Bible too…

          • Certainly from the Bible… I am sorry but I do not understand what you mean.

          • Anton

            My 3rd sentence was answering the rhetorical question I posed in my second. See the Pentateuch!

          • “There’s a divinely given legal code in the Bible too…”
            But I was not suggesting otherwise!

          • Anton

            I’m replying to you but also writing for others! Not implying you are ignorant.

      • Sarky

        More likely ‘what’s a CD’?

        • IrishNeanderthal

          Sarky,

          Before your disappearance, you were always such fun. But now your sarcasm seems to be taking you over.

          Reminds me of a science fiction story where cars and humans had become more integrated, but some cars had “monoed” their human drivers and become auto-outlaws in the great American desert.

          • Sarky

            That’s not sarcasm. Tell me im not wrong!

          • IrishNeanderthal

            Brief thought, before my brain puts its feet up:

            In the future, will the children even know who their parents are to ask?

          • Sarky

            I don’t know, but I think science is maybe heading that way.

    • David

      Totally agree Len. Any speaker or preacher has to be very aware of his audience or congregation. Churches attended by the faithful can still employ the short hand versions, as they understand meanings, but outside such circles the message has to be simpler, more direct and assume nothing. As Ian says, “This is now a dark land”, how right he is !

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Goodness, dear David! Isn’t this the argument Hillary Clinton used when she said a politician needed a private and a public position on matters?

  • dexey

    “These phrases, as we now know, held some sway at the time of utterance – in a kind of bread-and-circus manner – and they please and placate the masses, to whom they are directed. They are high on impact; but low on detail and delivery.”
    Phrases like “Come, follow me.” As an active lay Anglican I find that it is slogan and action that keeps our parish church moving and growing.
    Thank God for Justin Welby and his ilk.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Come follow me was preceded by the far more direct, and necessary, ‘Repent and believe’.

      • dexey

        Very true, and how can you follow without you repent and believe.
        I believe that neither phrase needs the intervention of a theologian.

      • David

        Indeed. Too many preach only that we become followers of the social gospel. Yet without first, repentance and belief in Christ, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, one cannot be saved, one cannot be a Christian.

  • Martin

    One of the major misunderstandings of what a Christian is, a Christian is called to be a theologian in so far as they are able. That is what preaching is for, that is why we have creeds and confessions.

    Sadly Welby seems to have little understanding of the origins of the CoE, indeed he seems to have abandoned the reasons Rome was rejected. Without theology prayer and the religious life; reconciliation; evangelism and witness have no meaning. And without a godly theology, that is a reformed theology, they are a waste of time. The Christian term is evangelism, presenting the evangel to the people of the world, mission is not a Christian term.

    The religious life does not mean shutting yourself away from the world and wearing special clothes. The religious life is to live among people, work for a living as they do, wear the clothes they do.

    We cannot be reconciled to those who hold a different theology, whose gospel is not the gospel of the Bible, indeed the Bible tells us that they are accursed. Welby, by his visit to Rome, tells us that he clearly doesn’t understand this.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Quite so.

  • Ironically, my sympathies are with Percy. Ironic, because he seems to be a liberal, though a liberal with basically an orthodox gospel married to a liberal theology of Scripture and of social/moral issues. Such creatures could only exist in the Anglican Communion. Though, to be fair, the RC Church probably include a few too.

  • carl jacobs

    namely to divert funds away from needy and over-stretched rural parishes, and hand the money over to successful, ‘growing’ suburban parishes.

    Ah. No wonder a liberal is suddenly talking about theology. There’s money involved. The wrong people have it and he wants it.

    The central financial problem of Liberal religion is getting Conservatives to pay for it.

    • David

      Nicely identified. Money flows are important, as they point to other more important matters.
      The evangelical, usually expanding, churches are in urban areas. And they are rich.
      The shrinking liberal churches are in the rural areas, and they are poor.
      Welby is backing the winners. And the “winners”are winning, growing in numbers and income, because the make converts.
      Your analysis is spot on !

      • Old Nick

        “The shrinking liberal churches are in the rural areas, and they are poor. ”
        Where on earth did you get that idea. I could take you to plenty of rural churches round here that are neither shrinking nor liberal.

        • David

          I am surprised. Rural anglicanism is usually, nowadays, liberal. Whereabouts are you ?

          • Old Nick

            Inland Devon. It is in general a Low Church area. Those who appoint clergy seem to think that this means the local people want Evangelical clergy. This is not the case. And is one of several reasons why I travel a considerable distance to find worship where the sacraments are valued and available and the clergy do not think that they are little tin gods on wheels.

          • David

            Interesting, thank you. But clergy can be liberal or orthodox regardless of whether they are Low, Middle or High up the candle stick. The style of worship is not necessarily aligned with their theological stance.

          • Old Nick

            Don’t worry. Our NSM is a real proper Evangelical bigot

  • Will Jones

    Much of this letter makes some sound points; the ill-informed power of non-specialists over major areas of church life is surely a worry. But it falters severely at the end:

    1) Mission is a solid word, but it doesn’t appear in the Bible, whereas evangelist does. Evangelism (a clear direct derivative of evangelist) makes clear that at the heart of the work of the church is the Gospel. I think the word mission is good and powerful, but an archbishop should hardly be castigated for using the more biblical term evangelism.

    2) The American Episcopal Church was ‘demonised’ and ‘marginalised’ because it stood in flagrant breach of the agreed, settled will of the Anglican Communion in respect of matters of human s3xuality. As you well know.

  • carl jacobs

    If ‘reconciliation’ is a priority, then why was it expedient to demonise and marginalise the American Episcopal Church?

    How about “Because it’s in thrall to a bunch of heretics”. Would that be an acceptable answer?

  • So what is this “discussion” really all about?

    Jack is getting lost.

    • carl jacobs

      It’s about a Liberal complaining about church reforms that discomfort Liberals.

    • carl jacobs

      Jack is getting lost.

      Yes, we’ve known that for a while now.

    • The Explorer

      You’re only on the way to getting lost? I arrived long ago.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      Not all who wander are lost…

  • Inspector General

    Do you know, a fellow is warming to Percy. Well done him for introducing the insidious Green Report…

    Imagine if the Church of England were handed over to Marxists to administer after a Corbynite style revolution. They would come up with similar. A school for leadership, in so many words. The only problem is, to be considered, you need to be a member of ‘The Party’. In Marxists states, you can’t just join the party. You have to be invited. You can’t blame them for that, they don’t want trouble makers coming in. No party membership, no career future. And that is the trouble with that awful Green thing: Do you think, for example, a Brexiteer would be allowed in? Of course not. So a Brexit Bishop would never be. A careless word somewhere along the line, it’s reported back to Jesustapo HQ, and your man’s card is marked with indelible ink.

    • magnolia

      Agree the Green Report is an authentically authoritarian prescription based upon a rigid management style that requires the ambitious to jump through proscribed hoops on time without questioning why they do so. It looks like the sort of thing a large department store with an authoritarian head would come up with, (though with no material incentives and inducements to speak of) and sails horribly close to common-purpose speak.

      The church doesn’t need to foster ambition, but, instead to boot the ambitious out of servant leadership which they are clearly utterly unsuited to. The false shepherds have always been noted for deserting the flock at times of peril, no matter how many dinky management courses they have been through.

      How is the honour and incentive and power of possibly winding up giving your life for Christ ever going to incentivize these groomed-for management types? It just isn’t because spiritual leadership is something other, often forged through taking people through really tough Job-like times, which cannot be neatly tabulated and churned out in management-speak.The theological reflection is a fig-leaf, and again an attempt to squash the human soul and imagination into neat pre-formulated boxes. That has never- rightly- been typical of Oxford nor does it surprise me that Martyn Percy hates it

      • Inspector General

        Hear Hear, Mags. One of your best….

  • Inspector General

    Off topic, gentlemen, but heartening news from the 10th of November…
    ———————————————————
    The Court of Appeal last month dismissed the appeal from Daniel and Amy McArthur, who claimed in their appeal that God considers it a sin to make cakes with pro-gay messages on.
    Their appeal had challenged the grounds for a discrimination case – claiming the alleged discrimination was against the message on the cake, and not the person buying it.
    Today, they requested a further ruling to clarify whether they can appeal to the Supreme Court.,
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/11/10/christian-bakers-seek-permission-to-appeal-to-supreme-court-over-gay-cake-case/
    ———————————————————
    There is an extremely interesting post from a homosexual fellow called Randy in the comments section. Do not miss it! It is not only the Inspector who has predicted and lauded society sliding to the right, illustrated by Brexit and Trump’s success. There is a new reality everywhere, and Randy senses it, but do the others?

    Now, Mr Welby, dear chap, do make some sort of public announcement on this most important of test cases concerning THE faith. OUR faith – Justin time, if you do it now – If you don’t, an Inspector can only ask a question in a way his new black lady colleague would put it – “Man, what you for?”. And it won’t just be him asking it…

    • The Explorer

      I followed up your link. Randy came across as very honest and very brave. I confess to being startled at the malice of some other commentators when speculating about private lives for which they had no actual knowledge.

      • Inspector General

        Indeed, Explorer. The specimens have been somewhat moribund since Trump, merely emitting squeaks of anguish. But they still just about manage to pull themselves to their feet to scream out their disgust of those who challenge them…

  • bluedog

    Martyn Percy seems to have a lot to get off his chest and clearly is uncomfortable with the idea of focus. Brexit, Blair, Corbyn, Gove; somehow they are all relevant and useful metaphors for explaining what Welby is doing wrong as AB of C. But are they? Of course not.

    One is left with the impression that Percy is the point man in an insurgency within what might be described as the Left of the CofE. It seems that Welby’s elevation to the Primacy after just nine months as a bishop put more than a few noses out of joint. Percy has therefore been tasked, or has volunteered, to develop a narrative (to use a term beloved of the Left) that provides a philosophical cover for personal antipathy.

    The attack appears to this communicant to be so weak and poorly handled that success seems improbable.

    • Inspector General

      Do you think Welby takes enough advice, bluedog? It’s understandable for board members to keep their own council, but when you’re CEO, you’re top of the pile. Virtually untouchable. It’s almost as if the fellow is acting up to the position. Awaiting the reappearance of the real man in charge. (Len, if you say the real man in charge is Jesus, you’ll get your arse kicked…)

      • bluedog

        Perhaps part of the problem is that Welby is able to relate to people who are well outside the comfort zone of persons like Percy. Percy’s position seems to be that the CofE is being contaminated by people in trade, commerce and banking. It goes without saying that an academic is incapable of contamination even when terminally polluted by Marx-Leninist thought. If there is a scintilla of substance in Percy’s attack, it may have been the recent public comment by Welby to the effect, ‘I’m not a good enough theologian’. This kind of frankness is a high-risk proposition and to be avoided.

        • Inspector General

          Not even sure if Percy’s whatever constitutes a proper attack. Not as real men see it (that will upset him…). Both he and Cranmer indulged in the expected canine sniffing of each others coats to begin with. Perhaps too soon to draw conclusions…

          • bluedog

            It’s an attack alright, Inspector, Percy’s remarks are scarcely a pean of praise. However, instead of focussing on and highlighting the perceived weaknesses in Welby, Percy treats us to a political tour of the horizon, something which tells us a great deal about him and his political allegiances. In doing this he clearly seeks to plant his standard so that those of similar leanings will recognise his colours and rally to his cause.

            If Percy’s letters had been written after the election of Trump, one could confidently predict a reference to the evil that Trump represents and which Welby has failed to prevent.

          • Inspector General

            If you say it’s an attack, bluedog, then an attack it is. It’s just that it lacks bone, you see. However, one trusts your judgement implicitly, you know. Don’t blame the Inspector for not picking up on the aforementioned obvious. He never underwent a university education. But then, he did not have to listen to the words of fools, and resultingly, educated himself to a far higher standard than could have been achieved through the traditional. What fortune!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Do you actually mean ‘sniffing coats’????

          • Inspector General

            Sounds damn better than each others genitals. Sure you’ll agree…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Oh Inspector, really!

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Isn’t the Archbishop’s immediate superior HMQ?

        • Inspector General

          A mere inconvenience, dear thing…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Goodness!

          • Inspector General

            Didn’t you realise? Oh Lord. You will no doubt stretchered off with the vapours forthwith…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Fear not, I have tightened the whalebone….

          • Inspector General

            Best that you shed your clothes and run yourself a hot bath. Not right now, obviously, everybody’s watching…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            One bathes in flannel, dear Inspector…

          • Inspector General

            The Inspector does not wish to be urgent about this, Mrs Proudie, but have you shed your clothes yet? It’s important to him in the immediate that he is assured…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Humph! One is retreating to one’s boudoir with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and a warming pan…no other information will be given!

          • Inspector General

            You’ll have to forgive the Inspector, Mrs Proudie. You see, he was in the Far East during Empire days. We’re still on for tea at 11am tomorrow, one hopes…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Of course….would you like tiffin?

          • Inspector General

            Rather!!!

  • Don Benson

    O to be able to take sides in this discussion; giving someone a good verbal kicking is so therapeutic. But in all honesty each one has good and bad points. On the one side there’s more than a hint of academic snobbery, while on the other side is a ‘picking winners’ mentality more appropriate to global businesses than the CofE.

    Theological depth is of course essential if you are leading a church but that implies a mind organically developed by good theology (a thorough biblical and historical understanding and the ability to see how this relates to real life experience) rather than operating only in terms of (possibly) obtuse theological concepts. In other words, life is just too short for an archbishop to take every decision and make every pronouncement as if he has the luxury of living in an Oxford college. Every archbishop will know that theology is at the heart of all that he does but what he says must come from who he has become in his Christian life rather than what time he has to put to the latest theological debate.

    On the other hand an archbishop does need terrific judgement, a wide view of his whole church (not least urban and rural), and a certain steeliness in making things happen, tempered with graciousness. These things come with experience and humility; it is unrealistic and unfair to expect the full gamut of one person throughout every moment of every day of his career. Feathers are always goingto be ruffled in a church such as ours, and mine certainly are in a very untidy state at present.

    But we can either tear ourselves apart, which we probably all feel like doing just
    now, or we can press on with patience and prayer, voicing our disagreement honestly but never making it unfairly personal or irredeemably destructive. We have to speak very quickly in these digital days and we easily go over the top in our haste; we need to be aware of this and therefore gracious enough not to keep scores or bear grudges about things said which are soon long forgotten by the speaker.

  • chefofsinners

    Hell hath no fury like a theologian scorned.

    • David

      Hell hath no fury like an academic scorned.

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        Hell hath no fury than a woman without hobnobs…

        • carl jacobs

          Then get thee to a kitchen, woman!

      • Anton

        Yes, but the nice thing is that you can ignore them.

        • chefofsinners

          And there is the despair at the heart of Percy’s bitterness. He and so many others have devoted their whole lives and considerable intellects to straining scripture into a theology which will be acceptable to modern society. They now find their weasel words jettisoned in favour of the simple truth and are left bleating about there not being a ‘broad consensus’. A broad consensus, if they desire it, may be found on the broad road which leads to destruction.

  • chefofsinners

    Curious to read a Christian theologian speak of the danger of a personality cult. What else is Christianity?

    • Martin

      CoS

      There are three persons in the Trinity, so it can hardly be a personality cult.

      • Sarky

        A ‘split personality’ cult?

        • chefofsinners

          No, a split ‘personality cult’.

          • Sarky

            Good distinction!

      • chefofsinners

        And yet these three are one.
        Have you ever read Andrew Murray’s excellent book ‘Like Christ’?

        • Martin

          CoS

          Three persons, one nature – they aren’t one person.

          • chefofsinners

            We are followers an imitators of Christ. His personality is shaped in us by His Spirit to the glory of His Father.

          • Martin

            CoS

            By the Spirit.

          • chefofsinners

            In scripture the Holy Spirit is repeatedly called the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9. Gal 4:6.

            Have you ever read Andrew Murray’s excellent book ‘The Spirit of Christ’?

          • Martin

            CoS

            I wished to ensure that the third person of the Trinity was not thought of as less than a person, a mere influence.

          • chefofsinners

            I am with you there. That would be a damnable heresy.

          • Ha! Funny how words cross. I would say we have his nature by new birth (divine life and so the divine nature) which is imparted and empowered at every point by the Spirit. I might want to say personality is something different. All Christians have a new nature, the same nature, but we continue to have different personalities.

          • One being three persons.

  • len

    The Church needs to go back to basics to discover its role and to become relevant not only to man but to God Himself.
    Jesus came to make salvation possible. But why does God want people saved?. Saved from what?.
    What is God intention in creating man?. Why does God tolerate sinful man?.
    What is the church for? Why bother going to Church?.

    The thread running through the Bible is God’s intention is to make Christ Head of ALL things and when Christ is returned to His rightful position order will be restored.

    ‘ And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.'(Colossians 1:18)

    To preach Christ is the primary function of the Church that Gods Divine Order might be established. All the powers of hell are trying to stop this happening, but they will not prevail.

  • David

    At the risk of putting this too simplistically, I’d conjecture that there are many who have grown accustomed to the soothing, sleepy rhythm of a C of E that just bumbles along without a clear sense of organisational direction, or even the slightest whiff of business efficiency. Inevitably therefore there will be attempts to undermine any new CEO who comes in with an active broom, a determination to reshape, streamline and make good use of its scarce financial and human resources.
    Archbishop Welby will inevitably attract enemies amongst the more, let us say, donnish clergy and officials who, although they’d never admit it, just want a quiet life. Of course as such folks are usually very clever, in the dry academic sense, they are unlikely to present their agendas in a forthright way.
    Whilst the prime business of the Church is always to preach the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected, in and out of season, doing this will be easier if the organisation works well. If all of God’s servants could work within a well oiled earthly organisation, this would then free up their energies to offer, unimpeded, spiritual messages to a world much in need of God. Ultimately all of these human efforts are as nothing without the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work we do, not ours.

    • Pubcrawler

      Uptick especially for the last sentence.

    • IanCad

      Late to the party, but; Good stuff David. Very good stuff!

      • David

        Thank you.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    John Major started it with his warm beer and old maids cycling to Evensong…

    • Pubcrawler

      I’ve been to worse parties…

      • David

        You mean drinks, as in alcoholic drinks ? Surely not ?

        • Pubcrawler

          There was something being passed off as wine, but it was not such as Our Lord provided at Cana, in either quantity or quality. The ‘thirst after righteousness’ had to be slaked in a nearby tavern.

      • Anton

        No expense saved?

        • Pubcrawler

          Every expense saved.

          • Anton

            The Puritan influence was always strong in the fens.

          • Pubcrawler

            Yes, Basher Dowsing and Matthew Hopkins, admirable chaps. And that warty fellow. But one might hope for something at least palatable to drink after a festal evensong in the cathedral church.

    • Father David

      Sorry to be pedantic but I think the old maids were more sacramentally minded than you suggest in that they were actually “bicycling to holy communion through the morning mists” rather than attending Evensong.

      • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

        I wasn’t quoting exactly, dear Father David, more ‘giving the gyst’…a bit like the way Anglican clergy talk about Hellfire…if they do at all.

  • Anton

    So Percy thinks that the CoE is being run by a bunch of bankers?

    • len

      Proper term for a collective of bankers is a ‘wunch’ I believe?

      “Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money .”

      Sir Josiah Stamp.

      • Anton

        Fiat currency, the original sin of the banking system.

      • Anton

        These words are true, but it is highly doubtful that Stamp ever said them.

    • Dominic Stockford

      It has been for years. No surprise here.

  • chefofsinners

    Mission rather than evangelism eh? A richer and broader term?
    Evangelism has been diluted far too much in recent years. The gospel obscured by do goodery. Without an emphasis on evangelism the CoE risks having no one left to carry out mission of any sort.