Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Questions for the CofE to ask itself

Here are some ideas that might be worth thinking about.
  1. Be realistic. It is what it is; don't try and massage the figures to make them say what they don't. Fewer people means fewer resources, which means less capacity to serve, to transform and to witness.
  2. Be brave. It will get worse before it gets better. There are a lot of aged saints who are going to be promoted to glory and not many younger ones coming up to replace them. Plan to cope with more decline.
  3. Be honest. That's not quite the same as being realistic. Don't use rhetoric about being faithful rather than successful to gloss over the situation. Don't talk about the inscrutable purposes of God and how he moves in a mysterious way, and how all over the church seeds of new life are being planted which will bear fruit according to God's perfect timing. Don't talk up the good that is still being done with fewer people. That's not the point.
  4. Be ruthless... You have 4,800 chapels, and that's too many. Close some, sell the buildings and use the money.
  5. ...But not too ruthless. Many of these are the only functioning place of worship in the town or village. They might be liabilities at the moment, but they could be assets. Develop a strategy to support and revive them.
  6. Don't lose your nerve. There is a huge amount about the church for non-members to admire. In your political and social awareness, your sense of the breadth and scope of the Gospel and your willingness to put serious money into transforming society, you leave other denominations standing. Be confident in who you are; don't imagine that if you can just ape what other Churches do the problem will go away.
  7. Don't beat yourselves up too much. Your churches are lovely (mostly) and your ministers are capable.
  8. Be deeply, painfully self-critical. The hardest thing we can ever do is critique who and what we are, because it means standing outside the frame of reference which we've always taken for granted. But the Church has the opportunity to ask itself really hard questions about how it expresses the Gospel and embodies the Kingdom in the 21st century, and about whether it has enough of an evangelistic drive to survive - not, as its general secretary also says, for the sake of the survival of the institution, but because "the best thing that anyone can do, whoever they are, wherever they live, at whatever time and in whatever circumstances, is to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. And consequently seeking and finding apt, relevant, sensitive and effective ways of presenting Jesus Christ to the world in which we live with so many and so different others is the critical task of the Church today."
I've deliberately taken out references (well, most of them) that would identify the denomination, but you'll find out here

Even though these are about a different denomination, I think it's all stuff that the Church of England needs to think about long and hard. 

update: here is my rather more long-winded attempt to pose some of the CofE issues.

update 2: some discussion of this post in this thread at Thinking Anglicans, though it's intermingled with some other stuff. If you know TA, you won't be surprised to learn that the other topic of debate is to do with sex. 


  1. Not to nitpick (well, maybe to nitpick), but how is "Be ______" a question?

  2. rumbled! 'Ideas worth thinking about' wasn't quite snappy enough for a title. And Be-Attitudes for the CofE was a bit too corny.

  3. I'm glad you're banging the drum for this one at TA, David. And you're absolutely right about mainstream Anglicanism's current fixation on a priest-led Eucharist as the be all and end all of church life.

    Tim Chesterton

  4. Well said, David. I'm glad you're banging the drum for this over at TA.

    Tim Chesterton