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The Church of England2022-10-18T08:48:48+00:00

The Church of England

The Ambiguous Legacy of John Henry Newman

Dr. Graham Kings reflects on the legacy of John Henry Newman in the light of the UK papal visit of 2010 - Beguiling and virulent, holy and vituperative, quicksilver and splenetic, charming and cantankerous: there are many sides to the character of John Henry Newman ... Newman’s beatification was the centrepiece, culmination and raison d’être of the papal visit to Britain in September 2010. His attraction and trajectory to Rome were the key part of the planning of the visit. But how would the visit be followed up? In parish or university missions, the follow up of people who come to a commitment of faith is vital and keenly arranged. What of the papal visit? Let us consider first John Henry Newman, second some aspects of the papal visit and finally the follow up to the visit. ...

The frog in the pan – reflections on the ‘culture of church’

Bishop Robert Paterson writes: “Increasingly, the culture of ‘church’, particularly in those churches that are old and hard of hearing, is alien to most people. Most people do not customarily gather on Sunday mornings to sing in chorus with others, handling books (let alone several of them), sitting on wooden benches in cool buildings, sometimes being ignored as if by a supermarket checkout-assistant chatting to a colleague or alternatively being pestered as if by an over-enthusiastic sales-assistant, not knowing whether to sit down or stand up, often being glared at, and so on. These cultural norms make for a difficult or even impossible transition for a disciple of Jesus from a fresh expression of Church to what has often in the past been thought of as normal, and must force the older tradition to examine how it expresses what happens when the impact of Jesus draws people together. A major difficulty is that people who have been immersed in a particular style of church worship for many years find it difficult to assess what is of the essence and what can, and sometimes must, be left behind. ... There is much more work to be done on helping older churches to see themselves as others see them. ...

Editorial: The next forty years and the end of mainstream Christianity?

The Editor, the Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes: According to an article recently published in the U.K. Church Times an analysis of R-number modelling, as used during the Covid crisis, which calculates the growth or contraction rates of events and institutions, has given the Church of England a “reproduction potential” R number of 0.9. In short this means that at current rate of decline the Church will cease to exist in 2062. The C of E isn’t alone in this, the Church in Wales the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholics are also heading for oblivion. Only Baptist churches, Pentecostalist and other Evangelical churches are apparently bucking the trend … to a degree. All over the Western World a similar analysis can be applied to what might be called traditional churches. For example, the Episcopal Church in the United States, along with other major denominations, is currently having a crisis of candidates for ordination. Of course, the so-called developing nations have an entirely different growth narrative as the gravitational centre of the Christian Faith shifts south. ... Nevertheless, it might be worthwhile looking ahead to the next forty years or so to speculate what might be the ongoing challenges to us and the next two generations? This is about as far into the future as it is realistic to contemplate without writing dystopian science fiction. ...

REVIEW: The Precarious Church – Redeeming the Body of Christ by Martyn Percy

Sebastian Satkurunath writes: I wanted to like this book; I really did. The stated premise, that church is at its best when it is outward focused and trusting in God to provide rather than prioritising its own security in the form of financial resources and numerical growth, is a compelling and appealing one, and thoroughly in the spirit of the sermon of the mount (Mt 6.25-34). What’s more, there are clearly many ways in which the Church of England fails to meet this ideal, and I am quite sure that there is a valuable and interesting book to be written about how those failures play out and how we can, as an institution, repent of them, and learn to become more truly the body of Christ on earth. ...The book is a collection of essays, most of which have been previously published elsewhere, organised into seven sections, each of which concludes with a brief reflection and some discussion questions. ...

‘In God we Trust’ – Editorial, Easter 2023

The Editor,The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes in the Easter Editorial: ‘In God we Trust’– a phrase that appears on American banknotes and coinage – was first approved by Congress in 1864 during the American Civil War. The provenance of the phrase isn’t biblical but comes rather from the American National Anthem, a stanza at the end of the fourth and final rarely sung verse: “And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The anthem is itself an exposition of a poem ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry’ by Frances Scott Key during the War of 1812 against the British. It seems today that the banknote rather than the motto has elicited more faith than a sinking conventional religious affiliation and patriotism. All over the Western world something similar has been happening for at least the last 70 years and arguably longer. Traditional denominational Christianity is in slow and perhaps terminal decline. Of course, this is always countered by the claim that conservative evangelical church congregations are supposedly growing and flourishing. Whatever, it is obvious that the critical mass of Christian observance is shifting out of Europe and North America southwards and towards what is generally called the developing world. No one has satisfactorily explained the reason why people are choosing a non-affiliated secular way of life. ...

Democratic Deficit?

The Editor, The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes in his Editorial post, Lent 2023: ‘Gerrymandering’ is the political manipulation of electoral boundaries with the intent of creating an undue advantage for a political party or faction. These days it might also be extended to describe generically other associated practices to the same end. ... Whilst currently busy assessing the recent decision published by the House of Bishops and welcomed by the General Synod to enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing - even the Church of England, cannot be accused of gerrymandering. At least not in terms of its electoral process, which has long used a system of Proportional Representation for its elections – the precise form being STV (Single Transferable Vote). ... Not fraudulent, but certainly unfair, the system as used in the United Kingdom for parliamentary elections remains that of the so-called ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) where winner takes all regardless of how low a percentage actually voted for the candidate. This has produced some seriously skewed results. For example, the Johnson-led conservative victory at the 2020 general election produced a large parliamentary majority of 80 seats – hailed a great mandate and the will of the people on what was actually only 43.6% of the popular vote. Clearly, this system often effectively negates the wishes of a majority of voters. ... The use of voter ID is in itself no bad thing, if it ensures democracy rather than distorting it. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate concern even if the scheme may in practice backfire and in practice remove the vote from the very people it is meant to encourage . In short and in practice it looks like a subtle variation of gerrymandering. ...

The House of Bishops on gay marriage – Part two of a two-part study

In this second contribution to the current debate on gay marriage and the C of E's House of Bishops Report, the Rev'd Jonathan Clatworthy concludes: Reflecting on that whole history of church teaching about sexual ethics, one cannot help noticing that the changes since the early 1960s have been remarkably fast. I suspect this means three things. Firstly, the changes have been much needed. Secondly, younger people find it hard to understand why their parents and grandparents behaved as they did. Thirdly, we are left with much unfinished business. A century ago, there was a clearly understood ethical tradition about sex: it was only for childbearing within marriage. That tradition was sanctioned by a widely accepted moral authority, the Christian churches. Now, there is no clearly understood ethical system. If any principle is emerging as a criterion of acceptable sex, it is simply consent between the parties. In the process, the moral authority of the churches has collapsed. So far, nothing has replaced it. As long as the ecclesiastical leadership continues to tear itself apart over gay marriage, the general public cannot forget why the churches are no longer seen as a moral authority. ...

A response to ‘The Church of England’s Doctrine of Marriage’, +Fulham et al

The Rev'd Dr. Charlie Bell responds to the fourteen bishops who have published a defence of 'traditional' marriage: I thought it might be useful to offer a few thoughts on the most recent paper by a number of bishops, of differing theologies and yet in opposition to same-sex marriage. It’s notable that these bishops come from different theological stables, which probably does give some indication as to why the resulting theology here is so disappointingly light and unconvincing. It appears to lack a coherence theological thread and suffers because of it. Nonetheless, it is good that bishops are finally willing to say what they think – even if we might disagree with it. The risk of saying what you think, of course, is that your arguments are open to challenge. This is my small offering in that regard. ...

Recent debates on same-sex partnerships – Part one of a two-part study

The Rev'd Jonathan Clatworthy concludes: I therefore believe the Church of England’s leadership is trying to do the impossible. No institution can be run on the basis of the two competing epistemologies we have inherited from the Reformation. Either it can be run on the basis that biblical texts, read literally, determine what all true Christians must believe, or it can be run on the ‘classic Anglican’ basis in which the Bible, the Christian tradition and the reasoning powers of the current Church all play a part. It is impossible to run the same church in both ways at once. What the Church of England needs now is not better management techniques or better reconciliation processes, but better theology ...

That’s one small, timid step for the Church of England.

The Editor: The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes - The Church of England has almost concluded a long and at times tedious ‘Living in Love and Faith’ process of discernment and consultation regarding gay relationships and essentially about whether to allow these to be consummated in Christian marriage. Now the House of Bishops have effectively short-circuited the final decision, meant to be decided by the General Synod in February 2023, by pronouncing that they will not change the Church’s fundamental teaching “that holy matrimony is between one man and one woman for life.” Notwithstanding that part of that ‘fundamental teaching’ has long been bypassed in that remarriage in church after divorce is commonplace and permitted, the bishops apparently have felt unable to go further and allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same privilege. ...

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