Sunday, January 04, 2009

Salvaging the Church of England

Cranmer's Curate wishes to address the nation on the enthralling topic of Parish church electoral rolls, which are, he asserts, deeply revealing of the true state of the Church of the nation.

Since otherwise Cranmer would be talking about wars and rumours of wars, or the Prime Minister's fraudulent creation ex nihilo of 100,000 jobs or some other manifestly depressing topic, he shall indulge the boundless optimism of his curate:

When the decline of the Church of England comes under the spotlight, the focus is on usual Sunday attendance, and rightly so. Your usual Sunday attendance is the group of people sitting in the pews in front of you on a normal Sunday – your core congregation.

Analysing the latest statistics, Reform Council member, the Revd Mark Burkill, vicar of Christ Church Leyton, has written an excellent article in January’s Evangelicals Now, which Cranmer’s Curate commends.

Mr Burkill points out that usual Sunday attendances have fallen from 1.67 million in 1968 to 0.87 million in 2007, having gone below the million mark in 1997. He observes: ‘The 1994 ordination of women to the presbyterate was trumpeted by some as the way to reverse this remorseless decline. There is no sign of this yet.’

Cranmer’s Curate asked Mr Burkill about electoral roll figures. The roll includes your core congregation but it also includes what you might call 'fringe' - people who are not there every Sunday but who might come occasionally; people with whom we are in touch. There are therefore usually more people on your electoral roll than in church on a usual Sunday (our roll is twice the size of our congregation). The roll is the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council, which appoints an officer to maintain it. It is revised every five years and the people on it are entitled to vote at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting.

Mr Burkill told Cranmer’s Curate: ‘The electoral roll figures show the same pattern of steady decline as other Church of England membership statistics. In 1980 the roll stood at 1.82 million. Despite lowering the eligible age to 16 after that year we find that by 1994 the figure was 1.48 million. In 2006 the figure was 1.27 million. In recent years electoral roll figures have gone down by about 0.17 million whenever there has been a complete revision of the roll, so the likely figure now is probably not much over 1 million. Even this loose measure of membership can therefore offer little comfort.’

Little comfort indeed when considered from the perspective of decline – the ‘fringe’ has been receding as fast as Cranmer’s Curate’s hairline. But how about considering the fringe from the perspective of growing from a small base? We are in touch with a million people.

To see how this more optimistic perspective earths at parish level, let us consider an ‘Urban Priority Area’ in Merseyside – the parish of St Catherine’s Tranmere.

The vicar, the Revd Darren Moore - one of the unsung heroes of the Church of England - told Cranmer's Curate that when he arrived the church had typically 25-30 on a Sunday morning, mostly retired or about to be. It now has 40-50 adults with up to 15 children on a good Sunday. The average age has dropped with the growth mostly in the 20-30s age range, but with some growth in the 40s and 50s range.

Building friendships and running good fun social events has been key to getting people in, he said, but getting people to go on the ‘Christianity Explored’ nurture course leads to conversions. And Mr Moore has seen some of his fringe converted.

He is in a tough parish, much tougher than Cranmer’s Curate’s, and he is seeing real church growth. Does this not show that by God’s grace the Church of the nation is salvageable? What it needs is more front-line clergy of the likes of Darren Moore to proclaim the living Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From David Lonsdale
Unfortunately the leadership of the Church of England, dominated as it is by the liberal tendency, do not believe that God renews people. For them the answer is not intervention by the Holy Spirit but intervention by government.
The leadership of the C of E are as bemused as Matthew Parrish. They can see what God is doing in the lives of those who believe, particularly in C of E evangelical congregations, yet they do not want to admit that they have been wrong all these years.
As a consequence the C of E is giving out an uncertain sound making the work of spiritually alive Vicars more difficult.
Interesting though the Roll numbers are, we should remember that God does not need the C of E. There is a great work to be done in our land and God will do that work with or without the C of E.
I know a lot of Christians now who do not have any allegiance to a denomination. They believe that we should repent, believe, as in John 3 v.16, be baptised and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Theirs is a simple faith, obedient to the challenges of the gospel. They attend churches where the gospel is preached regardless of the denomination. Roll numbers in themselves are not an indication of the spirituality of the nation.

4 January 2009 at 11:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Church of England? The same "church" that banned 'Jerusalem' as being racist, and supports Sharia Law in England? The same Church that sucks up to Scottish dictators ruling over England with no demcratic mandate post 1997?

We would all laugh, if it weren't so sicking and treacherous. The sooner this dispicable political organisation is abolished, the better off we will all be, in England.

4 January 2009 at 13:34  
Blogger Cthulhu said...

Your Grace -- you should check out what Rev Tim Keller is doing in the US with church plants, mainly in New York City and expanding into other metro areas. Goggle Keller and/or Redeemer Presbyterian NYC. I attend a Redeener church plant in Brooklyn (a borough of NYC) and ever week there's at least 100-150, mostly young hipster-type attendants, in a Brooklyn neighborhood that's pretty much a bastion of leftist lunacy. Yes, God can lift up... but it's necessary to keep one's powder dry.

4 January 2009 at 14:30  
Anonymous The Spookfinder General said...

Is it worth kidnapping and torturing Cranmer's Curate to find out the truth about His Grace?

I mean, apart from "Who is the Stig?" I have spent the best part of this year trying to figure out the mystery of His Grace's corporeal presence. Somebody is channeling him and he would make an ideal candidate in the Big Brother household.

4 January 2009 at 16:09  
Blogger len.allan said...

The disciples were instructed by Jesus " Don`t leave Jerusalem.Instead wait for what the Father has promised, about which you have heard me speak, Acts 1:4".(The promise of the Holy Spirit.)

If the disciples were instructed to do nothing without the Holy Spirit neither should we!.

4 January 2009 at 17:39  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Your Grace.
This report highlights some very interesting facts, I don't for one moment believe that the church is in terminal decline, graphs & polls can give a false picture & I think this is a good example. The Church of England may well have taken a battering over recent years, it currently has many problems that need to be rectified, weak leadership has caused turmoil in many areas, some clergy act like spoilt children when they can't get their own way, "I'm going to join the Roman Catholic Church then", what sort of shepherd leaves his flock to the wolves? Jesus calls such a one a hireling. But I digress, the Church is the body of Christ on Earth, a living spirit filled body of believers called by many names, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist & the many Evangelical & Free Churches to name but a few, the One thing they have in common is the faith in The Lord Jesus Christ & His redeeming death, revealed in the scriptures. Thus one graph of any one denomination can never give a true picture of the facts, as a disheartened Elijah was told,
" There are many who have not bowed the knee to Baal". I would suggest Your Grace that not only is the Church salvageable but will be victorious by the message she preaches in the One She serves, as soon as we mobilise the troops.

4 January 2009 at 18:24  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Many denominations have seen that the admission of women to the priesthood was a fatal error, even though few will admit to this error. It is a simple fact that where women come into the clergy, men retreat. Where men leave the clergy, men leave the parishes as well. Before long, the Churches are entirely female and nothing more than ladies sewing circles and feminists political organizations. Female clergy have been a total disaster across the board!

This is not to deny the pastoral qualities that many women have. Some of them are very good (others are not quite so good, like some men are not either). But the fact remains, they have driven men out of the sanctuaries and out of the pews and it has been a disaster for the Church!

4 January 2009 at 19:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Church of England that was started by a crazy horny king that wanted to divorce his wife. Everyone will be better of when this church goes down.

4 January 2009 at 20:25  
Anonymous Nelson said...

Good point,but I think We must look at the wider picture, during WW2 women did many jobs that were originally designated to men only, it saved the day & set a precedent.
After the conflict the male populace was severely depleted & the church found a great shortage of male communicants compared to the ladies, thus the growth of many female orientated social activities & the erronious view that Church was for women while 'real' men went down the pub.
In modern society we find intelligent women occupying many posts, Doctors, Firefighters, Company Directors etc but men have not retreated from these professions, why is it only in the Church this phenomena occurs? I can choose the gender of my doctor, dentist etc & if I don't want a female vicar I can go to another church, no problem, surely the men of this country who beat the Armada, stopped Napoleon & destroyed Hitler are not scared of our own women, if this is the case then no wonder the Church is suffering so badly.

4 January 2009 at 20:49  
Blogger len.allan said...

Because all of you are one in the Messiah Jesus,a person is no longer a jew or greek, a slave or a free person,a male or a female.
Galations 3:28
I think the C of E must have been somewhat like a gentlemans club with no female members!.( not in front of the pulpit anyway)
It will take the breath of the Holy Spirit to breath life into the church.

4 January 2009 at 20:56  
Anonymous Cranmer's Curate said...

Spookfinder General: There is no point kidnapping & torturing me - I don't know who this blogger is. I am generally wary of internet anonymity which is why you can track me down via our church web-site.

David Lonsdale is absolutely right about the destructive effect of the liberal tendency on the Church of England. The Reformers who established the theological foundations of the Church of the nation were in fact 'evangelical' - the term Cranmer's biographer Diarmaid MacCulloch uses to describe him (see MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer, Yale University Press, p 59). It is evangelicals such as Darren Moore who under God are the only hope for the spiritual revival of the Church of England.

With all Christian good wishes,

Julian Mann

4 January 2009 at 21:55  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Nelson asks why now women in Holy Orders (that's not quite the way he put it, but that is what it comes down to). The answer is that it was not divinely ordained to be this way, and those that thought that they could change it just thought that they could contradict the will of the Holy Spirit. Sure, man can go against God; we do it all the time. But God does not bless us when we do. If we want to be blessed by God, then we must do things God's way, follow His directions. In this particular situation, this means having an all male clergy. It is not a matter of what I want or you want; it is a matter of what God has directed. If the CofE is to flourish, it needs to get back on track and do God's work, rather than that of the state, the welfare organizations, etc. This really rankles us as rebellious human beings, but that is just the way things are.

4 January 2009 at 21:57  
Anonymous Nelson said...

Apologies if I was unclear in my earlier comments, I simply feel that often we go beyond scripture & limit the Almighty by man made tradition, eg the Pharisees would not accept Jesus as the Messiah they had waited for because He did not fulfill their requirements. In the Old Testament, a very patriarchal time God saved Israel through a female Judge (Deborah, Judges: 4). In Acts 5:38-39 we see the rabbi Gamaliel giving sound advice about another glitch in the traditional beliefs of the time, advice that I feel could be heeded in the present situation. My point is that as mere mortals we can not limit God to our own traditions, we can all exercise choice but fearful retreat in the face of challenge is not the answer.

4 January 2009 at 23:04  
Blogger Bryan said...

If Your Grace would like to grow Christians, one might suggest that Your Grace feed his congregation Scriptures.

Several times in the history of Israel, as recorded in the Scriptures, they "re-discovered" the Scriptures and when they caused them to be read and gave the explanation of it to the people, the Nation rededicated itself to God for a generation or so.

Similar things have happened in modern recorded history as well.

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded the Apostle Peter to "feed my sheep", not entertain the masses.

4 January 2009 at 23:57  
Blogger Darren said...

Thanks for the article Julian,

I am the unsung hero (not sure I'm totally unsung - nor a hero) from Merseyside - an interesting thing to through in the mix, although our normal Sunday morning is up (our evening is up from 3-4, to 12-20+) But our Electoral Roll is actually falling! They are heading for convergence.

When I was a Curate, in a UPA in London, our ER was actually smaller than our congregation!

Ien.Allen - Galatains 3:28 comes off of the same pen that wrote 1 Timothy 2. Article XX reminds us not to raise 1 bit of the Bible over another - so we have to make sense of both as true. The context of Galatians 3 is about salvation and access to God, not about roles etc. - hence the catch-phrase equal but different.

5 January 2009 at 12:06  
Anonymous Cranmer's Curate said...

You're welcome Darren & we ought to thank the blog owner for his hospitality.

Clearly, it's a better situation when the core congregation grows and the electoral roll falls. But in a Church called to serve the nation, it's surely a good thing if we have a 'fringe' - people beyond the regular congregation who in some sense affiliate with their local parish church. It puts us in touch with a larger number of lost sheep (& their families) to whom to proclaim the Good News of the Saviour.

In Christ's service,


5 January 2009 at 12:33  
Blogger John said...

The reason for this is very simple - The CofE no longer teaches people the Gospel as commanded to do so by Jesus Christ himself but prefers to bore us all to tears with a smorgasbord of marxist/PC claptrap somehow dressed up as "Christian theology", with a smattering of environmentalism (er, "stewardship") thrown in for good measure.

An apostate Church is not one that should expect a high rate of attendance.

9 January 2009 at 15:35  

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