Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Church that doesn’t ‘do God’

Imagine a tour of the Dome of the Rock which did not mention Mohammed or Allah; or one of the Golden Temple which did not Guru Nanak; or of St Peter’s in Rome which did not mention the Pope; or of the Palace of Westminster which did not mention Churchill, Disraeli, Gladstone; or Hampton Court which did not mention Henry VIII, or of Stratford-upon-Avon which did not mention Shakespeare...

or a tour of an Anglican cathedral which did not mention God, Jesus, Christianity or the Bible.

Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome tells of a tour he took of Salisbury Cathedral last Friday. The tour guide recounted the details of ‘the stone used in the Cathedral's construction. She was instructive about the art, about the candle for Amnesty International and told us proudly that Salisbury was the first Cathedral to have a girls' choir’.

But there was not one mention of God.

Mr Montgomerie rightly had no expectation of a sermon or a declaration of the Gospel of salvation. But he would have appreciated a hint, a murmer, a whisper, a slight allusion to the God of Glory who inspired the sublime majesty of the architecture.

He says: “With so much ignorance of the Christian story these visits provide an opportunity for the Church of England to say a little of what motivated previous generations to build such magnificent monuments to God. But nothing.”

And so he asks: “Where is the Church's passion to share the good news?”

The reality is that the Church of England has adopted the very deity which St Paul found in Greece. In the Acts of the Apostles, he proclaims: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

The Church of England is busy making unknown what it has previously known. It is so busy selling teddybears, making coffee, preaching inoffensive political correctness and developing gay liturgy that it has lost all sense of its spiritual raison d’être. One comment in the thread, from the professing atheist Mikey, says: “I am atheist but would have more respect for the Church if it had a tiny bit of confidence in its message.’

Well, Mikey, Cranmer has more respect for open-minded atheists than he has for a lukewarm church. He would rather live life with the vibrant passionate godless than do God with the tedious passionless.

It is one thing for this anti-Christian Labour government to eradicate Christianity from the public sphere; but quite another for a supine Established Church to assist it by error, oversight or purposeful omission.

Yet perhaps the Bishop of Salisbury might respond that his cathedral is to be worshipped in, not toured...

35 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

'or of St Peter’s in Rome which did not mention the Pope'

Just a small correction; St. Peter's in Rome wouldn't put mention of the Pope ahead of mention of God, just as any particular protestant cathedral wouldn't speak of it's residing Bishop before it spoke of God.

26 July 2009 at 21:06  
Blogger Jim Bartlet said...

The established church has nothing to offer the 21st century soul. It has been crucified and is about to whisper those last mortal words which kicked it off....."it is finnished".

26 July 2009 at 21:14  
Anonymous C Hossack said...

A luke warm church eh? Rev 3:16

Also read Called to Account published by the Social Affairs Unit

26 July 2009 at 21:20  
Blogger indigomyth said...

How can they give a tour of the cathedral without mentioning God, or fully explain the imagery and architecture of the building without referencing the ideas behind the divine? To Cranmer's list I would add the Great Pyramids of Giza, or the tombs of the Pharaohs, or even Stonehenge; to go to these monuments and not be told about the religions and mythologies that inspired and influenced their building is a great disservice. I do not know of any intelligent atheist that would object to the telling of Christian ideas in order to explain the cathedral.

P.S. Before anyone talks about Dawkins, he argues very clearly for teaching of the Bible to facilitate understanding of English literature, so am sure that he would be as equally frustrated by this as me.

26 July 2009 at 21:25  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

"He would rather live life with the vibrant passionate godless than do God with the tedious passionless."

Amen to that. I have more respect for Peter Tatchell than any Bishop. I know what he believes in, he lives by it (including adopting a life of material simplicity I might add), he preaches it with conviction & passion and often it has been at great personal cost.

What a shame when the 'gospel' of death & destruction is made more compelling than the true gospel.

26 July 2009 at 21:28  
Anonymous Puritan Preacher said...

Your Grace,
I was relieved to see that the Cathedral's website appears rather better at 'doing God' than its tour guide who is falling short of the mission statement:-

Salisbury is unique amongst medieval English cathedrals, built within one century with no substantial later additions. The building itself is remarkable, a testimony to the faith and practical skills of those who erected it. But it is much more than an historical monument. It is the Cathedral Church of the Salisbury diocese and so the Mother Church of several hundred parishes in Wiltshire and Dorset. It is a centre of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Every day, week in week out, for century after century, God is worshipped here. Above all it is a place of prayer.

Cathedral Mission Statement

Salisbury Cathedral exists to make real the glory and presence of God in the world.

Our commitment is to:
live out the teachings of Jesus Christ in today's world
celebrate the presence of God through worship, music and art
offer a warm welcome to all who come to the Cathedral
strengthen church and community life in the diocese
challenge injustice at home and abroad
promote learning, personal development & spiritual growth

26 July 2009 at 21:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes.

By any imagination the most important historical aspect of any ancient religious structure, especially one of the size of any Cathedral is the sacrifice made by ordinary people in its construction.

Surly the existence of such a vastly huge undertaking. Undertaken by what were in main thousands of half starving peasants and hundreds of highly skilled stone masons. Simply for the glorification of something they had never met or likely to meet this side of eternity. Is a wow to beat all wows.

Far more then some idiot mind-controlled tour guide waxing lyrical about some first on the subject of Girls Choir's.

This is simply on the level of giving the punters a degree of historical education, if nothing else.

26 July 2009 at 22:00  
Anonymous Philip said...

(The CofE) is so busy selling teddybears, making coffee, preaching inoffensive political correctness and developing gay liturgy that it has lost all sense of its spiritual raison d’être.

Even some churches who have a better idea of their "raison d'etre" tend to reduce ‘church’ to a feel of happy entertainment, rather than convey a sense the terrible situation and future of those who don't turn to Christ, and when in fact the truth of the Gospel is in Biblical text that needs to be properly proclaimed and taught! Perhaps more confidence is needed in the power of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel. And Jesus in no way watered down His message to be more acceptable to the ‘modern times’ of those days!

"It is one thing for this anti-Christian Labour government to eradicate Christianity from the public sphere; but quite another for a supine Established Church to assist it by error, oversight or purposeful omission." Absolutely right!

26 July 2009 at 22:37  
Blogger Nick Gulliford said...

"The reality is that the Church of England has adopted the very deity which St Paul found in Greece....

The Church of England is busy making unknown what it has previously known."

Yes ..... but the CofE has scarcely got over Darwin's findings. It took the Church of Rome 300 years or so to forgive Galileo for being right when it was wrong.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that when a sympathetic empirical scientist like Jung comes along, the CofE has difficulty reinterpreting its message so that the man in the pew can explain it to the man in the street.

Jung's 'system' of Individuation is not so very different from St Paul's 'system' of Justification by Faith. But they are using different vocabularies.

I hope Your Grace will be a little more tolerant towards Dr Rowan Williams, whilst he wrestles with the difficulty.

26 July 2009 at 22:40  
Blogger BJ said...

It offends me mildly that the cathedral of established church in the diocese in which I live -- St Paul's in London -- should charge me to go inside at all. OK, I can attend a service for free, but not go in, sit down, and think or pray.

The Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, on the other hand, is free to visit. I've never been to Regent's Park Mosque or Neasden's Hindu Temple, but I understand that they -- while not equivalent to cathedrals -- are also free to visit.

Maybe Anglicans just like (or need) money too much?

26 July 2009 at 22:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a tour of Wells Cathedral the guide led us to a side chapel where a lay member of the Cathedral spoke a short prayer and left us for a few moments of contemplation. Nothing 'preachy' but just enough to let us think about the significance of what we had just seen. It can be, and is, done.

26 July 2009 at 23:15  
Blogger Alex said...

Sorry Your Grace, I have been on many similar tours, of European churches, mosques, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples where their particular doctrine was never mentioned.

27 July 2009 at 00:12  
Anonymous not a machine said...

you do have to wonder why so much doubt about Christianity has been allowed to be put on TV , perhaps that will be for the historians .

But here we are in society of legalistic certainity that Christianity is not really fit for purpose anymore.

It perhaps is more slight of hand than , a sort of amnesia or narcotic . as we tap furiously on ever smaller keyboards and view ever more absorbing content rich screens of information and deals not avaiable anywhere else .

Prayer is not percieved as being transmited in the same way as mobile signal , no mast , no touch screen !!.

It is perhaps we are so used to , pressing buttons and waiting for a a screen or audio reponse, that our commnion with the spiritual, seems so much less logical and immediate.

texting is not the same as praying , the response to prayer is equally more challenging as it can change your life and not your handset .

The question which I wonder about is what sort of society is this creating an agnostic one ? an amoral one ? or tip toeing big brother political power, presented as neccessary evil ??.

But before I get castigated as back to nature luddite , some of us can remember what it was like pre mobile , when a meeting with the bank manager was more a matter of trust , and the school report was matter of pride and importance to a parent and not an argument about human rights.

I am told I dont understand and that I fail to see the oppertunities , I ask a teenager about God and he tells me he likes Buddhism best because of the chants .

This curious inability to deal with anything , not on the internet or that you cant text , this shortening of thought into soundbites , is perhaps leading to embarrased parents , and a conformity to low ideas and purchase ideals , at the expense of behavioral and moral beliefs .

perhaps what we need is more cameras and a tracking chip installed in us , then we wont have to think about anything very much at all , just whatever we are fed or have enough spare cash for .

27 July 2009 at 01:22  
OpenID manaalmahdi said...

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27 July 2009 at 01:34  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Just as I've suspected for many years now; the C of E is unfit for purpose.

27 July 2009 at 05:59  
Anonymous Voyager said...

This is where Martin Luther came in

27 July 2009 at 06:26  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

"Just a small correction; St. Peter's in Rome wouldn't put mention of the Pope ahead of mention of God, just as any particular protestant cathedral wouldn't speak of it's residing Bishop before it spoke of God."

Mr Michael,

From Ben Archibald on ConHome:

"You'll find that if you do a tour of the Vatican (as I did three brief weeks ago), God is mentioned only in a vague hypothetical, the sense being that those who wish to experience Christianity can repair to one of the chapels of prayer in the Basilica of Saint Peter. The tour is not a spiritual experience, as a great many of my Catholic friends with me for the tour attested."

27 July 2009 at 08:39  
Blogger dmk said...

Puritan Preacher: the Cathedral Mission Statement sounds good, I just wonder whether it's one of the many that isn't completely followed through in practice.

My overriding impression of St. Peters was lots of statues of Popes, a celebration of the might of the institution of the church, rather than of God himself (dons hard hat).

I was conned into a tour of the Dome of the Rock, where the Muslim tour guide went on at great length about Mohammed, how great Islam was etc., and then tried to fleece me for every shekel I had. It left a pretty sour taste.

27 July 2009 at 09:14  
Blogger Ray said...

Like most buildings of this age and younger, Salisbury Cathedral was built at the whim of a bishop wishing to outdo another Bishop, in a religious pissing contest that turned armies of peasants into slaves to build monuments to greed and delusional power. Paid for by money squeezed from the rich under threats of doom in an nonexistant after life.
Was god seen in the stunning technological achievement that made the ovens at Auschwitz.
Norman Dee

27 July 2009 at 09:29  
Anonymous sydneysider said...

If His Grace wants to live with the
vibrant passionate godless move to
Australia.
If His Grace wants to do God with passion cross the Tiber.
Try it! You wont last a month at either.'Tedious' will take on a
whole new desirable dimension.

27 July 2009 at 10:17  
Blogger margaretkiaora said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

27 July 2009 at 11:02  
Blogger margaretkiaora said...

I visited St Laurence Jewry next to the Guildhall in London and thought the same His Grace. I wondered what would happen if someone in distress or searching for God would do if they could not even find a pamphlet to help them.

27 July 2009 at 11:07  
Blogger Preacher said...

Excellent post Your Grace, & heartening to read the comments from the bretheren & others on this dismal showing. The mere existence of the Cathedral & all other Christian churches is mute testimony to the power & truth of the gospel. Not a bad witness to an apparently poor Jewish carpenter from a remote outpost of the Roman Empire who only preached for three years before being framed & publicly executed that these temples of worship still are there to worship Him after 2000 years.
I agree with Your Grace that often the conversation with confirmed atheists can be more enjoyable than that with the complacent,luke warm members of a church, perhaps the comment by an old time preacher, Finney I think, but it could be Moody is apt " I'd rather preach to an angry man than a sleeping one, with an angry man I can do something".

27 July 2009 at 11:17  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

Perhaps the Bishop of Salisbury would respond that his cathedral is capable of being both worshipped in and toured. You perhaps should also appreciate that non believers need to be spoken to in a different manner (and indeed in more than one manner) from believers (and this applies in politics as well as religion). The religous messages in cathedrals are usually pretty evident, and as a agnostic they come across to me rather better in silent contemplation; and I'm afraid any evangelistic hard sell is likely to have the opposite effect.


The C of E could of course confine itself in speaking to teaching to true believers in an approved format - but I'm afraid those days are well and truly over.

As for the dig about the Labour Government being anti-Christian - I just don't see it from my side of the fence, and there are plenty of Christians who don't either. Anti intolerance maybe?

27 July 2009 at 12:19  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Don't bother with a conducted tour of Landowne Baptist Church in Bournemouth. The building dates from 1876 and has a pretty, wooden barrel roof and nicely carved pews, but the church is only there for a few hours a week. For the rest of the time it is out in the community witnessing about its Saviour, by telling the individual stories of salvation of its members, by gossiping the Gospel at every opportunity, and by displaying the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, to all that it meets.

Salisbury Cathedral is quite close to us, and it is a magnificent building and an architectural masterpiece. I would recommend that it is purchased by the people so the church in Salisbury can get on with what it supposed to be doing. I dare say many of the clergy would be happy to be museum guides without the tedious pretence of being a Christian.

27 July 2009 at 13:05  
Anonymous Old Grumpy said...

Your Grace - I am delighted to confirm that only last year I visited St Paul's Cathedral in London with the stated intention of prayer, and was immediately admitted, free of charge, and directed to a special vestry area which had been set aside for the purpose away from the multitudinous throng of camera wielding tourists.

I remained there for a quarter of an hour, along with several other like minded souls, to communicate with our Lord God in my own time.

All is not lost with the CofE, then?

27 July 2009 at 17:19  
Anonymous sydneysider said...

Good for you Grumps! You'll be pleased to learn that Recusant gave me a theological thrashing.I'm
going to have to learn ancient greek before I can get the edge on this guy.I don't suppose it's ethical to ask you to pray for me for a win the next time you're
visiting St Pauls.

27 July 2009 at 17:36  
Blogger ZZMike said...

"She was instructive about the art, about the candle for Amnesty International and told us proudly that Salisbury was the first Cathedral to have a girls' choir’.

But there was not one mention of God."

Because, clearly, to this tour guide, it's just another nice old building.

27 July 2009 at 20:16  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Your Grace

Here here. I think Salisbury is a cathedral, in which you have to pay to get into - a practice, which while understandable - I disagree with. I believe Jesus said, "my temple should be a house of prayer".

Also, I understand that you focus on macro issues, but there is a lot of good Christian work being done in the parishes and deaneries right across this country. The trouble is that cathedrals such as this undermine this good work.

But good show for publicising this.

27 July 2009 at 20:57  
Anonymous Robert Brown said...

That is so sad, I attend my local CofE church but dont consider myself anglican, I call myself part of the church of God. I rather wish we would all stop creating boundaries where they dont exist and just try and work together for the glory of God. The opening up of these old church buildings is a brilliant way to allow the public in without killing them with the bible, however there is no point welcoming people if they dont know what they are being welcomed to.

27 July 2009 at 22:53  
Anonymous len said...

Escape From Churchianity

by Chip Brogden

It is important that we make a clear distinction between the True Church (the Ecclesia) and the Institutional Church, Organized Religion, or religion in general. The easiest way to begin is to discuss one critical thing that Organized Religion cannot do.

Organized Religion cannot impart Life.

"This is our testimony, that God has given us Eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son: He that has the Son has Life, and He that has not the Son of God has not Life (1 John 5:11,12)."

Contrary to popular belief, the Lord Jesus Christ does not live within the matrix of Organized Religion. The Ecclesia, like our Lord, is Wholly Other. I can prove it to you beyond the shadow of a doubt. Can you join a "church"? Yes, if you meet their requirements for membership. Can you join the Ecclesia? No. You have to be born into it. Or, to be more correct, you have to be born-again into it. It is not a question of joining or not joining, but a question of having Life versus not having Life. "He that has the Son has Life; He that has not the Son has not Life."
( For full article see School of Christ.org)

28 July 2009 at 08:07  
Blogger Preacher said...

The question of charges is interesting & brings to mind a visit to Exeter Cathedral, my wife & I wished to spend some time in prayer in this venerable old building where prayer had been made to The Lord for centuries, but inside the door was a ticket desk where we were duly asked to pay. We both protested that the house of God should be free & open to all, after a friendly exchange of views with the gentleman in charge we were allowed in free of charge & spent a blessed half hour or so in prayer. On the way out the lady on the ticket desk & the gent in charge were by the door & my wife & I both donated more than the cost of entry into the donation box. All was amicably settled & the upkeep of this great old house of worship was assisted, the gent in charge also promised to present our views at the next meeting of the church leaders. Point being ,if we are afraid to speak out at the door of the church when we feel it should be open to all without charge, how on earth will we ever have the courage to share the gospel with the lost?

28 July 2009 at 12:22  
Blogger English Viking said...

@ Len (8:07)

At last, some sense from someone who knows what they are talking about and also knows how to correctly address our God and Saviour.

28 July 2009 at 13:41  
Blogger Arden Forester said...

Not all churches in the Church of England are awash with the new doctrines and passing fads. Whilst it is difficult at times, many hold to the traditional faith.

29 July 2009 at 16:09  
Anonymous Cynthia said...

I think children should be taught
respectful behaviour when attending
church.Many talk and giggle throughout the service and chew gum
even with their parents are present.In Poland you do not see this.

31 July 2009 at 07:53  

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