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The ongoing preoccupation and concern about how Anglican parishes will survive, especially in rural England, might be resolved soon.

On June 26, 2022, The Sunday Telegraph reported that wealthier parishes could be allowed to give more to poorer ones. The plan will be debated at the upcoming General Synod meeting in July (emphases mine):

Wealthy church dioceses will be allowed to share funds with their poorer neighbours under plans to be voted on by the Church of England.

The proposals, which have been submitted before the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, will mean that for the first time cash can be more evenly distributed.

The move would remove some barriers to dioceses sharing resources and comes amid concern about the viability of smaller, poorer and more rural parishes.

Why did that not happen sooner? It’s common sense. In Paul’s epistles, we read of his collection for the poor church in Jerusalem. The other churches he planted in Asia Minor and Macedonia gave generously, and he succeeded in presenting the donation to the struggling congregation in Jerusalem.

It will be left to the dioceses to decide if they wish to participate. Hmm. Based on previous diocesan splurging of money on rather useless ‘initiatives’, I do hope they will be generous towards their poorer congregations:

In papers published last week and submitted to the Synod for its conference in July, David White, deputy director of finance for National Church Institutions, said that his amendment would “in effect, enable a Diocesan Board of Finance to grant funds from its income account for use by other dioceses in the Church of England if it wished to do so” …

In May the archbishops admitted that they “got it wrong” by not prioritising rural parishes over city churches, as they announced funding worth £3.6 billion.

We shall see.

On June 23, Andrew Selous MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered a question from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw on putting more clergy into neglected parishes. I agree with the Revd Giles Fraser of St Anne, Kew, that Selous’s response was far from reassuring:

Churches are struggling to obtain curates, as obtaining more clergy is not in their direct control:

The Save the Parish network will be meeting before the Synod members get together. I wish them all the very best. They have two champions in the Revds Giles Fraser and Marcus Walker, rector of St Bartholomew the Great in London:

Giles Fraser is enjoying his new assignment at the Parish Church of St Anne in southwest London:

He is out and about meeting fellow residents:

On a serious note, Fraser warns of the Lords Spiritual — serving Church of England bishops in the House of Lords — becoming irrelevant if the parish system breaks down:

In his recent article in UnHerd, he says:

the bishops draw their moral authority from the fact that the Church of England operates a universal service provision. We serve in all communities, from the richest to the poorest, from cities to rural areas. The bishops are in fact well suited to the Lords because they connect it to every parish in the country — well, in England at least. And if there is a current threat to bishops in the Lords it comes not from the fact that they sometimes irritate the government with moral pronouncements — ‘twas ever thus — but rather because the bishops are dismantling the source of their own authority. Armed with half-arsed MBAs, they want the Church to be run with increasingly centralised efficiency; inefficient parishes are being closed. As a result, the connection between the bishops and the parishes is being severed, and with it the source of their authority to sit in the legislature.

Fraser warns that this plays into secularists’ hands:

The role of the bishops is to represent the whole country spiritually. On the whole, other faiths are glad of this particular role held by the Church of England. The National Secular Society and other troublemakers are keen to sow division among people of faith in order to argue that no one church should have legislative priority over another. But this is simply a ruse to dislodge religion from the public sphere. The Church of England is not a special interest group, it exists for all. Even, heaven help us, for secularists.

On that note, the Revd Stephen Heard is concerned about the single-minded political leanings of C of E clergy, starting with the archbishops. Their constant political pronouncements could be alienating the laity — and potential converts:

He cites an article from The Critic, ‘The closing of the Episcopal mind’, which provides bishops’ opinions dating back to the 19th century, and concludes:

Given this deep uncertainty and debate as to the political implications of Christianity, total political consensus among its leadership makes me very uneasy. It alienates large swathes of lay Anglicans who, in perfectly good faith, come to conclusions that differ from the liberal-left consensus, and makes our mission as a broad national church harder. It belies a real lack of intellectual vibrancy and curiosity, and implies, by some curious happenstance, that the political spirit of a restless and secular age has magically aligned itself with the truths of the Christian religionWhat providential perfection! And what an unlikely state of affairs all round.

Political causes have even entered into baptismal and confirmation vows in the Diocese of Oxford, which now requires a promise to uphold God’s creation.

Marcus Walker rightly points out that this places Christ, the Person to whom we pledge our faithful allegiance, in second position:

He wrote an article about it for The Telegraph:

In it, he says:

Baptism and Confirmation are two of the most important steps a human being can make. I say this, I concede, as a clergyman, but what happens at these sacraments is not just a significant religious service, but an event that transforms a person’s life, temporal and eternal.

This is why it’s really important that the Church avoids putting barriers up that would discourage people from encountering this grace. It is difficult enough for the Church to persuade people that the Christian message is true (we’ve all seen the stats). Pushing away those who don’t hold to the ideologies of the current bench of bishops is foolish in the extreme.

This week, the Bishop of Oxford has decided to add to the service of Baptism and Confirmation a new little exchange: “Will you strive to sustain the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?” “With the help of God, I will.” It is important to note that this is not a change to the actual baptismal vows. It’s part of a rather naff “commissioning” that the new prayer book, Common Worship, allows at the end of these services. Nobody knows what happens if a candidate says “no”, mostly because none of the other questions are controversial so this issue has not come up before.

At this point you might be saying, “but there’s nothing controversial here either”, and, if speaking entirely for myself, I would agree. You might also say that this seems pretty consonant with long-standing mainstream Christian and Anglican theology and this would be true.

But the question of how we engage with environmental concerns has become a major political issue recently, one controversial enough to have even caused long standing conservatives to reconsider their loyalty to the Crown in anger at the way some members of the Royal Family proselytise about “The Environment”.

This is the only part of the service which engages directly with a live political discourse. We are not asked to pledge anything to do with poverty, international relations, race, or even loyalty to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England …

Walker acknowledges that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) requires confirmands to pledge loyalty to the monarch and says that it is no longer used in today’s confirmation ceremonies:

to use it now would turn away any republican. It would cause those who don’t think this country should have a monarch to have second thoughts about finding God. High Tory though I am, I would not want to stand before the Throne of Judgment and have held against me the souls I had turned away because of my politics.

Which means my advice to the Bishop of Oxford is not to mess with this liturgy; to those cheerleading the move to ask yourself what if the boot were on the other foot and you were being forced to assent to a political position you dissent from as a condition of baptism; to the Church to be grateful for anyone willing to commit themselves to Christ and to welcome them with open arms.

In closing, this guidance on sermon writing from 2017 is worthwhile reading. It could apply to any essay. Parts of it remind me of the Expository Writing course I took at university many moons ago.

This is called ‘Good to Great: Turning a Decent Sermon into a Wonderful One’:

It’s excellent advice — and difficult to achieve, therefore, all the more worthwhile in the pursuit of ‘good to great’.

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Last week, I posted the first part of my defence of a constitutional monarchy.

Today’s post concludes that defence of the UK’s system of government, the Queen being our Head of State.

Longest reigning monarch?

Since I wrote the first part of this series, the Queen became one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs.

On June 12, 2022, the Mail on Sunday reported (emphases mine):

The Queen has reached an incredible new milestone after becoming the world’s second longest reigning monarch.

Her Majesty, 96, will overtake Thailand‘s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years and 126 days between 1946 and 2016, from today.

Earlier this month, the Queen surpassed Johan II of Liechtenstein, who reigned for 70 years and 91 days, until his death in February 1929

Louis XIV of France remains the longest-reigning monarch, with a 72-year and 110-day reign from 1643 until 1715, while the Queen’s stint on the throne now stands at 70 years and 126 days, equal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s.

The milestone comes as Her Majesty celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last week, with four days of parades, street parties, and other events, after officially reaching the milestone on February 6 this year.

But — and it’s a BIG BUT — two days later, on June 14, the Daily Mail posted an article proclaiming, ‘Queen is the world’s longest actively reigning monarch, royal expert claims’:

Although it’s widely reported she holds little interest in breaking records, her astonishing reign would only be beaten in length by King Louis XIV of France.

Known as Louis the Great, the French ruler became king at the tender age of four following the death of his father Louis XIII, and he ruled from 14 May 1643 to 1 September 1715.

According to the record books, only Louis XIV, or ‘The Sun King’, ruled for longer than the Queen.

But royal biographer Hugo Vickers says Her Majesty may be able to lay claim to being the world’s longest actively serving monarch by virtue of the fact the French monarch did not fully ascend the throne when he was aged four.

Although he was crowned King Louis XIV from May 1643, he technically served under his mother Queen Anne’s regency for eight years, owing to his tender age

In a letter sent to the Times, Mr Vickers writes: ‘In Louis XIV’s reign, there was a regency between May 14, 1643, and September 7, 1651, until he reached the age of 13.

‘Hence, while he may have been king the longest, our Queen is unquestionably the longest actively reigning monarch in the world.’

Sour republicanism

Republicans, i.e. anti-monarchists, are a dour lot.

Cromwell had Charles I beheaded and banned Christmas celebrations, so it was a relief when, after England’s Civil War, Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. That period in British history is called the Restoration.

The anniversary of the Restoration is on May 29:

Maypoles, music and gaiety were also banned. The Calvinistic Puritans were the Taliban of their time.

Like the Taliban, they ruled for the people’s ‘own good’:

The article that barrister Francis Hoar cites says, in part:

The seventeenth century Puritans did not impose their austere rules purely for the sake of it … Their banning of Maypoles and Christmas and football was ultimately about top-down, rationalistic social control to the end of spiritual and ethical purity, an attempt to eliminate anything untidy, spontaneous, and in particular to impose their own (extremely unpopular) ideas within the cultural and social vacuum thereby created.

Moving to the present day, in 1977, pundits predicted that few in Britain cared about the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, especially with the Sex Pistols’ caustic God Save the Queen being banned from the airwaves but purchased in record stores such that the single sold out.

Columnist Rod Liddle remembered the mood well. That year, he, too, was caught up in punk and republicanism. On June 5, 2022, he wrote an article for The Sunday Times: ‘As a teenage punk, I sneered at the Queen. Sadly, the music is almost over’:

I enjoyed the Queen’s Silver Jubilee immensely, shouting out horrible things about our monarch on stage with my punk band at a “Stuff the Jubilee” gig in a pleasant suburb of Middlesbrough. We were in a tent, erected with great magnanimity by the organisers slap bang in the middle of the proper, official Silver Jubilee celebration, with its stalls of cakes and beer wagons and plates bearing pictures of her Maj.

It may have been HM’s Silver Jubilee, but 1977 was also the year of punk, even if its impact on the charts was marginal. It is often suggested that punk was a left-wing phenomenon, but in truth it was far from it — even if one or two of the bands, such as the Clash, later proclaimed their left-wing credentials for the benefit of the very liberal hippy music press. In truth, punk at its core was energetically poujadist. It was lower-middle-class kids who were tired of, or bored with, the sclerotic institutions in our country — the big record companies, the civil service, the BBC, the aristocracy and so on.

It was individualistic, not communitarian. It had no great quarrel with capitalism, only with capitalism done badly. It saw Great Britain as stagnating and it wanted change. It had no time for the unions either — it was the unions that boycotted the pressing of the Sex Pistols’ second single, God Save the Queen.

The Queen represented continuity, much as did Jim Callaghan’s hobbled government. We didn’t want that and nor did the newish leader of the opposition [Margaret Thatcher], who was also lower middle class, despised outdated institutions such as the trade unions and the BBC, and was for individualism

As for 2022, with age, Liddle has had a change of heart:

This weekend’s celebrations are very different. Never before have we craved continuity quite as much as we do now, faced with an array of existential threats from which you can take your pick as to which is the most pressing: newly belligerent Russia, China’s quest for world domination, radical Islam, climate change, weird viruses …

Under a lesser monarch our disaffection with the royal institution — and, as a corollary, with our own history as a nation — might have spilt over long before. But she ruled with a dignity, duty and dexterity that precluded such an eventuality.

I wish I’d remembered, while standing on stage in that tent 45 years ago, the words of an old hippy: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Returning to 1977, in a retrospective for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Telegraph pointed out that people turned out in the millions to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, proving that republicanism was as unpopular then as it is now:

Elizabeth II has demonstrated that, in fact, the monarchs do possess a power: an unactivated power, one that a partisan, career-politician president would hastily trigger – and divide us – but which the Queen handles judiciously. She uses the authority of her office to carry out and promote public duty. And, refreshingly, she simply gets on with things – no grumbling, no complaint.

When the country celebrated her Silver Jubilee, in 1977, the cynics predicted a washout: what was the relevance of royalty in an age of strikes and national decline, they asked? In the end, one republican rally, on Blackheath, attracted just five people and was cancelled. Millions turned out to celebrate the Queen, with such passion that it surprised even her: I had “no idea”, she told a lady in waiting, that the people valued her so much.

On May 30, 2022, the left-wing New Statesman tried to rally its readers around republicanism, but the magazine’s Twitter thread was unimpressive:

The magazine suggests eco-warrior David Attenborough as someone around whom we could all rally — heaven forfend! Ugh!

There can never be a charismatic republican leader, because that is an oxymoron.

And, no, we can’t have Boris, either. Although he’s probably not much of a republican, when he was a boy, he announced to his family:

he would be “world king” one day. 

On Friday, June 3, some broadcasters picked up booing outside of St Paul’s Cathedral as he and his wife arrived for the Queen’s Service of Thanksgiving:

Boris was booed only on one side of the cathedral’s exterior. This is why the BBC did not pick up the sound on the day, whereas some other networks did. It depended on where their film and sound crews were located:

The culprit was a Frenchman:

I do hope that M. Jacquemin did not have the bad grace to take advantage of Boris’s Special Status scheme, granting — to as many EU citizens as cared to apply — official leave to remain in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

Finally, let none of us think that doing away with the British monarchy will resolve child poverty — or even pay for the NHS:

All we would get would be President Blair — UGH:

How awful that would be.

Ireland loves our Queen

Given Britain’s fractious relationship over the centuries which caused the Emerald Isle to achieve independence in 1921, one would expect that the Irish would want no further reminders of the monarch.

In another retrospective for the Platinum Jubilee, The Times published a series of historic milestones about the Queen.

Regarding an independent Ireland, the article says:

Northern Ireland has been a key feature of her reign, during which the Troubles have erupted, calmed and simmered. This conflict hit close to home in 1979 with the IRA’s murder of her cousin, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Time heals many wounds but forgiveness is a choice. So it was, in 2012, she shook the hand of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA man who was then deputy first minister in the province. Queen or not, it was an act of which many would not have been capable.

It came as a direct consequence of her successful state visit to Ireland the year before, the first by a reigning British monarch since independence. The events were examples of where she has perhaps done her greatest work: as a stateswoman.

The Irish were indeed delighted to have the Queen visit in 2011. A 2010 article from the Irish Independent reported that many towns and villages requested that she pay them a visit:

THE British Ambassador to Ireland has revealed he has received dozens of letters from towns and villages across the country inviting Queen Elizabeth to various events.

As speculation grows over a visit by the British monarch, the ambassador Julian King said his government was committed to a visit.

He said he was encouraged by the response among Irish people. Mr King was speaking to reporters in Muckross House during a visit to Killarney, Co Kerry, after accepting an invitation from the chairman of the board of trustees, Marcus Treacy.

Her popularity in Ireland continues. On her Platinum Jubilee weekend, an Irish poll showed that the Queen was more popular than past or present Irish presidents. The Queen scored a 50% approval rating compared to everyone else who scored 40+ per cent or lower.

Unfortunately, this clip from Mark Steyn’s GB News show doesn’t show the poll graphic, but the aforementioned Royal expert Hugo Vickers explained the Queen’s enduring popularity and the hope he has for her successor:

The enduring Commonwealth

The Queen is credited for creating the Commonwealth of Nations affiliated with Britain and/or the Crown.

Any of these nations can pull out of the Commonwealth voluntarily. Neither the Queen nor the British Government can forbid them from doing so.

Australia is once again considering renouncing the Queen as their Head of State. However, we must remember that they have important ties with China that might be persuading them in that direction. The same is happening in the West Indies. Money talks.

Similarly, a nation that has not been part of the British Empire may apply successfully to become a member of the Commonwealth. Rwanda is one such country. It was originally a Belgian trust territory that had been a German colony until the First World War.

A nation can also leave the Commonwealth and rejoin at a later date. The Gambia left in 2013 and rejoined in 2018.

In November 2021, Barbados removed the Queen as its head of state but remains a Commonwealth member.

A Forbes article from December 2021 explains the permutations of this group of nations:

… Queen Elizabeth II currently serves as the Head of State of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

These Queen-led nations are known as “Commonwealth Realms,” which are distinct from the broader 54-nation Commonwealth of nations that have some connection to Great Britain, but do not necessarily have the Queen as Head of State.

The Queen’s role as Head of State is largely ceremonial, and she is represented in each country by a governor-general who carries out the Queen’s day-to-day duties.

In addition to Barbados:

The last country to remove the Queen as Head of State was Mauritius in 1992, and other Caribbean countries that have removed the Queen are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica, which all removed the Queen in the 1970s.

Participation in the Commonwealth is voluntary, and in response to Barbados’s decision to remove the Queen, Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”

Monarchy — an eminently sensible way forward

The Revd Marcus Walker, whose thoughts have graced my ‘What’s on Anglican priests’ minds’ series, wrote a thoughtful piece for The Critic this month.

In it, he points to the great strengths of the British monarchy:

He begins by giving us the sour republican narrative:

The State Opening of Parliament last month saw three narratives promulgated at the same time by very different people, all of which (deliberately or not) betray a fundamental lack of understanding of monarchy.

The first, by the Left, saw an attempt to heap ridicule on the rituals of the ceremony: of the procession of the Imperial State Crown, of the uniforms worn by those involved.

The second, by a more centrist kind of commentator, asked whether it was fair or just to have as our Head of State a woman of 96 who is no longer able physically to take part in major ceremonies.

The third, by the pro-Putin end of the Right, saw continued attacks on Prince Charles, whom they seem to have anathematised because he likes the environment. The political categorisation is a tad crude, and I’m sure you’ve seen overt and covert republicans using all of these lines over the last few years.

He explains why those narratives are so misguided:

What’s interesting about these attacks is that they unintentionally highlight the strength of monarchy, not its weakness. The ritual is not meaningless; it unveils layers of history. The Commons slamming the door in the face of Black Rod tells of the struggles between Parliament and the King which have been settled in our constitutional framework of the Crown in Parliament.

The Crown has the history of the nation woven into it, bearing within its frame St Edward the Confessor’s sapphire, the Black Prince’s ruby, the Stuart sapphire, and the Cullinan diamond.

Each tells a little bit of the past that brought us to today. In the chamber we have elected parliamentarians, peers, senior judges, bishops: an interweaving of the different perspectives and professions which collectively set the political culture. This will change over the years as the nation changes, and this too will be good.

Ritual is not empty; it tells a story, and all nations have their rituals and their stories. If you are embarrassed by monarchical ritual, I caution you not to cross the Channel and find yourself in Paris for Bastille Day or Moscow for Victory Day. Losing your monarch does not remove your need for ritual and story. What you lose, though, is an embodiment of that story.

He asks us to consider the life cycle that the monarchy represents. A life cycle is something all of us can understand and appreciate:

The human realities of life, death, love, marriage, childbirth (and betrayal, hurt, and divorce) are at the core of the strength of monarchy. They are experiences we all share.

Monarchy, no matter how set-up in trappings of ritual, is a profoundly human institution. Its rhythms are human, as are its failings …

So why not be rid of the Crown and its rituals? Because they hold the space at the centre of our national life, preventing it from being held by a politician. No Trumps for us, no preening Macrons, no sour-faced Putins, no German Steinmeier with his terrible legacy of appeasing Russia. The centre holds, while the political world swirls around it.

Over this month we will be celebrating the Queen’s personal achievements across her 70-year reign, but we will also be celebrating the institution which she has embodied these many years, and doing so by marking in great state that most natural and human of all things: the passing of time.

I will have more on how society has changed over the past 70 years next week and how the Queen has adapted to those changes during her marvellous reign.

On May 15, 2022, the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) was from John 13, wherein Jesus gave the Apostles a new commandment at the Last Supper:

13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When I returned home from my local Anglican church that day, I read about two rather sad situations in the Church of England involving senior clergy.

The way the bishops handled these situations made me wonder how Christlike they are.

Loving each other the way Christ loves us demands a lot of concessions on our part, the very same that He showed towards His disciples, making allowances for human misunderstanding and weakness. Above all, He forgave those faults time and time again, with loving patience.

The Save the Parish network has been doing much heavy lifting in trying to get bishops to become more responsive to and respectful of parish churches across the country.

What follows are two examples of their efforts.

Cornwall

A conflict has been growing between Anglicans in Cornwall and their bishop, the Right Revd Philip Mounstephen, over the axeing of clergy, meaning the potential closure of historical churches in that beautiful county.

The Diocese of Truro prefers to spend money on administrative positions, as the following Save the Parish letter to the bishop makes clear:

The bishop sent back a terse reply, saying that, as the group had gone to the press with the story, he would not be meeting with them, as they had requested:

Given that you have taken this route I’m afraid I will not be offering you a meeting.

Rather, I encourage you to engage seriously in the On the Way process in your local community.

If you have continuing concerns these should best be raised in your PCC and by the normal synodical processes by which we work.

That sounds so petty and so corporate. Would our Lord have responded in such a cold and unforgiving way? Certainly not.

A Catholic chimed in to say that the same thing is going on in the Diocese of Plymouth. Very sad:

The Catholic Diocese of Plymouth is in serious decline and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that my Bishop (and the entire episcopate of England & Wales) and your Bishop are sharing & comparing notes on this planned ‘reconfiguration’. Very best wishes to you in this.

Other Anglicans were also unhappy with the direction the C of E has taken over the past few years:

I agree with the next tweets that say the rot started around 30 years ago:

Without churches, how will the faithful gather together to worship? Please don’t say via a Zoom call with self-consecrated sandwich bread and a glass of whatever juice or wine one has to hand. We are not Evangelicals.

Where is the Great Commission (Matthew 28) in this plan?

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Budget

Earlier this month, on May 11, the C of E issued its triennial budget, channelling £3.6 billion into parishes and social action.

Some people, like the Revd Giles Fraser, were happy but others wondered how much money would actually be going to parishes. Pictured is the Archbishop of Canterbury:

The Revd Marcus Walker of St Bartholomew in London, who chairs the Save The Parish network, was guardedly optimistic about the budget and its allocation to individual churches:

Interestingly, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York will not deliver the budget to the General Synod until July — with no vote.

Why wasn’t it presented to them upon release?

Someone noted the irony and hypocrisy of the Archbishops going to the press to announce the budget. Hmm:

On May 12, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that the hierarchy ‘got it wrong’ in ignoring parish churches, especially those in the countryside:

If it hadn’t been for Save The Parish, would the hierarchy have admitted their mistake?

Would Jesus have ignored the humble faithful? No, certainly not. The people the disciples tried to shoo away, Jesus invited to approach Him. He never turned His back on anyone.

The Guardian‘s account of the budget emphasised its social action aspects (emphases mine):

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, admitted the C of E had been heavy-handed in concentrating funds on urban churches in recent years. “Allocating money in the past was perhaps, if we’re honest, a bit too driven from the centre. Now we’re trusting the dioceses much more,” said Cottrell.

Rural parishes have complained that they have been starved of cash, which has been diverted to inner-city churches. As a result, churches have closed and clergy jobs have been lost, according to a campaign group, Save the Parish.

Welby said: “Over the last few years, the priority has been very much for the more heavily populated areas. Having listened carefully to what people were saying, this [funding] is for everyone, including the rural areas.”

The core of the extra funding will be used for programmes that focus on young and disadvantaged people, deliver social action work, address racism and cut the church’s carbon footprint.

It will support churches in the poorest areas of the country and fund more clergy in frontline ministries, including chaplaincies. “This funding will help the C of E raise its game in its service to the nation,” said Cottrell.

The Telegraph‘s article focused more on individual parish churches, the ones that Save The Parish is concerned about:

The Church of England’s Archbishops have admitted that they “got it wrong” by not prioritising rural parishes over city churches, as they announced new funding worth £3.6 billion …

In an online press conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, announced the plans and reiterated their commitment to rural church communities, saying that rural parishes “really matter” …

Furthermore, in December, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of Christians in England is close to falling below 50 per cent for the first time, as atheists now account for more than a third of “faith” groups in an increasingly secular society.

Do we think the bishops and two archbishops care about that statistic? They should, given that they, too, must follow the Great Commission. It wasn’t meant only for the Apostles.

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell said:

I don’t think we don’t need to be embarrassed by saying we’ve learned, we’ve listened. We’ve changed our mind. It’s not that what was done in the past was bad and this is now good. It’s: that was good and we think this is better.

The money which was distributed in this kind of way in recent years, was much more focused on populous areas. And of course populous areas, they really matter. But so do rural areas, and there’s a lot of hidden rural poverty, and it just meant that they didn’t meet the criteria. So we’ve changed the criteria and that’s a good thing to do

We do want to move to try to decentralise it a bit and work much more closely with dioceses and parishes.

I think the game changer has been that we’ve now much more clearly got a set of owned priorities as a church and that therefore provides the criteria for spending.

And it might be in very small ways in rural communities or in so-called larger ways.

It’s the ‘or’ that bothers me in that sentence, but I could be reading too much into it. Why not say ‘and’ instead?

Save The Parish gave a level-headed response:

Following the press conference, Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, of the Save the Parish campaign group, said: “We welcome the recognition of the pleading from Save The Parish and similar organisations that are fighting against cuts in clergy and the formation of mega-parishes.

“It is very pleasing that rural and small parishes will be able to apply for the new funding, having been deliberately excluded from the previous three-year round.

“The proof of the pudding will be whether these new funds are genuinely accessible in a way that eases the huge burden of the parish share which is a struggle for so many parishes.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Conclusion

The two illustrations above show how pharisaical the C of E senior clergy are.

They remind me of the Sanhedrin in the Gospels: haughtily lording their position over those they considered to be inferior — the faithful.

I do hope this new plan works out, but, on a wider note, senior clergy must really do better to be more Christlike in the way they deal with priests and laity.

My post of January 26 discussed the parlous state of the Church of England (CofE) today, covering events from the summer of 2021.

The CofE hierarchy and General Synod are looking for a way to ‘do church’ differently by seeking to close down our beautiful church buildings, some of which have been in existence since Norman times, i.e. the 11th century.

The plan is called Myriad.

Many clergy are just as angry as the laity. The laity put together a network called Save the Parish. My post last week left off at that point, which was July 2021.

I have a few more tweets to share from that month.

The Revd Marcus Walker from St Bartholomew’s in London pointed out that, once the clergy and the church buildings have been sold, there isn’t much left to the Church of England. In any event, this is OUR church, not the hierarchy’s or the General Synod’s:

Furthermore, it is wrong for priests to think like businessmen, viewing those in the pews as consumers:

On July 13, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson wrote, ‘It’s time to rebel — the Church of England is abandoning its flock’. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Lately, the Church of England has been hellbent on a course which is almost designed to cause distress to traditionally-minded vicars and parishioners: the lowly footsoldiers who do the flowers, run the choir and generally keep their beloved old church going while raising money to send a “Parish Offer” to fund the dioceses with their cloth-eared management jargon, their painfully woke initiatives and proliferating job titles like Mission Enablers and Director of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, with hefty salaries to match.

Some of us were under the impression that the Director of Creation job was filled rather successfully over two thousand years ago. Having lost faith in the eternal verities, the CofE now makes stipendiary clergy redundant – some rural benefices of 10 churches have to share one vicar! – while lunging for relevance with lectures like the one immortally entitled The Church and the Clitoris. Er, it’s been a while since I was a Sunday school teacher but isn’t the G in “G-spot” supposed to stand for God?

In a nutshell, the things which most Britons still value about the CofE are about to be destroyed by the very people who are meant to be its custodians. Parish priests and regular worshippers are up in arms over the “Vision and Strategy” plan which was unveiled by the Archbishop of York at the General Synod at the weekend. The new “growth strategy” is called Myriad. It means getting rid of the clergy with their tedious theological knowledge about, you know, the Bible

This is not a joke. Canon John McGinley explained: “Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly, college-based training for every leader of the church… then we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.”

As a church warden, one of many to write movingly on this topic to the Telegraph’s Letters Page, said: “Our incumbent vicar will be retiring soon. He will not be replaced. In return, for our generous Parish Offer, a church with a 1,400-year history will expect to have a clergy-delivered act of worship once every six weeks. I fear the end of worship is nigh. I will become a steward of an empty, soulless medieval building, haunted by the echoes and shadows of past congregations. What has the Church of England come to?”

Good question. Some vicars may be frightened into complicit silence, but they are deeply offended at being called “key limiting factors”, while their loyal parishioners are sneered at as “passengers”. Increasingly, prominent clergy like Marcus Walker and Giles Fraser are speaking out against the idiocy of pretending you can simply “plant” 10,000 lay churches without any proper structure or safeguarding measures. Let alone the worry of allowing over 12,500 listed buildings to fall into disuse while potentially permitting untrained shysters to instruct vulnerable people in the faith in their sitting rooms.

This is particularly important, as it relates to the cowardly closure of our churches during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020:

What the hell are the Archbishop and bishops playing at? It is a bitter irony that those who have presided over the decline of the faith now indulge in this sort of displacement activity to distract attention from their own ineptitude and extravagance, indulging in empire-building while allowing the vast practical good done by the parishes to wither on the vine. During the pandemic, millions craved a place of reassurance, a slender handrail of belief to cling on to. Churches were the ideal refuge, but the Archbishop didn’t fight to keep them open. A vital opportunity for spreading Jesus’s teaching was lost.

I couldn’t agree more.

Alison Pearson advises concerned parishoners what to do, mentioning Save the Parish:

What can we do? The clergy and the people do have a say and this is the moment for rebellion. We need to assist the parishes to withstand the assault from the dioceses which are better described as the “key limiting factors”. You can go to savetheparish.com, which offers a number of ways to help. Write to your MP. Parochial Church Council consent is needed for the closure of churches – don’t give it. The church building belongs to the parish, so does the vicarage, if they haven’t sold it yet.

You can ringfence your parish assets and put them in a trust out of reach of the diocese. The Parish Share is voluntary – a “free-will offering” – so you definitely don’t have to give it to a hierarchy that wants to starve your parish and its wonderful church of resources so that Ray and Brenda can host Holy Communion in their hot tub.

She concludes by quoting one of my favourite hymns, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind:

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive their foolish ways. Reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find, in deeper reverence, praise.

In August, George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, joined the revolt.

The Revd Peter Anthony directed disgruntled and disaffected Anglicans to an article by the Revd Giles Fraser, co-founder of UnHerd and former Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Pictured below is the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby:

Giles Fraser wrote:

A quiet but unmistakable rebellion is taking place within the Church of England, a groundswell of anger bubbling up from that most British of institutions: the Parish Church. And support for it shows no sign of waning.

“The current trajectory of our church is a huge mistake and the leadership is out of touch with ordinary churchgoers,” George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote yesterday. “It is time to rally the troops.”

He was writing in support of the newly formed Save the Parish movement — a group I have been plotting with from its creation. And yes, that is a staggering thing for a former Archbishop to say about the current leadership.

Fraser outlines the problem which has pitted the laity and local vicars against the CofE Establishment — the plan to replace existing churches with home churches, thereby getting rid of clergy:

It is ordinary churchgoers and faithful church wardens who have looked after their churches for years, as well as clergy padding about in their parish, visiting the sick, burying the dead and administering the sacraments, who are most angry about this betrayal. It feels like we are in the middle of an aggressive corporate takeover.

If you flick through the jobs section of the Church Times, you can see this effect almost straight away. It used to be full of jobs for the Rector of This and the Vicar of That. But such vacancies have increasingly been replaced by people with unrecognisable and convoluted job descriptions. Now they advertise areas of responsibility that have little to do with parish ministry, answerable directly to a line manager somewhere in Church House.

Jobs that began as a way of supporting the mission of the parish are now being regarded as its cheaper replacement. The parish clergy are “limiting factors” and the people in the pews merely “passengers”, as one senior Anglican clergyman put it last month.

No need for priests, or expensive theological education and the like. 10,000 new churches are imagined, led by lay people, not clergy. Many will not have a building, just a website. Many will meet on Zoom. It’s not really what most of us would call a church. But if “the church is the people not the building”, as goes the oft-heard mantra, then why not? There is certainly no need to worry about a leaky roof when you’re only online …

the idea that we would be more entrepreneurial and light of foot if we were to hand the keys over to the National Trust is an absolute fantasy.

“Pioneers” is what the Church’s Head of Evangelism, Canon Dave Male, wants more of. Pioneers must be “freed up”, he says. But the problem here is that the weight of parish commitments, even the building, is what keeps us from floating off into some abstract theological space. The parish is grounded, rooted in place and time.

Yes, the pandemic has left the church feeling the pinch financially — and there is much need for belt-tightening. But we have far too many Bishops for the number of churchgoers that we now have. Probably far too many Dioceses as well, each with its own set of managers and advisors. Save the Parish believes that in times when finances are hard, it is the front-line parishes that should be supported as a priority rather than directing funds away towards another new top-down initiative.

Too right.

The rot started as long ago as 1976! This is unbelievable:

In 1976, the central Church decided that the parish was an inefficient way of running things and brought the ownership of parish assets under the control of the Diocese, introducing a whole new layer of management to look after the parish’s assets. From here on in, the Diocese began to have its own ideas about how best to spend a parish’s assets. Vicarages were sold off. The clergy were paid from a central pot. And power shifted from the parishes to the Diocesan structures.

This is the result:

Last week, we gathered as Save the Parish for the first time in the ancient St Bartholomew’s church in Smithfield. Alison Millbank, Canon Theologian from Southwell Cathedral, put the matter plainly: “the Church of England has totally capitulated to market values and managerialism… There has been a tendency to view the parish like some inherited embarrassing knick-knack from a great-aunt that you wish were in the attic.”

The fightback, it’s safe to say, has started. At the end of the event, Fr Marcus Walker, the Rector of St Bartholomew’s, described Save the Parish as “the last chance to save the system that has defined Christianity in this country for 1000 years”. He may not have been exaggerating.

Wow.

Fraser’s article appeared on August 11.

On August 12, UnHerd generously, in my opinion, published a response by the Revd James Mumford, ‘What the “Save the Parish” campaign doesn’t understand’.

Mumford wants the Church to become more secular, something that I also posted about last week, with warnings from John MacArthur.

Mumford says, erroneously:

What is frustrating about the traditionalists is that they don’t seem to be willing to make room for secular 21st century Brits. Father Marcus Walker, Rector of St. Bartholomew’s in London, at the launch of Save the Parish dismissed ‘a style of church set up in a cinema or bar or converted Chinese takeaway,’ but this has the whiff of snobbery about it. It seems to suggest that people exist for the sake of the church, not the church for the sake of people. Jonah felt the same way about the Ninevites. He, not they, were engorged by the obliging whale.

Then there’s the criticism that any ecclesial attempts to innovate, to do things differently, to experiment is, as academic Alison Milbank puts it, ‘a capitulation to market values.’ This, again, simply isn’t true. The church is merely trying to reach as many souls as it can.

Jesus of Nazareth clearly saw his mission as a desacralizing one. Instead of hallowing one particular place in which to worship, Christ tells the Samaritan woman in John 4, ‘a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’ It wasn’t about stones any more, he taught, it was about people.

Jesus meant that it wasn’t about the temple in Jerusalem anymore, because it had become a den of vipers. He never called for local synagogues to be closed. In fact, He preached in them (e.g. Nazareth, Capernaum).

The Revd Marcus Walker responded to Mumford’s article, explaining his objection to the Church’s purchase of a Chinese takeaway in Rochdale, Lancashire, for £5 million when there is a perfectly serviceable church nearby:

This will cost far more than £5 million. The Church will have to pay a lay team to run it:

He concludes:

Now I’m sure that Janie Cronin is wonderful & will make a great success of the Nelson Street Church. I know that there are wonderful examples of plants revitalising parishes gloriously. But I hope

will concede that my concerns are about this allocation of resources

A priest responded to the thread in just the right way:

Woah! Excuse me, the church exists for the sake of Jesus Christ! ‘The church exists for the sake of people’, no it exists for the glory of God. The proposed reforms are essentially a mix of humanism and marketing. #SaveTheParish

Giles Fraser picked up on the thread:

Sure enough, a priest did challenge Marcus Walker:

Returning to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, a few people blamed him for the current shift away from parish churches. Here is one of them:

Now, on to the present day. Churchgoers are deeply unhappy with the current Archbishop of Canterbury and the plan for fewer parish churches. This theologian has a way with words:

On August 19, Giles Fraser told The Telegraph‘s Planet Normal hosts, Alison Pearson and Tim Stanley, that the parish church takes in everyone who wants to attend, regardless of their personal or political persuasions, even though Brexit can be problematic at times:

As if things couldn’t get any worse, on Thursday, October 14, an editorial appeared in The Times: ‘Thanks to Church of England accounting, parishes are disappearing’.

It begins with this:

Last Saturday was a sad day for the Church of England. In Leicester diocese, the governing body voted in favour of a plan to fold 234 parishes into the embrace of 20 to 25 huge groups, called minster communities, by 2026. One in five local vicars will disappear, creating what sounds like a clerical car pool. “Thank you for calling the minster community help line. Press 1 for help with a very sick relative or friend. Press 2 for help with bereavement. Press 3 to arrange a funeral.” This could be the future for the people of Leicester’s historic parishes.

Those closures didn’t necessarily need to happen:

An alternative option, to cut Leicester’s diocesan administrative costs by 10 per cent, was rejected. The C of E behaves like a socialist republic: demanding increasing “tax” (parish share) from dwindling numbers of churchgoers, then spending too much of it on its own bureaucracy. Moreover, as The Times reported last month, in 2017-2020 it spent £248 million on “renewal and reform” projects that failed to increase church attendance.

The editorial says that only one person guarantees large donations — a priest:

Bureaucracy and waste deter donors. Yet Leicester hopes to increase giving by 2 per cent — how? The church’s own studies show that donations correlate to numbers of paid clergy. The one identifiable Christian in the community is a priest in a dog collar. Grouping parishes empowers dioceses to sell parish-owned assets, incontinently using the capital to pay their own running costs, but it disincentivises donors. A 1,000-year-old system of independent parishes could be collapsed by short-term panic thinking and inadequate projections.

Furthermore:

The church’s growth policy report, From Anecdote to Evidence, confirms what rural parishioners like me witness: that parish amalgamations and building sales establish a spiral of decline. Selling a parsonage signals “game over” and leaves a community unlikely to have a vicar again.

Ironically, Justin Welby said not so long ago that he supports the traditional parish model:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said, “I am passionate that the parish is essential.” In the Archbishop of York’s current General Synod update GS2223 he calls for “priest and people working together”. These exhortations from our spiritual leaders, the trend towards localism and the church’s own empirical evidence are all being ignored.

Words and actions are two entirely different things. I despair.

Meanwhile, there is always the Save the Parish Network. May the grace of God be with them:

I hope to have more on this situation at a future date.

May God continue to bless the faithful vicars of Christ who happen to be in the Church of England (CofE).

The others, sadly, are destroying our established church in the way that John MacArthur warned about more generally in 1998.

On January 25, 2022, Dr Jim McConalogue wrote an article for Comment Central on the same topic: ‘The Church is to blame for its own decline as a moral leader’.

Dr McConalogue begins by detailing the number of church closures in recent years (emphases mine):

A recent Telegraph investigation this month into Church of England data found that more than 400 churches have closed in a decade. The data showed that 940 of its churches were shut between 1987 and 2019423 of them were closed between 2010 and 2019. Across the Church’s 42 dioceses, it marks a drop of 6 per cent fewer churches.

The flight from faith is being further marked by the number of people describing themselves as Christian falling to only just over half the population (51 per cent), the lowest level recorded. In general, of those in their twenties, 53.4 per cent say they have no religion; for those in their sixties, it is about 27.1 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Spirituality that centres on holiness has gone out the window. Socio-political causes have replaced the quest for sanctification:

Last year, a team of researchers – including myself – investigated the scale of clergy support for radical progressive activist agendas throughout the 42 dioceses, which had some remarkable findings.

Over eight in ten of the dioceses appoint clergy who advocate radical racial justice claims or express concerns for ‘institutional’ or ‘systemic’ racism. Just under 90 per cent of those racial justice activist claims – all described in our report – came within the first six months of the UK racial justice campaigns in May 2020, following the national Black Lives Matters protests in the United States. Similarly, just over seven in ten of the dioceses appoint clergy who promote climate activism and ecological warnings, including calls for the recognition of a climate emergency.

The common denominator has been a widespread acquiescence by the clergy setting aside ordinary human values and the Church’s moral message in favour of the adoption of questionable, unevidenced narratives deployed by the so-called progressive movements of the day.

The unqualified reception of unchallenged ideas is not specific to the Church even though it has a unique impact on their members – it continues to be symptomatic of what is happening throughout civil society. It depends upon telling reasonable citizens they must comply with those narratives in order to survive and thrive.

During the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, the CofE’s churches were closed. Zoom services took place. What were the messages given at parish level? Did they offer solace and comfort to those who were worried about coronavirus or who were grieving over their ailing or dead relatives? No. The CofE messages given during this time — I have my own email collection of them from church — were about combating racism.

McConalogue concludes:

The resolution to the Church’s moral panic may more likely be found in its own faith, in being thoughtful and less fearful – and not in the faulty mantras of identity-based progressive movements. The Church must look beyond superficially appealing to ‘slicker models of evangelistic marketing’ and instead recognis[e] the place of the faithful, as [the Revd] Giles Fraser has argued. It is those faithful people who attend church to say their prayers who are at the centre of each of the parishes.

Let us examine what happened in the CofE in 2021, still during the pandemic and when churches had reopened.

In April, an Anglican contributor to The Conservative Woman considered that the CofE had ‘cancelled’ her and others who had worshipped faithfully week after week:

Those who turn up every Sunday and other days, having voluntarily cleaned the building, arranged the flowers, rung the bells, read the lesson, served the tea and biscuits, given lifts and devised and delivered the parish mag in all weathers. Belittled and scorned for serving their community with humility and kindness, they may be forgiven for wondering what on earth they have done to deserve such a barrage of hostility and condemnation.

… Some of us have had enough. Instead of promoting this country as an open, tolerant and democratic society, the Archbishop and his colleagues are presiding over a church in its death throes. Supine before the forces of a minority of myopic and divisive far-Left activists within the Church, they have cancelled those many disaffected Anglicans, mystified by a sustained barrage of unwarranted recriminations, who have left the church they once loved and now feel they have no spiritual home.

In the summer of 2021, the CofE hierarchy and the General Synod decided to plan how to do church differently. It wasn’t the faithful who were being sidelined, but also some clergy. Furthermore, church buildings would have to go. Zoom church could continue with a few ‘hub’ churches remaining open for those who were fortunate enough to live nearby. House churches would be the place of worship for most Anglicans in England.

Part of the hierarchical narrative is that our national church, which originated in England, is somehow an ‘inherited’ church that needs to reinvent itself. Good grief:

The Synod’s goal is to close existing churches, create 10,000 home churches and get rid of ordained priests, termed as being a ‘limited factor’. The home churches would be lay-led. This might be a developing strategy for nations on other continents, but surely, the CofE’s infrastructure is already in place — and has been for centuries:

This model is not appropriate for England, already established in structure and in law.

How can a lay minister, not an Anglican norm, administer the Sacraments? Such a person would have no spiritual authority.

The Revd Peter Anthony disagrees with the plan:

The next tweet has a more detailed view of the overall plan. Egregious:

The Revd Philip Murray explains why house churches are, rightly, no longer the norm in the West:

The Revd Giles Fraser, a former Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral and current Rector at the south London church of St Mary’s, Newington, London, wrote an article for UnHerd, a publication he co-founded: ‘The Church is abandoning its flock’.

His article begins with this:

“We don’t preach morality, we plant churches. We don’t preach therapeutic care, we plant churches.” Justin Welby, July 2021

There are some forms of Christianity that exist only in order to reproduce. Christians are here to make new Christians who, in turn, are called to go out there and make even more new ones. The purpose of church life is to beget more church life. Randy for converts, these good shepherds admire the sheep in the pews principally for their reproductive qualities. And you can tell it’s these sorts of Christians that are now running the show in the Church of England, because those of us who are deemed to be infertile or firing evangelistic blanks are being slated for the knacker’s yard. The latest group to be targeted for a cull are the clergy themselves. In more senses than one, we are being directed to Genesis chapter nine, verse seven: “Go forth and multiply!”

The new growth strategy from head office is code named Myriad, Greek for ten thousand. The idea is to have 10,000 new churches by 2030, creating a million new disciples. Don’t worry about the figures too much, they are nothing more than fantasy numbers plucked from the sky. As a general rule, church growth is inversely proportional to the big talk coming from head office. Of course, we are all supposed to nod along, as if this is some fabulous, exciting initiative. As Martyn Percy, the Dean of the Cathedral in Oxford, explained, it’s becoming a bit like one of those Stalinist 10-year plans, something we are all obliged to cheer, yet one that is totally disconnected to reality.

The latest Great Leap Forward for the C of E looks like this. Get rid of all those crumbling churches. Get rid of the clergy. Do away with all that expensive theological education. These are all “limiting factors”. Instead, focus relentlessly on young people. Growth, Young People, Forwards. Purge the church of all those clapped-out clergy pottering about in their parishes. Forget the Eucharist, or at least, put those who administer it on some sort of zero hours contract. Sell their vicarages. This is what our new shepherds want in their prize sheep: to be young, dumb, and full of evangelistic… zeal.

Fraser goes on to discuss other disastrous CofE projects, including the Decade of Evangelism during the 1990s:

It was an embarrassing disaster.

He correctly tells us where this plan came from — the Archbishop of Canterbury consecrating the Sacrament in his own kitchen on Easter Sunday 2020, saying that we do not need church buildings:

Covid has finally given its proponents the opportunity they need. When the Archbishop of Canterbury decided to celebrate and broadcast the Eucharist on Easter Day 2020 from his kitchen, rather than popping down a few stairs to Lambeth Palace’s fine 13th-century chapel, he was clearly making a point: all those old stones are holding us back, they are unnecessary. It’s called “a new way of being church”. Our new churches will meet in people’s homes, not in churches. Around 20-30 will gather in the living rooms of the wealthiest people in the parish — who else has a living room that can sit this many people?

Fraser says that some CofE dioceses are actively culling clergy, preferring administrators instead:

Parish churches are being stripped of their clergy. The Diocese of Chelmsford is culling 61 posts by 2021 with a further 49 under threat by 2026. Others are following suit. But as these “limiting factor” clergy are being culled, central funds are being directed towards new evangelistic initiatives through what is called Strategic Development Funding from the £9 billion piggy bank held by the fabulously wealthy Church Commissioners. Dioceses can now apply for money from a £45-million pot set aside to support this new look C of E. And many of the new jobs that are being funded are not for parish-based clergy, but for a whole new level of managers with new-fangled titles like assistant archdeacon and mission enablers. This is the mechanism by which the church is being transformed. Even those Bishops that want to resist this dismantling of traditional structures are being out manoeuvred.

Not surprisingly, some clergy are clearly unhappy:

If you are not a part of the great push forward, you are just so much baggage. Little wonder there is now a white-hot anger within the rank and file of the priesthood. Consider this from the former Dear of Exeter Cathedral, Jonathan Draper.

“It is ironic, of course, that these proposals are being pushed by those who have both presided over the church’s decline and had the long and expensive theological education which they would jettison. There is nothing from the leadership of the church that reflects on their own part in decline, their own ineptitude, bullying, sense of entitlement, and in the failure to connect with the very people they would like to see fill the houses of the sufficiently wealthy in this brave new ecclesial world.”

I have never seen this level of fury from within the church during my 25 years as a priest.

Fraser says that the CofE must return to its roots in faith and not be ashamed about why it exists:

The Church feels like a gauche teenage boy going out to the pub deliberately to find a girlfriend, covering himself with cheap aftershave and rehearsing his unconvincing chat-up lines. It’s all so cringeworthy and needy. The way you make yourself attractive to others is by being fully yourself, and having confidence in what you are – even if that is a little strange and different. It’s when you stop obsessing about attracting others that you become more attractive to them.

But also, the church is not called to be successful. It is called to be faithful. I would prefer for us to die with dignity, being faithful to our calling, rather than to turn ourselves inside out trying to be superficially attractive, thus abandoning the faith as we have understood it. Indeed, the Bible is full of stores of the faithful remnant. In Biblical theology, the remnant are those faithful people that survive some catastrophe. Today, these are the people who come to church, faithfully to say their prayers — people of devotion and not necessarily of evangelistic vim and vigour. They are the beating heart of the parish. Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie: these are my heroes. And long term, these are our most effective evangelists. I am deeply offended that they are now called passengers.

He concludes:

We won’t be saved by panicky spread-sheet evangelists, Indeed, we must be more of what we have been called to be – more thoughtful, more prayerful, less fearful, more obedient to God’s call. We are resurrection people after all. Institutional death should hold out no terror for the faithful. And it will only be this lack of fear that can make us attractive once again.

Tremendous — and true!

Meanwhile, other concerned clergy teamed up with the laity to mount a resistance: stand for the General Synod.

The Revd Marcus Walker encouraged the opposition movement, called the Save the Parish network:

Not surprisingly, by August 2021, the CofE and certain media outlets tried to smear Save the Parish:

I will have more on this next week, all being well.

For now, this is just an introduction to what is happening in the home of Anglicanism. May the good Lord graciously help the faithful oppose the hierarchy.

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