More than a fifth of the Church of England's bishops could face the axe under new proposals being drawn up by its leaders.
Secret documents discovered by The Daily Telegraph reveal that the Church Commissioners - the financial wing of the Church of England - are considering reducing traditional funding for the hierarchy.
The proposals come in the wake of criticism that the Church is top heavy and the bishops too costly, while congregations are shrinking and parishes are strapped for cash.
1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
There is much worth pondering here. This article states that in 1900 there were only 57 bishops in the C of E (31 diocesans and 26 suffragans), overseeing about 24,000 clergy, and an unstated number of laity and congregations. Today however there are a whopping 113 bishops (44 diocesans and 69 suffragans), who supervise a mere 9,000 fulltime clergy (plus thousands more part-timers). Again, this report doesn’t mention the number of laity or congregations today that those 113 bishops oversee. But on another thread we were treated to survey rsults that show that the number of RCs in church on Sunday in England has surpassed the number of Anglicans. I don’t remember the specifics, but both figures were between 820K and 830,000 in average Sunday attendance.
Comparisons with the Global South would be eye-opening for many of us. For instance, in the case of the Anglican Church of Uganda, there are just 36 dioceses (less than England’s 44). Yet Uganda has a FAR larger number of laity, somewhere between 8 and 10 million active worshippers, and yet a FAR smaller number of clergy. I recently had lunch with Bishop Evans Kisseka of the Diocese of Luweero. Knowing how perpetually short-handed most African dioceses are I asked him how many congregations and clergy he had in his diocese. I was stunned by what he said. He counts 644 congregations in his large and growing diocese (some of those 644 churches have no buildings but meet under a shade tree). And yet he has only a mere 52 priests to care for over 600 congregations! His diocese is so poor economically that even his cathedral doesn’t have all its windows installed, much less the poorer churches in rural areas. And yet, the people are vibrant and strong in their faith, and the Anglican Church is going from strength to strength in Uganda, in sharp contrast to England and North America.
One of the many issues the severe decline of the C of E raises is how long it will be before the mother church of Anglicanism loses its official status as the state church. With Roman Catholics now outnumbering practicing Anglicans, and the number of secularized unbelievers swamping them both, the so-called “Chruch of England” is actually now just “the Church of a tiny minority of England.” Bonnie Prince Charles has gone on record as saying that when/if he becomes king (perish the thought!) he would like to change one of the traditional titles of the monarch from “Defender of the Faith” to simply “the Defender of faith.” How very tolerant of him! I’m sure the hordes of Muslim immigrants will be deeply impressed.
Thus, even in England, where there is still an offical state church (technically, by law anyway, or de jure), Anglicanism is facing the harsh reality of being disestablished culturally and practically (de facto). Or as I keep saying, we face the tremendous and daunting challenge of coming to grips with the stern and unpleasant fact that we are now in a genuine missionary situation once again in the western world. We now live in a Post-Constantinian, Post-Christendom social context.
What difference does that make, you might ask? Well, from my standpoint, it literally changes almost everything. Among other things, it means that we must relearn how to be “in the world, but not of the world,” in a way that hasn’t been true in European civilization in about 1500 years (i.e., since Constantine legalized Christianity in AD 312, and the later Emperor Theodosius made it the offical state church in AD 396, and unfortunately started persecuting all the rivals of Christianity). We must in effect re-invent Anglicanism in the west, in order to morph into the kind of hardy counter-cultural movement that can survive and even thrive in an increasingly secularized, pluralistic, and yes, hostile social environment. It will be supremely difficult and this will doubtless occasion much confusion and strife in the process.
It’s hard to break habits that have been deeply ingrained for over a thousand years in western culture. But break those habits we must. Otherwise, western Anglicanism, even in England itself, will continue shrinking and imploding. The spectacular success of Alpha in many places shows that this decline is NOT inevitable, IF (and it’s a big if indeed) we rediscover how to evangelize and IF many parishioners themselves experience conversion and become eager to share their new faith. Stranger things have happened in church history.
But for Anglicanism to transform itself into a Post-Christendom type of religion would amount to nothing less than a New Reformation. May it be so! Amen.
December 27, 7:53 pm | [comment link]
Advocate of High Commitment, Post-Constantinian style Anglicanism
More convinced than ever that we need a New Reformation
2. Ross wrote:
Secret documents discovered by The Daily Telegraph reveal…
I pretty much stopped reading at this point. There may be something of substance here, but if there is it will be reported more reliably soon enough.
December 27, 7:59 pm | [comment link]
3. carl wrote:
So a couple of interesting questions come to mind.
1. What will be the ideological composition of those bishops that are removed? My cynical self says that conservatives will be over-represented, but then ... are there really that many conservative bishops to remove? This task must disturb the balance of power, and so its consequences will be intriguing.
2. Why aren’t they looking to consolidate dioceses? The big savings always comes from removing extraneous bureaucracy, and the attendance figures certainly don’t justify the present organization. Removing a fifth of the dioceses would have a much bigger impact than removing 20 or so bishops.
December 27, 8:01 pm | [comment link]
4. Br_er Rabbit wrote:
Can they spell “Missionary Bishop”?
Or have they even heard of the Province of Nigeria?
The issue is not whether there are too many bishops. The issue is whether these bishops are producing fruit. And quite properly, the issue is whether they should be provided with an income, if they are not producing fruit.
December 27, 8:11 pm | [comment link]
5. Terry Tee wrote:
To David Handy’s comments about I might add something else. The Anglican Church in nations where it has been disestablished (ie Wales, Ireland and, I believe, Barbados) is doing very nicely. Yet so many Anglicans I have spoken to here in England seem to reel with horror at the very idea. Even although, IMHO, it is a ball and chain around their feet, making them chaplains to the powers that be rather than priests and prophets. The truth is, I suspect, that you can never understand England without factoring in class consciousness. And establishment with the state and royal family gives the C of E, so these people believe, a certain cachet.
December 27, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
6. RoyIII wrote:
They may have cachet, but do they have any parishoners? Sounds like the CofE isn’t getting its money’s worth to me.
December 27, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#4, Br_er Rabbit,
Ditto. I wholeheartedly agree with you (as usual).
#5, Terry Tee,
I’ve always suspected as much, but not having lived on the other side of the pond, I can’t speak from experience, as it seems that you can.
But I can, as a resident of Virginia, remind everyone of the very illuminating history of Anglicanism in this great commonwealth. As is well documented, Anglicanism was the state church in Virginia (as well as the Carolinas and Georgia), before the War of Independence. Alas, the Revolutionary War just about did in Anglicanism in those four colonies after they became states in the U.S. Here in Virginia, it was one of our own, Thomas Jefferson, who led the fight to disestablish Anglicanism, which occurred in 1785 (several years BEFORE the national Bill of Rights guarranteed freedom of religion at the national level), when Jefferson’s Statue of Religious Freedom was passed in the state assembly.
By about 1800, it looked like Anglicanism might just wither away completely. It suffered under multiple hardships. It was associated with the British government, and so under grave suspicion and disliked. Many of the clergy and lay leaders were in fact Tories and had sympathized (openly or covertly) with the King’s cause. It didn’t help, of course, that many of the clergy were missionaries who were paid by sources in England. And then, after the state subsidies (tax-based of course) dried up overnight n 1785, the Anglican church was virtually bankrupt. If I recall correctly, only something like 10% of the colonial era Anglican churches in Virginia survived that harrowing time and kept operating. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, a Richmond homeowner and devout Anglican, fully expected Anglicanism to die in the South. Jefferson actually looked forward to Unitarianism replacing Anglicanism as dominant here (thus proving himself actually far ahead of his time, just being off by 200 years or so with his prophecy).
But thanks to two very remarkable evangelical (and evangelistic)bishops in a row, Richard Channing Moore and his successor in the mid 1800s, the Episcopal Church revived and even thrived in Virginia. And in New York, the legendary John Henry Hobart (on the high church side) likewise evangelized like crazy and planted numerous churches. In both areas, Anglicanism grew rapidly, because the leaders and laity had a clear gospel to proclaim and the confidence to share it with full conviction. And eventually, church finances reflected that growing spiritual vitality.
I hope that England would see from our example that history shows that disestablishment is not necessarily something to be feared. It could lead, by God’s grace and mercy, to a whole new lease on life as a liberated form of Christianity, freed from the shackles of the domineering state. For in the end, the alliance between Church and State ALWAYS leads in the long run to corruption and the swallowing up of the Church as a mere department of the State.
That’s why I actually rejoice at the growing evidence that we are living in a Post-Christendom era. But will we wake up in time to realize it and make the necessary adjustments? That is the great question, and the answer hangs in doubt. But, as my wife always tells me, I’m an incorrigible optimist.
December 27, 9:07 pm | [comment link]
8. nwlayman wrote:
Time for British Cathoics & Orthodox to ask for the buildings back. Lots of “dissolved” monastic community property to restore to their proper owners. The Bishop of Rome seems to have more head of laity than Rowan Williams.
December 27, 9:43 pm | [comment link]
9. physician without health wrote:
David, New Reformation Advocate, you make some very important points. Active evangelism aimed at conversion, along with aggressive church planting, is first and foremost God’s call to every Christian body, and precisely what Western Anglicanism needs. I would be happy to see these comments posted as a separate blog item either here or at SF to get folks thinking and praying about this.
December 27, 11:24 pm | [comment link]
10. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#9, physician without health,
Thank you. Hmmm. Would you like me to send you an application to join the NRA Fan Club? We (including robroy and Br_er Rabbit above) are keen on promoting evangelism and church planting at every opportunity.
Are you familiar with the delightful saying of Fuller Seminary’s guru on church growth, Peter Wagner? He is famous for saying loud and often: “It’s easier to have babies than to raise the dead, and a lot more fun!” So, it is with church planting (or by extension, starting a whole new movement like CCP).
December 27, 11:33 pm | [comment link]
11. physician without health wrote:
#10 David, you can sign me up!
December 27, 11:45 pm | [comment link]
12. Harvey wrote:
So; when does the C of E backlash start to storm the shores of TEC? Nuff said!!
December 28, 12:09 am | [comment link]
13. driver8 wrote:
It would be great to see some of these comments correlated with statistics. Otherwise, I can sure hear the engine revving but I’m not sure we’re going anywhere fast.
PS Here’s one to kick off the discussion. It is not the case, to my knowledge (and I would love to be corrected), that the disestablished Church of Ireland or the Church in Wales or Scottish Episcopal Church for that matter are growing.
(It is thought however provoking that the Church of Ireland is gaining members in the Republic - as the population increases and the Republic changes its relationship with the Catholic Church - but losing them in their Northern heartland. Of course, in both South and North, the Church of Ireland has long been disestablished).
December 28, 12:34 am | [comment link]
14. Bill Matz wrote:
I am surprised no one has mentioned the parallel situation (only worse) here in the US. We have continued to add bishops and priests even as our numbers have plummeted. The idea that we need a diocese for membership under 10,000 is nonsensical. I doubt that it is coicidental that our problems have grown as we have become more and more top-heavy.
December 28, 2:02 am | [comment link]
15. driver8 wrote:
Incidentally, the organization of the dioceses in the Church of Ireland means that the more conservative views of northern dioceses (whose laity form two thirds of the church) are very significantly underrepresented in the pronouncements of the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland.
December 28, 2:11 am | [comment link]
16. driver8 wrote:
One more thing - IMO this amounts to the suggestion that many suffragan bishop’s posts should be done away with (perhaps simply with current post holders not being replaced when they retire). This is hardly radical in my view. The real and much more complex issue is diocesan reorganization. I am not convinced that the CofE has decision making processes capable of facing such tough decisions.
General Synod (and House of Bishops in particular) has repeatedly shown itself incapable of reorganizing clergy training in anything but an ad hoc and on the hoof manner with personal, diocesan and regional loyalties consistently undermining any commitment to action on the basis of a shared vision. This suggests to me, barring the force of events (a diocesan bankruptcy, for example) the current decsion making processes of the CofE will be unable to face the even more fraught reality of diocesan reorganization.
Indeed one might almost suggest that given the storm of protest and infighting that genuine diocesan reorganization could be expected to cause that it would be a distraction from the far more pressing task of mission.
December 28, 3:58 am | [comment link]
17. Terry Tee wrote:
To #s 8 and 13 above:
December 28, 7:30 am | [comment link]
1) I am a Catholic pastor. In the inconceivable event that the C of E gave us back pre-Reformation churches, we would be doomed. We can hardly keep our own churches staffed. Not to mention the repair costs.
2) The Scottish Episcopal Church was never established, at least in the contemporary sense. That honour went to the Church of Scotland, which is presbyterian (and it is a very different kind of establishment from that in England). The point about Wales and Ireland is that a far higher proportion of the membership of the Anglican Church practises compared with the miniscule proportion in England.
I was grateful for the sketch of the post-Revolutionary church in Virginia and NY. It shows that vigorous leadership and confidence in the message can overcome great handicaps. And yet: look at Liverpool, where two great bishops, one Anglican (David Sheppard) and one Catholic (Derek Worlock) laboured creatively and courageously and yet saw decline.
18. Dilbertnomore wrote:
Interesting to note the article’s reporting of the salaries for CoE bishops which is puny compared to the largess showered on their TEC counterparts. At ballpark $70K (US) for a diocesan or $60K (US) for a suffragan, I doubt more than a few of the current TEC stable of worthies would condescend to the job. I’m unaware of any TEC bishop that doesn’t start comfortably into six figures. And then there are the perks. But I suppose it does cost a bunch to dryclean all the fancy outfits so that must justify the huge TEC expense for such marginal talent.
Hey! Maybe TEC could pick up a bunch of the newly ‘redundant’ CoE bishops at a bargain rate, unload a like number of our high-priced losers and use the savings to fund the law suits! Now there is a great idea.
December 28, 9:17 am | [comment link]
19. robroy wrote:
Thinking Anglicans did a story 10 days ago on the cost of these bishops. See here. The total cost of the bishops is £15.9 million or £140,000 per bishop (that’s $278,393). They point out that the number of clergy has dropped by 10% since 2000 but the number of bishops has dropped by 1 (which is less than 1%). As one CoE priest puts it, “Couldn’t we get a rather less inept leadership for 15.9 million quid?”
Ruth Gledhill also looked at the the same cost of bishops with interesting tidbits here
The statistics pointed out by Father Handy in #1 are interesting. In 1900, the ratio of priests to bishops was 431. Now it is 79.
Kendall made a brief note on the number of clergy to laity here. He stated that there are 17,817 clergy in the TEC. I could not find the number of bishops in the TEC (help me elves, your my only hope). I will guestimate 200. That would put the ratio of clergy to bishops at a whalloping 89. So CoE, you got nothin’ on us!
December 28, 9:30 am | [comment link]
20. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
A follow-up to my earlier historical post (#7), in partial response to Fr. Terry Tee (#17),
I agree that confident, zealous leadership is insufficient by itself to guarrantee success at growing the church. It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition for reversing decline. But my main point was that if it could happen in post-Revolutionary Virginia, where the situation was so extremely dire, then it can happen anywhere. Let me elaborate a bit more.
Besides the earlier mentioned Bp. Richard Channing Moore, there was his even more ardently evangelistic successor William Meade, who if I recall my dates correctly was Bishop of Virginia from roughly 1841 to 1862 (back when that diocese covered the whole states of Virginia and West Virginia, and travel was much more difficutl than it is today). +Moore and +Meade together exercised a huge influence over the whole Episcopal Church in the low-church South through their strong leadership in clergy recruitment and training, and their strong hand on the rudder of Virginia Theological Seminary. They were men with fire in their belly, and totally committed to the cause of Christ and extending His Kingdom in a way that would strike most Episcopalians today as smacking grossly of fanaticism.
And +Hobart was very much the same kind of leader in high-church New York, and exercized a similar influence over clergy recruitment and training through his heavy hand on General Theological Seminary in New York City. Let me mention yet another outstanding missionary bishop of a similar high-church sort, the founding bishop of the Diocese of South Dakota (where I grew up), the great William Hobart Hare. +Hare was related to +Hobart (as his middle name suggests), and came from an aristocratic family on Philadelphia’s famous Main LIne. But he well illustrates what might have happened if the “rich young ruler” in the Gospels had dared to give up his wealth and followed Christ, for that is what +Hare did. He went out to the Dakota Territory (before SD became a state in 1889) when it was still very much the wild, wild West and did a simply amazing job at starting churches all throughout the vast prairies. And in particular, he did a fantastic job at focusing attention on reaching the Sioux/Lakota Indians with the gospel and starting churches for them, with the result that today, over half the Episcopalians in SD are Sioux, not Anglo. He is one of the unsung heroes in TEC history.
So here you have four great missionary bishops, Moore and Meade in the low-church, proudly Protestant tradition, and Hobart and Hare in the opposing high-church, catholic tradition. Perhaps there were great missionary bishops in the Broad Church wing, but frankly I don’t remember any. That’s one of the price tags that comes with a focus on celebrating and maintaining diversity as a chief goal, it takes up so much time and energy resolving the inevitable conflicts that arise that little energy is left for mission outside the Church.
Fortunately, however, all four of the godly, dedicated bishops I’ve highlighted lived in a time when the general culture supported their efforts, i.e., when evangelical Protestantism was dominant in America and the Christian Church as a whole was expanding with great confidence on all sides. Alas, today, we face a very different social context. As Fr. Terry Tee has pointed out, even very capable leadership in Liverpool wasn’t enough to offset the general cultural drift away from Christianity.
That’s why I keep harping on the need to come to terms with this whole strange and threatening new “Post-Christendom” world in the West. It will require immense changes in how we do Church, in so many ways. It won’t be easy, and we may fail. But the example of true successors of the apostles like bishops Moore, Meade, Hobart and Hare gives me hope that similar miracles can happen in our day. And when I look at some of the new leaders God is raising up n our midst, truly outstanding missionary pastors like +Martyn Minns, +John Guernsey (my favorite, go John!), +Bill Atwood, and +Chuck Murphy, I see men who are fully worthy to pick up the baton that other lesser bishops have dropped and start running the race once again with all their might. And that fills me with great hope.
A new day is dawning in Anglicanism. Who knows? It just may prove to be a whole New Reformation.
December 28, 9:46 am | [comment link]
21. Tom Roberts wrote:
Working for the US Dept of Defense, I (or anyone) can see the same sort of bureaucratic “turf-protection” schemes working. It starts with an effort that is needed and funded at overappropriate levels, but considering nobody knows what will be needed, the overfunding doesn’t appear to be criminal or even historically unjustified.
After several twists in the road, and probably some budget shortfalls due to mismanagement, the project gets 90% done, and some beancounter sez “How much do we cut the budget?” Horrors! What is needed is something to justify continuing the budget at the same levels. So you go into “upgrades” or “sustainment programs” or whatever. The important thing is that the top level management never decreases in size.
Eventually due to obsolescence, the project finally gets to the disposal phase. Again: “How much do we cut the budget?” Horrors! What we need now is to find that someone put asbestos into the insulation or didn’t dispose of the cleaning solvents properly and contaminated the ground water. Again, the same numbers of bodies are around getting about the same dollars.
The only way to cut budgets is to close down entire programs or close entire bases. Closing programs is the usual subject of the best angst filled headlines from the Beltway. The BRAC base closing hearings are a near second.
What we are seeing here in these mainline churches is an attempt at preserving hierarchies by coming up with “new things” for them to do. It isn’t good enough to do what they used to do right, with far less funding, in the past, because either society has changed or they’ve bungled that old mission and nobody trusts them to do it anymore. Most times, both. But the institutional imperative is bureaucratic self preservation. Not mission.
In all, a subject meriting study on the graduate level in either Management or the Social Sciences.
December 28, 9:55 am | [comment link]
22. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
P.S. Going back to Br_er Rabbit’s point in #4 above,
Those four evangelistic, church planting bishops I’ve just celebrated are the epitome of “missionary bishops.” +Jackson Kemper was the first man officailly appointed as a “Missionary Bishop” by the Episcopal Church (when the western frontier meant Ohio!). I think that was in 1835. And as Br_er Rabbit pointed out, the Nigerians are consecrating many such missionary bishops today, with spectacular results.
Do you know the old joke about the Christianizing of the western frontier in America? It goes something like this. The Baptists crossed the Appalachians on foot in their zeal to spread the gospel. The Methodists soon followed on horseback with their famous circuit riders, like the amazing, legendary Francis Asbury. The Presbyterians waited for the stage coach lines to open, and we Episcopalians waited even longer til the trains were running!
Well not so, at least in the case of brave +Hare in SD! He beat even the Baptists and Methodists out to the Indian reservations in SD, and oversaw the translation of the Bible and the Prayerbook into the Lakota language (i.e., recruited people and found funding for it). And since there was no pre-existing flock to build him a cathedral, he called on one of his old aristocratic friends, the famous Jacob Astor, to build one for him, and that famous wealthy man funded the whole cost himself (and then when Astor insisted that the cathedral be named for his wife; +Hare refused).
December 28, 10:00 am | [comment link]
Proud to be FROM South Dakota (I sure don’t want to be there in the winder time). A graduate of the kindergarten program at All Saints Episcopal School in Sioux Falls, another project started by +Hare (a private Christian school for the children of all the clergy he recruited to come out to the prairies and help in the work).
23. driver8 wrote:
#17 The Church in Wales does not have a higher Sunday attendance as a proportion of population than does the Church of England. Neither church has anything to boast about but the Established church in England does have a higher proprortion of the population attending on an average Sunday than the Church in Wales.
Ireland is a rather different case for all sorts of reasons. Church going has been higher both North and South of Ireland (and in all varieties of denominations) than England for the last century. What interests me are patterns of change and it is sadly clear in the North (the heartland of the Church of Ireland) that the CofI is declining in the same sort of way as the CofE. (ie I suggest you need evidence to show that disestablishment caused a higher pattern of church attendance in Ireland or that disestablishment is causing a slower rate of decline than in England).
December 28, 1:14 pm | [comment link]
24. paulo uk wrote:
#13 AND 5 YOU ARE WRONG, THE CHURCH IN WALES, CHURCH IN IRELAND AND SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL CHURCH ARE DOING NO BETTER THEN THE CofE, CHURCH IN WALES HAS JUST 45.000 PEOPLE EACH SANDAY WORSHIPERS AND IS LOOSING 1.000 A YEAR OUT OF A POPULATION OF 3.000.000, THE SCOTTISH EPISCOPAL LITTLE CHURCH HAS JUST 32.000 SANDAY WORSHIPERS OUT OF A POPULATION OF 5.000.000, AND IS LOOSING MEMBERS, AND THE CHURCH OF IRELAND IS IN THE SAME SITUATION.
Elves request: please do not use all caps for your comments. It’s considered shouting on blogs.
December 28, 1:17 pm | [comment link]
25. driver8 wrote:
One effect of freehold (which Diocesan bishops currently have) is that decisions about reorganizing Diocesan boundaries (or removing posts) are immensely complicated. The CofE is profoundly bureaucratic and consistently (and apparently unwittingly) acts in its structures to discourage risk taking, entrepreneurial leadership.
December 28, 1:18 pm | [comment link]
26. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#24, paulo uk,
Thanks for the helpful reality check. But could you please lay off the all caps? It gets old quickly. It comes across as shrill, which I doubt is what you intended.
But the point you make is extremely important. Merely political disestablishment is not enough. Not nearly enough. What is required is something much more drastic, and that is for all Anglican churches to morph into truly post-state churches that are different in character than the old established churches so long dominant in Europe. Alas, even here in America, that has yet to really happen. We broke our political ties to the mother church over 200 years ago, but we keep thinking and acting like the Constantinian church we were for so long. I think we simply can’t imagine any other way to do church. But one of the keys to making that crucial transition is precisely to see our neighbors, friends, and co-workers as a mission field, instead of fallaciously assuming that everyone in the western world is alrready Christian.
Bishops Moore and Meade in Virginia made no such assumption and they engaged in aggressive evangelism of a sort we associate with Baptists and Pentecostals today. Likewise, in their own way, high church bishops Hobart and Hare did the same (despite their belief in baptismal regeneration). All four of them were actively engaged in evangelism and church planting in a most vigorous fashion. They refused to get stuck in maintenance mode. They had fire in their belly to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples.
That’s what we lack so grievously in so many places today. And that’s why Christianity, including Anglicanism, is dying in so much of the West. And it’s precisely that same passionate commitment to joyous evangelism and disciple-making that is fueling the rapid growth of the Church in the Global South.
That’s what I mean in calling for “High Commitment, Post-Christendom style Anglicanism.” And yes, that will amount to nothing less than a radical New Reformation.
December 28, 1:41 pm | [comment link]
27. Terry Tee wrote:
Good grief. I do not mind people disagreeing with me, but I do object when they misrepresent what I say. First of all, with regard to Paulo’s entry above: I carefully did NOT include the Episcopal Church of Scotland in my remarks.
Second, with regard to Driver above, again I have been misrepresented. I carefully put my point in italics, but it seems to have escaped his comprehension: I did NOT say that the Church in Wales attenders form a higher proportion of the Welsh population than that of the Church of England in England. I said that MORE Anglicans, proportionate to their church membership, attend church in Wales than in England, ie Anglicans go to church more frequently in Wales than in England. Finally, with regard to the claim by these bloggers that (for example) the Church in Wales is worse off than the Church of England:
a) The most recent church census in England said that on average 6.3% of the overall population attends church on a Sunday
The comparable figure for church attendance, across the board, in Wales is 7%.
b) On an average Sunday in Wales some 40,000 people attend the Church in Wales. It has a nominal membership of around 180,000.
See official figures here:
The nominal membership of the Church of England is hard to establish – figures of 30m upwards are bandied around. The average Sunday attendance is something like 850,000. So in Wales, 22% of the Anglican membership goes to church; in England, around 3%.
Possibly these contributors are misled by the name of the Church in Wales. This is the name of the Anglican Church in Wales. It is not as used here the name for all churches in Wales.
Against what I say there is the evidence of a Tear Fund survey which gives much higher attendance rates across the UK and in individual components than any of the church censuses. It also says that church attendance is lowest in Wales. Note, however, that its figures were extrapolated from an opinion poll type survey. The difficulty with this is that when asked a question whether they attend church, people tend to say that they do when they do not. This was established in research in the United States (see: Kosmin et al) which cleverly rang up people who had said ‘Yes’ to ask them if, in fact, they had attended church the previous Sunday. A surprising number had not. So I tend to doubt the Tear Fund figures. How much you trust them would depend on how much you trust opinion polls. If you want to see the Tear Fund figures you can find them here:
December 28, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
28. Terry Tee wrote:
David Handy: I think that in the US you are less Constantinian than you are allowing. I visit the US often and find that there is a widespread acceptance that there is a competitive market-place for ideas and beliefs. You have to get in there and pitch. I am sorry to sound so commercial, and I do not mean it in any demeaning way. In fact, I am impressed and feel that this is what we need to do more in the UK.
I wonder what your post-Christendom style church life would look like? I am afraid that I find emergent church stuff utterly unappealing and I wonder whether it will look tired and dated very quickly. But then I am 60 and I am not exactly the demographic they are aiming for? I tend to follow Philip Jenkins in thinking that the coming world Christian culture will be either charismatic (in the broader sense of the word, not necessarily neo-pentiecostal) or mystical (Catholic, orthodox, liturgical). What do you think? BTW perhaps his choice of Christendom in the title of # 2 of his trilogy was unfortunate.
December 28, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
29. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#28, Fr. Terry Tee,
Thanks for your thoughtful response. You’ve raised several big issues, which I couldn’t possibly answer adequately here. But let me try to make at least a few suggestive remarks in reply.
First, I do agree with Philip Jenkins basic thesis in “The Next Christendom” and with most of his details too. And I’m not a big fan of the so-called “emerging church movement” (led by Brian McClaren etc.). But I do in fact celebrate the free market competition in the religious marketplace in America and I think it’s one of the main reasons why Christianity is doing so much better here than in Europe.
But the fact remains that all the so-called “mainline” Churches in North America still tend to act like the state churches they used to be or evolved out of in the past. And by that, I mean, as indicated in another post above, all the oldline groups still tend to ASSUME that everyone in America is already a Christian, even though that ceased to be true long ago. They don’t tend to see evangelism as the lifeblood of the church, for they still haven’t awakened to the reality that we’re in a missionary situation now in the western world, and not just because of the hordes of non-Christian immigrants that have flooded into our countries in recent years.
Here’s another way to put it. The great American church historian, George Marsden, who teaches at Duke University, once gave an interview that summed up the whole crisis very aptly. In noting how brand loyalty was a thing of the past for the younger generations in America, he observed that the same thing was true with regard to inherited denominational loyalties. He compared it to buying gasoline (petrol for you in the UK). Prof. Marsden noted the obvious, that people don’t care today whether they buy their gas at Exxon, BP, Shell, or whatever. All they care about is price, convenience, and selection (can they get the octane level they want? or diesel or whatever). And then came the kicker. For Dr. Marsden wryly commented, “And the mainline denominations don’t even sell high octane religion anymore.”
Ouch. That really hurts. But it’s all too true. The churches selling high commitment religion are thriving and attracting the people on the most serious religious quests. By and large, that’s the evangelical churches, and some Roman Catholic ones (you’ll be glad to know; the RCIA has made a difference!). But state church religion makes minimal demands, by definition. It is designed to operate on the basis of the lowest common denominator, because the main reason for a state church to exist is to unify and sanction the social order.
I hope that helps.
December 28, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
Big fan of the RCIA (Aidan Kavanaugh was one of my seminary teachers).
If Anglicanism could come up with something similar, it too would experience it as little less than a New Reformation
30. Tom Roberts wrote:
Handy+ -#29’s punchline might not be true in all cases, but it certainly serves as an admirable null hypothesis. What is the probability of it being wrong in any particular case where the church is imploding? I’d guess, perhaps a 10% error rate (in which ‘high octane’ accompanies implosion).
December 28, 2:46 pm | [comment link]
31. Terry Tee wrote:
Thanks, David Handy. Well argued. I agree with much of what you say. Like you I think that a church that does not evangelise withers on the vine. One of the difficulties here in the UK is the ceaseless identification of ALL religion with violence. Which means, in turn, that evangelism is regarded as little short of an act of aggression. Part of the loss of confidence in the Christian churches is seen in the way that they accept this mindset too meekly, and beat breasts about say the Crusades, whereas compare and contrast the Muslim world today (not least Pakistan, given current developments).
To go back to the origin of our posts: I wonder what it would be like if we paid bishops and priests by results? Would it demoralise further those who struggled, for example, in poor inner-city areas, or regions of high agnosticism? Of might it encourage innovation? I think it might work where there was a stream of younger clergy coming on with the energy to take up fresh challenges.
December 28, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
32. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#31, Terry Tee,
Thanks for your kind words. I must admit that I’m a bit taken aback by your suggestion of merit-based or performance-based pay for clergy, since I understand that RC priests are all paid the same, at least the diocesan ones within that same diocese (priests in religious orders would be different). Maybe it’s different in the UK, or maybe you just think it’s time for a change.
Well, perhaps a mixed system would make the most sense, because some areas are indeed much harder to produce results in (like growth in the inner city etc.). What I’d favor is the idea of performance based BONUSES, and renegotiated contracts from year to year. In one of my former churches I did in fact get the vestry to agree to pay me a bonus each year that I managed to increase the giving by over 10% more than the preceding year (then I’d get a fifth of the increase; not a fifth of the the total mind you, 20% of the increase, above and beyond the budget so it was all surplus money). I wanted to peg my perfornace end of the year bonus to growth in attendance too, but the bishop vetoed that idea, since I was the one keeping the attendance figures and it was too hard to come up with an objective system to verify attendance increases, whereas the financial figures were totally outside my counting and control.
Anyway, I see nothing inherently wrong or too worldly about the idea of such bonus pay. What I don’t like is the idea that everybody gets paid the same, whether they do well or poorly. That smacks of how the unions run things in some big companies in America, where pay is based solely on seniority, not on performance. And alas, that is indeed how it seems to be for bishops in the C of E, where the pay is uniform, although performance is not.
December 28, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
Full of radical ideas, that’s why I favor a New Reformation
33. physician without health wrote:
Terry asked in #28 about a vision for a post-Christendom style church. My thought is simple, that the church preach the basic Gospel message: human sin, absolute inability to merit salvation based on one’s works and absolute need for a Saviour, the substitutionary atonement of Christ at Calvary, salvation by grace through faith, His righteousness imputed onto believers. This message, faithfully preached week in and week out, without equivocating or lightening up, will fill the church. Along with this is to instill a passion for those who are not yet believers, and equip the saints to actively spread the Gospel. Aggressive church planting near and far is an integral part of this, with special attention paid to areas of our own country that lack decent churches. Again, David’s comments here are SO (no shout intended here) important that I would like to see them put together and entered as a separate post in order to engage the entiore blog readership in this issue. PS: Sorry for popping in and out with long delays. Off to clinic now…
December 28, 4:43 pm | [comment link]
34. jkc1945 wrote:
Has the Anglican church ever considered “free ministry?” I am an Anabaptist (yes, I know- - - I am a “heretic” and I am presuming a lot, just by posting) but our church here in the USA, the Church of the Brethren, has many churches, especially throughout VA, PA, and MD, that use the “plural free-ministry”. Ordained men are not paid, they freely accept a call from the church (either at the congregational level, or through the entire ‘brotherhood’) and serve with basic expenses only paid. It works well, and needless to say, almost always guarantees the high level of dedication of the pastor. Just curious. . .
December 28, 5:07 pm | [comment link]
35. driver8 wrote:
#27 Apologies if I misunderstood. It seems odd and not sound to me to calculate membership within the Cof E by one measure (total number baptised) and within the Church in Wales by entirely another and then compare them and suggest that the results are in any way meaningful.
Membership in the Church of England and Church in Wales, as it happens, is very difficult to define. In some important respects every resident in a parish can claim certain rights that imply some kind of membership. More usually however membership is defined by those who chose to put their names on church electoral rolls.
Thus one meaningful way of comparing like with like is to look at the numbers on electoral rolls in both churches and compare it with average Sunday attendance.
If you do that you find that over two thirds of the folks on electoral rolls are in church on an average Sunday in the Church of England. In the Church in Wales it is under 60%.
(You can find out the attendance and numbers on electoral roll in the Church in Wales by looking at their own figures to which I linked in post #13. For comparable figures in the Church of England see here).
December 28, 5:56 pm | [comment link]
36. driver8 wrote:
#27 I should say I am intriguied by your nominal membership figure for the Church in Wales of 180,000 and wonder where, among their statistics, you saw it or how you calculated it from the Sunday attendance or electoral roll figures the Church in Wales provides.
December 28, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
37. robroy wrote:
I found the answer to my question of the number of active bishops on Louie Crew’s site. (If one looks at the webpage descriptor, it states it is “Quean Lutibelle’s Reports on the bishops of the Episcopal Church.”) I really didn’t need to know that part. Anyway, there are 102 diocesan bishops (8 vacant), 1 interim, 1 coadjutor, 13 suffragan, 4 on special assignment, and 24 assitant. This gives a total of 145. Thus, the ratio of clergy to bishops is 123. Not as bad as CoE.
December 28, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
38. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
#37 and 19, robroy,
Way to go, robroy! You rock!
You are hereby pardoned for visiting Louie Crew’s website, since it is indeed full of useful, hard-to-find information. The rest of the NRAFC recognizes that sometimes we have to act as scouts and penetrate behind enemy lines for the recon purposes (like the spies in Numbers 13-14).
December 28, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
39. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
Believe it or not, there are many Anglican priests who serve, for all practical purposes anyway, without pay. They are primarily in the Global South, where the people are too poor to pay the clergy. In southern Sudan for example, there are even bishops who haven’t been paid in a long time and who support themselves and their families as their flocks do, i.e., by herding cows and growing small crops on their small farm plots. Many do not own cars, but have to ride around on bikes to visit their churches. Their level of sacrifice is awesome and beyond the ability of our western imagination to conceive. May the Lord reward them richly!
But as you are probably aware, if you are from the Anabaptist tradition, we Anglicans do hold to a very high view of ordained ministry. Some of us regard ordination as a full sacrament, others see it as merely a sacramental (like) rite, and others as just a matter of human authorization done for the smoother functioning of the church. The Anabaptist tradition denies that there is any such thing as ordination, properly speaking, since their/your understanding of the priesthood of all believers rules that out. In general, (Ana)baptists are strongly committed to a very egalitarian understanding of the church, and thus resist the whole idea of permanent hierarchical offices of ministry in the church (like the traditional “bishop, priest, or deacon”). they prefer something more democratic, which certainly appeals to lots of Americans. That is a perfectly respectable view. But it is definitely not the Anglican understanding of ministry. How ministry is financed is another matter entirely. And we Anglicans vary enormously on that very practical issue.
In fact, one of the huge challenges TEC faces is that the cost of maintaining a fulltime, resident priest is escalating faster than inflation (especially due to skyrocketing health costs) and this is driving more and more small churches out of the regular market for clergy, and forcing them to look for a pastor who can partially support himself, as Paul did with his tentmaking work. But part-time pastors obviously are more limited in what they can do for the congregation.
December 28, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
40. driver8 wrote:
There are many clergy within the Church of England who are not taking a salary from the church. They are called non-stipendiary.
December 28, 7:01 pm | [comment link]
41. jkc1945 wrote:
#39 and #40, thank you for all the information and enlightenment. Actually, we do hold to an “elevated understanding” for ordained ministers, and at the same time, as you rightfully point out, we speak of the “priesthood of the believer,” even as we acknowledged, with our ordinations, that some are ‘more priestly than others.’
December 28, 7:24 pm | [comment link]
42. libraryjim wrote:
Perhaps we could consider a plan similar to that of the Lutheran church (I think) where a bishop is a temporary office, with a limited term (five? Seven? Ten? years?), after which time the person reassumes the title of pastor?
I don’t know if that would be workable, but it might be a solution to the bishop’s overpopulation problem.
December 28, 7:39 pm | [comment link]
43. driver8 wrote:
The population of bishops is directly correlated with the number of dioceses. To reduce the number of diocesan bishops you have to reduce the number of dioceses.
December 28, 8:11 pm | [comment link]
44. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
I appreciate your sense of humor. I’m glad you have the courage to venture onto foreign turf, so to speak, and interact with us Anglicans. Here are a couple anecdotal bits of evidence relevant to all the prolonged controversies among Christian groups over “ordination” and what it means or doesn’t mean.
First, if you read the Anglican blogs regularly, you may be aware that in Sydney, Australia, there has been a strong movment for a number of years now to allow what is called “lay presidency” at the celebration of communion services. This would be a clear break with our historic Anglican tradition that only bishops and priests can bless the bread and wine at the eucharist or Lord’s Supper, and it has ignited a firestorm of controversy around the AC. So far, this radical innovation has failed to gain the approval of the Archbishop of Sydney, but it may yet happen someday (although personally, I oppose the idea).
But as you are perhaps aware, some other Christian groups make a point out of highlighting the fact that “lay people” can and do lead communion for the very same reason we resist it, and the classic example is our American tradition of the so-called Campbellite churches, namely those descended from the ministry of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, i.e., “the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)” and the various groups that go by the name “The Church of Christ.” There are several million of these “restorationist” Christians in the U.S., including the much-loved author Max Lucado. They claim to restore the primitive practices of “the New Testament church,” and thus proudly claim to have “No creed but Christ.” They have communion every Sunday, since they find evidence for that practice in hints here and there in the New Testament, and they often let “lay people” lead that part of the service. I put laity in quotation marks, because in theory they oppose the whole distinction between clergy and laity as post-biblical terms that undercut the priesthood of all believers. Yet even so, they do have professional ministers, so as you wryly note, some are apparently more equal or priestly than others.
Second anecdote. Are you familiar with a delightful term used by the some early figures in the American Pentecostal movement, “the ordination of the pierced hands?” Being strongly opposed to any rigid structures as stifling the freedom of the Spirit, who blows where he wills, some of the more extreme Pentecostals argued against the whole notion of ordination. Why do you need any human being to lay hands on you to set you apart for ministry if you have received “the ordination of the pierced hands?” That is, if Jesus himself had chosen and anointed you for ministry, who needs any authorization from mere men? And you can be sure that Jesus is not impressed by seminary degrees! These early Pentecostals viewed with grave suspicion both seminaries and any hierarchical structures in the church as highly dubious and downright dangerous.
Well, it didn’t take long for this to lead to such enormous problems that in a few years, even the Assemblies of God was requiring some level of education and ordination in order to minister in their churches. The tendency had been for someone to get converted one day, dramatically coming out of a life of bondage to alcoholism etc. and then start preaching on the street a month later. And the resulting chaos and anarchy resembled the confusing situation described at the very end of the Book of Judges, where “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Today, most Pentecostals operate much like all other free church Protestants. They found that there is value in having the human hands of recognized church leaders laid on you after all.
It’s like the attempt to do away with all “liturgical” worship. I attended three outstanding Assembly of God churches at different points in my life, and although there was never a printed order of worship and though they would have stoutly denied being liturgical, everyone knew what to expect next in the service. There was an unofficial liturgy after all, it just wasn’t written down and the wording changed, but the basic pattern of Sunday worship was remarkably consistent and predictable. And woe to anyone who tried to change it!
And so it is with groups that try to avoid having a professional caste of ordained clergy. They may not wear vestments, and they may not be paid, but everyone knows who the leader is (and woe to you if you buck their leadership!). And sometimes they wield a degree of authority that makes Anglican priests look very democratic in comparison (as is true in many black churches!).
It reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984, where all the animals in the farm yard are theoretically equal, but some, of course, are more equal than others. And it seems you understand that very well, Anabaptist though you be.
December 28, 8:25 pm | [comment link]
45. robroy wrote:
driver8, please tell me that you aren’t thinking about merging dioceses like Northwestern Pa where a total of 1989 parishioners attend on a weekly basis. Or Eau Claire with an ASA of 1008. Or Northern Michigan’s 800. Or North Dakota’s 765? Or Western Kansas’ 874? But that would be less to go to Lambeth.
December 28, 8:30 pm | [comment link]
46. jkc1945 wrote:
David, yes I do understand most all of what you eloquently pointed out. I am designated a “lay speaker” in the Church of the Brethren; I have the authority (granted me by a District Board of ordained ministers (those who we spoke of as “more priestly”) to “preach” or provide ‘pulpit supply’ when the minister needs a vacation, sabbatical, etc. In fact, I personally refuse to call what I do “preaching,” since I understand that the gift of prophetic ministry is given through the laying on of hands (never thought much about the ‘pierced hand angle.’) I was once licensed to ministry - - the first step within our tradition toward ordination - - but I seriously doubted that I had ever experienced a ‘call,’ rather I felt that I was likely being used to ‘plug a hole’ in a particular congregation that was having difficulty selecting an ordinated pastor, yet they seemed to like me personally!!
December 28, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
Anyway. . . i pray daily, often, for the welfare of the Angllican Church, and also TEC. I do not know all the ramifications of the current difficulties that seem to exist - - but i know that many of us are experiencing very similar questions in our own traditions. And, at least in the case of our denomination, the bottom line is a difference in scriptural interpretation and authority. I get the feeling that is also the case with the Anglican church, and I pray for the Spirit to have His way. God bless and preserve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
47. paulo uk wrote:
The Anglican Communion and the Cofe need more bishops like Gene(also like Susan) so the SPIRIT(I don’t know which one) can make more the NEW THING.
December 28, 9:20 pm | [comment link]
48. Terry Tee wrote:
# 36 An apology from me. I remembered having seen the figure somewhere for overall Church in Wales membership - or thought I did - and when I tried to source it, failed, so I am afraid my memory has misled me. It is clear from the statistics that you and I cite that the Church in Wales has a much larger nominal membership than I gave in my argument. I see, however, that the Church in Wales has around 8,000 baptisms a year and so I would submit that a nominal baptised membership of 560,000 would be a good guesstimate. Which would still leave the C in W with a larger proportion of membership in church on an average Sunday then the C of E. However, your point certainly stands, using the actual figures of electoral rolls.
Where I would be pretty sure we agree is the oddity of knowing what counts as membership in the C of E and the C in W. The C of E has long claimed a figure of over 30m using all who were baptised through its portals. However, many of those, sadly, are never seen in church again. Which brings us to NRA and the need for a whole new understanding of how the church operates in society. I hope this closes the correspondence with us all in good humour! Que le Seigneur vous benisse.
December 29, 6:51 am | [comment link]