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Does the Church of England have ‘members’?

Membership-handsLurking behind many of the current debates on mission, ministry, doctrine and discipleship there is often an unspoken assumption about whether or not the Church of England should be considered in terms of its ‘members’. At one end of the spectrum, some appear to think that it ought to, and that there should be a clear distinction between those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’. Those at the other end of the spectrum consider this to contradict the notion of a ‘broad church’, and consider such an idea a move from ‘church’ to ‘sect’. They would rather see no clear bounds at all, and ‘membership’ (if that is even an appropriate category) defined by being English (since the Church is for all), or perhaps by self identification. They in turn are viewed by the first group as naive and counter-productive, undermining the possibility of discipleship as a normal part of church life. (For a very funny spoof of this view, go here.)

But this discussion fails to ask a more basic question—not whether the Church ought to have a concept of ‘membership’, but whether it already does. (Note, I am not here asking about membership of the church of God, which was explored previously, but simply what the institution of the Church of England says about itself.)


The first place to look for this is in the Church Representation Rules (CRR). The Rules are available to read online, and the relevant forms about election are also online in an appendix. The relevant sections relate to eligibility for inclusion on the parish Electoral Roll, and similar wording is repeated in a number of place. In the first part of the rules relating to the formation of the Electoral Roll, the wording is as follows:

1. (1) There shall be a church electoral roll (in these rules referred to as ‘the roll’) in every parish, on which the names of lay persons shall be entered as hereinafter provided. The roll shall be available for inspection by bona fide inquirers.

(2) A lay person shall be entitled to have his name entered on the roll of a parish if he is baptised, of sixteen years or upwards, has signed an application form for enrolment set out in Appendix I of these rules and declares himself either –

(a) to be a member of the Church of England or of a Church in communion therewith resident in the parish; or

(b) to be such a member and, not being resident in the parish, to have habitually attended public worship in the parish during a period of six months prior to enrolment; or

(c) to be a member in good standing of a Church which subscribes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (not being a Church in communion with the Church of England) and also prepared to declare himself to be a member of the Church of England having habitually attended public worship in the parish during a period of six months prior to enrolment.

There are several things to note here.

The first is that the C of E does actually use the language of ‘members’, which might come as a surprise to some.

Secondly, a good number of people read 1 (2) (a) as suggesting that membership of the C of E is about self-selecting identification and residency in the parish. But the first paragraph in 2 adds the stipulation of baptism, which sets out at least one clear ‘boundary condition’ for membership. Any research (for example) which surveys the views of ‘members’ of the Church really ought to include this as a condition.

Thirdly, in 1 (2) (b), if the person is not resident in the parish, there is a stipulation that he or she should ‘have habitually attended public worship in the parish’. This has been interpreted by some to suggest that those who are resident have no expectation of ‘habitual worship.’ But this hardly makes any sense; why would the threshold for membership be higher for those not resident in the parish than those who are resident? Is there really a theology in the C of E which says that, by living within a certain distance of a church building, this somehow constitutes participation in worship? The only sensible way to read this is that it rests on the assumption that, should a baptised person be resident in the parish, and declare themselves to be a member of the C of E, then it goes without saying that they will habitually attend worship in the parish church. The provision for those resident elsewhere requires they attend habitually at that church, rather than their own parish church, to prevent multiple membership.

This is, fourthly, confirmed by the final paragraph, 1 (2) c. Someone is eligible who is resident in the parish, but a member in good standing of another Trinitarian (note: not necessarily episcopal!) Church ‘also prepared to declare himself to be a member of the Church of England having habitually attended public worship in the parish’. This last phrase strongly identifies being a ‘member’ with ‘habitually attending’, which supports the exegesis of paragraph (b).


Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 21.29.36If that is not persuasive, then it is worth reflecting on the expectations set out in the baptism liturgy. In the Commission (p 72) we find:

As they grow up, they will need the help and encouragement of the Christian community, so that they may learn to know God in public worship and private prayer, follow Jesus Christ in the life of faith, serve their neighbour after the example of Christ, and in due course come to confirmation.

Those who can answer for themselves are asked (p 73):

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
With the help of God, I will.

Along with the communal language of discipleship drawn from the NT, it is quite clear that ‘habitual attendance at public worship’ is assumed to be an integral expectation for those who are baptised. This explains why the CRR (written first in an earlier, more participatory, age) simply assumes this without making it very explicit at every point. You get the sense that the original authors wouldn’t have contemplated the notion of being a ‘member’ of the Church without ever attending. And why would they if the idea simply wasn’t current?

So the Church of England does use the language of membership. It has a ‘hard’ boundary of membership, in the form of the rite of baptism, but alongside that has an assumption that habitual worship will be the marker of this membership. It is certainly true that this expectation is not expressed in the form of a legal requirement—though it is expressed clearly and explicitly in relation to those non-resident or not baptised as Anglicans.


What does that mean for public discussion of ‘members’ of the Church of England? I think it is pretty clear that few clergy take this understanding of membership into account when revising electoral rolls (for whatever reason)—I am not aware of anyone being refused entry on the ER on the grounds of failing to attend habitually, even though that appears to be the expectation—so it would be rash to equate ER membership with church attendance. The difference between ER and church attendance represents the those who are baptised and continue, in some way, to identify with the C of E—but do not ‘habitually attend.’ If nominal Christian faith is on the decline, then we would expect that ERs would converge to more closely match attendance figures. It would not be too hard to check this by looking at national statistics.

But it is also clear that any discussion of the views or habits of ‘members’ of the Church cannot ignore the questions of whether such people are baptised and whether they actually attend public worship.

Thoughts anyone?


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105 Responses to Does the Church of England have ‘members’?

  1. Clive February 1, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    So you have to believe or belong to a Trinitarian Church.
    This means that you must believe that Jesus is God.

    How then can the CofE call itself a Church when it contemplates twisting the meaning of Jesus’ words in order to disregard them?

    It seems to me that to claim to be a Church you DO need to believe in the words and being of Jesus Christ and to believe in the Bible. To be anywhere else is not to be a Church.

    • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:47 am #

      Yes, indeed, Clive. The C of E is Trinitarian and appears to expect its members to be so too.

      • Drew_Mac February 1, 2016 at 11:04 am #

        It expects its clergy to make the ‘Declaration of Assent’ which isn’t really an itemised ‘Basis of Faith’ as required by some Churches. It is rather a declaration that the the “historic formularies” of the Church of England “bear witness” to the “the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds.”

        I’ve heard a few quite extreme liberals (eg ‘Sea of Faith’ type) “round the Trinitarian triangle”, so to speak, using this ploy.

        If that’s so for ministers I guess it is even more so for ‘members’ – indeed I think that the CofE has a good number of signed up atheist and agnostic members, even regularly attending at worship!

    • Andrew Godsall February 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

      Clive that’s hilarious. How do you know they were Jesus’ words? The church has never believed that the words of Jesus in the gospels are literal tape recordings. They are interpretations by writers quite some years after the events having heard various sayings circulated in various forms in the early church. You can’t make a god out of words I’m afraid.

      • Tricia February 1, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

        Andrew G
        Jesus said: I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.
        He spoke directly through these words to me 30 years ago this year and I accepted Him as my Lord and my Saviour. He continues to speak to me, he is not dead, he lives. I do not have to rely on words on a page, I have a living Saviour.
        The Christian Faith is a living relationship, not a musty religion.

        • Andrew Godsall February 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

          “He continues to speak to me, he is not dead, he lives. I do not have to rely on words on a page, I have a living Saviour.”

          Tricia thank you – that’s my point entirely. God continues to speak and we don’t have to rely on words on a page.

          • Tricia February 1, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

            Andrew G
            The Holy Spirit does not contradict scripture, we very much do need to rely on Scripture and church doctrine, or we will be lead into heresy. The church’s history is full of challenges, the reason we have doctrine and credal confession is to ensure sound teaching.

          • Clive February 1, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

            Dear Andrew

            Once again you have twisted what Tricia said.

            She began by quoting words that Jesus said from the Bible. Words that are not only true words then but true words now.
            They are words that you wrongly claim are not a true record …. but they are a truth.

            Doubtless you will twist words again.

          • David Shepherd February 1, 2016 at 8:26 pm #

            Andrew,

            I suppose that had one said of John 14:6: ‘He spoke directly through these words to me 30 years ago…He continues to speak to me, and now He directs me worship Him with all the deities of Hinduism’, it would also demonstrate that God continues to speak and that we don’t have to rely on words on a page.

            What would such a claimed revelation be false in proclaiming a new era of peace by unifying Christ with the deities of another religion?

            The question is whether the claim of new revelation represents a wholesale rejection of what God has said before.

            Even in respect of circumcision, Moses foretold: ‘The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.’ (Deut. 30:6) So, Paul was justified in treat the rite as provisional to the NT.

            The mystery of the gospel is not an exercise in the speculative abandonment of earlier written revelation. Instead, the gospel is woven and enmeshed into the entire fabric of OT prophetic revelation: nothing like the freewheeling revisionism proposed by liberals here.

          • David Shepherd February 1, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

            Andrew,

            I suppose that had one said of John 14:6: ‘He spoke directly through these words to me 30 years ago…He continues to speak to me, and now He directs me worship Him with all the deities of Hinduism’, it would also demonstrate that God continues to speak and that we don’t have to rely on words on a page.

            What would such a claimed revelation be false in proclaiming a new era of peace by unifying Christ with the deities of another religion?

            The question is whether the claim of new revelation represents a wholesale rejection of what God has said before.

            Even in respect of circumcision, Moses foretold: ‘The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.’ (Deut. 30:6) So, Paul was justified in treating the physical rite as provisional to the NT abandonment of it.

            Neither for Christ, nor the apostles was the mystery of the gospel an exercise in speculatively dismissing the earlier record of revelation through the acknowledged prophets of YHWH.

            Instead, the NT gospel is woven and enmeshed into the entire fabric of OT prophetic revelation. It’s nothing like the freewheeling revisionism proposed by liberals here.

          • Clive February 2, 2016 at 8:06 am #

            Dear Andrew,

            Your two entries reveal that you simply don’t believe in the Bible at all and feel that it was written for its time.

            Anglicanism has the three legs of Scripture, tradition and reason.

            Your posts show that you don’t believe in Scripture and that tradition is old and outdated so you only accept reason.

            By contrast I do believe in all three and I do believe in struggling with interpretting Scripture. There is truth in Scripture when you struggle with Scripture and it is truth for all time. So that sums up our disagreement

          • Andrew Godsall February 2, 2016 at 8:13 am #

            “Your two entries reveal that you simply don’t believe in the Bible at all and feel that it was written for its time.”

            That is just nonsense I’m afraid Clive and shows no understanding or willingness to engage with either me or basic theology.

    • Andrew Godsall February 2, 2016 at 8:10 am #

      Clive, Tricia, David: there is no link between believing Jesus Christ was divine and saying the words in the gospels are to be believed literal. The words of the gospels were written with the benefit of post resurrection spectacles and through the lens of the early Christian Community. They are not tape recordings. But that does not mean they are not true. This is just basic theology and has nothing to do with the C of E being a trinitarian church.

      • Clive February 2, 2016 at 9:53 am #

        In which case it is you Andrew that has messes up your responses starting with your first.

        You wrote:
        “..They are not tape recordings. But that does not mean they are not true.”

        The actual implication is that they might be true or they might not be true. The question of ‘who decides?’ then follows and reveals that it allows you to choose. Hence selectivity.

  2. Ian February 1, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    I think the Common Fund contribution is linked to attendance and possibly the ER. No wonder many C of E churches struggle to pay their Common Fund contribution if their ER’s don’t represent reality.

    • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 10:18 am #

      Different dioceses seem to follow different procedures. In London there is no direct link between Common Fund contributions and attendance or ER membership.

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:40 am #

        I don’t think there is in Exeter either. I’m told it’s based on how many people over 16 a church declares to be regular attenders, excluding those who have joined in the last year. Though I’ve not seen all the wording for myself.

  3. Gary Alderson February 1, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    I think the implication is that actually there is a higher barrier of membership to those outside the parish than inside, and it goes to the Church of England’s parochial nature.

    The assumption goes back centuries and is that, if you’re baptised and within the parish, then you are in principle “in”. You are part of the incumbent’s cure of souls. And therefore you have a right to a say in the church’s doings – whether you are a regular worshipper or not.

    To someone with a concept of a ” gathered church” this may seem unreasonable. But then the C of E is expressly not set up as a gathered church. And the flipside is missionary in nature, as the incumbent is expressly given responsibility for non-habitual worshippers.

    • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:49 am #

      Thanks, Gary—but your conclusion is, I think, a bit odd.

      What is the duty of the clergy in relation to those who are ‘in’, baptised, but not living out their baptism vows? Can it be any other than seeking out those lost sheep and inviting them back into the fold (to cite words from the ordinal)?

      In other words, the Church is *not* set up to accept the idea, willy nilly, that people can be ‘members’ and not attend, and that this is a happy state of affairs.

      • Gary Alderson February 1, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

        Off course my conclusion is odd. It’s based on the Church of England.

    • Fr. Simon February 1, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      You are in my Cure of Souls (which I share with the Diocesan Bishop) if you live within my Parochial Boundaries.

      It is both my privilege and burden to serve all those who are here, whether they want me to or not. The rules stated above are for the safeguarding of decisions (and finance) but not a limit to the scope of my ministry nor my evangelism.

      It is therefore inappropriate to quibble over ‘membership’ as to be able to use my services you do not even have to be breathing! We are there as part of the fabric of this society.

      To raise such a fuss simply because you don’t agree with what the data is saying is disingenuous: people simply don’t just put “CofE” as a default because we are now two generations past that. Hence the rise of “No Religion” declarations. If you have identified as “CofE” its because it actually means a least something.

  4. Becky Clifford February 1, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    Might some of the discrepancy be down to aging housebound demographic who would attend if they could but need church to come to them? Are home communions recorded in stats? And might they be more frequently offered if more ordained clergy were available?

    • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:50 am #

      Home communion—and pastoral care and prayer—can be offered by lay people too.

  5. David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    I think Gary Alderson is right. The electoral roll is not measuring membership on a national level; rather defining membership of the particular Parish. Someone adding their name under (a) can declare themselves a ‘member of the church of England’ regardless of whether or not they’re enrolled.

    So enrollment is to the Parish churche/s, rather than to the national church. It is “membership” of a particular Parish church or churches that defines whom one can vote into elected office (PCC and delegated committees), and qualifies one to be elected to office in the CofE. It enables ordination, too, I suppose, given that candidates require Incumbent References.

    “Membership” of a Parish then is different, then, to membership of the Church of England in general. One can be a “member” without or prior to enrolling in a Parish. However, joining the electoral roll of a particular Parish is a pre-requisite to being a fully-participating member. This could include baptised Anglicans who don’t attend a church in the Parish (or who don’t attend church at all!), presumably, though am I right in thinking that one has to attend worship at that particular Parish three times in a year in order to be able to stand for elected office?

    • Jonathan Tallon February 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      The electoral roll is not even defining membership of a parish. It is establishing the right (or otherwise) to be on the electoral roll and hence to vote or stand. Nowhere (that I can see) is the language of ‘membership’ used here (I stand open to being corrected). You can be a member of the Church of England. You can be a member of a PCC. But you are either on or not on the electoral roll.

      • Clive February 3, 2016 at 5:28 am #

        You cannot be on a PCC and not be on the electoral roll. To be on the PCC at all you must be on the ER

  6. David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    So, in a long-winded way, I’m saying that anyone baptised an Anglican residing in England is a member of the Church of England, but in order to be a fully participating member of the Church of England one has to fulfill certain criteria related to ones relationship with a particular Parish.

    • Ian February 1, 2016 at 9:33 am #

      ‘Baptised an Anglican’? That’s new to me…. 🙂
      Otherwise if baptism promises are not attended to in terms of ‘attendance/membership’ isn’t that de facto non-membership of church, Anglican or not?

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:17 am #

        It doesn’t look as though it’s defined that way. If someone’s been baptised in an Anglican church, they can call themselves a ‘member’ in order to sign onto their Parish’s electoral role. So their non-fulfillment of Baptismal vows would not seem to disqualify them from legal membership?

        • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:51 am #

          You need to distinguish between what is legal and what is expected. The Church has never attempted in this way to make disciples by law.

          • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:42 am #

            I am distinguishing between what is legal and what is expected. That is entirely my point. Your discussion was based on a legal document (CRR), and I was responding accordingly. Now if you want to discuss what ought to be, that’s a different matter.

  7. Clive February 1, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    How can you be a member of the Church of England without being a member of a Parish?

    All the levels of governance start with the Parish from all levels of Synod to even the lowest form of Ministry, that of being a Reader, requires the agreement of PCC.

    • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:25 am #

      I think, Clive, you’re expressing the difference between being a ‘member’ of the Church of England, and being a ‘member’ with full participation rights.

      To be a ‘member’ you just have to be baptised, to have a right to participate you have to be a member of a Parish, and a communicant member of that Parish.

      But one join a Parish on the grounds that one is already a member of the ‘Church of England’ residing in that Parish or residing in another Parish but worshipping in that Parish, even if not a member of a Parish before. So, by definition, one can be a member of the Church of England without being a member of a Parish.

      • Clive February 1, 2016 at 10:45 am #

        I dont agree.

        The Parish system in England means that everywhere in England is in a Parish therefore it is impossible to live in England and not to be in a Parish.

        I also don’t agree with the membership distinction when the rules don’t shows two grades of membership.

        • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:45 am #

          It’s not possible not to live in a Parish, but it’s possible to not be baptised.

          If someone ticks a box saying “I’m a member of the Church of England” in order to join a Parish roll, when not on a Parish roll before, how in your view were they previously a member of the CofE?

  8. Richard Simmons February 1, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    When discussing the new Marriage Measure I asked our Diocesan Registrar what habitually meant. His reply…Whatever you want it to mean.

  9. Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 10:16 am #

    I am not fully persuaded. With Gary Alderson I read the CRR as implying that if you are a baptised Christian in England and do not belong to any other church, you can declare yourself and thus become a member of your parish church and you can do so without attending regularly. If you want to become a member of a different parish church, or if you also belong to a church of a different denomination, habitual attendance is required which is to say you have to establish a qualifying connection. (Unlike David Beadle, I do not think there is such a thing as membership in the national church without being a member of at least one parish church.)

    You are of course perfectly right to point out that habitual attendance, unless prevented by illness, is an expectation on members. But just as failing to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” does not undo your baptism – it makes you an unfaithful or even apostate Christian – so failing to attend when you could disqualifies you from being a faithful member, not necessarily from being a member.

    • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:21 am #

      But if you can declare yourself a member of the Church of England in order to join an electoral roll and become a member of a Parish, but are not a member of a Parish when you call yourself one, by definition you can be a member of the whole Church of England without being a member of a Parish.

      • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 10:41 am #

        I read this as concomitant. You become a member of the Church of England by declaring yourself so while enrolling on a Church Electoral Roll. There is no mechanism for officially declaring yourself a member of the Church of England without enrolling on an ER.

        • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 10:43 am #

          Note 2 on the Application Form concerning members of other churches with its use of the phrase “prepared to declare themselves to be members of the Church of England” also suggests that the declaration happens, and presumably only can happen, in the context of signing up on an ER.

    • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 10:46 am #

      Note 3 on the Application form seems to confirm the distinction: “If you are not resident in the parish but were on the roll as an habitual worshipper” reads to me as if habitual worship is a qualifying connection alternative to residence rather than a (legal, as opposed to moral) requirement on both residents and non-residents.

    • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      Thomas, thanks–but there is an important point here of reading in context.

      Do you think that the original writers here had in mind that living in the parish was an adequate substitute for attending, as most people now appear to read it?

      In its historical context, I don’t think that would have occurred as an option. If you were resident, baptised, and living your baptism vows, why would you attend?

      I think it is implausible that the Church has ever considered living within a parish as somehow an adequate equivalent to attending worship. And para 3 appears to equate them.

      • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 11:20 am #

        I am not sure what historical context should be considered here. My edition of the CRR is from 2011 and this seems to me the decisive context, even if the wording used is older. I do not know how old the wording is. Does it go back beyond 1984, beyond 1974?

        Residency is of course, even on my reading, only an adequate equivalent to attending worship once a month in terms of fulfilling one of the prerequisites for legally becoming a member of a CofE parish church and hence of the CofE. It is not equivalent in terms of Christian discipleship. Indeed, in most cases I would say that the legal definition of habitual attendance falls short of what should be expected of a follower of Christ.

      • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 11:35 am #

        What, on your reading, would be the rationale for distinguishing between 2 (a) and (b)? Why not conflate them?

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:48 am #

        It used to be possible to be elected Churchwarden of your Parish Church and be a non-conformist, or not attending the church. So, I’m not sure you’re right that the law was predicated on people automatically attending church.

        • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

          It still is which is why there is an Annual Meeting of Parishioners (legally) separate from the Annual Parochial Church Meeting.

        • Clive February 3, 2016 at 5:33 am #

          How can anyone be a Church warden without attending Church?

          Even if unusually for Anglican Church wardens you choose not to be an Anglican (very very much the exception) you still attend Church.

  10. Drew_Mac February 1, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    I think there is an obvious difference between expectations and requirements. Anglicans are self-declared on the basis of their baptism. To be on the Electoral Roll as a member has the additional requirement of residency in the parish. Those who reside outside the parish may qualify through ‘habitual worship’ (but even then ‘habitual’ is undefined).

    There is no suggestion anywhere that ‘duties’ (eg receiving communion at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and Whitsun) are to be seen as requirements. Such duties are excellent expectations to be recommended to members but nowhere is it suggested that non-fulfilment invalidates membership.

    Commitment is clearly something which can reasonably be expected to flow from belonging but I can’t see that it is anywhere an ‘a priori’ requirement of membership. As Anglicans we are all called to grow in discipleship, walk more closely with Christ and refrain from comparing one with another.

    • Ian Paul February 1, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      That’s only true if you don’t see baptism as representing any form of ‘commitment’. That’s quite hard to square with the liturgy.

      • Drew_Mac February 1, 2016 at 11:17 am #

        I agree, and rightly so. Nevertheless we don’t remove someone’s membership because they are not living out their committment. The reality is that most people who have been baptised are not attending. The answer is to challenge them afresh to live out that committment not to deny their sense of belonging – even if we think it leaves a lot to be desired.

        Anglicans have long had a concept of ‘fringe membership’ – folk who are associated to the Church by baptism and the other occasional services who we should aim to draw further in through challanging them to live out the Christian Faith they claim. Being good Anglicans we don’t require folk who have not practiced their faith to be baptised all over again if they come to a new experience of Christ.

        • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:51 am #

          Indeed Drew_Mac. I think you’re confusing members who are not fulfilling they’re commitments with members who are. Regardless of what one thinks of their approaches (and I think certain commitments are indeed asked for) they are still legally members.

  11. Jonathan Tallon February 1, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    To be on a church electoral roll, you need to be a member of the Church of England. But to be a member of the Church of England, you don’t have to be on an electoral roll. The electoral roll does what it says on the time – it allows you to elect. If you aren’t interested in voting or standing for lay positions (eg PCC membership), then there is no requirement or need to be on the electoral roll (this is a separate issue from whether or not one should be interested). But you are still a member of the Church of England.

    It is not even clear that you need to be baptised to be a member of the Church of England – again, this is a requirement for the electoral roll, not for membership.

    This can be seen in the law surrounding marriage, where if you reside in the parish, you have a legal right to be married in the parish church, irrespective of whether or not you have been baptised.

    In other words, CofE does refer to membership, but the only necessary qualification for membership is self-declaration. Nothing else is required (though much else might be thought desirable or usual).

    • Jonathan Tallon February 1, 2016 at 10:58 am #

      Sorry – should read ‘does what it says on the tin’.

    • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 11:27 am #

      See above. There is no recognised way to be a member of the national Church of England without being a member of at least one of its parish churches. It seems that the only official context in which you can declare yourself a member of the Church of England is while applying for enrolment on an ER.

      You can get married in your parish church without being a member of the Church of England.

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 11:55 am #

        But (and taking into account your comments above) in applying for enrollment, under (a) at least, one ticks a box declaring onself to be (“I am”) a member of the CofE. One isn’t making a declaration, “I will be a member once (and if) it’s approved by the APCM.” If someone’s membership of the Parish is denied after they’ve applied, does that mean they were not telling the truth about being a member of the Church of England living in the Parish?

        • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

          The APCM cannot deny the application of a baptised parishioner over the age of 16 who has applied to join the ER, not on my understanding anyway. You become a member of the Church of England by declaring yourself to be a member of the Church of England in the process of applying for enrolment on the ER of either

          (a) your parochial church which is why when you become a resident of another parish, your name should be removed by the PCC of your former parish and sent to the PCC of the new parish. See CRR 3 (2) – unless, of course, you continue to habitually worship in your former parish church.

          (b) or another parish (or guild) church which you habitually attend which is why your name is removed from the ER by the PCC if you fail to attend habitually without being prevented by good cause.

          • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

            I should add that it is of course possible to apply for enrolment on the Church ER of a parish while already being a member of the CofE by virtue of being on the ER of another church.

          • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

            OK, so this is the point at which someone officially declares themself to be a “member.” But does someone have to “declare” themselves a “member” in order to “be” one? I.e. when I declare myself, am I initiating my membership at that point in time, or am I saying that I already am a member?

            Where does this leave baptised under-16s who cannot sign the declaration? Can they not be members?

          • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

            Children are an exceptional case, somewhat analogous to issues of national citizenship. But because baptism incorporates into the catholic church, the body of Christ, not the Church of England specifically, the initiation into the CofE remains incomplete for those baptised in a CofE service without confirmation.

            I suggest that the CofE knows of no way of establishing membership other than by declaration in the appropriate context (ER), except for confirmation. Those confirmed would of course be expected to be enrolled on an ER – without it their membership arguably lapses. But I grant that this is a grey area, different from the claim that anyone baptised in England thereby becomes a member of the Church of England (or indeed anyone baptised elsewhere who moves to England). The latter would seem untenable. And of course the idea that you could become a member of the CofE even without baptism, merely by residing in England and considering yourself Anglican would seem even more preposterous.

            What does David Beadle think makes one a member of the Church of England prior to any declaration?

          • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

            I’d not thought about it a huge amount before, to be honest. My main point was that it’s not so clear-cut as people are claiming. There is also a difference between membership as legally defined, and membership as one thinks it ought to be.

            Self-declaration on the ER form seems to be based only on that! As has been pointed out today the requirement for Baptism is additional to that of one having stated they are a member of the Church of England for joining the electoral roll. One is not then necessarily a pre-requisite for the other, according to the form. The idea that ticking the box automatically makes one a member seems odd though – it’s surely more than that?

            I guess there are various possibilities. Unless it has somehow been defined at some point (I’ve no idea) membership is only assessed on self-declaration and the APCM approving it, if you’re correct that there’s no other way. That would mean it’s “self-defined.” This is really all very interesting, but given the general bafflement we all have is clutching only at very rotten straws in trying to use this to undermine the YouGov poll.

          • SeekTruthFromFacts February 1, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

            What about those of us in proprietary chapels and non-parochial church plants? I currently attend a church plant that has no relationship with the parish church (and we are forbidden to conduct visitations or any other parochial activities outside of the building assigned to us), but is part of the Church of England (in consecrated building; has licensed clergy is listed as such on the diocesan website; clergy can attend Deanery Chapter, sends people to the DDO, etc.). However, we don’t have an Electoral Roll. I believe that proprietary chapels function in the same way. By your definition, none of our congregation are members of the Church of England.

            Actually, brother, I wonder whether you have subtly changed your position in this post in a way that muddles matters. Here, you write “You become a member of the Church of England by declaring yourself…” That’s a bigger claim than “There is no **recognised** way to be a member of the national Church of England without being a member of at least one of its parish churches.” Couldn’t we say that the declaration confers recognition without making a person a member?

            An analogy with citizenship might be helpful. Declaring yourself a member through Electoral Roll registration is like getting a passport (or an ID card in other countries); it enables you to avail yourself of the services of the state/church and enables third parties to easily identify you. Nevertheless, you remain a citizen/member even if you don’t have an ID card/ER registation.

            Of course, the analogy works so well because the Act of Uniformity 1588 made all residents of England members of the Church of England, on pain of fines or imprisonment. I think that was abolished in 1888 (for attendance) and 1936 (for tithe payments), although the final payments related to tithes were made in 1977, just overlapping with the Church Representation Rules. Those changes have torn the heart out of the old Anglican understanding of membership, and nothing in writing has replaced it.

          • Clive February 2, 2016 at 9:59 am #

            I have been a leader of a Church plant.

            We had our own “AGM” (inverted commas because the Church terminology is different ) before the APCM of the Mother Church and we were on the electoral role of the Mother Church.

          • Thomas Renz February 2, 2016 at 10:58 am #

            SeekTruthFromFacts: As Clive indicates, one would expect members of a church plant and other congregations that do not have an ER to enrol on the parish church ER.

            The analogy with citizenship and passports does not help us establish how one *becomes* a member of the CofE. If in the past being brought to baptism by members of the CofE made you a member of the CofE just as being born to British citizens made you a British citizen, this no longer seems to be true. As someone pointed out, the enrolment form suggests that baptism alone, not even combined with living in England, does not make you a member, otherwise “I declare that I am a member of the Church of England” would be redundant once one has already declared that one is baptised, unless one were to argue that for some baptism alone is sufficient (those baptised in a CofE service), while for others it is not. I do not see much mileage in that, other than in relation to children whose membership is dependent on that of their parent(s).

            In the past I suspect there was a clear path from associate membership as a child (through being brought to baptism by a parent who is a member of the CofE) to full, communicant, adult membership via confirmation, although I am not sure that the language of membership was used in those days. Today the role of confirmation in relation to membership has declined but it seems untenable to claim that baptism, even baptism in a CofE service, is sufficient.

            So what else needs to happen? We might actually agree that adults need to declare themselves to be Church of England in order to be members of the Church of England. So the question is whether such a declaration can be private, i.e. amounts to no more than *considering* oneself to be a member of the CofE, or whether there is a public aspect to the declaration.

            I thought of “declaring myself” as a public act different from “considering myself” (which could be a private thought) which is why saying that there is only one *recognised* way of identifying membership and saying that “you become a member by declaring yourself” amounted to the same in my mind.

            Given the phrasing on the Application form it would be interesting (not decisive, but interesting) to know whether there is any “Church in communion with the Church of England” of which one can become a member simply by considering oneself to be a member.

            Let my stress that this argument is not an attempt to characterise the national Church more in terms of a gathered Church. This argument in part preserves the important truth that the CofE is not only there for its members.

    • Erika Baker February 1, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

      You don’t have to be a member of the CoE to be on the Electoral Roll. The Church Representation Rules state:

      1. (1) There shall be a church electoral roll (in these rules referred to as ‘the roll’) in every parish, on which the names of lay persons shall be entered as hereinafter provided. The roll shall be available for inspection by bona fide inquirers.

      (2) A lay person shall be entitled to have his name entered on the roll of a parish if he is baptised, of sixteen years or upwards, has signed an application form for enrolment set out in Appendix I of these rules and declares himself either –

      (a) to be a member of the Church of England or of a Church in communion therewith resident in the parish; or

      (b) to be such a member and, not being resident in the parish, to have habitually attended public worship in the parish during a period of six months prior to enrolment; or

      (c) to be a member in good standing of a Church which subscribes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (not being a Church in communion with the Church of England) and also prepared to declare himself to be a member of the Church of England having habitually attended public worship in the parish during a period of six months prior to enrolment.

      • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

        True, but the only exception to being a member of the CofE is being a member of another Anglican Church or “certain foreign Churches” as the notes put it (e.g., Old Catholic Church). Everyone else cannot be on an ER without being a member of the CofE (whether or not this is in addition to being a member of a church of a different denomination).

  12. David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    So no one on here can agree what it means to say someone is a member of the CofE on an Electoral Roll, let alone agree on what a ‘member’ of the CofE is full stop.

    I think it can now safely be said that Jayne Ozanne’s use of ‘members’ to describe people who say they participate in CofE/Anglican/Episcopal churches was not in bad faith, just because it didn’t correspond with Ian Paul and Peter Ould’s definition of the word.

    • Clive February 1, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      No David, many can say and have told you what it is to be a member. You have merely shown that you strangely disagree and from a strangely jumbled position.

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

        No I haven’t, Clive. Everyone’s disagreeing with each other. I’ve not even defined it myself because I don’t really know. I’ve just pointed out where you have been claiming things that the ER forms people sign contradict.

        • Clive February 1, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

          No David,

          Let us simply begin with your first entry at 9:15 on February 1st:

          You wrote:
          “….The electoral roll is not measuring membership on a national level; rather defining membership of the particular Parish…”

          In the system in England EVERYWHERE in England is in a Parish. Therefore membership on a Parish level, when added together HAS TO be the measurement of the membership. It cannot be anything else.

          You’re second then is seen to be irrelevant :
          “Someone adding their name under (a) can declare themselves a ‘member of the church of England’ regardless of whether or not they’re enrolled.”

          “So enrollment is to the Parish churche/s, rather than to the national church. It is “membership” of a particular Parish church or churches that defines whom one can vote into elected office (PCC and delegated committees), and qualifies one to be elected to office in the CofE.”

          I already pointed out to you that even Readers as Ministers of the Church require PCC support when you wrote:
          “… It enables ordination, too, I suppose, given that candidates require Incumbent References.”

          You then wrote:
          “Membership” of a Parish then is different, then, to membership of the Church of England in general. One can be a “member” without or prior to enrolling in a Parish. However, joining the electoral roll of a particular Parish is a pre-requisite to being a fully-participating member….”

          …and yet I have shown you that everyone lives in a Parish so membership of a Parish is NOT different to being a member of the CofE.

          It is you that have contradicted yourself many, many times.

          • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

            Clive, I’d rather not get into a tit for tat argument as to which of us said what. My definition (if I actually were to provide one) would be pretty irrelevant, because (a) I don’t know; and (b) if you take the issue off me for a moment you’ll notice a massive range of opinions on this page. I’d reccommend your checking out the thread for this on Changing Attitude, as well, which is a publically-visible Facebook group, and you’ll see that lots and lots and lots of people disagree with you, Ian, and Peter, including people who are actually experts in the relevant law.

            But I am genuinely confused as to what your argument is. You say:

            “…I have shown you that everyone lives in a Parish so membership of a Parish is NOT different to being a member of the CofE.”

            If I read this rightly, you’re saying:

            (a) “Everyone lives in Parish”
            (b) “…membership of a Parish is NOT different to being a member of the CofE.”

            Does this mean that you now think everyone is a member of the CofE? Because if everyone lives in a Parish and that’s no different to being a member of the CofE, that means everyone’s a member of the CofE.

          • Clive February 2, 2016 at 7:58 am #

            Dear David,

            You wrote:
            “But I am genuinely confused as to what your argument is.”

            It is you that has shown complete confusion, and worse still, you have then made assertions from it!

          • David Beadle February 2, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

            You’re right, Clive, that I don’t have a coherent view on what a “member” of the Church of England is. But then on one else seems to be able to agree on that either.

          • Clive February 2, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

            That’s not correct.

  13. Tricia February 1, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    I was PCC Secretary for a number of years and always ensured that people signed in under a column of either electoral roll member or non-electoral roll member, to ensure that I knew who was eligible to vote. The electoral roll is open to anyone in the Parish who is baptised and over 16 years of age. There was never a queue of people wanting to enrol or serve on PCC, it was more like begging for help! However not being on the electoral roll in no way denies anyone access to the church for marriage, burial etc. Most Anglo Catholic Priests of my acquaintance take their responsibility for the “cure of souls in the Parish” much more seriously than others. I was once informed that it did not matter if people did not come to church as we were taking communion for them. I however consider that attendance is a pre requisite for knowing Christ and him knowing you when he returns. The whole thing really hinges on infant baptism and whether you consider that is final or whether you consider that confirmation is necessary, which of course the C of E requires to participate in communion.

    • Andrew Godsall February 1, 2016 at 2:33 pm #

      Tricia there are now plenty of dioceses and churches where communion is given before confirmation. The C of E does not require confirmation before communion.

      • Tricia February 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

        I believe there have been dispensations given to children who habitually attend and are baptised. But in general Confirmation is still required.

    • Erika Baker February 1, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

      Tricia, the actual Church Represenation Rules I quoted above don’t say that you have to be baptised. And I have indeed known regular attendees who were on the ER to present for Baptism some years down the line.

      • Erika Baker February 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

        Apologies! I got that wrong!!

  14. Jonathan Tallon February 1, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    As David Beadle points out above, if being on the electoral roll is required then children aren’t members of the Church of England. I think my children would look on that proposition rather indignantly.

    Legal minimum to be a member of the Church of England – declare yourself to be a member of the Church of England.

    Expectations on membership – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.

    It’s easy enough to meet the minimum. A bit harder to meet the expectations…

    • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

      Children who habitually worship in a CofE church can indeed be considered members in some respect, I think, although they are not full members of the CofE prior to confirmation. If they were, confirmation would not be an initiation service.The time between confirmation and enrolment seems to me a grey area. Similarly grey is the ER membership of people who are not confirmed. In the past we might have said they are non-communicant members, i.e. again not full members, but with admission prior to confirmation (which I favour, by the way), this has become murkier.

      • Andrew Godsall February 1, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

        But confirmation numbers have been in free fall for quite a few years. Confirmation has little to do with membership, whatever membership might mean.

  15. Mary Ailes February 1, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    What I find rather interesting is that there is no role for bishops in membership. Baptism, not confirmation, is the rite of membership. The rest is practice.

  16. Phill February 1, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    I wonder whether the discussion of whether the CofE has ‘members’ is something of a diversion. Peter Ould made the comment on another post that a similar survey in 2013 found that 60% of people asked had no problem with pornography, about 35% had no problem with adultery, etc.

    As we’ve discussed on here two or three times, if you actually determined the church’s doctrine of the Trinity by what people in the pews believed, you would have absolutely nothing like Nicene orthodoxy.

    So, if Jayne Ozanne’s poll is accurate as to what real ‘members’ think – her method should be used in other areas too. There’s no reason to limit it only to same-sex marriage.

    If Jayne’s poll is not accurate as to what ‘members’ think (and I think I’m basically with Ian on this), then it doesn’t say much.

    But either way, it should have no effect on the church’s understanding of marriage – unless we’re also prepared to challenge many other things the church believes.

  17. Alastair Newman February 1, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    What do people understand by the term “habitual”? As a lawyer it seems to me the sort of term which could be made to mean precisely what each reader wants it to mean…

    As a completely separate point, the CRR makes no mention at all of any sort of belief as a criterion for addition to the roll. Is this a conscious decision that people should be allowed to belong before they believe, or is it yet another assumption from the framers of the CRR?

    • Neal Terry February 1, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      I’ve been on the stuff for forty years now. Been through rehab four times, even stayed clean for 2 years at one point but one whiff of cassock and candle wax and I’m back.

      • Karen February 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

        Not much makes me laugh out loud these days but this did. Now back to the serious stuff.

    • Thomas Renz February 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

      In terms of mission stats returns, “habitual” seems to mean at least once a month unless prevented by illness.

      • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

        But one can stand for elected office in the CofE if communicating only three times a year? And can remain on the roll in order to do so? And Andrea Williams can therefore be elected onto Synod even though her primary place of worship is not CofE?

        • David Beadle February 1, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

          Ah, sorry, I’ve seen Anthony Archer’s post, below, now.

  18. Neal Terry February 1, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    Theological gerrymandering. Only slightly less delicious than social/political gerrymandering.

  19. Rhys Lewis February 1, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    Is it possible to be excommunicated from the C of E? If so it would suggest that one is a member (until said excommunication takes effect – but perhaps there is a category of excommunicated members) How does it work for RCs?

  20. Anthony Archer February 1, 2016 at 9:35 pm #

    The guidance of the House of Bishops for the operation of the Marriage Measure 2008 is instructive, as entitlement to be on the roll is relevant for marriage, whether by virtue of attendance or qualifying connection. “Habitual” is not defined by the Measure. It means “as a matter of habit” and requires an element of habit and regularity. “The Minister should regard the test as satisfied if:
    • the person concerned has worshipped in the parish over a period of years and regularly attended worship at least three times a year at the same festivals/occasions (e.g. Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, Harvest Festival , Remembrance Sunday), unless he or she was prevented from doing so by e.g. illness; or
    • the person concerned has worshipped in the parish for a shorter period, but for 6 months or more, and has attended regularly at least once a month unless prevented by illness etc.
    The Minister should not in any case adopt a stricter test than that which is normally applied in the parish in cases where a person applies for entry on the church electoral roll under the Church Representation Rules on the basis of habitual worship there for at least 6 months.”
    An element of ambiguity is present here, and most incumbents will exercise common sense. However, in dioceses like St Albans, the electoral roll number is a material element in the calculation of the Parish Share, as is usual Sunday attendance, Christmas and Easter etc. PCC electoral roll officers are well advised to scrutinise applications carefully and also to be prepared to prune the roll in the years between the six year total revision. Actually, as some have observed earlier in the thread, the real purpose of the roll is primarily for governance and electoral purposes. It is. It is not for computing ‘membership.’ Many parishes have people who, for whatever reason,do not wish to be on the roll. In our parish, we have many supporters who donate regularly to the church, but rarely if ever attend. They would probably regard themselves as ‘members.’ Certainly they regard the parish church as ‘their church’, such is the CofE, the church by law Established.

    • David Shepherd February 1, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

      Andrew,

      Being placed electoral roll may not correlate to membership in ecclesiastical circles, but it does not make the case for a commissioned YouGov poll resorting to the low-bar of merely self-identifying as Anglican.

      Chiefly because if it only records nominal affiliation, the poll yields very little more insight than we already gained from previous polls of the wider society.

      Ozanne could have argued from the latter that the CofE leadership was seriously out of touch on the issue of same-sex marriage with the wider society.

      The fact remains that the YouGov poll didn’t even attempt to scrutinise membership with any of the ecclesiastical finesse that you described here. So, highlighting the inadequacy of the electoral roll as a gauge of membership doesn’t confer any validity upon Ozanne’s woefully inaccurate inferences about Anglican membership from the YouGov poll.

      • David Shepherd February 1, 2016 at 11:12 pm #

        Sorry, I meant Anthony, not Andrew.

      • David Beadle February 2, 2016 at 11:55 am #

        The poll did not only record ‘nominal affiliation.’ Jayne Ozanne says this about it:

        ‘In case it is of interest to anyone wanting to know the truth, the two questions that were asked by YouGov both in 2013 (when no one seemed to bat an eyelid) and again in 2016 are:

        ‘i) “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion, and if so, which of these do you belong to?”

        ‘ii) “Which is any of the following best describes the group or community that you are involved with or whose gatherings/services you attend?”

        ‘The latter was recommended by Prof Linda Woodhead as the best way of defining whether someone was actively involved.’

        The poll was designed to be directly comparable with the poll in 2013. It clearly demonstrates a change in attitude both among those who identify as affiliated, and those who participate in CofE/AnglicanEpiscopal churches in the UK, whether regularly or irregularly. This is obviously not a perfect way to define “membership” of the CofE. But there is no perfect way, as no one can agree on the meaning of the word. And any definition would vary considerably across different Anglican churches in the UK.

        I would also be very interested to see a survey measuring attitudes according to regularity of attendance at UK Anglican churches, which could be directly compared with the important data in the YouGov poll. It’s a shame no one seems to want to work constructively towards commissioning such a poll.

        • Thomas Renz February 2, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

          If the most recent findings had been reported as “people who affiliate themselves with Anglican churches in Britain are now in favour of same-sex marriage,” would anyone have bat an eyelid? I did not hear criticism of the YouGov poll as such but rather of the use people made of it this time round (did anyone in 2013 claim that the poll tells us what members or people in the pews thought?).

          Those deriding Peter Ould and Ian Paul for focusing on the question of membership, as if they were trying to escape some unwelcome data, conveniently overlook that it was Jayne Ozanne’s briefing that introduced the concept of membership and as far as I know she did nothing to correct the false impression given by, e.g., the opening sentence of the Guardian report, “Attitudes to same-sex marriage within the pews of the Church of England…”

          We know of course that for every member (or let that be “full member” if you prefer) of the CofE there are many others who are friendly towards the church and would loosely identify as CofE (I say loosely because they would rarely if ever use the first person [plural] when talking about the church). But what the media reports suggest that most people when they hear “member” think of people actively involved in the church (“people in the pews”). It was this false claim, that the poll tells us anything specific about those actively involved with the Anglican churches of these isles, that has caused the irritation.

          • Clive February 2, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

            Well said Thomas

          • David Beadle February 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

            Jayne O has made it very clear, very publically, what the questions were asking. Hence I can quote it here.

            “Members” is a word that is used in a variety of ways. I don’t think any malice was intended in the use of the word. On the previous blog post to this Ian P and Peter O accused her of being “misleading” and of “blatant falsification” respectively.

            If you read through that post and thread you will see that they also claim the question itself is politically biased.

        • Thomas Renz February 3, 2016 at 12:29 am #

          I did not speculate about Jayne Ozanne’s motives. For all I know she may have just got into a muddle because of overexcitement. If the word “member” can be used in so many different ways, it was at least unwise to offer a press release which spoke of members several times (without giving a clear indication as to what the actual questions in the 2015 survey were; the information on the 2013 survey was much fuller.)

          My point is that there is clear proof that her language was understood by the media to refer to people in the pews and that knowing what we know now about the poll we cannot be confident that it tells us what people in the pews think. It may or it may not because the follow-up question wasn’t really precise enough for that. If this is meant to identify habitual worshippers, then even on a “twelve times a year” habit the figures seem to be inflated because we know -roughly- how many people attend our churches.

          In this sense the press release was misleading. I’d agree with that. Jayne Ozanne could presumably have clarified the misunderstanding by explaining what she means by members (“Of course I do not mean people who are necessarily involved in a church on a regular basis but also people who might turn to the CofE for weddings and funerals.”) I did not follow the debate, so maybe she did. If she did not, the accusation of “blatant falsification” gains in plausibility in that it becomes harder to believe that the misunderstanding was the result of an honest mistake.

  21. Thomas Renz February 2, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    I am not interested in the poll commissioned by Jayne Ozanne. I took p[art in this discussion because I am interested in thinking through questions of membership. But as far as the poll is concerned, David Shepherd seems to me exactly right. By all means allow “Anglican” in a British poll to mean whoever self-identifies as Anglican but then don’t pretend that the poll could possibly tell us more than basically what British society’s attitudes are (minus some [but not all] atheists and agnostics and several religious minorities, most of whom would probably, on the whole, be slightly more traditional on social issues than wider society). In other words, the poll would tell us something we did not know only if it would tell us something about “the people in the pews”. This could have been established by the simple question, “did you worship in an Anglican church last Sunday?”, because the poll does not need to determine who is or who isn’t a member of the CofE, the CiW, or the SEC, but only what attitudes you might find if you went into an Anglican church on any given, random Sunday.

    • Thomas Renz February 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

      I have now had a look at the poll and see that I was wrong in my guess about religious minorities (in particular Hindus and Buddhists).

  22. Michael Lakey February 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    Ian: this is a summarised version of some points I made elsewhere on this topic:

    1) I don’t think we can address the issue of the relationships between membership in the Church of God and in that tiny little bit that is the Church of England without adequately addressing theologies of initiation–not just stuff like the material in BEM about catechesis and first communion as aspects of the process, but also questions of the point of episcopacy, the torturous issue of confirmation, and the fact that our liturgies (which are routinely described by Anglicans of all stripes as vehicles of doctrine) presuppose some of these issues.

    2) In the light of 1) I don’t think questions of membership can be resolved by appealing to a theology of baptismal grace–as though to have extra-baptismal membership criteria is graceless. Neither side is advocating simony (putting a price on initiation), and both sides have a robust doctrine of Divine gift.

    3) We may need to attend to some of the more theologically-toxic aspects of subscription-based membership in secular organizations, since we do not want to replicate that sort of model in the minds of ‘members’ (whoever they may be!). Nonetheless, the idea is apostolic (cf. 1 Cor 12), and the apostle uses it to refer not simply to macro-level, but also local membership. Perhaps attending to the bodily nature of the members metaphor would be a way of beginning to distinguish Church membership from other organizational ideas?

    4) in any case, we must be careful not to sidestep the elephant in the room, namely that this issue (membership) has ONLY arisen as a result of the recent poll of ‘CofE members’ (whoever they may be!) regarding the licitness or otherwise of SSM. We would not be talking about this were it not for that. No-one is attempting to limit the initiatory force of baptism.

    5) rather, the KEY AND PRESENTING issue is whether the sacrament of baptism (alone) is a necessary and sufficient basis for one’s private opinions to be germane to the Church’s deliberations over one of the most vexed, technical and acrimonious debates of the day. Or to put it differently, does the grace of baptism (epistemologically) overcome shortcomings in catechesis received, in ongoing biblical and traditional literacy, in conforming one’s mind to Christ by meeting it in worship and in fellowship with other Christians–or is it a kind of epistemological magic that shortcuts all of these other means of ONGOING grace? Personally, I think not–and I think I have the tradition (and personal experience) behind me!

    6) all of this is to draw attention to the key issue–an institutional failure at the level of catechesis. I firmly believe in the sensus fidei and the sensus fidelium, but one cannot have the spiritual vox populi without good elementary instruction. This is not about inclusion or exclusion from the debate–it is about making it possible for included opinions to be meaningful rather than trivial. It would be a delight if all God’s people were able to participate in the doctrinal deliberations of the Church, and what stands in the way of that is our failure to teach the underpinning knowledge necessary to contribute to that in a meaningful way.

  23. Michael Lakey February 2, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    Another briefer comment from elsewhere:

    On whether baptism (or even stated affiliation) confers a ‘say’ or an ‘entitlement to a say’ about what the Church believes/ought to believe.

    In a community dialogue in which all have the responsibility to attain the prerequisite competences for full participation it is not possible for someone to be entitled to have their say without the corollary being that others have a duty to hear–and I would dispute any assertion or implication that we have a DUTY to attend to private opinions that are unformed and uninformed by the received faith of the Christian community in its widest, and most historically longstanding sense. It might be pragmatically worthwhile to listen to such views, but there is no such duty–ergo, there can be no such entitlement.

    AGAIN: This isn’t about wanting to exclude–baptised members are de facto excluded by priests who neglect catechesis; they are even excluded by themselves if they neglect their own spiritual formation.

    In a more ideal world, everyone who is baptised would be prepared to take their full and rightful place in the ministry of the Church–including in the ministry of collective theological deliberations. And, just as as we have prerequisites of knowledge, commitment etc for baptised persons wishing to become ordinands and minister as priests and deacons (and these exist for sound reasons), there are equally sound reasons for requiring those contributing to doctrinal discussions to ACTUALLY know not only the doctrines of the Church, but also to have A GOOD sense of the analogy of faith by which those doctrines have a particular shape.

    My fear is that until then, the non-participating laity are liable to exploitation by more informed persons who seek to use their numerical strength to lever debates that they have been unable to sway by force of argument (. . . reminds me of the poor old crowd in Matt 27, whose numbers were just exploited!).

  24. David Shepherd February 3, 2016 at 7:13 am #

    So, Jayne Ozanne has now responded to those who have criticised the YouGov poll which she commissioned by clarifying, in terms of the survey, how membership should be understood.

    In an interview for Premier, she stated:

    “It’s all smoke and mirrors at the moment, people are trying to focus on the wrong thing rather than understand the speed of change amongst people who believe that they are practicing and involved in a church.

    So, after several here seeking to explain membership as meaning nothing more than being baptised and living in a parish, Ozanne believes that, in terms of membership, the survey reflects those who believe that they are practicing and involved in a church

    How can anyone here be in any doubt that Ozanne has exhausted her public credibility by claiming that to self-identify as Anglican and to either be involved in an Anglican church or to attend Anglican services (with no indication of regularity) equates to ‘believing that they are practicing and involved in a church’?

    So, according to Ozanne, a nominal Anglican who is not involved in a church, but attends the parish church once a year believes ‘that they are practicing and involved in a church’!

  25. Clive February 3, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    She also used the word “truth” consistently when describing the purpose of the poll but never, ever explained what truth she was talking about. It’s her latest mantra.

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