How do people view the Church of England?


Stephen Hance is National Lead for Evangelism and Witness for the Church of England. He has written a fascinating Grove Booklet arising from his research in his current role, Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us: Perceptions of the Church of England. I was able to ask him about his research and its implications for national and local ministry.

IP: Your research on how the Church of England is perceived seems to represent a convergence in your own interests and the current needs of the Church. Can you explain how this all came about?

SH: In 2021, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, the Church of England embarked on a process to articulate a vision and strategy for the next ten years. A number of people who work for the National Church Institutions were asked to prepare background papers which would go to the House of Bishops and others who were working on this. I was asked to write a paper on how the CofE is perceived. My first degree is in sociology, so I was really glad to be asked to do this.

I spent time looking at all the media coverage of the Church of England over the last eighteen months, at every piece of research I could find that touched on the Church from the last five years, and then convening five round table discussions with people inside and outside the Church sharing their own perceptions. The round tables were particularly interesting, not least since, because we were in the early months of the pandemic and everyone was stuck at home, it proved possible to engage people whom I probably would not have been able to involve in normal times.

IP: Some people might respond by saying ‘We should just preach the gospel and get on with the business of ministry’. Why do you think this kind of research matters?

SH: When Paul went to Athens, he didn’t begin by going straight to the Areopagus and preaching the gospel. First he explored the city and reflected on what he saw, and then when he did preach he drew on his reflections so that what he had to say would connect with his audience. Actually, good preaching is never just a matter of just speaking out the gospel. It’s always a matter of finding the space where the gospel might speak into the life of this particular culture.

In one sense the gospel is unchanging. In another sense it always sounds different according to where it is preached. We often fall into the trap of thinking we know how we are perceived or where people stand in terms of their attitudes to God and church and faith. Sometimes those presumptions are right, and sometimes they are not. It’s worth taking the time to listen and learn.

IP: The first attitude you explore is a widespread sense of benign indifference—to the point at which, for an increasing number, the Church just does not feature in their lives at all. Were you surprised to find this? What does it mean for the ministry of the local church?

SH: I wasn’t really surprised at all. I’ve been in Christian leadership of one kind or another since my mid-teens. That’s a long time now. I can obsess as well as anyone else over the minutiae of church life. But these things that seem so important to me, most people never give them a thought. It’s not that people are hostile. They just don’t think about us. Of course, we have contact with lots of non-churchgoers through occasional offices etc, and through people visiting beautiful cathedrals and so on. But even more people don’t have even that contact.

I think of a woman I met at a carol service at Derby Cathedral who told me that she hadn’t been before because she hadn’t known she was allowed to come in. She thought it was for other people, not her. The local church needs to realise that we need to earn the right to share good news by actually being good news in our communities, and realising how intimidating the thought of church can be to many people.

IP: You note that only about on fifth of all church attenders are attending Church of England churches—so we are not even as important as we think within the Christian scene! What implications do you think that has for us?

SH: The key ones are humility and partnership. The Church of England vision speaks of the need to be humbler, and I think that’s right. We can fall into the trap of thinking of ourselves as powerful and able to do things on our own. But we aren’t, and we can’t, and actually that’s a good thing. We need to partner with other Christian communities to be good news and to share good news in our communities, and to worry more about extending the Kingdom of God and less about sustaining just our own little bit of it.

IP: Despite the benign indifference, you also identify affection something akin to that of an ‘elderly maiden aunt’—though the most negative press about the C of E appears to come from our own conflicts! Is all this a challenge or an opportunity?

SH: It’s both. The ageism and sexism here are not mine but came from a round table participant who said “The CofE is like your elderly maiden aunt. You don’t go to visit her very regularly, and when you do you don’t look forward to it, but when you get there it’s really nice, and you wonder why you don’t go more often.” There is affection there. For some people the very fact that the Church of England looks a bit dusty, a bit out of time, is part of the appeal. They see this more positively than other churches who are perhaps a bit slicker, a bit more pushy about what they believe or what they want to accomplish.

The CofE feels quite unthreatening to a lot of people, and there actually is an opportunity there, to come alongside and walk with people without them being afraid we are going to try to push our faith down their throats. But there is a challenge too, of course. At some point, if people are going to become Christians, then the Christian faith is going to have to become real and vibrant and relevant to them, and we are going to need to be able to articulate it with some clarity and conviction.

IP: It is perhaps most encouraging that the ‘local trumps national’—and that people outside the church pay almost no attention to ‘diocesan’ things. What does that imply for local church ministry?

SH: My research demonstrated that positive or negative encounters, experienced personally or heard about, shape how people think of the whole Church. Many of these encounters are around life events. A friendly, welcoming vicar, a priest who went the extra mile for a funeral family, a parish church that is thoroughly involved in their local school, a church that serves vulnerable people, all make a positive impression. A lack of welcome or inclusion, a feeling that visitors are not wanted by a cliquey in-crowd, does the opposite.

So a local church which engages positively and creatively with its community in very simple ways can gain a good reputation not only for itself but to some extent for the whole CofE. At the same time, a local church which is unwelcoming, unhelpful, or unprofessional will develop a poor reputation which is hard to shake, and which also impacts on how local people see the Church as a whole. And of course all of hat impacts on how open people are to faith.

IP: Your most damning observations come under the heading that the Church is ‘embarrassed about God’, with some commenting that they simply do not know what the Church believes. ‘People do not associate the Church of England with a quest for spiritual experience’. How have we got into this sorry state, and what can we do about it?

SH: Good question, although I don’t think I want to see this as “damning” so much as a friendly albeit sharp challenge that we need to address. How have we got here? Well, partly it’s because of our history as a church in Christendom, with the assumption that everybody was basically a Christian unless they had made a deliberate point of opting out. But that’s not our context anymore. People are growing up three or four generations unchurched. They simply don’t know the Christian story unless we communicate it.

Then a lot of the way the Church of England communicates our faith is through our contribution to the common good. I’m thinking about food banks, street pastors, toddlers’ groups, work with homeless or asylum seekers. We hope that this will point people to our faith, and up to a point it does, except as Tom Holland points out in ‘Dominion’, and said in one of our round table discussions, the problem is that Christianity has so shaped the values of our culture that we don’t realise how specifically Christian these values are. So, the idea of caring for the poor, or the value of every individual, are not in fact shared across every culture, they are culture and faith specific, but they are so embedded in ours that we take them for granted and think everybody basically believes these things even if not everyone does anything very much about them.

We think we’re living out our faith, others think we are just being good people. And the Church gets known for these things, which everyone approves of by and large, rather than what we believe about God, about reconciliation through Christ, about the life of the world to come. So people who want to explore these things go elsewhere. What can we do about it? We need to keep doing the good things that people value and appreciate, and probably do even more of them, while equipping one another to always be ready to give a reason for the hope we have within us.

IP: You offer suggestions throughout as to how readers might respond to these observations in their own witness, life and ministry. Will we also see changes in the strategy of the Church at the centre?

SH: Well, the Church’s vision and strategy which we touched on earlier emphasises three key objectives. We want to become a church of missionary disciples, younger and more diverse, where the mixed ecology is the norm. So, yes, these are changes from the priorities we may have had before. In fact, it’s a change that we even have three clear objectives at all, and these are potentially exciting and life-releasing for the Church.

Over this year you will see new resources being released, such as ‘Everyday Witness’ and ‘Leading in Evangelism’ – resources designed to help us be the Church of England that God is calling us to be, so that every person might have the opportunity to meet and receive Christ.

IP: Thanks for answering my questions—and for all your work in the C of E! We really look forward to seeing all the resources as they come out.

You can order the booklet from the Grove website, post free in the UK or as an ebook PDF.


Stephen Hance is the National Lead for Evangelism and Witness for the Church of England. He has previously served as Dean of Derby, as Director of Mission for Southwark Diocese, and as a vicar of parishes in Southwark and London dioceses. He has written or contributed to a number of books, the most recent of which is Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us: Perspectives on the Church of England (Grove 2021)


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109 thoughts on “How do people view the Church of England?”

  1. This is an excellent interview, thank you both. Two small points however:
    1) in your phrase “a local church which is unwelcoming, unhelpful, or unprofessional”, I’m not sure where you get the word “unprofessional” as a criticism in that paragraph, especially as you earlier say the C of E is partly liked for not being “slick!” If you allow lots of volunteers to do things, and don’t bully them, occasionally things will go wrong and be “unprofessional” and this is not a bad thing!
    2) While I agree that our culture’s values have been shaped by Christianity for good in ways people may not be aware of, I’m sure many of these values are shared by other religious groups around us. (Christianity after all is shaped by Judaism, and Islam by both.)

    Reply
    • Hi Penelope

      Do you think meekness, poverty of Spirit, mourning over sin in ourselves, the church and society are values shared by other groups outside Christianity?

      I wonder what other virtues are distinctively Christian in our modern world.

      Reply
    • Thanks for comments. I don’t think professional and slick are the same thing. In this context professional means the church returns your phone call, reads the banns on the Sundays they are meant to, remembers to book the organist…. If you think these are obvious, trust me, they don’t always happen!

      Reply
  2. As an evangelical free church man (Brethren/Baptist) I have the following impression of the C of E. It has pockets of low churches which are conservative, broadly reformed, and faithful to the gospel and from whose ranks have risen men of great ability and worth to influence the wider evangelical church. There are also some evangelical churches more charismatic and probably less reformed. They are likely to be evangelistic and probably successfully so.

    Thereafter it goes downhill. Anglo Catholics I would think are orthodox but I am unsure how much true life is there. Liberals or broad churchmen are destroying the church; their influence is pernicious. I see them as holding the reins of power. The bishops are largely liberal and are simply an echo of left wing politics. The church has embraced values that denominationally and formally indict it as apostate (though clearly this does not apply to many individual churches). If push came to shove the church would not support its evangelicals.

    I wonder how accurate this impression is?

    Reply
  3. I moved to a rural area and joined a new CoE church just after the first lockdown. The vicar was hard working and very enthusiastic (ex-HTB) and the church attracted an impressive number of people given the size of the town. He started a mid-week fellowship group which was open to all and also well attended. I noticed a few things in that group:

    Christians often talk about their faith and the details of church life as if it was all obvious (and interesting) to others. The ones who have always “gone to church” assume a sentimental attachment to that culture and the “evangelical types” are equally hesitant to break out of well-rehearsed ways of talking about their faith.

    The few completely unchurched people who came along to that group (for a cup of tea and something to do?) seemed politely indifferent to all the church talk but would be frustrated by the evangelical framing of religious ideas. This led to a kind of resentment bubbling up whenever the conversations about faith got too ‘contrived’. Unless they started showing an interest in social life of the church, those visitors would then either focus on chatting to the one or two people they liked as individuals (and who could easily be persuaded to talk about other things) or they drifted away again. Their unchurched ‘perspective’ was never really acknowledged.

    Reply
  4. ‘Their unchurched ‘perspective’ was never really acknowledged.’

    Joe,

    I’m not sure if you see this as a good or a bad thing. It’s always difficult to know when to move a conversation to more explicitly faith lines and not be a contriving evangelical who can’t relate. The answer, however, I don’t think is to live forever in denial of the elephant in the room.

    A helpful observation I’m sure is true of many churches who get non-christian visitors. Is this another example of the success of HTB?

    Ian, can I ask how successful your church is at reaching out to others?

    Reply
    • John: I’m not sure if you see this as a good or a bad thing.

      I see it as closer to a bad thing – although I get your point about not denying the reason for going to church in the first place (assuming it isn’t just for company and a free cup of tea).

      Reply
      • How about decline as being indicative? False teaching? Jettisoning scripture? Or unable to clearly articulate the exceptional Gospel, though there are stand – out exceptions. For starters Andrew?

        Reply
        • They are clearly not evidence. They are just an opinion. All Churches in the UK have declined – not just the C of E.
          The question is – how would we know what God actually thought about the C of E. Anton is claiming it is the only thing that matters.

          Reply
          • That’s just your opinion Andrew. You have nothing but opinion, nothing to measure against, scripture stands in contradistinction evodence, which you 4fuse to accept and believe. When scripture speaks God speaks, but you don:t, won’t, believe that.
            Off to a chuch Bible stuy on John 5:31-47.
            Witness.

          • No Geoff, it isn’t just opinion. All Church denominations in the UK have declined. That’s fact, not opinion.
            Maybe God wants the Church, in the UK at least, to decline…..

          • Well, Andrew, perhaps God *does* want the church in the UK to decline. I see two things going on: (a) among those who actually believe a huge interest in a serious understanding of Scriptures (look at this web site, for example, in the healthy comment sections at the end of pieces where Ian Paul avoids talking about non-linear tendencies – I’m not talking about his pieces about non-linearity – but in pieces where he writes about the gospel and issues that are different from non-linearity, there is often a healthy, good-going discussion between informed people who are Christians and take their faith seriously). (b) On the other hand, in society in general, there seem to be increasing numbers who seem to be actively and aggressively opposed to the gospel message. It’s not just the church (or some particular denomination), in whatever form the visible church takes and the trappings of church that they are opposed to, there seems to be huge hostility towards the central gospel message. `Blessed is he who is not offended in Me’ – and the numbers who are not offended seem to be decreasing.

            I wonder if all of this might mean that God is preparing believers for a period of unprecedented persecution ……

          • Of course it is the only thing that matters. I did not say it was always easy to find out. How’s its fidelity to scripture and how’s its lampstand doing?

          • It is not remotely true that all church denominations in the UK have declined.

            (a) No time-frame is given, so the claim is meaningless.

            (b) Counter examples, such as the Redeemed Church of God.

            (c) The liberal ones have declined precipitately, which (despite your generalisation) is not remotely the same thing as the charismatic/Pentecostal ones broadly holding up in recent times, some growing, and any decline being far more slight.

            That is even before we get onto what is so special about the UK. Is the UK somehow special in the same way that the most recent times are supposedly more special than their predecessors? The 20th century was the Christian century in terms of numerical and proportional Christian growth.

            (d) If people spent all the time they spend analysing decline in positive Christian activities instead, then would there be such decline for them to talk about? A negative attitude (for which there can be no possible logical justification) is self-fulfilling.

          • Christopher – if Andrew had said `Christian’ churches, then your counterexample would have been wrong. The Redeemed Church of God is pentecostal – and I know sufficient about pentecostal to understand that the descriptor `Christian’ cannot be applied. Same goes for Vineyard, which was established by a heretic named John Wimber. I have never heard of NewFrontiers or FIEC – so can’t comment on them.

            While I’m basically amillenial in my approach to Revelation, I think that the mark 666 is quite interesting symbolism. A Christian mark would be 777 (since 7 is a holy number, so is 3) and 666 just misses the mark. I know enough about Wimber and Vineyard to understand that these people are exactly those whom John is talking about when he describes those with 666 plastered over their foreheads.

            The fact that these are increasing would suggest that the end times are coming.

          • Jock, could you explain why you think John Wimber and the Vineyard movement are outside the remit of Christian churches please?

          • You see the problem with using a marker that God approves of Churches that are growing or thriving is that it becomes a ‘mine is bigger than yours’ conversation, which is just futile. You then also have to reckon with the fact that the largest denomination – the brightest shining lamp stand – is the RC church – which many of you reject. You also have to reckon with the fact that God appears to be blessing Islam as their numbers continue to rise.

          • Jock – it is a very dangerous thing to demonise a creed professing and practicing Christian denomination. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. On what basis exactly of familiarity with and experience of Wimber & the Vineyard do you make such outrageous statements?

          • Hi Jock

            (a) You make assertions, but it’s not clear why your assertions are to be valued more than alternative angles. With supporting argument it might be another matter.

            (b) The fact that they are generalisations does not increase one’s confidence.

          • simon – I regret if my view on Wimber upsets you, but that, nevertheless, is what I think following my experience.

            I could outline, based on Scripture, how I believe the Holy Spirit transforms the heart and mind (based on Romans 12:2, what he means by `be transformed by the renewing of your mind’) and take examples from the Old Testament about the state of mind that people were in when they met with God (e.g. Moses and the burning bush, Gideon, Samuel), but I know that I can’t actually *prove* what I’m trying to say from Scripture – others will decide that it can be seen in a different way and in a different light.

            I can only give you my experiences of Wimberism, which were firstly in a charismatic Anglican church in England during October – December 1989. I stuck it out for 12 weeks. The way they dealt with `healing’ (which they did) had a strong whiff (at least to me) of calling up the ghost of Samuel – calling on God in a way that seemed unauthorised, people seemed to want to go into some sort of trance with the Holy Spirit – and when I saw what was going on, I felt that whatever Spirit it was, it couldn’t be the Holy Spirit.

            Fast forward to sometime during late 1990 / early 1991, when I was living in Southern California and one day there was a feature in the Los Angeles Times about Wimber. It was written respectfully, the journalist clearly positive about it. I remember one detail from the article; despite the very generous giving from the congregation, Wimber only creamed off a modest 80 000 dollars per annum for his personal income. At that time I knew an assistant professor on 30 000 dollars, an associate professor on 45 000 dollars, so Wimber’s 80 000 didn’t seem so modest. But I digress . The article factually explained all the sitting around, earnestly seeking the Holy Spirit to come upon them to do some healing. They did a lot of this until they eventually got one.

            Something smells to me very, very wrong with this. We are praying for the Holy Spirit to transform peoples hearts and minds so that they come to faith in Jesus Christ. They come to hate their sin, forsake their sin, repent of their sin and trust in Christ for salvation. If God adds on some healing as an extra, then I wouldn’t object to that, but if this is what they’re sitting around earnestly praying for, if this is where their energy is going – getting God to show himself through miraculous healing, then they’ve really picked up the wrong end of the stick.

            And yes – I am sorry to say that I felt that, whatever spirit it was, it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It did take me a long time to take the next step and say to myself `if it isn’t the Holy Spirit, then there is only one alternative’.

            I regret being negative about this – my spiritual life would have been much easier in terms of finding Christian fellowship if I had been able to accept the approach of Wimber as legitimate – but it was a conclusion I sadly came to – based on what I saw and, most of all, the creepy feeling down the back of my neck that this was a place that a good Christian boy like me really ought to avoid – and get out of fast – when I was attending churches which endorsed this.

          • Jock, ‘While I’m basically amillenial in my approach to Revelation, I think that the mark 666 is quite interesting symbolism. A Christian mark would be 777 (since 7 is a holy number, so is 3) and 666 just misses the mark. I know enough about Wimber and Vineyard to understand that these people are exactly those whom John is talking about when he describes those with 666 plastered over their foreheads.’

            You might or might not know about Vineyard, but you clearly don’t know enough about Revelation!

            For a start, the opposite of 666 is *not* 777, it is the ‘seal of the living God’ in the narrative.

            I can recommend a good commentary if you are interested…

          • Ian Paul – well, I’m no expert in Revelation, but I didn’t say that 666 was the opposite of 777.

            You are correct that I don’t know much about Revelation, but there are some things about Revelation that stand out very clearly, even for the non-expert – and I am not wrong about this.

            666 is the mark of the beast. As you can see in that whole section of Revelation, the beast is trying to imitate Christ and to look like Christ – so that those who are not careful are misled into following the beast (and hence receive the mark 666).

            For example `One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.’ To anyone who is not very careful, the beast can easily be mistaken for Christ (who was hung on the cross and died – unlike the beast, whose apparently fatal wound was healed).

            `Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.’ We can take it that the dragon is smooth talking (c/f the serpent in Genesis 3).

            Perhaps I am dead wrong when I apply this to Vineyard and perhaps I am extremely uncharitable to apply this to Wimber, his ministry and his followers – but it looked very much to me like an imitation of Christ – and not in a good way – and it looked to me as if the followers are following after the beast which has horns like a lamb, which speaks with a gentle tongue – and in this sense they have taken the mark 666.

            You’re correct that I’m no expert in Revelation – but this truth about the beast and the meaning of the mark 666 (which, just like the beast with horns like a lamb, looking like Christ, approximates the godly mark, but misses) is what sticks out clearly and plainly even to a non-expert.

          • Jock

            I urge you please to revisit your demonising of the ministry of John Wimber and the Vineyard – ‘I am a debtor to both’. Their legacy of equipping the saints for works of service, intimate worship, loving God with all their heart, soul and strength, compassionate ministry to the poor, community, passion for mission, and pioneering church planting, is unparalleled by any denomination I have known in my 30 years in ministry.

            Simon Ponsonby

          • Ian Paul – gosh – having re-read your comment, I think you’re saying that 666 (in Revelation 13) is a very positive thing – the seal of the living God, marking out His people.

            If this is what you are saying, then – yes – I very much would like to see how this is argued; as far as I can see, people for centuries have considered 666, the number of the beast as a `bad’ number, which signifies bad things.

            In the context of Revelation 13 (where the beast presents himself with horns like a lamb and speaking with a gentle tongue – an imitation of Christ) as something which looks similar to a godly number (which would be 777).

            If you have a different insight into this, I’d be very interested to read it.

          • simon – I’m sorry about this – you personally come across positively. I’d prefer not to be in disagreement here. But I am not ignorant and I do know about Wimber and Vineyard – and there were two aspects here (a) the creepy feeling down the back of the neck and (b) when I saw their earnest search for charismata, signs and wonders, healing, etc …. they way they were going about it did not chime in with the way that I understood (and still understand).

            My last experience of `Vineyard’ came in 2001 / 2002 where a church which based itself on these ideas was the only `serious’ church in town, so I stuck it out – until I simply couldn’t take it any more.

            So I have tried very hard to be positive – and, with great reluctance, reached negative conclusions.

          • Jock, I have no personal knowledge of John Wimber (just another name to me) except that I’m sometimes required to play a song he wrote on the organ: “O let the Son of God enfold you…” I certainly get a ‘creepy’ feeling about this song: both words and musical composition stand out as being manipulative in terms of sucking people into an emotional mindset which is the complete opposite of renewed minds, fear of the Living God, and putting on the whole of his armour. It seems purpose written to induce a kind of feebleness of mind. In fact I sense in it an enticement to enter into a cult-like prison rather than step out into God’s world, see it as it really is, engage with it, but know that he is beside me – his Spirit guiding – wherever life leads.

            In any case, one should never be afraid to speak out honestly from experience and conviction, even when it may ruffle feathers. True Christians will always be disrupters – it goes with the territory!

          • Don Benson – thanks for this! You have articulated (and expressed in words) extremely well things that I intuitively felt – but didn’t exactly put my finger on during the 2001 – 2002 period, when the Vineyard style church was the only serious show in the town I was living at that time.

            I have to be careful, because I don’t really want animosity with Simon Ponsonby – who comes across as a good guy – but yes – thanks for the support – and also – many thanks for the way you expressed it, which helps me a lot.

          • Hi Jock

            If indeed J Wimber did associate healing with a preparatory alternative state of consciousness then for better or worse I think he has a point. But Jesus called that state ‘faith’. ‘Expectancy’ is also good. Of course they have physical effects.

            Wimber is a skilled composer, and his songs have a proper ‘finish’ on them (in the paint sense). And the aforementioned Spirit Song is the most perfect encapsulation of a certain view of what a worship song is for. Talk about relaxed and chilled out though. That is actually the Vineyard trademark. One of his: ‘[Contemplative words followed by:] And when my life is through I’m coming home to You, that’s all I want to do, just come home to You.’. And that’s good, though one would not need to move a muscle in the whole process. So a slight overlap with John Ortberg’s hilarious teaching on the LayzeeBoy seat. None of which is a reflection of the gentlemanly and excellent typical Vineyarder.

        • Andrew G,
          I mentioned decline as a possible factor, amongst others the others which you ignore.
          The RC church is nor embarrassed about God, nor scripture. It certainly has not jettisoned scripture if the funeral service of my Catholic aunt last year is anything to go by. In fact, just the opposite, it was central.
          The head of the CoE, the Queen, mentions Jesus more the the professionals, the Arch Bishops and Bishops, so far as I can see.
          Perhaps the writer of the Grove booklet, from his media research would be able to shed some light on that. And on the demograpic composition of his round table discussions, (focus groups?) with methodology employed.
          One phrase that struck me, was likeness of CoE to a *great aunt.*
          It seems to be something of a twee, middle class description far out of touch with contemporary demongraphics.
          Maybe the CoE should be likened to Miss Marple, but without any clue as to how to uncover the *mystery* of the Gospel, which has in fact been revealed.

          Reply
  5. There’s a lot to be said for some of the observations in the article, and they resonate with what I see and hear as well, but if the church is really is perceived to be ’embarrassed about God’, then it IS damning, however much we might want to gloss it.

    I would much prefer hostility to apathy.

    Reply
    • But is it not hopeful as well. That is surely a relatively easy thing to turn around compared to the alternative – our rate of sowage being at fault rather than the hardness of the ground?

      Reply
  6. The main problem being the offence of the cross – the central gospel message is offensive; somehow the church should try to ensure that it isn’t adding to the offence; Emil Brunner translated the Matthew passage as `blessed is he who is not offended in Me’.

    I’m wondering – if you want families to come to church, what part of the Christian message do you communicate to children? and how? If (say) there is a 6 year old who seems to live in a world where bad things don’t happen and does not yet seem to have left the garden of Eden – what Christian teaching do you give? and how do you go about it?

    Reply
  7. “For the Church, the pastoral and spiritual welfare of the nation must take primacy, because those are enduring and universal needs. Renewing that mission is in the national interest” (‘Faith Matters’, Times Leader, 8 February 2022).

    Quite right.

    But first the Church must agree what is the paramount universal need. In the words of the Anglican theologian Dr Martin Davie, “When all is said and done, the Church’s core business is saving souls, and the only way that souls will be saved is if people come to realize that this life is not all there is, and that they need to put their trust in Jesus in order to avoid an eternity of damnation and enjoy an eternity of blessedness instead. The Church’s calling is to be God’s instrument to bring people to this realization, and for this to happen the leaders of the Church need to switch the focus of their message to the thing that matters most, the life of the world to come.”

    Only a minority of Anglican Ministers believe and preach that this is the Church’s paramount calling.
    This is the most important issue facing the Church, more important and fundamental than LLF, important though that is.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Phil,
      I’ve not read the Times article and I’m aware how misleading an edited newspaper article can be, but from your quotation, without going into more detail, of pastoral, spiritual, mission, they can and do apply to other religions and none, secular and charitable and are not exclusive to Christianity, let alone the CoE.
      Is there really any, even an iota of the Gospel message in it?

      Reply
      • There has been a trajectory from the Reformation onwards (General Synod reports GS1554, GS 2055 (paragraphs 48 and 49), LLF book page 317-318) to water down the assent to the Articles. It cannot be assumed that all who have made the Declaration of Assent mean the same thing in what doctrines they believe.

        This trajectory away from the Articles and Homilies, with their earnest emphasis on the Fall, Original Sin, wrath and condemnation, Eternal Judgment and the wonderful good news that Christ has borne that wrath and condemnation for all who repent and submit to him in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, is also a trajectory away from the “core business” of saving souls.

        This is a dire situation for those who are not Christians, including family and friends, who all need to hear and believe, from the whole Church, both the terrible warnings and the wonderful good news. The paramount need in the Church of England is to reverse that trajectory.

        Only thus can the Church as a whole say with Paul, ‘Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’; only thus can the Church as a whole take seriously the solemn warning God gave to Ezekiel that the appointed Watchman who ‘does not blow the trumpet to warn the people’ will be held accountable by God for the blood of the unsaved.

        Part of the attempt to reverse the trajectory will involve a more forthright action than all the good things suggested in Stephen Hance’s article. It will involve those who believe that the Articles and Homilies faithfully summarise essential Biblical doctrines openly and publicly rebuking those who don’t, as one Apostle to whom the risen ascended Christ appeared on the Damascus Road openly and publicly rebuked the Apostle on whom Christ said he would build his Church.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
  8. One big thing that has struck me about the Church of England is… well, you might not expect a Christian to quote Thomas Paine approvingly, but he was onto something when he noted that ‘what we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly’.

    A big problem with the Church of England is that it doesn’t ask anything of anybody. It’s just… there, for people to drift into and out of, cost-free. It doesn’t even like to ask of people their money! Let alone that they change their lives.

    You couldn’t really get more different from Jesus, who demanded that his disciples left their homes, their families, their businesses, their entire lives if they wanted to follow him. There was no ‘easy option’ with Jesus; no, to use the term that had its brief vogue last year, ‘passengers’.

    Or indeed the early church, where becoming a Christian carried with it a high cost in terms of reputation and risk.

    Or the many places in the world today, or over the last century, where being a Christian was something you had to weigh up very carefully whether you really believed in enough to possibly be thrown in jail, or a mental institution, or even killed for following Christ.

    A phrase I remember from the missions of my childhood was: if being a Christian was made illegal, would they be able to find enough evidence to convict you?

    If being a Christian was made illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict the Church of England? Or would it, on investigation, be deemed to just be a useful secular social organisation doing good words and providing ritual services like coronations, marriages and funerals, with some older-than-average buildings in its property portfolio, and allowed to continue operating?

    Reply
    • “A big problem with the Church of England is that it doesn’t ask anything of anybody. It’s just… there, for people to drift into and out of, cost-free. It doesn’t even like to ask of people their money! Let alone that they change their lives.

      You couldn’t really get more different from Jesus, who demanded that his disciples left their homes, their families, their businesses, their entire lives if they wanted to follow him. There was no ‘easy option’ with Jesus; no, to use the term that had its brief vogue last year, ‘passengers’.”

      I’m not entering into discussion about this, but it could not be more wrong. I worked with ordinands and in discernment for ordination for over 20 years. Stipendiary ministry in particular demands all those things. The sacrifice and cost is huge. No easy option in any way.

      Reply
      • I’m not entering into discussion about this, but it could not be more wrong. I worked with ordinands and in discernment for ordination for over 20 years. Stipendiary ministry in particular demands all those things. The sacrifice and cost is huge. No easy option in any way.

        I’m not talking about clergy. I’m talking about ordinary members. The Church of England, as far as I can tell, goes out of its way to demand nothing of its ordinary members, and this is a huge problem.

        Reply
      • I think S was suggesting the cost was not expected of the laity, rather than the clergy.

        And while obviously there is some degree of hyperbole in the statement, I think the generalization is true; not solely of the CofE, but of ‘traditional’ British Christianity in general… I could probably say something similar about both the traditions I have been formed in.

        A pleasure as always,
        Mat

        Reply
          • S beat me to the response by a little under 2 mins.

            Just glad someone understood me.

            not solely of the CofE, but of ‘traditional’ British Christianity in general… I could probably say something similar about both the traditions I have been formed in.

            Don’t know which those are, but there are certainly some denominations in Britain that don’t try to make things easy.

            (As well as some non-conformist denominations which are definitely almost as bad as the Church of England in this regard).

            I mean, not that I’m saying churches should necessarily go out of their way to make things hard (although…)

            But when following the Lord Jesus is presented as requiring less commitment than joining an amateur sports club, surely something’s gone very very wrong somewhere?

            I think a lot of the problem is the nature of the Church of England, that it’s somehow ‘provided’ to people, that it’s not something they have to do themselves, or it doesn’t happen. If you’re a member of a sports club you know that if members don’t step up — to fill committee posts, to run competitions, at a very basic level to pay their dues — then the whole thing will fall apart. And the early Christians certainly had to do everything themselves, often in secret and under threat of death, so they had to be really committed, in a way we can only dream of being. But the image of the Church of England is that it is provided from on high, that it is always there for people whenever they might need it, for whatever they might need it for, a wedding, a funeral, just some spiritual support… like a kind of Holy NHS (obviously not as holy as the actual NHS, the NHS being the real modern British religion, blasphemy against which is punishable by ostracisation).

            While this might not be the financial reality, in that the Church of England these days really does depend on its members, it’s certainly the image that the Church of England likes to present: that it’s there for people to avail themselves of, whenever they need, no questions asked, no commitment needed.

            And that’s the problem. The Church Militant isn’t something provided from on high, it only exists through and because of the actions of its members, and its members need to be prepared to fulfil their obligations as parts of the Body of Christ, not just to check in when they need some life event ritual or some spiritual support and ignore it the rest of the time.

          • S: I mean, not that I’m saying churches should necessarily go out of their way to make things hard…

            One distinct advantage the CoE had 100 years ago, when everyone went to church, was a good mix of people. All churches are now in the business of attracting ‘customers’ and (setting aside theological differences) do require a high level of brand conformity.

        • Mat, I find David Mitchell writes more cogently about the CofE when he says this:

          “Religion, many people think, is supposed to offer clarity: rules and salvation. Eternal and unchanging truths. The woolly and hand-wringing Church of England, the state religion of an increasingly irreligious state, coping with declining congregations and disintegrating architecture, might seem like a poor excuse for a belief system compared with its muscular and unwavering rivals. Far from converting people to its doctrines, it seems more concerned with accommodating the faithless.

          Maybe that’s why I like it. To me, the troubled, thoughtful and well-meaning fogginess of the C of E feels much more truthful, a much more comprehensible and sane reflection of how the human condition feels, than all those more dynamic philosophies. Other religions may have retained the fiery naivety of youth, but the Anglican church has the mild and tolerant befuddlement of experience, which is the closest thing to wisdom that I’ll ever believe in.

          And it has all these amazing buildings. Why not take as a starting point that people should be going inside them, for whatever reason? They should be part of our lives. They are beautiful and imbued with centuries of faith, but also of politics and compromise and hypocrisy. Bristol Cathedral was an abbey before Henry VIII took a shine to a younger woman. It’s a cathedral because of a midlife crisis. That doesn’t feel like an entirely inappropriate venue for comedy.”

          Reply
          • I find David Mitchell writes more cogently about the CofE when he says this

            Yes, I think in that piece David Mitchell puts his finger quite well on what is wrong with the Church of England.

          • I agree as well, at least in part.

            Part of the difficulty here is that the CofE is so broad, so incorporated into the life of this nation, that both groups/expressions here can happily co-exist within it. There will always be a polite, ‘wooly’, inoffensive CofE; quietly and faithfully witnessing to the parish through acts of service and kindness, and the occasional crustless cucumber and cheese sandwich. This is no bad thing*.

            But there does need to be a robust challenge in and from the CofE.

            First (and we would agree here I’m sure) in standing against power, speaking for the marginalised and oppressed, and coming alongside the broken. We should expect to see the powerful voices in the church butting heads with the powerful. The ‘muscular Christianity’ we often hear about. Genuinely I think the CofE does a pretty good job of this, even if the voices do represent a slightly partisan political leaning….

            But second, and no less importantly, there needs to be a strong assertion (re-assertion) of the things for which the CofE stands. The truths it holds as evident and is compelled by it’s own law to uphold. And I do not mean the issues of SSM here; for that is merely the presenting issue (important though it is) of a much more significant problem. Starting with with the 39 articles would be a good idea, but we would get bogged down in the details so I’ll leave the rest unsaid. You know broadly where I stand…

            The point really is that the perception of the CofE by a largely un-churched and agnostic society centres around the former because it’s unobjectionable, but resists the latter because it requires something of them, bringing us back around to S’s point earlier.

            When I look at Jesus I see him doing both of these things, in roughly equal quantity and frequency.

            Mat

            *crustless sandwiches aside.

          • And, for the record, I am in absolute agreement about the buildings.

            I may be a lowly Baptist, staunchly dissenting and wary of established churches and an institutional ecclesiology, but there are few things that speak more clearly and boldly of God’s work in and through this nation than it’s ancient churches; every one is a monument to his glory expressed in stone, and of incomparable value.

            I confess that every time I step outside the doors of Regent’s Park College in Oxford and see the building directly opposite (Pusey house!) I twinge with admiration and jealousy. 😉

          • And, for the record, I am in absolute agreement about the buildings.

            But what does it profit a man, if he goes to the most hilarious comedy shows in the most beautiful buildings in the world, and loses his soul?

          • And, as Andrew and I know, the costly ministry of the laity in so many tiny country churches, being effectively the tireless Christian witness in their villages. Ordinary Christians being simply extraordinary in quietly powerful ways.

          • And, as Andrew and I know, the costly ministry of the laity in so many tiny country churches, being effectively the tireless Christian witness in their villages.

            Oh, there clearly are such people. A friend of mine served as a church-warden. I never said that the Church of England didn’t have such people in it.

            The problem is that it doesn’t make clear that when Jesus calls, a costly, committed response is expected.

            It gives the impression that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross a sort of cosmic welfare state, a safety net there to catch you if you fall, free at the point of use, without any need for you to give anything back. If you break your leg, the NHS will be there to set it. If you lose your job, the state with keep you on your feet. If you sin, Jesus is there to save you from Hell. All without asking anything of you.

          • “If you sin, Jesus is there to save you from Hell. All without asking anything of you.”

            As he did with the thief on the cross and other examples we can name. It’s called grace.

          • As he did with the thief on the cross and other examples we can name. It’s called grace.

            Um, no. There were two thieves there that day, and only one of them was saved, correct? The one who made a commitment to place himself under Jesus’s kingdom when He came into it.

            So in fact you’ve picked a very good example of what I’m talking about: the Church of England leads too many people to think they can be like the other thief, the one who didn’t call out to Jesus and commit to him, and that Jesus will just save them anyway because they see Him as a kind of cosmic social worker.

            But like the other thief, they will not be saved. And the Church of England does them a great disservice by not making that clear to them.

            I mean I say ‘a great disservice’ with is a bit bathetic, but only because given this is about the eternal fate of their soul, no hyperbole is big enough to express the horrific awfulness of failing people in such a way.

          • The only one who knows who is ‘saved’ and who isn’t is God. The scripture is suitably vague about the matter of who is and isn’t ‘saved’.

            The only thing I would say is this: if those I love and care for here and now aren’t part of any ‘eternal life’ then I don’t want to be there because it ain’t heaven. It’s just the human vision of those who want to exclude some others. Thanks but no thanks to that.

          • The only one who knows who is ‘saved’ and who isn’t is God. The scripture is suitably vague about the matter of who is and isn’t ‘saved’.

            Hang on. Just over twenty-four hours ago, in https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/how-do-people-view-the-church-of-england/#comment-403994 , you were absolutely 100% definite that scripture told us that the thief had been saved. So sure you used the claim that we can be sure that a given thief on a given day was definitely saved as the entire premise of your argument against me.

            Now you’re saying, in a complete 180-degree U-turn, that scripture is ‘vague about the matter of who is and isn’t “saved”.’

            What happened in those 24 hours to change you mind from what you thought yesterday to thinking the exact opposite today?

            Because, I mean, clearly it can’t be that you will insist that scripture is crystal clear when you think it supports your position, but spin on a dime to claiming that it’s all ‘vague’ and unclear when it doesn’t. You wouldn’t do that, would you?

            So please, tell us: did you read something in those 24 hours that changed your mind? Did someone say something to you? A television programme? Did you just reflect on it and decide you were totally wrong? What?

            The only thing I would say is this: if those I love and care for here and now aren’t part of any ‘eternal life’ then I don’t want to be there because it ain’t heaven. It’s just the human vision of those who want to exclude some others. Thanks but no thanks to that.

            Your claim here seems to be that you refuse to believe that it could be true that the world could possibly work in a way that would make you sad.

            Well I’m sorry, but have you noticed the world? Quite often the truth is not what we would like it to be. More often than not, in fact, the things we wish were true and the things that are true are totally non-overlapping sets. So the fact that the world being such-and-such a way would make you sad is, I’m afraid, absolutely no argument against it being that way.

            The truth does not exist in order to make you happy.

          • Yes, apart from a few specifics of how grace works – like the thieves at the cross, and some others – scripture is vague about it. It’s harder for a rich person, easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle….
            The rest is just anthropomorphism. We can guess. And inevitably people guess is human terms.

          • Yes, apart from a few specifics of how grace works – like the thieves at the cross, and some others – scripture is vague about it.

            So in the specific example you brought up, of the thieves, we have one, who acknowledges Jesus as King, and who is explicitly told by Jesus that he will be saved; and the other who does not so acknowledge Jesus and who is given no assurance of the fate of his eternal soul.

            So insofar as we know for sure, only one — the one who pledged his life (what little of it there was remaining) and soul to Jesus — was saved. We know nothing about the fate of the other — he may have been saved, he may have been damned, the text doesn’t tell us either way — and so we can drawn no conclusion from him, either way.

            Agreed?

            [can we all just take a moment to reflect on how bizarre it is to be having this discussion, about scripture, with someone who doesn’t even think the Bible is reliable? I mean how do you know the whole dialogue with the thieves on the cross even happened? Maybe Luke just made it up, just like how you have in the past stated that you think the story of Jesus calming the storm was made up. In which case how can it be evidence for anything about salvation, if fallible humans just made it up? But as I don’t think it was made up, I shall continue the discussion on that basis. Everyone else reading, though, should remember that as far as Mr Godsall believes, this all might just be fiction, or, in his charming phrase, ‘salvation history’ (AKA fiction).]

            It’s harder for a rich person, easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle….

            And some kind of commitment, repentance, turning away from sin and pledging fealty to Christ is required. That’s pretty clear and non-vague throughout. Salvation has a cost, whether that be phrased as taking up a cross, dying to self, or whatever else.

          • Salvation History – or Heilsgeschichte in its original German – is not my ‘charming phrase’ but is part of biblical studies. Hence the link I gave earlier for those who would like to understand how the bible helps with our necessarily limited understanding of God’s saving work through the events described in the text.

          • Salvation History – or Heilsgeschichte in its original German – is not my ‘charming phrase’ but is part of biblical studies. Hence the link I gave earlier

            A link that’s not much use for anyone not subscribed to the website. So perhaps you’d like to find another link that is of some use? Or explain your charming phrase in into your own words?

          • If anyone is interested in salvation history – Heilsgeschichte – then a scholarly article is the best way forward. The Wikipedia entry provides a very limited amount of information that is somewhat crude.

          • If anyone is interested in salvation history – Heilsgeschichte – then a scholarly article is the best way forward. The Wikipedia entry provides a very limited amount of information that is somewhat crude.

            Well obviously anyone with more than one and a quarter brain cells knows never to rely on the Wiki-pædia for informartion about anything.

            So with that in mind once again, would you care to either explain your charming phrase in your own words, or refer us all to somewhere that will give an explantion without requiring a subscription? For some of us are made of things other than money.

      • Andrew Godsall – I’m wondering if your real-life name isn’t Andrew Timothy? Well, he is no longer with us (died 1990), but nevertheless, I detect two strong similarities.

        Firstly, you both worked with the BBC. Andrew Timothy was the first Goon show announcer. Unfortunately, we don’t have much recorded still extant from that time, because his involvement with the Goon show stopped just before they were able to make permanent recordings of the shows sufficiently cheaply. Wallace Greenslade took over as announcer after Andrew Timothy – and he was absolutely brilliant.

        I’ve only heard Andrew Timothy in `The Last Goon Show of All’ (recorded 1972) where he was brilliant and I think it’s a pity that we don’t have more of him.

        Secondly, you both worked for the C. of E.; you worked with ordinands in the C. of E. for 20 years, while Andrew Timothy was an Anglican Priest!

        So …. from the little I’ve picked up following the comments section of this blog, the similarities here are striking …..

        Reply
    • The C of E is a national Established Church with the strengths and weaknesses that come with that. It cannot easily slough off 1500 years of history. Those who want a purer, gathered church ( since the Brownists in Elizabeth’s reign) have set up churches outside it. These churches have strengths and weaknesses too

      Reply
      • The C of E is a national Established Church with the strengths and weaknesses that come with that.

        A nation having an established church is good for the nation, but very very bad for the church. It’s just a pity the pros and cons are so one-sided.

        Reply
      • These churches have strengths and weaknesses too

        They do. But requiring people to make a commitment that actually costs them something — making them, as it were, put their money where their mouths are — seems to me not a strength or a weakness but simply an absolute baseline requirement of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.

        After all, like the old song says, if you do not bear a cross, you can’t wear a crown. If being a Christian is easy then you’re doing it wrong.

        Reply
  9. Ian

    A well thought out interview. The point about working together with other Christian Groups is an interesting one: I’d like to hear of others’ experiences in this area.

    Reply
  10. Ian Paul – I’d like you to come back on this. I’d like to point out that my understanding of 666, which resembles very closely the seal of the living God, but isn’t, is the standard way that Revelation has been taken for generations. For example, Matthew Henry took the view that it meant membership of the Roman Catholic church (which he didn’t consider Christian) and thought that this was fulfilled in the time of Pope Martin.

    So your view on this may be correct, but it is you who has the `new perspective’ on Revelation, which has to be argued for; I’m simply following the standard approach – I just take a standard line, which I picked up in a very good sermon series once – and which is in line with William Henriksen’s `More than Conquerors’ (which I read approximately 20 years ago – and haven’t looked at since).

    By the way, I don’t agree with Matthew Henry that it applies to Catholicism and I have a higher opinion of the RC church than he did (although I don’t belong to it and would never consider joining).

    Reply
  11. Jock

    I don’t think Ian’s rejoinder was to your to your comment about ‘666’ although he may interpret it differently. He wasn’t identifying it with the seal of the living God, I think he was pointing out that in Revelation its counter is not 777 but what we read in ch 7

    Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

    Compare too

    ch 14
    Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
    And ch 3
    he one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

    The context is that you were being perhaps a little intemperate in your criticisms of Wimber et al; a view a number expressed.

    Reply
    • John – ah ha – then that makes a bit more sense.

      For Wimber, Vineyard, I did put in a lot of effort there – so my dismissal of it comes from bitter experience and knowledge (and not from ignorance).

      Anyway, for the 666, I heard this in a sermon and it seemed to make a lot of sense. At the end of a chapter where the beast is making a very good job of imitating Christ (missing out on some extremely important details), we’re told that the number of the beast is 666 – and the interpretation that it was close to a Godly mark, but just missing it – made an awful lot of sense to me.

      But even with the context, I don’t really understand I.P.’s comment ……..

      Anyway, thanks for the input.

      Reply
      • Jock
        thanks for responding

        I am not saying Wimber & the Vineyard are not open to criticism and correction – indeed none of us are perfect and often to takes others of us to show us. I am an Anglican minister, not Vineyard, and my theology is more informed by the Reformers than Wimber.

        However I found your sharp criticism & indeed Don’s predicated on subjective feelings not your usual Biblical rationale. You accused Wimber and the Vineyard of being overtly Satanic and that is an extraordinary leap from not liking their lyrics or their tone or a feeling down the back of your neck or of being manipulated or balking at Wimber’s alleged salary in 1990 (for most of his ministry he drove a banger of a second hand car and lived modestly, and giving generously, despite huge potential revenue from his songs).

        Don criticised the tune & lyrics of one song which helped many of us 35years ago as we learned to sing intimate songs of worship to Jesus rather than hearty hymns about God.
        Yes, the tune now does feel somewhat slushy and the lyrics dated (but I would argue all supportable from Scripture). Don referred to an absence of the ‘fear of the Lord’ – yet interestingly this is a subject I have spoken on much in recent years and I first grasped the fear of the Lord not in the Strict Baptist churches I grew up in, nor in my grandad’s ex-Exclusive Brethren assembly, nor in the evangelical Anglican Church I joined in young adulthood, but in several John Wimber conferences between 1986-1990 where God’s awesome glory was manifest.

        I am saddened, Jock, that you have spoken to harshly about a Christian brother and a creedal orthodox christian denomination. Yes, we may disagree over style, ministry modes, even secondary doctrinal matters, but you moved fast from your discomfort with, to actually demonising the Vineyard.

        I have ministered at Vineyard churches around the world, and these are some of the most Christlike christians I ever encountered.

        Reply
        • simon – I certainly do not want any animosity with you, of all people. In an earlier thread, when I said something about my background, you pointed out that my grandfather probably came to faith through the Lowestoft revival of 1921 and you sent some web page links.

          I then forwarded these to my mother and asked her about it and – yes – from what she remembers, this all makes very good sense. My grandfather spoke very highly about Jock Troup (who was the same age as he was and whom, apparently, he knew).

          This information is extremely valuable to me – many thanks for it – and, of all people who contribute here, I value you and your contribution extremely highly.

          On Wimber and Vineyard, well – I didn’t reach the assessment lightly. You are a minister, therefore you are the one who decides on the direction – and you use the materials as you consider appropriate – you have a different perspective from somebody sitting in the pew listening.

          Don and I pointed to several biblical things which gave cause for concern – I couldn’t square the way they were doing things, the basic message, with Romans 12:2, the transformation of the renewing of the mind, with what I saw and heard there, which – as Don said – seemed manipulative. Other things that I pointed out – they seemed much more interested in developing the charismatic gifts than in bringing people to faith. Actually, this was a serious problem I had with them – I didn’t really hear all that much about repentance.

          In the one I went to 2001 – 2002, I remember distinctly a nice cosy song based around the first part of Psalm 95, which was truncated precisely before the nasty bit about not hardening your hearts – I found the cut-off point very telling. This is just one example, which sticks in the mind, but it was representative. What they were presenting wasn’t the real gospel.

          You are (of course) absolutely right that the level of condemnation that I expressed was wholly inappropriate – I accept that – I want to point out that I did have my reasons and I was left feeling seriously disturbed by what I had seen and heard.

          I also accept that it may not actually have been a problem of Wimber and Vineyard; the problem may have been with the particular fellowship.

          Reply
        • simon – I can give you a little more information. I had put a mental block on the horrible experience – and it is now coming back in pieces. I really do hope it goes away again – I’d love to forget this.

          It is probably not correct for me to blame the whole thing on Vineyard and Wimber. The basic problem was that there was a distinct *lack* of emphasis on sin, repentance, the central gospel message – and instead there was a great emphasis on `community’ where basic things such as `all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’, `the wages of sin is death’, `the gift of God is eternal life’ were completely absent.

          The song that I mentioned above (based on the `nice’ part of the psalm – and totally ignoring the red meat in the psalm) was actually very typical of the teaching – preaching as well as singing and prayer – emphasis on a nice cosy community and the importance of community membership – absence of sin and repentance.

          Now, I do blame Wimber and Vineyard for quite a lot of this. This crowd used Vineyard songs (translated into their own language, which wasn’t English – I wasn’t in the UK at the time) and these were genuine Vineyard / Wimber songs.

          But there was another element. The people leading the concern were reasonably well read on NT Wright’s `New Perspective’ which, taken out of context (as I discovered there) can be very harmful, where `justification’ is a collective thing, based on membership of a `covenant community’ – you get justified through belonging to a `covenant community’ – which they had defined in their own way.

          Also, they were looking for the charismata – and seemed to think that these would happen if they were a good enough community – so they emphasised the `community’ business.

          At that time, I had had it dinned into me from early childhood that a good Christian must attend church. Even if all the churches in town seem horrible, a good Christian has a duty to select one of them and get involved with it; one is failing in one’s duty to God otherwise. So (in the period late 2001 / 2002) I stuck it out for much longer than I should – until it dawned on me that this really was Spiritual blackmail.

          The whole business was absolutely horrible and left a very bad lasting impression on me.

          Perhaps the problem is that Vineyard materials, in the wrong hands, can be used in strange and terrible ways.

          Anyway, that is my experience – and a very real experience too.

          I may be blaming the wrong things when I pinpoint the charismata. That was present – and not in a good way – but the biggest problem was an absence of the central things – sin, repentance, what the crucifixion and resurrection were actually for – and an emphasis on the nice cosy community.

          A far cry from the Lowestoft revival and the things that were central to it!

          Reply
          • Thanks Jock for your further explanatory comments and for toning down the criticisms of JW. I hope before I die to experience something like the Lowestoft revival – we’ve not had one in the UK for 100years – well overdue.

            Clearly your experience was not a good one for many reasons. Wimber loved Bible teaching, he was a preacher who surrounded himself with theologians who he worked through his material with and got them to write all his lecture note drafts for his conferences, and it was this love of and recognition of the Bible’s authority that underpinned the theology & spirituality of the Vineyard in the start. However part of a generation has grown up who know not the word of the Lord and have the form of the spirituality that JW nurtured without necessarily the foundations. I know personally that the founders & current leaders of Vineyard UK are passionate about theology & Bible teaching – the formation of VLI has been to give the pastors more theological underpinnings. I have been to Vineyards that are truly wonderful, but also a few where they have the Vineyard ‘tone’ but lack the founders’ theological backbone. This is of course the case in all denominations. I guess I am saying I wouldn’t judge JW by the current Vineyard per-se; and I wouldn’t judge the Vineyard by the particular congregation you attended & poor experience/teaching there 🙂

            You may find this interesting – starting at 23:00 going to 30:00 – on friendship between John Wimber & Wayne Grudem. Grudem shares experiences of Wimber’s gifting that he personally experienced and also how at their very first meeting he actually asked John Wimber to lay hands on him and pray for him to receive an anointing to write a book, which became his famous systematic theology 🙂

            https://www.facebook.com/ivpbooks/videos/an-interview-with-wayne-grudem-about-systematic-theology/405007410858953/

          • Simon,

            Many thanks for this – and let us pray for a revival – although where it is going to come – and how – it is difficult to see.

            You are, of course, entirely correct. I did have a very bad experience – and I’m not going to deny this – but it is probably dead wrong to pin it on either Wimber or Vineyard; people can produce excellent resources, but in the wrong hands it can all go horribly wrong.

            I’ll certainly listen to this – and many thanks.

          • Hello Simon,

            Second reply – I listened to it. I’m still very sceptical, although I recognise that Wayne Grudem is a fine Christian. I can’t imagine he could write the way he does and talk the way he does if he wasn’t firmly in the number of the Saviour’s family. His writings have been inspired and very helpful for Christians.

            But it all seems to me like adding another level, which is not only in some sense unnecessary (and perhaps makes us look ungrateful for what God has already given us), but (and this is something that was pointed out to me many years ago about the healing ministry) I side with those who think that this sort of business makes us introspective instead of outward looking.

            Salvation, getting saved, is a miracle. Recognising that I am a sinner (and I’m not the innocent victim of the rampant vicissitudes thrown at me by a nasty cruel world – *I* am the sinner) is a miracle. Wanting to repent is another miracle – and finally repenting and coming to trust in the redeeming work of Christ is a miracle.

            Once we are `in Him’, we’re supposed to be outward looking. For example, in the Lord’s prayer, we start by praying for his name, his kingdom, his will to be done. Only then do we move on to three modest petitions for ourselves (which, in fact, are enormous) – daily bread, forgiveness for past sins, forgiving those who have sinned against us – the most difficult – and we pray that he keep us from future sin.

            When Wayne Grudem talks about `emotional healing’ that comes through the Spirit by laying on of hands – well, perhaps many of us are not exactly happy about our own emotional state and perhaps we would like God to fix it for us – and we pray for this, but Paul was told that he had to put up with the thorn in his flesh – and we therefore accept that so should we – and we simply get on with it, despite our emotional problems.

            I can point to three fellowships where I have felt comfortable (and I only left them because the job came to an end and I had to leave town for the next job) – and in all of them, the prayer meeting was to pray for the mission at home (for salvation of people who were close to home and for God to deal with the forces of evil which prevented this and made life difficult for Christians) and the mission abroad – the outreach overseas.

            I remember one minister saying in a sermon that the best cure for a Christian worried about his/her own personal state was to take an interest in the mission at home and the mission abroad, to get earnestly involved in praying for it – and then one’s own difficulties-of-life, no matter how large, would disappear into insignificance in the face of the great mission. I liked this approach a lot – and still do.

            So I think that remains my greatest difficulty. Yes – Wayne Grudem is someone whom I take seriously. He has written well – and his writing is helpful, but on this matter I’m not in agreement.

            What I know about those affected by the 1921 revival was that they turned their lives around (for example – giving up smoking and drinking), started living Godly lives – and simply got on with living for Christ – and encouraging others to do the same, thanking God for what He had done for them.

  12. Jock,
    From your writings, I am unclear as to what kind of church you would find acceptable. Judging a church by a ‘creepy feeling down your neck’ when singing songs does seem to me a tad subjective. I think many of us have felt creepy things when going into churches and I have certainly met some creepy Christians (there are some very peculiar Baptists about believe me).

    But surely it is what they profess to believe and where their heart lies, must be the significant factors is it not?

    I am not sure if you attend any church at present, but if you did, then what would make it acceptable to you other than a lack of creepiness?

    Creepy Chris

    Reply
    • Hello, Creepy Chris!

      Ha! I take it that means that you belong to a fellowship that incorporates some of the Vineyard / Wimber approach?

      It’s precisely what they professed to believe and where their hearts lay that concerned me …. I don’t really want to give a blow-by-blow account – brings back unpleasant memories.

      As far as what-church-would-I-go-to: you’re correct that I’m not affiliated at the moment. I live in a (very) Catholic country – and since their whole act of worship is centred around a bread-and-wine ceremony, it isn’t for me.

      During lock-down, everybody put their church services on the web, so I had an opportunity to take a look at the (few) non-Catholic churches – and they *all* make a long and elaborate performance out of the bread-and-wine – so not for me I suppose. (quite telling – services usually lasted one and a half hours – that’s OK – but at least half an hour of that was connected with the bread-and-wine performance).

      One issue – I now have a young son and I’m aggressively protecting him against weirdness. In times past, I tried to go along to the least-worst option in town, because we’re programmed to believe that we’re not proper Christians if we aren’t members of a fellowship – and attending regularly, but protecting my son from all weirdness really over-rides that concern – and that means assiduously avoiding anywhere that has faith healing or charismatic tendency.

      In times past, there have been three fellowships where I participated, where I really felt that they professed to believe the right things and where I felt that their hearts were in the right place. In all of these fellowships, they were somewhat against faith healing, charismatic tendency, etc ….. .

      The hymns and singing, while not at the top of my list of priorities (so you have the wrong impression if you think it is simply down to hymns), are important – because what people are prepared to sing and enjoy singing does say something – and in all the fellowships where I felt I was in good Christian company, they concentrated on the old favourite hymns by Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts – and the metrical psalms.

      Reply
      • Jock,
        Actually I don’t, and I have never been to a Vineyard church, although I know those who have. In my younger years, I was involved in a number of charismatic fellowships long before the Wimber phenomenon came on the scene. I came to faith strongly influenced by the Jesus movement on the west coast of America in the early 1970’s, and I am largely a product of that.
        Now I am entering my latter years, I find myself strongly drawn to contemplative forms of worship rather than the charismatic, concert type, jumping up and down type, swinging from the chandeliers singing (cue the Blues Brothers movie) that is prevalent in some of the new church movement (not that I have anything particularly against it you understand).
        see
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZpH9Khn0E0

        Personally, I think this may be due to the greater sense of mortality you get as you grow older and the need to know God more intimately as death gets nearer and that last journey gets closer.

        I share your misgivings about weirdness though. There have been some very bad excesses in the charismata – but also good ones as well, so be careful not to chuck the baby out with the bathwater. However, I think the most important thing in a church is that you have authentic relationships among the people.

        In my own church (which is a small coastal rural Baptist church), one Sunday morning, I once had a sort of vision of the Muppet Show as I looked out over the pulpit at them before I stared to preach. I realised the none of these people who were in the church with me, were those who I would naturally choose as my friends. Yet God had put them in the same part of his body as me- for my benefit as well as theirs. Most of them have very different backgrounds to me, came with a lot of baggage and had found Jesus in different ways and whose knowledge and experience of of Him was different to mine. Yet somehow in our church, God appears to be welding us all together.

        I think we may choose our friends Jock , but it is God that chooses our next door neighbours.

        Creepy Chris

        Reply
        • Chris – well, thanks for the background.

          Yeah – I enjoyed the Blues Brothers (and thanks for the reminder!) but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to endure any worship along these lines …..

          Everything you say (except for the acceptance-of-charismatic bit) chimes – the principles of what we should expect from a church fellowship and how we should be giving to it – this is all good and genuine.

          Reply
        • Chris – are you still reading this thread? If so, I’d like to come back to your vision of muppets.

          I don’t think it is a contrast between `church’ and `real life’. A church is a community of *forgiven, repentant, sinners*. That is, we *acknowledge* that we are sinners – and, by the grace of God we repent of our sins through the saving work of Christ.

          That is what unites people in a church and makes it a community.

          You can compartmentalise anything. If you join a chess club, then presumably it is because you enjoy chess. You go along there, play chess with people, know them through their chess – and then you’ll likely have absolutely nothing to do with them outside that context. I read a nice article once about Sunday league football (where amateurs get together in teams and play each other). The people who participate seem to know each other very well in the context of other players in Sunday league football, but don’t interact with each other outside the context of football.

          I’d hope that a church community develops into more than that, but if you see muppets with whom you would have nothing in common in real life, that doesn’t matter at all! The important thing is that you’re all forgiven repentant sinners – and you know where the forgiveness comes from – and this unites you into a fellowship.

          The major problem I had with both the Wimberite places I’ve mentioned (first a Charismatic Anglican from late 1989 and then another Wimberite place from 2001/2002) was that *neither* of them mentioned the basics of sin and repentance. This was hidden. In both cases, they wanted to establish a community of people who functioned as a community, while omitting any mention of the unpleasant word `sin’, because that might make it uncomfortable for people.

          In both cases they were actively looking for the charismata, which God would give them as a result of being a well functioning community and as a sign that the community was hanging together.

          Now, I believe I would probably be able to accept charismata, healing, etc …. if I saw that, at the forefront there was an understanding of `all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’, `the wages of sin is death’, `the gift of God is eternal life’ and some understanding that they are forgiven repentant sinners.

          I’m probably quite wrong to blame Wimber for how his materials were used, but I do find it suspicious that I saw the same pattern in both cases.

          I’m not sure I should separate the two factors – emphasis on community and dumping `sin’ in case it upsets the community on the one hand, and charismata on the other hand, because it is suspicious that in both cases the two things were connected.

          But your observation, that you were dealing with forgiven repentant sinners from very different walks of life, whom you would never meet in `real life’ isn’t really a problem – you’re united by the most important thing (which was absent in the two places that I am criticising).

          Reply
          • Hi Jock,
            I don’t disagree with your assessment. My point about the Muppet Show is that I don’t think of my congregation as Muppets in the derogatory sense, but in the sense that they are all very diverse characters with very different backgrounds but are united by having a faith (or are coming to faith) in Jesus which I think is what you are saying.
            The church I help minister at, is in a very scenic but relatively deprived area of the coastal south west of England with little employment. It sits in the middle of a housing estate where most people are on benefits, have drug issues, alcoholism or are single parent households.
            I think of one character who has been coming into our church for the past 18 months who is an alcoholic. Sometimes he comes into the church completely stoned and stinking of alcohol and other times, less so. He has had a bad upbringing and his issues mainly stem from that.
            However over a period of time, we have seen a change in him where he has been praying more, asking for prayer more, and during one service he had his hands in the air and was praising God in song with the rest of us . God is definitely changing him -although not fast enough for some of us! – but God has welcomed him and so must we.

            From a sociological perspective, I recall reading somewhere that many churches are like clubs and often function in a similar way. They contain the ‘right type’ of people who have the ‘right type of sound beliefs’ and behave in the ‘right manner’. They seek out and attract people of the same mind. Rather than the church functioning in such a way that its members become conformed to the image of Christ, they spend most of their time trying to conform themselves to each other.

            And I am sure true of all denominations to a greater or lesser extent. I know of one friend of mind who was excommunicated from his brethren church with his family refusing to have anything to do with him on the ground she married a woman from a church that wasn’t doctrinally sound and a bit ‘iffy’. As a result he hasn’t seen his family for decades. I could cite many other examples from other denominations.

            Yet – what I observe in the way that Jesus selected his disciples is that they were a rather motley crew (one was even a terrorist) with many who didn’t like each other. Yet Jesus moulded them into an effective witness for Him. Over time, they achieved a a unity of spirit that was God given and even though they had very confused ideas about who Jesus was – they trusted Him.

            I notice that you hearken back to the ‘Lowestoft revival ‘ which clearly made a deep impression on you. Do you see that as your ‘Golden Age’ of Christian experience Jock -something by which all other experiences must be measured? It clearly went wrong for you in your Vineyard experiences and maybe you felt uncomfortable (the creepy experience) as it wasn’t up to your expectations- especially its apparent de-emphasis of sin and repentance and its stress on charismata.

            As I said, I have never been to a Vineyard church but as Simon and others have attested, they have had a quite different experience from you. From what I have read of JW and his works, I think he is well aware of the need for repentance, but I think he saw the key to holiness in developing a more intimate and closer experiential relationship with God rather than assenting to a set of correct doctrinal propositions. Doctrine of course is very important, and I don’t think Wimber rejected the necessity of this -however God is a person and we need to know Him personally and you won’t get that by reading books or subscribing to confessions of faith.

            To this extent, I think Wimber was more in the tradition of Brother Lawrence and the Practice of the Presence of God. To Wimber, walking in the Light and seeking to know God was always his main objective as he saw it as the key to everything else, rather than making sure his doctrine was fully correct and ‘sound’.

            I spent a great deal of time in my early christian life in a reformed evangelical church that taught me a lot about the scriptures but very little about knowing God. I have studied theology and read widely, but some 40-50 years later as I start to enter the evening of my life, I have come to see the latter is the more important and always was.

          • Reply to Chris Bishop’s comment: “I think of one character who has been coming into our church for the past 18 months who is an alcoholic. Sometimes he comes into the church completely stoned and stinking of alcohol and other times, less so.”

            If ever you gain the impression from him, however slight, that he has a desire to stop drinking you might want to suggest that he contact Alcoholics Anonymous for help. A local member of AA will then get in touch with him.

            https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/

          • Hello Chris,

            Many thanks for your response – and thanks for writing at such length!

            Much of it resonates with me – and I think there is an elephant in the room, which is `middle class’.

            Of the three churches I’ve been involved with which I enjoyed, two were `middle class’, but one (the last one) certainly wasn’t – and while there seemed to be some sort of down-grade in terms of the sorts of songs they enjoyed, there seemed to be much more spiritual life about it.

            One of the most committed and fervent Christians at that church had spent inside an emporium for the ethically challenged, because he had killed someone in a drunken brawl – and came to faith through hearing the gospel message on a Christian radio channel while he was inside.

            Also, if that church had ever been in danger of becoming `middle class’, there was always the Salvation Army man who seemed to be able to recruit a steady stream of newcomers from the rougher areas of town ……

            So what you say about your own church really resonates here.

            The Vineyard church that I attended 2001 – 2002 which made a very bad impression on me was very much a `middle class intellectual’ church.

            So the problem might have been nothing to do with `Vineyard’ at all; it might have been what happens when middle class intellectuals try creating a church for other middle class intellectuals.

            Now, here is where we have to be very careful. You’re absolutely correct that Christianity has nothing to do with intellectual assent to the perfect creed. A sinner knows that he is a sinner, understands his sinnerhood – and basically knows when Jesus has come into his heart and given the gift of repentance and newness of life. One would hope that the forgiven sinner might have the good sense to put two and two together and get four and understand where his newness of life comes from (and in so doing assent to the correct doctrines), but we all know that an intellectual assent to the correct doctrines, which doesn’t touch the heart and soul, doesn’t bring life.

            So I completely agree with you here.

            The place where I attended 2001 – 2002 (the one that created a very bad impression), the leadership people did read their Scripture and they did read intellectual books about Scripture, but nevertheless their starting point was community; they wanted to create a `covenant community’ that was blessed by the Spirit.

            Now, getting back to the points you were making – this could be where it all went horribly wrong, because if they try creating a `community’ (and this is their starting point), then a bunch of middle class intellectuals may (if they’re successful) expand to a bigger you’re bunch of middle class intellectuals – at any rate, they’ll attract homogeneous people – and they’re cast iron guaranteed not to reach out beyond this.

            So it really is important that the starting point is `forgiven sinners’. Forgiven sinners will have very little in common as far as most of the things of this life are concerned, but if they’re all forgiven sinners, then they nevertheless have a lot in common – the most important thing in common.

            As far as Lowestoft revival – yes – you bet. I look back on the faith of my grandfather (who died late 1970’s when I was 10 years old) and that was authentic. He was a fisherman – and never had a single book in the house other than the Holy Bible. But he was saved – and he belonged to a community of saved people – and somehow I do see everything as downhill since then.

          • Chris – yes – this is exactly what I was referring to.

            Click on the link towards the bottom of the article – and you’ll see that, even though the Lowestoft revival might not have lasted very long, it was the basis of the fishermen’s revival in the north east of Scotland – you’ll see all the towns and villages mentioned – also Jock Troup (same age as my grandfather – and someone whom my grandfather knew and who was very influential).

            Yes – the Lowestoft revival seems to have been the basis for much what happened since.

    • John – thanks for yours. I prefer not to give the location. Well, I’m looking around. Additionally, there is (of course) the language difficulty …….

      Reply
  13. Beware Jock! If you find a perfect church don’t join it otherwise you’ll spoil it. (It may have been Spurgeon who said that.)
    Is that the reason you are not part of one: perfect in splendid isolation???
    And as a principle, misuse of charismatic gifts is not of itself a reason for no use, but for correct use.
    Your comments remind me of controversy rekindled a few years ago by a book by John McArthur, Strange Fire which indirectly was answered by a book by RT Kendall.
    I too, in my earlier Christian life encountered and/or read of excess, such as being encouraged to jump into an imagined river of life, (which I didn’t).
    Discernment is needed and like Chris Bishop, the older I get the more contemplative I’ve wanted to become (and in the past I found that in a lot of Vineyard music, including the one Don Benson would like to keep at arms length)
    – derided in some quarters as piety, but by many as being in intimate relation with God the Father, through God the Son, in God the Holy Spirit). Yet at the same time there has been substantially more balast in my Christian walk through reformed teaching.
    And astonishingly some of the writings of the greatly derided Puritans verge on piety and charismatic, such as John Owen, Communion with God, and glory of Christ, and the writings of Richard Sibbes. They didn’t just know about God, they knew him in intimate relation.
    A more recent book, Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund, has drawn in some of the writings of some Puritians. It has received credit from many in the reformed cohort, but also criticism from the McArthur sector.
    In the end though, purely from reading scripture, I can not see support for the argument that the so called charismatic gifts have ceased, that there is a time limit to them (such as the closing of the canon of the Bible). The danger is when they are sought and worshipped more than and as separate and apart from Christ, not the Giver himself. Indirectly, it results in us being at the centre, our focus, not God.
    In contrast, what can be more charismatic than getting God himself, in Union with Christ, which extends beyond mere intellect and oneness of intimacy (John 17). In Him and he in us.
    Or, to put it in the words of an AW Tozer essay -“Man the Dwelling Place of God”. Tozer’s writings were also an early influence.
    At our mens prayer breakfast, this morning, I was struck, not for the first time, how unlike we all were, in age, interests, jobs, families, lives, backgrounds, upbringing but how joined together we were in unity in Christ, in prayer; prayer that *chief exercise of faith.*

    Reply
    • Thanks Geoff – I enjoy your comments (also those of many other regulars who contribute here) – that’s why I keep coming back. What you say is very good advice – and without prompting from you and others is in danger of disappearing out of mind. It’s very nice to get your perspective.

      Reply
  14. I’m in a different context (New Zealand, Presbyterian) but:

    “We think we’re living out our faith, others think we are just being good people.”

    Yeah. That. Except that even the good people bit is seen here in a very individualist lens. People don’t associate the good works with the church. A bunch of the good works are done by individual volunteers at secular organisations, so easy to just be seen as a “good person” in those contexts.

    NZ society (and certainly the media) seem to be getting more and more anti-Christian. Especially in Wellington, where I live. Before my call to ministry a decade ago, I had a disastrous interview with the NZ Red Cross for a highly technical, highly skilled volunteer position which I was eminently qualified for. They turned me down because they felt I was too Christian… Even my atheist/agnostic friends were horrified when they heard that!

    Reply
      • I think the root cause is a drop in social cohesion. NZ has sky-high housing costs and in my lifetime (I’m technically a millennial) a massive move to dual income households, which most people now need just to stay afloat. We don’t have the free time we used to, we barely engage in community organisations of any sort. Church membership and Rugby Club (the national sport) membership have tracked downwards, together, since the 1960s.[1] It’s just much harder to rub shoulders with people who aren’t like you, when most of your in person socialisation is at work. This is worse in the big (by NZ standards[2]) cities. When our family lived in Whanganui (smaller, down at heel provincial town) it was easier to run into people less like you. The rat race was a bit slower and there simply weren’t enough people to have everyone walled off from each other. You see the effects of this drop in cohesion with arguments over vaccine mandates and demonisation of dissenters as “the other” with no dialogue permitted. And you see it as Christians are easily painted as “the other” with a description that doesn’t match any Christians I personally know.

        NZers are increasingly clueless about religion in general. This story is very telling. https://www.morefm.co.nz/home/trending/2019/03/wellington-crowd-sing–hallelujah–outside-memorial-for-christch.html Imagine, after attacks on places of worship, singing about how a lack of religion will bring peace. Imagine reporting on that singing as being this beautiful moment… and no one in the newsroom pointing out what you’re doing…

        And that feeds into politics. Maybe we’re just importing cheap second-hand American politics in the same way we import cheap second-hand Japanese cars. Yet there is no Christian Right to speak of; the new leader of our major right-wing party defanged attacks based on his faith by telling the media he hadn’t been to church in years. We’re getting more tribalism, more my side/your side. I visited another church’s homegroup where I was told by way of description “we’re all voters.”

        I deleted a paragraph on sexuality & politics to avoid being cancelled. That sentence on its own tells you about what is acceptable in public in this country.

        So where the feeling has come from: church decline, a decline in social cohesion, more recently fed and watered by divisive politics imported from the USA?

        [1] Ward, Kevin: Losing Our Religion? (2013), p204-224
        [2] Capital city, Wellington, 440K. Biggest city, Auckland, 1.7M. Whanganui, 40K. Yeah, NZ is small.

        Reply
        • I can’t work out how to edit my post but read “we’re all <party> voters.” No political party has a monopoly on God and the one they mentioned is secular as secular can be.

          Reply

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