Is church attendance in England and Wales in decline?

Last month, Mark Woods of the Bible Society wrote an article in the Baptist Times challenging the narrative that the Church in England and Wales is in decline, based on the Bible Society’s own research. I was intrigued by this, so I asked Dr Rhiannon McAleer, Head of Research and Impact, about what they had found.

IP: Most people seem to be clear that church attendance in England and Wales is in decline—and that this decline shows no signs of abating. But your research says something different. What does it tell us?

RM: There is certainly evidence that church attendance is declining, and this is particularly noticeable in some parts of the Church, but this evidence isn’t entirely conclusive. Our data suggests that the picture may be more complex than people think. Rather than Sunday attendance count (which is typically done by historic, established, and predominantly white-British centric denominations) or modelling, our data is based on general population polling among adults in England and Wales.

In 2018, we took a nationally representative sample of over 19,000 adults from the YouGov panel and surveyed them about their attitudes to the Bible and Christianity. We also asked them how often they go to a church service outside of a wedding, christening or funeral. 7% said at least weekly, while 9% said at least monthly. We ran the same survey in 2022 and again 7% said at least weekly, while 10% said at least monthly. Other polls we’ve run in the meantime and since have shown similar figures. Of course, in the world of social statistics this isn’t a long period of time to observe, but it’s worth noting it’s nearly half a census cycle. 

More specifically, we have invested in research into the Chinese diaspora in Britain (to be published autumn 2023), which has found dramatic growth in Chinese-majority churches and predicts further growth over the coming years. This adds to a wider evidence based on church growth that shows growth in some areas, such as the ‘New Churches in the North East’ project led by Durham University.

IP: What methodology did you use, and why did you use that? Has anyone critiqued your methodology, and if so what responses have you offered?

RM: Our most frequently used methodology is nationally representative general population polling among the adult population of England and Wales. We poll at least once a year and for the last few years have worked exclusively with YouGov, who are known for their credibility and reliability. The surveys are delivered digitally and survey a sample of the YouGov panel. The main and most obvious weakness of this approach is that it relies on self-reported church attendance, which could be exaggerated if people feel they should be attending more than they are. There is some evidence that this effect happens in cultures where church attendance is often seen as socially desirable (like the USA), and is particularly likely to occur in face-to-face or phone survey interviews. Our surveys are delivered digitally and I don’t think a social desirability effect related to frequent church attendance is notably strong in our culture, so I’m not hugely concerned we are seeing something wildly unlikely. 

Where I think we might see an over-stating effect is people who do attend church reasonably regularly (say every few months) but feel they should do it more, so will fill in our surveys saying they attend monthly. Equally, the monthly attenders may say they attend every other week. The overall picture is probably more or less right, but depending where you draw the line on what a churchgoer is, you may end up with a few people who ‘shouldn’t’ be there. 

Regardless of a possible over-stating effect the thing that interests us is that we would expect this effect to be stable, and so likewise see a decline mirrored through this methodology if that was an absolute trend. As the figures are stable, we could consider that the over-stating effect is larger in 2022 than 2018, so while fewer people actually go to church, more people in our surveys say they do when they don’t. While this would be fascinating if shown to be the case, it seems unlikely to us. We think it’s more probable that there is more going on than is revealed by traditional church attendance estimation methods. We may be hearing from a more diverse group of people, or another possibility is that participants read ‘church service’ more widely than is traditionally understood. 

It’s also worth noting that research like this depends on the quality of the sample. YouGov surveys are generally considered to be reliable and we normally poll around 3000 people. Our surveys normally have a margin of error of between +/- 2% at a 95% confidence interval, although some of our larger ones have a margin of error between +/- 1% at a 99% confidence interval. So while the true picture will be within a range, it’s reasonably likely that it will look close to what we’ve found, assuming participants answer the questions truthfully! It is of course always possible some decline trend is hidden within the statistical noise of margin of error, and this is why it’s important to look over long periods of time, and not draw big conclusions from a few data points. 

Some of our other research, like The Bible and the Chinese Community in Britain, which we believe nuances the picture of church growth/decline, uses different methodologies including modelling based on ONS data. 

IP: If church attendance is not in decline, why do so many people think it is? 

RM: It’s incredibly difficult to establish what church attendance looks like in Britain today. While attempts have been made to catalogue all the churches in Britain, these come with notable limitations, and it seems many churches, particularly house churches, non-traditional expressions or smaller ethnic minority-led churches are missed in the count. If you don’t know what your population looks like, it’s difficult to sample fairly, and even if you could put together a good sample, the methodological challenges of measuring attendance over say a month are considerable both in resourcing and capacity. It could be done, it would just be vastly expensive and would need to be repeated regularly to show any trends. If you ask people, as we do, this comes with its own limitations. 

Some churches, like the Church of England and Methodists are very good at counting attendance within their churches and these data sets clearly show decline. This is picked up in the media and extrapolated to the wider picture, when it is not necessarily a fair indication of what’s going on in many denominations and churches who don’t collect attendance statistics. Many people will also have direct personal experience of declining congregations, or know of other churches experiencing this, which backs up the headlines. If they’re not connected in with the diversity of Church, then they might miss the more nuanced picture. It’s probable there is also some conflation with decline in Christian identity, which is shown clearly through the Census.

IP: Patterns of church attendance are clearly shifting and changing. What are the main drivers of that, and how should we both make sense of this things? Should we be resisting them, or adapting to them?

RM: I think we underestimate the scale of the change in someone’s life if we expect them to commit to going to church every Sunday morning. Sunday is regarded generally as a leisure day, and people are often committed to other activities. Widespread Sunday opening in the retail sector—where the workforce is 58 per cent women—has further reduced the opportunities people have to attend traditional Sunday morning services.

One response to this is certainly for churches to provide more opportunities for worship and to expand their understanding of what committed involvement in a local church might mean. Another approach, which can create tight-knit Christian communities which may promote a stronger identity and increase the possibility of generational transmission, is to stress the value of the main church gathering and encourage people to prioritise that even at the cost of other activities. Both come with drawbacks as well as advantages and neither is foolproof. 

IP: There is quite a strong sense of gloom and doom as a result of believing that the Christian faith is in decline. Does it make a difference to our thinking about ministry and mission if we have a different outlook?

RM: Yes, definitely. If the accepted narrative is that the Church will continue to decline in numbers and that nothing we do will affect that outcome, that perception becomes very damaging both to the Church’s understanding of itself and to wider society’s understanding of the Church. Once the perception of inevitable failure becomes embedded, it’s difficult to speak hopefully about the Church as a whole. Telling good stories with examples of growth is crucial to maintaining confidence, but one of the reasons we think our work is important is that these small-scale stories can be backed up by well-evidenced large-scale research. If you think what you do can actually make a difference, you’re more likely to put time and effort into it. 

At the same time, I would want to resist the idea that numbers are all that matter. They are important because fewer numbers mean you are less likely to be able to influence society in healthy ways, but we also need to have serious conversations about what ‘good’ looks like. There’s always the danger that what you measure becomes what matters. 

IP: There seems to be a shift away from attendance at many of the historic denominations and towards the ’newer’ churches. What can the first group learn from the second?

RM: It’s important we try to learn from growth and flourishing wherever we find it. It’s tempting to think new and vibrant are rising, while old and traditional are declining. In actuality, we again see a more nuanced picture—attendance and engagement with Cathedrals and the contemplative tradition appears to be rising so we need to look widely at different trends in the landscape.

Ultimately, churches are made up of local people in local communities and it’s hard to generalise as what will work in one community won’t work in another, so it’s worth looking around and connecting in specific areas to see what’s working. The general thing I would add is that lived faith as a child within a faith-focused family is the best predictor of lived faith as an adult. Investing in families, children and young people’s work is absolutely essential for sustainable church in the future. 

IP: Can we say anything about what church attendance might look like in, say, 10 years’ time?

RM: It’s really hard to say. I think we will continue to see decline among some of the historic denominations in the near future, and I find it hard to see reversal of this trend, although I’m personally of the view that the rate of decline will slow and is starting to bottom out. It seems likely that the Church will be more diverse than it is now but the extent of this will be driven by immigration patterns and whether second and third+ generations remain practising Christians.

All that said there are always opportunities and we’re at an interesting moment in time. For example, we know that the birth of a child and being the parent of a young child are important spiritual questing points and times when some people are more open to Christianity than others. Currently, many people in this bracket are millennials who will have some childhood familiarity with Christianity, perhaps even a nostalgia, and if the right opportunity was there, some of them might be open to a conversation. Equally we have this emerging generation— so-called ‘Gen Z’—who seem likely to have quite low religious literacy but perhaps less cultural baggage than previous generations. There’s a huge amount more research to be done here and no easy answers but there’s no reason to believe the next ten years have to be bleak. 

IP: Thank you very much Rhiannon for giving your time and sharing these fascinating insights from your research!

You can watch our video discussion here:

Dr Rhiannon McAleer is Head of Research and Impact at Bible Society.

Bible Society figures are provided by YouGov Plc. For 2018, total sample size was 19,101 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th October–13th November 2018. For 2022, total sample size was 3,485 adults in England/Wales. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th–26th May 2022. Both surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England/Wales adults (aged 18+).

For links to the research this is the place to go Lumino – Bible Society.


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171 thoughts on “Is church attendance in England and Wales in decline?”

  1. HJ will share these thoughts from a post written on his little blog in December 2022:

    The results of the 2021 Census have been published, and are being heralded as bad news for Christians. The proportion of the population of England and Wales identifying as Christian has dropped below 50% (to 46.2%) for the first time since, one publication announced, ‘the Dark Ages’.

    Some social media users have reacted with predictable glee, crowing over the demise of ‘white, boring, Christian’ Britain. Diversity ‘think tank’ Watch This Sp_ce (sic) told Wales Online that it’s time to ‘rethink how we celebrate Christmas’, to help people feel ‘more included’, although Christmas could hardly be more secular at this point.

    An article in iNews suggests two main causes for this decline. Firstly, that Christianity’s image has been damaged by abuse scandals and traditional (for which, read ‘out-of-touch’) views on abortion, women’s rights, and sexuality. Secondly, that the intrinsic link between ‘Englishness’ and Christianity no longer exists. ‘For 1,500 years,’ it says, ‘being English has meant, almost by definition, being Christian’. But no longer.

    There is something to both claims. A religion that fails the vulnerable, and covers up those failures, deserves to feel the full force of its founder’s fury poured out on those who cause even one of his little ones to stumble. And is it such a loss if one’s religion is no longer a bolt-on to one’s national identity?

    How many people really met with Christ when they were compelled to come to church by threats and fines? Was the golden age of English religion, where almost everyone went to church twice on Sundays, indicative of a deep faith; or was it the pressures of societal conventions that made the parish church the place to see and be seen, to hobnob with one’s peers and scout out potential marital matches?

    There is more going on here. It is not just that many of our churches have lost the moral high ground and the privileged position of patriotism; these are merely symptoms of a deeper malaise. It is worse than this – they have lost their first love. Cut adrift from the anchor of faith, they find themselves floundering in a sea of conflicting ideologies, grasping at the crumbling straws of ‘relevancy’; holed, terminally, beneath the waterline.

    Way back in the 1960s, Thomas Merton warned of a ‘new, secular “post-Christian” Christianity, which is activistic, anti-mystical, social and revolutionary [and which] tends to take for granted a great deal of Marxist assumptions about religion being the opium of the people.’ Such Christianity, he said, sought to distance itself from the historical faith and ‘with the greatest fervour to prove that there is no opium about about us!’ Such a Christianity has nothing to offer, no transcendent meeting with the living God, no healing balm for the wounds of sin, only infantile imitations of contemporary culture. No wonder people have deserted it in droves.

    Football-themed nativity service, anyone?

    • He should have added it was written by a Japanese, Eastern Orthodox friend. She added:

      In medieval Japan, the great Zen master Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481) despaired over the parlous state of religion in his country. The temples were full of priests and monks, but they were there not to seek after the truth and pursue enlightenment, but to gain political positions at court and make money from officiating at funerals. In response, Ikkyu took to carrying around a wooden sword in an ornate scabbard. When asked why he, a monk, was carrying a sword, he replied:

      ‘As long as this sword is in its scabbard, it looks like the real thing and people are impressed. But if it is drawn and revealed as only a wooden stick, it becomes as joke – this is how religion is these days; splendid on the surface, transparent inside.’

      Too many of our churches have become like Ikkyu’s sword – they look good on the outside, maybe even packed and wealthy – but inside, they are empty and vacuous. Perhaps many of us, too, are Ikkyu’s swords; our fine, Christian words hiding the dead wood inside.

      Advent is an ideal time to reflect on what lies inside each of us. When we stand before God, drawn out of our earthly scabbards, what will he see? Fine steel honed in the fires of love and faith – or flimsy, dead wood? Revival will not come to our land unless it comes to our hearts first; until we can learn, in the words of Abba Arsenius, to ‘flee from sin, be silent, pray always’. Then, perhaps, we will have real food to offer to a starving world.

      • From memory, I read about how the bishops of Celtic Christianity met with the bishops of Rome to argue their case for the date of Easter. They lost and Rome took over. What struck me was the shallow thinking on both sides. They could not put up a defence of their faith. They had no depth. I wonder if the same could happen?

        • Steve –

          You’re talking about the Synod of Whitby of 664 C.E., and held in what is now known as “Whitby Abbey”. The Abbey may now be in ruins, but they are absolutely awesome.

          • P,
            I only went to Lindisfarne, but the Abbey looks very interesting.
            Our church has a Wednesday service, mostly older. I’ve not been.
            Do you go to a service where you are or do you have special dispensation to worship in monochrome? 😉

          • Steven :

            I think many people are probably much better Christians than they are theologians.

            I’m happy to fellowship with anyone who fulfils the criteria of 1 John (e.g. 1 John 2:6; 2;9-11; 2:22; 2:29; 3:10; 3:15; 3:23; 4:15; 4:19-21; 5:1-5); and manifests spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22; 22-24).

        • Some years ago I went to Whitby to join a themed Christian pray-in lasting several days. On the half-day I had set aside to see the Abbey ruins, they turned out to be closed. So I climbed in and had them to myself.

          Here is the wonderful Alec Clifton Taylor’s half-hour programme from 1984 about Whitby’s architecture and history:

          You will need to pump it up to full screen in order to view the programme at a decent size.

          The Synod took place because when Pope Gregory sent the reluctant Augustine (‘of Canterbury’, not of Hippo) on a mission to England, Augustine landed in Kent, where there were essentially no Christians. (The local Anglo-Saxon-Jutish ruler had married a French princess who was a believer, which is why the Pope saw an opportunity.) He founded a church whose boss grew to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. When this mission eventually struck further north, it was suprprised to find the celtic church which had survived the departure of the Romans. The two met at what is very probably Whitby to thrash out their differences. The date of Easter was a symbolic issue, in which the indigenous church agreed to accept the Church of Rome’s hegemony. Too bad that neither side heeded Colossians 2:16.

          • Thanks for that, Anton.

            I’ll take a look at the video.

            The Celtic Church (in some respects) may have captured the essence of Romans 12:10 :

            “Love each other as brothers… and honour others more you do yourself.” (CEV).

          • Whitby is disappointingly occult, as Bram Stoker wrote Dracula there and the place plays on it heavily.

            In 601AD Pope Gregory wrote a letter to his mission in England suggesting that it take over pagan festivals as a mission strategy. His letter is in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, I.30.

          • Anton –

            Whitby is not alone. The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19), and needs rescuing.

            As for the commonly known “Saint Gregory the Great”, nothing about Roman Catholicism would surprise me.

          • Pope Gregory ‘the Great’ (590-604AD), the first monk to be pope, was influential in furthering a change in theology from confidence that Satan and his legions of demons had been defeated at the Cross to a superstitious view that angels and demons routinely and visibly walked this earth, with men all but helpless before them, and with their supernatural actions continually manifest. Hope lay only in the church and its sacraments, the ‘good’ side of the supernatural. Gregory’s gloomy, unscriptural and dualist view was both a product and a reinforcer of Western Europe’s Dark Ages at a time when the Goths had ravaged Italy, and the re-imposition of traditional order by Emperor Justinian (from his base in Constantinople) had crumbled. ‘Scholastic’ theologians such as Thomas Aquinas reintroduced the notion of rational order after the Dark Ages, but superstition continued to dominate the mediaeval mind. Witch-hunting had a deep root in this, as the 1487 manual for witch-hunters, the Malleus Maleficarum, reveals. Even today, when the limits of scientific law are much better known, it is difficult for Christians not to fall into the opposed traps of practical denial of the supernatural (Catholic and protestant church liberals, conservative evangelical protestants), or over-credulity with either an uncritical acceptance of miracles (many Catholics) or a desire to exorcise everything (hyper-charismatic protestants), together with fear of the spiritual power of witches – the opposite of the New Testament view.

      • I think th converse of Ikkyu’s sword is also true. Many of us just need to get out there and evangelise, disciple young or inexperienced Christians and study the word.
        We need to draw our sword and use it 🙂

        Do the work of an evangelist…

        • …. and that “work” starts with our immediate circle of family and friends, then those in our neighbourhood. Essentially, it starts with modelling and living the Christian virtues.

          • Amen, Jack;

            and :

            ” Anyone who says they are a Christian should live as Christ lived. ”

            cf. 1 John 2:6; TLV.

        • @ Pellegrino

          HJ actually had in mind and Ephesians 4.

          Specifically,1 Corinthians 12:27-31: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

          And Ephesians 4: 11-13: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

          • Jack –

            The product of the inspired Apostles and teachers are now ENSCRIPTURATED. This is why the Bible is of paramount importance.

            Professor Larry Hurtado believed that the “Unity of the Faith” will not be achieved until the ‘beatific vision’. Until then, Christians of different groups have to bear with each other in a Christ-like spirit (Eph. 4:2); i.e. not hating, and burning each other at the stake; cf. 1 John 3:15.

  2. One thing I’ve noticed, and it maybe just means I’ve been moving in different circles over the past few years, is the number of believing-non-attenders.

    I’d always heard, disparagingly, of the ‘I can worship God on the golf course’ brigade. And indeed I have met those, mostly living a secular life with their reposte usually coming up when there are attempts to guilt trip them into outward Christianity.

    But what I am NOW meeting, are a considerable number of believers who DO read scripture, who DO pray, who DO think deeply. But who have years or decades ago given up church attendance or never attended.

    People driven away by abusive behaviour towards them in churches, or disappointed by shallow or maintenance driven expressions of Christianity.

    People who seek genuine belonging, unapologetically counter-cultural thinking, serious theology, intellectually challenging discussion, and strongly internal, worldview changing Christianity.

    I don’t believe their isolation stance is particularly healthy, and has very limited generational transmission. But neither is the ‘maintain the building, denomination and list of activities’ approach healthy, rounded OR generationally transmitted.

    The contemplative tradition, house churches and gatherings outwith the classic Sunday morning slot as well as online worship, learning and interaction are where I’d expect them to gravitate.

    • +1 to this. I see it a fair bit in the south west where churches with strong leadership and conviction are few and far between. We continue to find people totally under the radar yet reasonably orthodox. They’ve simply given up on poor churches and rather meet at home and follow teaching online. I have to say I’m almost with them at this point as our church is really just a members club.

      • This is the same across the anglosphere. Faithful Christians have stopped going to church because of corruption, political differences, abuse, lack of free time etc etc

    • What an interesting comment, Louise.

      I wonder if the isolated Christians you mention are the natural result of the trend towards churches where all attendees are expected to be extroverts whose need for social interaction and belonging to a group is essential to the way they express their Christianity (and may trump the need for a solid theological foundation for all that is offered)? There is of course nothing wrong with that if you are a natural extrovert, and there may be a good case for saying such churches will have a greater missional impact – at least when measured by numbers attending.

      The problem is that we are not all extroverts, and some of us find subtle or overt manipulation towards everyone falling in line with whatever the leadership expects of us (however well intended) is at least stressful if not downright repellent. Given the Christian content now available on line, it may be all too easy to give up on regular attendance at church if that is all there is on offer.

      However we Christians all know that neglecting to meet together is not good. But that implies effort both by individuals to attend and churches to cater more generously for the considerable proportion of introverts who are excluded but who may have a great deal to offer in terms of making a church as thoughtful as it is socially vibrant. Such a vision should surely be a Christian response to what ‘inclusivity’ looks like rather than the dogmatic poison which is currently offered under that name by secular ideologues.

      • Don –

        There are many Christian groups that regularly meet on-line, Don, with attendees from various parts of the world – and where there is good and honest fellowship.

        My local Anglican Anglian church is also live-streaming it’s services.

          • Ian –

            My local Parish church’s Sunday services have around ten people watching online, which would constitute around 20% of the total congregation listening to the service.

            However, such online percentages would obviously vary from church to church.

    • Louise –

      Do you think that some deep thinking, prayerful, and keen bible-believing Christians may not attend church services run by the traditional, ‘Organized-Religion’ Brigade, because of a perceived disjunction between what the biblical texts actually say, and how some of these texts have since come to be interpreted (under threat of severe sanctions for council non-signatories) in succeeding, post-New Testament centuries ?

      • @ Pellegrino

        Are Unitarian churches fairing any better?

        HJ found this site somewhat interesting about the range of views Unitarianism incorporates. Is it accurate?

        Unitarianism is an open-minded and welcoming faith that encourages individual freedom, equality for all and rational thought. In a culture where many are looking once more to spirituality, the Unitarian Church offers something unique. We do not expect or insist that everyone should hold exactly the same beliefs. Instead, you are encouraged to work out your own faith as we believe no-one should dictate what another person may or may not believe.

        We see different opinions and lifestyles as valuable and enriching and do not discriminate on grounds of gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation. We welcome anyone with an open mind who shares our tolerant and inclusive views.

        Unitarianism is non-denominational, meaning we are open to insights from all faiths, science, the arts, the natural world and everyday living. Our services draw upon a wide range of teachings from other religions and spiritualities and religious iconography is rarely found in our chapels.
        (See: )

        It almost sounds like modern, liberal “Anglicanism”; a community where people can believe what they want and seek spirituality on their own terms.

        • reads like a restaurant review. I expect to see written at the bottom: Bring your own bottle— and food. Benches and blank walls provided.

          • There is only one God – Who is the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ; Whom Jesus called the ONLY true God (John 17:1-3). He is “ho Pantokrator” in Greek – “The Almighty” (Rev. 1:8)

        • Dear Happy Jack;

          You are getting badly confused over two fundamental concerns :

          (1). The, so called, “Unitarian Universalist Association”, founded in 1961, and which openly confesses itself to being a total, non-Christian Religion;

          and, (2). Serious, historical studies of First century Christianity.

          Regarding the latter, the ‘Encyclopaedia America’ stated :

          ” Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God was only one person – the Father, cf. Isa. 63:16 NJB; 64:8 NJB; John 8:41; 8:54; 17:3]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”

          1956, Vol. XXVII, p. 294L

          Even the “New Catholic Encyclopaedia” stated :

          ” The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the fourth century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title ‘the Trinitarian dogma’. Among the [post-New Testament] ‘Apostolic Fathers’, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”;

          1967; Vol. XIV, p. 299.

          • @ Pellegrino

            Ah, so you are an Anglican Universalist? And HJ thought this was all resolved in the 16th century.

            This is hardly a controversial statement ” The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the fourth century.”

            The Church, then and now, moves slowly in the face of doctrinal controversy. Because a dogma is not explicitly formulated does not mean it is not believed.

            Incidentally, the term “Apostolic Fathers” is applied to the Christian writers of the first and early second centuries who are known, or are considered, to have had personal relations with some of the Apostles, or to have been so influenced by them that their writings may be held as echoes of genuine Apostolic teaching.

            HJ doesn’t have access to the NCE but here’s what the older version says:

            In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180. He speaks of “the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom (“Ad. Autol.”, II, 15). The term may, of course, have been in use before his time. Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian (“De pud.” c. xxi).

            In the next century the word is in general use. It is found in many passages of Origen (“In Ps. xvii”, 15). The first creed in which it appears is that of Origen’s pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus. In his Ekthesis tes pisteos composed between 260 and 270, he writes:

            “There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit : and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever” (P. G., X, 986) ….

            We may notice first the baptismal formula, which all acknowledge to be primitive. It has already been shown that the words as prescribed by Christ ( Matthew 28:19 ) clearly express the Godhead of the Three Persons as well as their distinction ….

            The witness of the doxologies is no less striking. The form now universal, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” so clearly expresses the Trinitarian dogma that the Arians found it necessary to deny that it had been in use previous to the time of Flavian of Antioch (Philostorgius, “Hist. eccl.”, III, xiii).

            It is true that up to the period of the Arian controversy another form, “Glory to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit,” had been more common (cf. I Clement, 58, 59; Justin, “Apol.”, I, 67). This latter form is indeed perfectly consistent with Trinitarian belief : it, however, expresses not the coequality of the Three Persons, but their operation in regard to man. We live in the Spirit, and through Him we are made partakers in Christ ( Galatians 5:25 ; Romans 8:9 ); and it is through Christ, as His members, that we are worthy to offer praise to God
            (Hebrews 13:15 ).

            But there are many passages in the ante-Nicene Fathers which show that the form, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to [with] the Holy Spirit,” was also in use.
            • In the narrative of St. Polycarp’smartyrdom we read: “With Whom to Thee and the Holy Spirit be glory now and for the ages to come” (Mart. S. Polyc., n.14; cf. n. 22).
            • Clement of Alexandria bids men “give thanks and praise to the only Father and Son, to the Son and Father with the Holy Spirit ” (Paed., III, xii).
            • St. Hippolytus closes his work against Noetus with the words: “To Him be glory and power with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Holy Church now and always for ever and ever. Amen ” (Contra Noet., n. 18).
            • Denis of Alexandria uses almost the same words: “To God the Father and to His Son Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit be honour and glory forever and ever, Amen ” (in St. Basil, “De Spiritu Sancto”, xxix, n. 72).
            • St. Basil further tells us that it was an immemorial custom among Christians when they lit the evening lamp to give thanks to God with prayer : Ainoumen Patera kai Gion kai Hagion Pneuma Theou (“We praise the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God “) …

            The doctrine of the Trinity is formally taught in every class of ecclesiastical writing. From among the apologists we may note Justin, (“Apol.” I, vi; Athenagoras, “Legat: pro Christ.”, n. 12). The latter tells us that Christians “are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father, and their distinction in unity.” It would be impossible to be more explicit. And we may be sure that an apologist, writing for pagans, would weigh well the words in which he dealt with this doctrine.

            Amongst polemical writers we may refer to Irenaeus, (“Adv. haer.”, I, xxii, IV, xx, 1-6). In these passages he rejects the Gnostic figment that the world was created by aeons who had emanated from God, but were not consubstantial with Him, and teaches the consubstantiality of the Word and the Spirit by Whom God created all things.

            Clement of Alexandria professes the doctrine in “Paedag.” I, vi, and somewhat later Gregory Thaumaturgus , as we have already seen, lays it down in the most express terms in his creed (P.G., X, 986).

            The remaining sections run through the Scriptural support for the belief.

            The doctrine of the Trinity is encapsulated in Matthew 28:19, where the parallelism of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is clear. The Didache shows the earliest Christians used this formula: “After the foregoing instructions, baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Didache 7:1 [A.D. 70]).

            This basically affirms the personal distinctions and the essential coequality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            The influence of the early Church and the Apostolic Fathers set the scene for the Nicene Creed, and established the language of the Trinity more solidly in theological thought.

          • @ Pellegrino

            Now what was it were you saying about: “Being as honestly accurate as we can , always requires being scrupulously fair with all of the evidence”?

            You were quoting directly from the “Watchtower Online Library”.

            It’s a “go-to” quote of Jehovah Witnesses and appears in their pamphlet Should You Believe in the Trinity?

            This quotation indicates only that the Apostolic Fathers didn’t use the precise formula “one God in three Persons,” not that none of them believed that the one Divine being was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            R. L. Richard, the author of the article, distinguishes between a strict, dogmatic formulation of the Trinity, which took centuries of reflection upon Scripture to achieve, and an elemental Trinitarianism which was present in the earliest Christian writings and witness.

            The section of the article you didn’t quote continues:

            “If it is clear on the one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of three centuries’ reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and hence an elemental Trinitarianism – went back to the period of Christian origins.”
            (New Catholic Encyclopaedia, XIV, 300)

            All this agrees with HJ’s post.

            Scripture doesn’t use philosophical language about the Trinity, but affirms the doctrine by the way it speaks of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity didn’t originate in Greek philosophy. Two Greek philosophical terms, “person” and “nature,” were employed to help explain, elaborate and develop a doctrine taught by the Bible.

            Bad, bad boy …

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Thank you for your very latest “straw man ‘argument'”. I see you now falsely attempting to label me as a universalist ! That was hardly being fair with any evidence, was it, ‘Happy Jack’ ? I’ll leave it to your better self to reflect.

            Regarding your other points :

            (1). You appear to disparage the quote from the ‘Encyclopaedia Americana’ , not on the basis of any intrinsic demerits, but on the basis of the illogic known as “Genetic fallacy”. Again, I will it to your better self to calmly reflect.

            (2). R.L. Richard’s further contradictory comment depends upon a fallacy known as ‘argumentum ex silentio’. Whilst R.L. Richard fully confesses that the ‘Trinity’ doctrine was not fully assimilated into the Christian profession of faith, prior to the end of the fourth century, he nevertheless proposes (on the basis of ‘argumentum ex silentio’) that early Christians had a (subconscious?) belief in (what he terms) “an elementary Trinity”. This proposition (apart from being an argument from silence), also seems to assume that certain Scriptural, literary triadic formulations are conclusive evidence for a ‘Trinity’ doctrine. They are not. To quote one very honest Trinitarian in their assessment of Matthew 28:19 :

            ” It is impossible to understand from this passage whether the Holy Spirit is a person. The meaning of Jesus may have been this : Those who were baptized should, upon their baptism, confess that they believed in the Father and the Son, and in the doctrines inculcated by the Holy Spirit.”

            ” The Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ”; Johann David Michaelis, p.325.

            (3). It is obvious that Theophilus of Antioch in ascribing a triad to the ‘God, His Word and His Wisdom’ did not understand the ‘Trinity’ doctrine of the fourth century, and neither did the subordinationist, ‘Logos Christologists’ such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus. Their developing formulations of the ‘Trinity’ would be considered heretical by the standards of later fourth and fifth century “orthodoxy”, and any future proponents of these subordinationist Christologies would probably have been burnt upon Roman Catholic stakes, in succeeding centuries.

            (4). The terms ‘hypostasis’ and ‘ousia’ are mentioned in the New Testament, but not even the apostle Paul in conversation with Greek philosophers (Acts 17:16-34), ever thought of employing them to construct any “Triune” conception of God. On the contrary, Paul in his speech to the Athenians presents a purely unitarian, monotheistic conception of God (see especially Acts 17:30-31).

            God bless you, Happy Jack – and try and be more logical and honest next time.

          • @ Pellegrino

            HJ meant to write “Anglican Unitarian” – so apologies for his error. Perhaps he should have said “Anglican Arian”.

            Your points:

            1) The ‘Encyclopaedia America’ assertion that “Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching,” is amply disproved by the sources and quotes HJ provided you. It was an emerging, deeper understanding about God, not a “deviation”.

            (2) R.L. Richards was hardly “silent”. He argues the early Christians held an “elemental Trinitarianism,” one expressed in their prayer life and liturgy. It’s not an argument from silence. As for your assertion that this, ”proposition … also seems to assume that certain Scriptural, literary triadic formulations are conclusive evidence for a ‘Trinity’ doctrine,” – who’s argued they are “conclusive evidence” for post-Nicene Trinity doctrine? Again, it was an emerging, deeper understanding about God as revealed in Scripture.

            As for Johann David Michaelis’ quote, note the “may have been this … ”
            Let’s refer the Online Brittanica for an insight into what was going on:

            The doctrine developed gradually … and through many controversies. Initially, both the requirements of monotheism inherited from the Hebrew Scriptures and the implications of the need to interpret the biblical teaching to Greco-Roman religions seemed to demand that the divine in Christ as the Word, or Logos, be interpreted as subordinate to the Supreme Being. An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self-disclosure of the one God but not as distinct within the being of God itself ….

            It was not until later in the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons.

            R.L. Richards was distinguishing between a strict, dogmatic formulation of the Trinity, one that took centuries of fierce debate and reflection upon Scripture to achieve, and “elemental Trinitarianism”, present in the earliest Christian writings and witness.

            (3). Of course Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus didn’t present the Nicene formulations – or one single formulation. As you say, theses were ”developing formulations of the ‘Trinity’.” The Church was being guided by the Holy Spirit in comprehending this entirely new, counter-intuitive revelation of God and seeking ways to express and explain it.

            It was the dispute between Alexander and Arius in 318 or 319 that drove the Church to define her orthodox position. At the beginning of the controversy there was much to resolve! Nicene was seeking to find a Creed all could agree and unite around. There were debates about the term “homoiousios”, (“of similar substance/nature”) with the Father. Eventually, the Nicene confession settled on homoousios” (“of the same substance/nature”) with the Father. This had to be further clarified at Council of Constantinople in 381 by inserting ”born of the Father before all ages.” In fact, this carried over into the Reformers disagreeing … but that’s another story for another day.

            (4) Let’s look at Paul in Athens. Ancient Athens was the seat of philosophical sophistry in the Greco-Roman world – “the wisdom of man.” Paul had been preaching the good news about Jesus and His resurrection. At the Areopagus Paul presented the Gospel to them in a language they might understand. He sought to persuade his listeners by contending that they were very “religious.” He praised their inscription “to the unknown god.” Paul appeals to the Creator as “Lord of heaven and earth,” a theme consistent with Scripture (Isaiah 42:5) that also echoed the philosophical thought of Plato. God “does not live in temples made by man” recalls Mark 14:58, but also a sentiment found in the thought of both Stoic and Epicureans. Paul quotes two of the most well known pagan poets, Epimenides and Aratus, regarding God, “In him we live and move and have our being,” and “For we are indeed his offspring.” Paul cites these pagan thinkers to argue that we are not to worship idols, a teaching consistent with the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 5:8).

            He does all of this within the context of suggesting that his listeners “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him,” as a pretext for his earlier claim that Jesus is risen from the dead and is the revelation of the one true God. Paul is appealing to pagan wisdom that is consistent with the message of Scripture as part of his Gospel presentation. He’s not given a homily on the Trinity!

            Paul limited himself to the lowest common denominator. He took a philosophical approach. He appealed to their poets and spoke of God and the future resurrection in general terms. Some argue this preaching to the Athenians turned out to be a lesson in “what not to do.” Others argue it’s a message for evangelising in today’s secular world.

            His message to the Christians in Corinthians is more explicit. Paul told the Christians in Corinth that he was now going to “proclaim Christ-crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Thank you for your comments, Happy Jack. Consider yourself forgiven for any typo errors. I have a few points to make in response to your interesting post, but I’ll make them tomorrow (Deo volente).

            God bless you, Happy Jack, and cordial best wishes.

          • Dear Happy Jack;

            Thank you for your quotation of 2 Cor. 13:14.

            (1). If you look at the footnotes to this verse (2 Cor. 13:14) in the ‘CTS BIBLE’ (‘Catholic Truth Society Bible) then you will see that the verse merely represents a literary triad, and is not an illusion to the ‘Trinity’. (The same can also be said for all such literary triads in the New Testament).

            (2). It’s difficult to understand what R.L. Richards exactly means by “Elemental Trinitarianism”, and where he derives this conception, if not from certain New Testament literary triadic expressions. However, these literary triadic formulations are not metaphysical and ontological statements about God in Himself and in His innermost nature, but rather they are soteriological and christological statements about how the only true God (i.e. the Father) reveals Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, by means of His Spirit (i.e. the Father’s invisibles power and personal presence).

            (3). It is difficult to identify any form of ‘Trinitarianism’ (“Elementary”, or otherwise) within the pages of the N.T. If anyone could grasp any new, philosophical, Christian concept of God as a ‘Trinity’, then it would have been the philosophically-minded, Athenian Greeks – but there there is not a word upon such a theme. Instead, like Jesus in John 17:1-3, Paul adheres to the unitary monotheistic conception of God. This at least shows that any ‘Trinity’ doctrine was not essential for salvation in the the original Apostolic Faith. If it was, then Paul would have made such sure to articulate it. Instead, what we get is an anachronistic retrojection of later ideas back into the New Testament era.

            A post -New Testament, Gentile, Greek Philosophical environment filtered early Christian apocalyptic thought, and produced a totally new paradigm (i.e. ‘Trinitarianism’ = 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ?)

            (4). The foolishness to Gentiles, and the stumbling block to Jews, was not “God crucified upon a cross”, but God’s “Messiah crucified upon a cross” (1 Cor. 1:23). This of course has it’s crucial roots in Psalm 110:1 : (“Yahweh said my lord” [lord = Heb. adoni = a non-Deity title; cf. Acts 2: 36).

            God bless you, Happy Jack.

          • P.S.

            Happy Jack :

            Paul’s non-trinitarian, sermon to the Athenians is of, course, recorded in Acts 17:16-34.

          • @ Pellegrino

            We’re just getting repetitive now.

            HJ will leave you with this one last Scriptural passage that you have failed to address:

            “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19.

          • @ Happy Jack;

            I refer you to the “New Jerusalem Bible” for the furtherance of your biblical education. The footnote to Matthew 28:19 states :

            “This formula is probably a reflection of the liturgical usage established LATER in the primitive community.”

            The Catholic CTS Bible concurs that the reading of Matthew 28:19 (as it currently stands) is :

            “probably a reflection of LATER liturgical practice.”

            There are also powerful linguistic reasons which indicate that the shorter Eusebian reading of Matthew 28:19 (i.e. “Go and make disciples in my [i.e. Jesus’] name” was probably the original reading of Mathew 28:19. The Trinitarian scholar, George Beasley-Murray, in the standard work on baptism, “Baptism in the New Testament”, p.83, writes (emphasis added) :

            ” A whole group of exegetes and critics have recognized that the opening declaration of Matthew 28:18 demands a Christological statement to follow it : ‘ All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’ leads us to expect as a consequence, ‘Go and make disciples unto me [ i.e. Jesus] among all nations baptizing them in my name, and teach them to observe all things I command you’. In fact, the first and third clauses have that significance : It looks as though the second clause has been MODIFIED from a Christological to a Trinitarian formula in the interests of the [later] liturgical tradition.”

            The renowned ‘Word Bible Commentary’, 1995, Vol. 33b. Matthew 14-28, pp. 887-888, by Donald A. Hagner, concurs :

            ” There is a good possibility that in its original form, as witnessed by the ante-Nicene Eusebian form, the text read ‘make disciples in my [i.e. Jesus’] name’. This shorter reading preserves the symmetrical rhythm of the passage, whereas the triadic formula fits awkwardly into the structure as one might expect if it were an interpolation.”

            Textual scholars concur that most textual tampering, and textual corruptions of the original New Testament autographs, probably occurred relatively early in the history of the manuscript transmission. It is also worthy of mentioned that our earliest copies of Matthew 28:19 (as it currently stands) only date to the late fourth century.

            Even if the current form of Mathew 28:19 stood, it would still not prove a trinity, or even that the holy Spirit is an independent hypostasis separate from the Father (cf. Matt. 10:20; where the Spirit of the Father, is the Father Himself, in spiritual form and action; Note also, 1 Cor. 2:10-11, where the relationship of a man to his own spirit, is analogous to the relationship of God to His Own Spirit. To be baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), meant to become a follower of Moses. Therefore to be baptized into God (the Father – the only true God), and into His Son, is to become followers of God and His Son. To be baptized in the holy Spirit is of course to be immersed in the power, love, and presence of the Father, via His Spirit ( the Father’s Spirit = a synonym of ‘holy Spirit’ = the power, love, and presence of the Father; cf. Psalm 51:10-11).

            New Testament literary triads do not prove a trinity – as fearless Roman Catholic scholars like Hans Kung, have demonstrated.

            God bless you, Happy Jack – and best wishes for your future biblical studies. May God give you a love for His Word.

            P.S. I almost forgot. I am not an Arian, Happy Jack – as you recently erroneously accused me of being. It is very difficult for someone who believes the book of Acts to be an Arian.

          • @ Pellegrino

            Textual scholars … Textual tampering … textual corruption? Come now, you can do better that present an old, tired conspiracy theory!

            Alfred Plummer concluded Matthew 28:19 has always had the trinitarian phrase: “the verse is found in every extant Greek MS; whether uncial or cursive, and in every extant Version, which contains this portion of Mt … It is incredible that an interpolation of this character can have been made in the text of Matthew without leaving a trace of its unauthenticity in a single manuscript or Version. The evidence for its genuineness is overwhelming.” (Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, pp. 432-433)

            In addition, we have the words of Justin Martyr (c. 100-165): “And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles … there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe … And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost.” (First Apology; 61:3)

            The Didache, which gives us an account of baptismal procedure, includes this formula, almost certainly quoted from Matthew’s gospel. “baptise into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. (The Didache; Cp 7)

            Then, (conceding the above), you venture: “Even if the current form of Mathew 28:19 stood, it would still not prove a trinity, or even that the holy Spirit is an independent hypostasis separate from the Father.”

            Interesting you use the word “prove”. Scripture is not a book of systematic theology with a chapter explaining the nature of God, the nature of man, and so on.

            Each of the nouns (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are preceded by the definite article “the” separated by the conjunction “and” indicating distinct Persons. Neither logic nor the grammar of the text indicates that these three Persons are one Person; there are three distinct Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            The evidence from the Gospels culminates in the baptismal commission of Matt., xxviii, 20. It is manifest from the narratives of the Evangelists that Christ only made the great truth known to the Twelve step by step. First He taught them to recognize in himself the Eternal Son of God. When His ministry was drawing to a close, He promised that the Father would send another Divine Person, the Holy Spirit, in His place. Finally, after His resurrection, He revealed the [trinity] doctrine in explicit terms, bidding them go and teach all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19).

            The force of this passage is decisive. That “the Father” and “the Son” are distinct Persons follows from the terms themselves, which are mutually exclusive. The mention of the Holy Spirit in the same series, the names being connected one with the other by the conjunctions “and . . . and”, is evidence that we have here a Third Person co-ordinate with the Father and the Son, and excludes altogether the supposition that the Apostles understood the Holy Spirit not as a distinct Person, but as God viewed in His action on creatures. The phase “in the name” [Greek] affirms alike the Godhead of the Persons and their unity of nature …

            It is incredible that the phrase “in the name” should be here employed, were not all the Persons mentioned equally Divine. More over, the use of the singular, “name”, and not the plural, shows that these Three Persons are that One Omnipotent God in whom the Apostles believed. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912, Vol. 15, p 47-49)

            Even though it is true that the word “Trinity” is not to be found in the pages of Scripture, the doctrine certainly is presented there. The Bible asserts there is but ONE God, and yet also claims that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit —all three—that ONE God.

            The union of these three names in the form of baptism indicates that the Son and Holy Spirit are one with and equal to the Father.

            Scripture reveals the full Deity of Christ; the Father generated the Son, and yet, Father and Son and Holy Spirit are co-eternal – there was never a time when the Son did not exist or the Holy Spirit. Is that impossible or just beyond our finite understanding? Is it unbiblical .. no.

          • Not quite sure, Pellegrino, why you think that it is an error to suggest you have Arian tendencies, when they argued from scripture in a similar way to what you have consistently done. Don’t you realise that the argument against them was as to HOW they read scripture, rather than WHAT they read there?

    • Louise – as a non-attender myself, I’ll add to your comment. Firstly, when I did go to church, I enjoyed the sermons (at the church I attended the services, morning and evening were usually an hour and a half – and the sermon was 45 minutes – and always very interesting and spiritually nourishing). But I’ve always liked my own company and any ‘social’ aspects of church life were a duty – and not something which I enjoyed.

      Then I moved elsewhere – and found myself in a situation where all the churches served up what seemed to me like happy clappy superficial nonsense. It took several years, but finally, I thought to myself ‘why should I endure this on Sunday? It is worse than pulling teeth – and if I want the Spiritual rest that God intends, then I had better do something else.’ So instead, I spent Sundays doing 15 mile walks, through forests and past lakes – not a person in sight – and I did find this truly restful and very, very nice – and this is how it was for a good number of years, until my son came along (after which I simply didn’t have the leisure for long walks in the country).

      One criticism I have of churches, even of ‘good’ churches (i.e. those where the central gospel message is proclaimed loudly and clearly in all its glory) is that there is a basic assumption that everybody is the sort of extravert who enjoys lots of social fellowship – those of us who enjoy our own company and who don’t fit into that mould aren’t really accommodated and are disapproved of.

    • That’s where I find myself now. Stopped attending church during lockdown – but kids sports resumed quicker than church. Found ourselves more involved with sports than church.
      Found a church with an afternoon service and attended that for a while until they moved back to a morning service.
      In the meantime I’ve drifted away from the charismatic/alpha course shallowness I experienced in our former Anglican Church. Not sure where I’d go now – every church these days on the non-liberal side of the church is too charismatic for me.

      • ” Too charismatic”, Paul – but what’s the sermons like ?

        I used to go to a Pentecostal Church. I didn’t practice “glossolalia”, but sermons were absolutely fantastic.

        • Variable – often over long and padded out – like someone’s got a brief to do 40min on something and they haven’t actually got that much to say. Some good some bad; some that left me scratching my head thinking what was the point of that, some that felt like they were getting to a point and then hoofed the ball into the stands rather that the back of the net. To be fair when there was a good text to work from it could be ok. The tendency for sermons to end with “if you want to know more please come to alpha” got a bit grating. But as time went on it often felt like you were getting something else you needed to do – & “so that’s why you need to do the Bible in 1 year app” or “that’s why you need to volunteer to serve” or “that’s why you need to commit financially” or “that’s why you need to join a house group” rather than being invited to worship the living God.
          The afternoon church services at the other church (non denom for expats) were good as the pastor (now sadly moved on elsewhere) was really well read and focussed largely on God being God and us / we being in need of God.

          • Hi, Paul;

            I don’t think there’s a perfect church or denomination. If you keep looking, you’ll find a Christian meeting place that suits you. Keep reading the Bible (especially the New Testament), and keep going. Don’t be put off by the various imperfections of human beings, and their organizations. The basic core Gospel message of the book of Acts is true. Believe it, and keep going.

          • I do believe – I haven’t found anything in church that has made me want to keep attending though. If there was a church with a service at a time I could get to I’d take my family. It seems to me that my kids (girls) get more from their RC primary school in terms of instruction in the Christian faith, from reading the Bible together as a family than they do from attending church. & I often feel it’s the same for me – I get more from a Bible study I attend during the week than I do from attending church. I wouldn’t want to take my girls from their Hockey and Cricket on a Sunday which is building confidence and character in them to have them sing some “action songs” and then spend 45 min colouring in some print outs of Bible studies.

  3. I wonder whether adequate attention is paid to changes in frequency of attendance, by churches that collect weekly stats. For example, if in a congregation, people move from attending x4 monthly on average, to x3, then the raw figures would appear to give a 25% drop in attendance, even if there was no actual drop of the overall number of individuals – the implication is a much worse picture than the actual the case.
    Thus, asking ‘do you go once a month or more’ may be a more accurate way of counting ‘regulars’, when there has been such an increase of pressures on our Sunday time in recent years / decades. I’m not surprised that this approach gives a differing picture.

    • Yes, I think you are right. That leads to two questions:

      a. Does this make a difference in terms of understanding discipleship?

      b. How might this affect our approach to what happens on a Sunday, in terms of content, time, and timing?

    • A very good point. I was a Reader (lay preacher) in the Church of England so I would have liked to attend every Sunday. But when my father was alive, once a month I had to visit him and, typical of modern life, that meant a journey of nearly 200 miles each way, so the whole weekend was taken up. There were other obligations that meant weekends away, and I might or might not be able to attend a local church on the Sunday. Once upon a time families and friends were more local, so visits could fit around church services. Have a look at Sunday train timetables before the 60s to see how little Sunday travel there was.

      • I am an adult convert, and in my Anglican days I looked into becoming a Lay Reader in order to give sermons, but discovered that it took longer than becoming a vicar. The system is sclerotic.

  4. Some very interesting and well reasoned comment from Rhiannon. Thank you. One wonders what it will all look like in say 25- 50 years time? My guess is that many of the main line denominations including my own (Baptist) will have faded out or amalgamated with other churches in some way. The Cof E will continue its decline but not disappear completely, although it may have become disestablished.

    The landscape and expression of Christianity in the UK will become very different and more fragmented. The churches that grow (and are growing now), will be those focused on evangelism and have not compromised with the spirit of the world which in this day and age is idolatry. There is evidence that this is already happening see

    In some ways I wonder if it will be a return to more like the NT church. Some flourished and grew, whereas other withered- but I will be long gone by then.

    I know your works… Rev 3:8

    • I highly doubt the C of E will ever be disestablished, it is too complex a process and the C of E will adapt as it has done to the England of the day, as it did by allowing blessings then marriages of divorcees, women priests and bishops and now by Synod approval of blessings of homosexual couples married in civil law. The Church remains embedded in every Parish in the country with the King as its head.

      Many evangelical churches are growing, especially Pentecostal and charismatic ones for those fully bible based but then so are more traditional BCP Anglican or cathedral services and even Latin Mass services in the Roman Catholic church for those who like the ritual and ceremony alongside scripture and praise

      • The Church of England must be dis-established – according to former Liverpool M.P. Eric Heffer (in his book “Why I am a Christian”); and also according to Dr. Herbert Carson, former vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Cambridge ( in his 1969 book, “Farewell to Anglicanism”).

        We need an attempted bibliocentric approach to Christianity,

    • One wonders what it will all look like in say 25- 50 years time? My guess is that many of the main line denominations including my own (Baptist) will have faded out or amalgamated with other churches in some way. The Cof E will continue its decline but not disappear completely, although it may have become disestablished.

      I suspect all the Christians will leave the Church of England, and what remains will be basically a secular ‘National Ceremony Service’ providing empty pageantry for state occasions and meaningless life-event markers in old buildings. Just the kind of State Shinto that T1 wants.

      The URC will die, as will the Methodists. The future will be more independent churches, perhaps in a few looser denominations like the EPCEW but maybe more independent/local groupings. I don’t know much about the Baptists but I gather they’re already pretty loose so moving to that kind of a model won’t be that much of a change.

      And if course there will be a lot of churches serving particular immigrant communities.

      That’s what I predict in England, anyway. The rest of the country, obviously, are starting from points.

      In some ways I wonder if it will be a return to more like the NT church.

      I do hope so.

        • And the RC Church

          Good question. I believe numbers have been staying stable but it’s hard to see the massive upheaval in the Roman denomination worldwide not having an effect. So much will depend on how long this pope has left and who the next one is.

          • Decline in Europe S but stable in England and probably as many on a Sunday as the C of E ( with a third of the buildings to look after, a stronger sense of identity, the ability to ship in priests from Poland/ Africa and S America, the beneficiary of a lot of immigration) and still growing in Africa , parts of South America where it is still strong and in Asia especially India. I suspect in England it will be the majority church going denomination in 20yrs time.

          • I suspect in England it will be the majority church going denomination in 20yrs time.

            Do you mean absolute majority, ie, more than 50%, or just greater than any other individual denomination? Because the latter I think is quite likely, but the former, well, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it, but I’d put it at less than, say, seven to twelve.

          • Reply to S are 7 22 pm.
            I mean greater than any other denomination and probably more than the C of E. In the C of E child baptism, confirmation, marriage and funerals are now increasingly small in number (though adult baptisms increase. In an increasingly multi cultural environment the Christian share will be less. Denominations will become less extensive and more intensive as Figgis prophesied. many years ago. Hence the growth of more sectarian forms of church and the decline of historic denominations. Orthodox / Coptic and other ethnic churches will grow a bit and I suspect black churches and Pentecostal churches will grow. But some come and go over say a 20 year period as some are unstable.However there is a tendency for more liturgical / sacramental churches pick up from new Christians moving in response to different spiritual needs. It is a very complex picture with regional differences ( who would have suspected the growth of organised Paganism in Cornwall ) One needs the sensative sociological of the late David Martin or my friends Profs Grace Davie or Robin Gill.

      • what remains will be basically a secular ‘National Ceremony Service’

        It might even rebrand to be more inclusive — ‘Church of England’ being terrible as ‘church’ excludes non-Christians and of course ‘England’ Is synonymous with slavery.

        Suggestions on a postcard for what the new brand will be.

        My guess is ‘Celevivia — helping you, and helping each other, through life’s journey’. And the logo will be crossroads, to symbolise both the life milestones — births, weddings, funerals — that Celevivia will help you mark, and also to symbolise people of all backgrounds and faiths coming together. Oh and one leg of the crossroads will be slightly longer than the others, as a discreet nod to the past.

        • Oh for goodness sake, the Church of England still does communion, still has readings from the bible in services, still uses BCP prayer books, still has sermons. The fact it is not set in stone as it was in the 16th century and now has women priests and bishops, marriages of divorcees in its churches and from the autumn will bless homosexual couples in its churches just means it reflects the England of 2023 not 1623. It is still a Christian church while being the established church still.

          However yes those who want a more hardline version of Christianity and don’t want even blessings of homosexual couples in their churches may well go to independent evangelical churches, just as many of those who disagreed with women priests and bishops became Roman Catholics from the 1990s

          • ‘more hardline’? Is that you term for believing the doctrine of the Church?

            I think yes, T1’s view is that ‘Christian’ means ‘cultural Christian’, and anyone who actually believes is ‘hardline’.

          • If that was your view you would long ago have left the Church of England, after it ordained women priests and bishops, against the teaching of Paul or remarried divorcees even when no spousal adultery, against the teachings of Jesus Christ himself.

            The fact you only seem to have a problem with blessings of homosexual couples makes quite clear your ‘doctrine’ and literal following of scripture is applied rigidly to homosexuals but much more flexible elsewhere!

          • If that was your view you would long ago have left the Church of England, after it ordained women priests and bishops, against the teaching of Paul or remarried divorcees even when no spousal adultery, against the teachings of Jesus Christ himself.

            If you think the Church of England has gone against the teachings of Jesus, and you claim to be a Christian, why haven’t you left it?

          • T1 you have a strangle fundamentalist and wooden view of what Scripture says.

            Paul affirmed women as church planters, teachers, and apostles.

            Jesus rejected ‘any reason’ divorce, and not divorce per se.

            You need to read a little more clearly. I am not planning to leave the C of E because it does not align with your fundamentalism

          • I don’t think the Church of England opposed the teachings of Christ, Jesus never said anything against women priests or blessing homosexual unions even if Paul did.

          • Paul on women priests, First letter to the Corinthians “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”

            First letter to Timothy “”I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

            As you also know many Church of England Parishes now remarry divorcees for any reason, see George Osborne’s recent remarriage to his former aide Thea Rogers in a pretty Somerset parish church where he has a house after divorcing his first wife despite no adultery on her part

          • I don’t think the Church of England opposed the teachings of Christ, Jesus never said anything against women priests or blessing homosexual unions even if Paul did.

            Yes you do; you wrote:

            ‘If that was your view you would long ago have left the Church of England, after it […] remarried divorcees even when no spousal adultery, against the teachings of Jesus Christ himself.’

            So you think that remarrying divorcées is against the teaching of Christ, and that the Church of England remarries divorcées; therefore you think that the Church of England acts in opposition to the teachings of Christ.

            How can you claim to be a Christian and justify remaining in a denomination which, according to you, acts in opposition to the teachings of Jesus?

            Esteemed host disagrees with you that remarrying divorcées is against the teaching of Christ, so esteemed host can remain in the Church of England without logical inconsistency. But you cant, because you believe that the Church of England, when it remarries divorcées, is acting in opposition to the teachings of Jesus. So why haven’t you left?

            Is it because you care more about the old buildings and the pretty music than you do about the teachings of Jesus?

          • Remarrying divorcees is not against Christ’s teaching, provided there was adultery on the part of the spouse of the divorced partner who is to be remarried. Some individual Parishes do remarry divorcees where no spousal adultery involved but other Church of England churches don’t so just attend one of those churches.

            I will always prefer to worship in churches and cathedrals in ancient rather than modern buildings with excellent choral music but that is not incompatible with my Christian faith at all. Of course our esteemed host can continue to worship and minister in an evangelical church which refuses to perform blessings of homosexual couples even once Synod formalises the prayers they approved in the autumn, as the prayers of blessing remain entirely optional for each parish. Just as some Church of England churches even are allowed to still have only male priests and come under only male bishops despite the ordination of women

          • Simon, I am not interested in people who spit out proof texts shorn from their context.

            If this is the way you think the C of E (or any responsible Christian) does their biblical theology, then I am not sure what to say, and I don’t know where you have been living.

            You keep repeating these really rather silly claims based on a fundamentalist wooden proof texting. If you are interested in discussion, great. If not, please take your proof texting elsewhere.

            (For discussion go here:

            and here: )

          • Parishes do remarry divorcees where no spousal adultery involved but other Church of England churches don’t so just attend one of those churches.

            So you do think that the Church of England allows ministers to act in opposition to Jesus’ teaching.

            How can you claim to be a Christian and remain in a denomination which allows that?

          • Mark 10 10-12 as you yourself discuss at that link is clear “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” So an absolute bar on divorce on that passage.

            Even Matthew 19 9 is clear that ‘ 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” So no grounds for divorce except for spousal adultery from the words of Christ himself there too.

            So discussion of that to give it ‘context’ ie allow grounds for remarriage of divorcees in C of E churches fine apparently. Yet no such context it seems is allowed for even blessings of loving homosexual couples in your book. One could certainly see some hypocrisy there!

          • Parishes do remarry divorcees where no spousal adultery involved but other Church of England churches don’t so just attend one of those churches.

            So how, as someone who claims to be a Christian, can you belong to a denomination which, in your opinion, allows ministers to act in opposition to the teachings of Jesus?

      • Like this!

        Don’t forget that persecution is coming. This is not Jesus Christ sleeping on the job but Jesus Christ purifying his bride and making her fit for the wedding. The website cited is the only structure that actually grows under persecution. Institutional Christianity – Anglican, Roman, Orthodox – has had its (very long) day. The critique offered by the first commenter applies to all of those.

        • Like the idea of house churches but the charismatic emphasis of 14-26 pushes me away. I’ve been there and done that and I have never been overly convinced that I’ve seen or experienced anything that actually came from God or for that matter anyone else present has either. People have been earnest and yearning to experience something – but it often ends up feeling performative and false.

          • If 14-26 emphasises one thing, it is scripture. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are clearly stated in scripture, and 14-26 even warns of “the muddle between the emotional and the spiritual within the charismatic movement today”. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

          • It’s good that it’s rooted in scripture at least. I do believe that God speaks to us through scripture & that the Holy Spirit guides and convicts us in this manner. I’ve just had a few experiences where it feels like I’m in a poor cabaret psychic act where people are throwing out all kinds of visions and words and it’s nonsensical. And on the extrovert / introvert side of things it’s not good if you’re an introvert in that situation – you don’t feel like challenging someone. I am concerned that these things can get to be very performative very quickly.

    • Disestablishment, at least partial, seems inevitable to me. Church politics is increasingly dominated by people who don’t value establishment or broad appeal.

      It’s also unjustifiable to have bishops from a church in one of the four countries have legislative power over the whole country. The argument they are representing people of faith falls flatter and flatter as the cofe and state diverge in which people they recognize as being good citizens.

      And it seems very unlikely that the tories will win the next election

      • Disestablishment, at least partial, seems inevitable to me. […] the cofe and state diverge in which people they recognize as being good citizens.>

        This is a tension that will have to be resolved but I suspect it will actually be by the opposite of disestablishment — it will be by full nationalisation of the Church of England and the transformation of it into a secular arm of the state providing empty ceremonial services for both state events and people’s life markers.

        Cutting the denomination like that and having the state wear its skin would be constitutionally much simpler than disestablishment.

        Of course all the Christians would have to leave, but then that would be part of the point. People like T1 would stay and be glad to get rid of the anon believing types.

        Her late Majesty would never have stood for it of course.

        • S

          I don’t think we are so far apart because both are essentially a divorce between the cofe as we know it and the state.

          the diverging of good citizens is not easily resolved

  5. The RC church in Ireland has collapsed massively in the wake of the child abuse and adoption scandals. It shouldn’t assume it will be relatively immune although it is more robust in its statement of doctrine.

    • Reply to Anton at 5 03 pm. This surely applies to all churchgoers. We cannot see what God sees. But I can’t see there is much left of “social” churchgoing these days. Lets at least assume people are in church because they feel ( for a number of reasons ) they ought to be there

      • Perry :

        The former Liverpool M.P. Eric Heffer, as an atheist, used to like periodically going into churches (in non-service hours) and sitting down in the peace and quiet. He said that he never understood why he did this, but he, “felt drawn there, as if by an invisible magnet”.

        He later became a Christian (“Why I am a Christian”, by Eric Heffer).

        • Eric Heffer moved from an early Christian childhood faith (his family were members of the High Church tendency of the Church of England), to atheism, then Leninist-Marxist Communism, and finally on to democratic Christian Socialism – a variant of Liberation Theology. Heffer’s Christianity was described by Tony Benn, his close political ally, as “a combination of Jesus Christ and Karl Marx.” Heffer saw socialism as Christianity in action – building the kingdom of heaven on earth – and his utopianism saw its success as inevitable.

          He was a man of deeply held convictions and integrity – a rare breed these days – and he was admired and respected by Margaret Thatcher.

  6. @ Chris B

    In a letter published in 2019, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI placed the sex abuse scandal in the context of a collapse of moral theology/teaching in the Church and the spread of immorality more generally in Western society. He saw the abuse scandal reflecting this, the action of sinful men and also the work of “the accuser” attempting to undermine Christian faith.

    The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, he said, ”urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.” Benedict XVI says the action of the devil is aimed at proving “that there are no righteous people … No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us. It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible.”

    In a 1969 German radio broadcast, the then Father Joseph Ratzinger offered these thoughts on the future of the Catholic Church. Do they apply to other churches?

    “The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves. To put this more positively:

    “The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!

    “How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but the priest who is no specialist, who does not stand on the [sidelines], watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of man, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.

    “Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her centre: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

    “The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

    “And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”

    • But it wasn’t the abuse by priests which caused the collapse of Catholic church authority in Ireland. It was the cover-up by bishops.

    • HJ, thank you for your considered reply. Yes, I think Ratzingers words are prophetic. This is indeed how it will look in the future. The process has already started.

      BTW , on a different note, does HJ know whatever happened to the Inspector General when the Cranmer blog closed? You came over to here but he didn’t. I used to like his erudite comments.

      • @ Chris B

        Who can forget that rascal and his tales of the ‘Mouse and Wheel’ and ‘Inspector Towers’! Although he claimed to RC, his Christology was … er … unusual. He would get on well with Pellegrino. He posted on CW for a while but this Disgus account has been silent now for a few months. He frequented ‘Pink News’ – he liked goading commentators there. One has to register to comment and view comments there; not something HJ is willing to do.

        • Jack – great and prophetic comment from Ratzinger in 1969, although it doesn’t seem to mention the Charismatic Movement in the Catholic Church, which was breaking out then.
          As for the Inspector General, I believe he has surfaced on ‘Guido Fawkes’ to comment on some of his favourite themes.
          His ‘theology’ was certainly sui generis, while his style was often uproarious.

  7. To make a clear statement about decline or growth you’d really need two similar studies over a period of time.

    If you are seeing a counter intuitive difference between two studies over a period with different methodology the signal is more likely due to the difference in methodology than the recieved wisdom being wrong.

    Over my lifetime I have witnessed a huge decline in church attendance. I have been a church “youth” my entire life because no matter how old I get most of the other attendees are older.

    I’ve seen churches that were “flagship” city center churches in my youth close completely. I’ve known very few new Christians and lots of lots of people who have left the church. And lots and lots of people who claim their tradition isn’t in decline.

    I think the recent abuse scandals and the generally underwhelming response to covid are hastening the decline and these are hard to argue against

    • Yes, and we have two sets of two studies done half a decade apart. The CoE studies showing decline and The Bible Society study showing stability.

      The claim is that the result is due to methodological differences viz. That other studies focus exclusively on the Church of England (or at most the long-established churches) which underestimate the ethnic and charismatic churches. Since in the CoE more charismatic churches seem to be dying more slowly than average as are churches that can attract more immigrants and their descendants as opposed to the rural country side (as are Cathedrals, to be fair, but not relevant here) then this doesn’t seem too unlikely.

      • That is not entirely true, in my rural country Church of England church we even have Roman Catholics as well as liberal Anglicans and more conservative evangelical Anglicans. Services accommodate all in ancient buildings and there are no other churches of any denomination for miles until you get to the nearest town.

        Charismatic churches however often peak but then are more prone to scandal, see Soul Survivor Watford, if they don’t have sufficient safeguarding being operated

        • Or instead of looking at Soul Survivor, we can look at religious order spirituality and Peter Ball. Or Con Evo, we can look at Smyth. Men seeking to exploit boys wil seek to enter any tradition. All traditions need sufficient safeguarding in operation.

        • I don’t think churches are more prone to scandal because they are charismatic. I think churches where there is no accountability for leaders means the leaders can abuse their position. For every Brian Houston there’s a Jonathan Fletcher

      • Indeed statistically the recent census showed that percentage wise above average number of Christians were concentrated in more rural local authorities, with a few exceptions like Catholic heavy Liverpool and Merseyside.

        The lowest percentage of Christians was actually in university towns and cities like Oxford, Cambridge, Hull, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, the City of London and Brighton and Bristol as well as ex industrial south Wales as well as areas with lots of other religions like Luton, Leicester and Bradford and Newham

      • Kyle

        OK but if the decline is offset by immigration then churches in other countries are losing those Christians. There aren’t magically more Christians

        • Yes, and they can afford to lose them. Christianity globally is growing. The only problem is if they come over here and take our practice of failing to have and keep enough children.

          • Kyle

            I think its a vicious cycle actually.

            If you have a growing healthy church with lots of people of every generation then its easy for couples to form within the church and want to have children. Its easy for the children to stick with the church because they have friends there.

            If your median age of congregants is 60 then its difficult to make those friends. People under 40 have to find relationships outside the community and for kids the draw is away from church because they don’t have any friends at church

  8. What a rich vein of thinking today! So much one could comment on however I chose but one,
    Many thanks to Ratzinger. Happy Jack August 11, 2023 at 8:30 pm Anton August 11, 2023 at 11:19 am
    These have been my thoughts and longings for decades.

    I feel that Jesus was not overly impressed by large numbers but focused on teaching His Deciples saying “Little flock it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the kingdom”
    It reminds me of the old pastor of my wife’s’ childhood church. After the evening service he invited youth and old to “Pot the Pastor” i.e. to question him on the days’ sermons. Great idea! And inimical of Jesus’s praxis.
    Denominations may well “come to pass”[on] but the Church of Christ which He builds will endure and the Gates of Hell will never prevail against it.
    Today as we await the outcome of LLF and whether the future of the Church will be built on sand on the Rock or even both!
    [1 COR.3 V 12 ff] ;
    In recent conversation with my brother-in -law accountant, a national expert on Financial Law; He tells us that he is being approached by several Anglican churches
    regrading the purchases of alternative venues.
    Perhaps the vision of Ratzinger / may be imminent, and Martin Lloyd’s call in 1969 at Nottingham and Keele might be realized.

  9. A new book, written by Jim Davis, a pastor at an evangelical church in Orlando, and Michael Graham, a writer with the Gospel Coalition, draws on surveys of more than 7,000 Americans by the political scientists Ryan Burge and Paul Djupe, attempting to explain why people have left churches—or “dechurched,” in the book’s lingo—and what, if anything, can be done to get some people to come back. The book raises an intriguing possibility: What if the problem isn’t that churches are asking too much of their members, but that they aren’t asking nearly enough?

    The Great Dechurching finds that religious abuse and more general moral corruption in churches have driven people away. This is, of course, an indictment of the failures of many leaders who did not address abuse in their church. But Davis and Graham also find that a much larger share of those who have left church have done so for more banal reasons. The book suggests that the defining problem driving out most people who leave is … just how American life works in the 21st century. Contemporary America simply isn’t set up to promote mutuality, care, or common life. Rather, it is designed to maximize individual accomplishment as defined by professional and financial success.

    Such a system leaves precious little time or energy for forms of community that don’t contribute to one’s own professional life or, as one ages, the professional prospects of one’s children. Workism reigns in America, and because of it, community in America, religious community included, is a math problem that doesn’t add up…… The problem in front of us is not that we have a healthy, sustainable society that doesn’t have room for church. The problem is that many Americans have adopted a way of life that has left us lonely, anxious, and uncertain of how to live in community with other people.

    The tragedy of American churches is that they have been so caught up in this same world that we now find they have nothing to offer these suffering people that can’t be more easily found somewhere else. American churches have too often been content to function as a kind of vaguely spiritual NGO, an organization of detached individuals who meet together for religious services that inspire them, provide practical life advice, or offer positive emotional experiences. Too often it has not been a community that through its preaching and living bears witness to another way to live.

    The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going, and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back? by Jim Davis, Michael Graham, Ryan P. Burge, August 22, 2023)

    If accurate, this suggests the majority of people don’t leave the Church for “big reasons,” – the abuse crisis, teachings on birth control or abortion, or the relentless propaganda of atheist evangelists. These may be factors, but it seems most people drift away from the Church. They never even consciously decide to stop practicing the faith; they just wake up one morning and realise that they no longer practice and no longer desire to practice.

    Churchgoing isn’t integral to modern life. Many Church leaders seek to adapt more to our culture to fit into people’s busy schedules. However, this research indicates the problem is that modern life is actually incompatible with fully living as a Christian. Instead of trying to fit into modern life, churches should demand their members change their lives to fit into a more robust Christianity.

    • And of course most people would not have great professional careers or achieve significant financial success and become rich, they will be average or even below average.

      So we still have need for that community religion provides, not only for worship but for the social community links and help for those facing hard times with foodbanks churches run etc

      • So we still have need for that community religion provides, not only for worship but for the social community links and help for those facing hard times with foodbanks churches run etc

        That’s not what Christianity is for. That’s exactly the ‘vaguely spiritual NGO’.

        Christianity is about truth, not ‘community links’.

          • Is Christ subordinate to ‘truth’?

            What an odd question. I’m not sure how to answer it because it seems to mix up categories. Perhaps you could help me by explaining what you mean by ‘subordinate to truth’. Am I subordinate to truth? Are you?

            Because as far as I can see ‘truth’ just means ‘the state of things as they really are’, and so it’s not like a person someone could be ‘subordinate to’, ie, be under the authority of. But perhaps you’re using a different meaning of the term ‘subordinate to’ so if you could explain it then I will try to answer the question.

          • Woh, here I go. on a hiding to nothing.
            As I see it, Jesus is The Truth in every circumstance. Therefore when you abstract truth philosophically to mean ‘the way things actually are’ you subordinate Jesus to some philosophical abstract. As if you are saying before Jesus was, truth was. I know you don’t mean that, but it is how it appears to me. When you use statistics to present the true nature of some subject, you do well, I love it. But, sometimes you go further and elevate ‘truth’ as some ideal something. Which, as a Christian, I feel instinctively is not right.

          • As I see it, Jesus is The Truth in every circumstance.

            I’m not sure what you mean by that. Could you explain exactly what it means to be ‘The Truth in every circumstance’?

            As if you are saying before Jesus was, truth was.

            That doesn’t make sense because there is no such thing as ‘before Jesus was’. Jesus is the first cause. So obviously I can’t be saying that.

            But, sometimes you go further and elevate ‘truth’ as some ideal something.

            But truth isn’t a ‘thing’ at all. It’s a quality. Saying I elevate truth would be like saying I elevate blueness, or warmth, or brevity.

            Which, as a Christian, I feel instinctively is not right.

            And I’m still not sure what you mean. Look, they point of being a Christian, right, is first that you think that the description of the world given by Christianity is true, isn’t it? You think it is true that God created the world, that we have sinned, that Jesus came to save us, died and rose again, and that we shall rise with him; and secondly (because as my old youth leaders did, even Satan knows God exists) to respond to that truth by submitting to Jesus as your Lord and Master.

            That’s what I mean by saying Christianity is about truth. It’s about recognising the reality of the way things are, because it’s only having recognised that that we can respond properly by throwing ourselves on God’s mercy and accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

            What it is absolutely not about, to get back to the context, is organising community events. Which is not to say Christians don’t do that — they do, and they do lots of other stuff too like take care of widows and orphans and the sick — but those are responses to Christianity, they’re not what it’s about . What it’s about is seeing the truth and then, when you’ve found it, reacting appropriately.

            Is that clearer?

          • Steve,

            Why believe Jesus in John 17:1-3, when He said that the Father is :

            “The Only true God”,

            when we can believe instead people like Augustine, Ambrose, and Hilary ? (who all actually changed the Scriptural Text of John 17:3, to make it fit the ‘Trinity’ theory).

            Now, that’s what I call “subordinating Jesus, to His Truth”.

            They should have ashamed of themselves.

          • Augustine, Ambrose and Hilary should have been ashamed of themselves, in tampering with the Scriptural Test in order to negate, contradict and nullify Jesus’ words in John 17:1-3.

        • Of course that includes what Christianity was for. You cannot follow the Gospel of Jesus if you do not help the poor and marginalised in your community. Christianity is NOT and never was meant to be a cult excluding of a few excluding the rest

          • The Church of England especially is certainly supposed to be involved in the community too from the church fete, Christmas market and panto, to the local school, to the foodbank, to concerts etc while also making its churches welcoming to all and offering weddings, funerals and baptisms and confirmations. That is a key part of the role of the established church

          • That is a key part of the role of the established church

            State Shinto. You want State Shinto. You’re not alone of course. I assume you’d agree totally with David Starkey:

            ‘The church made a lethal mistake when Michael Ramsey was appointed archbishop by Harold Macmillan. It rediscovered Christianity, and that was fatal. Until that point, the archbishops had been the high priests of English Shinto: in other words, the church’s job was really just to [enable us to] worship the monarchy and, by extension, ourselves. That was sensible. But then it gets cluttered up with all this nonsense about Christianity. The absolute disaster will be if someone like John Sentamu [the doctrinally conservative archbishop of York] is appointed. Catastrophe! The church has got to choose between being a national church or an international communion. It can’t be both.’


          • Well the Church of England is still Christian, it still does communion and bible readings. However its primary role is to be the established church in England, if you want to be part of an international Christian communion you may as well become Roman Catholic and if biblical purity is the most important thing you may as well become Baptist or Pentecostal

          • Well the Church of England is still Christian, it still does communion and bible readings.

            That’s not what makes something Christian.

            But you don’t want Christianity; you want State Shinto.

            And you might get it.

          • (In response to S)
            An interesting quote from David Starkey. It seems a bit harsh on some previous ABCs. For instance, it was under William Temple that there was commissioned a report, completed after his death, entitled “Towards the Conversion of England.” In the present day many talk of the decline of this country as a Christian country. ‘Back’ in 1945 some saw the need to turn it into a Christian country. England was not yet (fully?) converted.

          • (To T1)

            Standing in a garage and going brmmm, brmmm does not make you a motor car. Standing in a church building and making all the right noises does not make you a Christian.

          • And that is exactly the attitude which will turn people off Christianity in England. The English are not zealous, ideological people. Most of those who are willing to be Christian want a pretty local parish church for weddings and funerals, a holy communion service and a family service and a Vicar and church involved in the local community. Plus a national church involved in royal weddings, coronations, memorial services, state funerals etc at Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s.

            They do not want and never will want a church preaching hell fire and brimstone against homosexuals etc which shuts itself off from the local community except for the occasional evangelism on the high street. If you want that then you should never have been in the Church of England in the first place, you should leave for your nearest Baptist or Pentecostal church if you have not already done so already!

          • Most of those who are willing to be Christian want a pretty local parish church for weddings and funerals, a holy communion service and a family service and a Vicar and church involved in the local community.

            Then they’re not really willing to be Christian at all, are they? And the Church of England is better off without them.

          • No the Church of England is better off without the likes of you if you want to turn it into a fanatical sect divorced from the rest of society.

          • the Church of England is better off without the likes of you if you want to turn it into a fanatical sect divorced from the rest of society.

            Like I said, you don’t want Christianity at all — you want civic state religion. In Imperial Rome you would have been sacrificing to the Emperor and going to the games to enjoy seeing those fanatical Christians thrown to the lions, wouldn’t you?

          • Simon/T1

            Can I ask: are you aware that 80% of Christians who are in a church on a Sunday morning are *not* in Anglican churches? So perhaps what you describe is *not* what ‘people’ want?

          • Given 54% of the population of England and Wales no longer even describe themselves as Christian on the latest census most people in the UK aren’t even Christian at all let alone attending church regularly.

            However of those that do go to church every week or every month a plurality are normally attending either Church of England or Roman Catholic churches. More attend once weddings and funerals are included. Just there are a multitude of independent evangelical, Pentecostal and Baptist churches to choose from as well. However if you are theologically an evangelical who opposes blessings of homosexual couples even with an opt out for evangelical Parishes etc then you should not be in the Church of England anyway as you are theologically an independent Baptist or Pentecostal or Independent evangelical. You have little interest in the Church of England’s core role as the established Christian church

          • ‘However if you are theologically an evangelical who opposes blessings of homosexual couples even with an opt out for evangelical Parishes etc then you should not be in the Church of England.’

            The idea that believing the doctrine of the C of E should exclude you from the C of E is a silly trolling comment.

            If you cannot engage better I will be deleting your posts.

          • I am simply expressing the view of the majority of the Church of England General Synod in February that voted to allow prayers of blessing for homosexual couples. If you now say I will be deleted for expressing the view of the Church of England legislative body then you have just affirmed you would now prefer to be in an independent evangelical, Pentecostal or Baptist church than the Church of England have you not?

          • ‘I am simply expressing the view of the majority of the Church of England General Synod in February that voted to allow prayers of blessing for homosexual couples.’

            No, since as before you are misquoting it. Synod voted for the continued work which might lead to prayers which bless people, not the couple, and reaffirmed the doctrine of marriage as it remains.

          • Synod voted for prayers of blessing for homosexual couples, not just random people, by a majority. Even if it also affirmed holy matrimony as between a man and woman for life.

            As both the King and a majority of the UK Parliament also back blessings for homosexual couples in the established church, blessings for homosexual couples being allowed in Church of England churches could even be confirmed by statute law if needed to become part of C of E doctrine

    • the problem is that modern life is actually incompatible with fully living as a Christian. Instead of trying to fit into modern life, churches should demand their members change their lives to fit into a more robust Christianity.

      But to do that you have to identify specific sins in ‘modern life’; otherwise you are adding to the gospel.

      • If a person reaches the pearly gates and says to God, by way of excuse, ‘oh the problem is that modern life is actually incompatible with fully living as a Christian’, then God isn’t going to be very impressed.

  10. Listening to the Morning Service on BBC Radio this morning, the programme came from a Roman Catholic world youth gathering in Portugal at which there was a reported one and a half million young people present. Of the many interviewed all were full of the joy of their experience and faith.
    The “theme” of the event was on “Mary made haste” to share here experience of God and to share her joy, the joy of God’s salvation as recorded in the Magnificat. This fired up the young folk to be missional.
    Perhaps if the “church” were to pray collectively Psalm 51 then God may yet restore to us the Joy of His Salvation. I have found that there is not a lot of that kind of joy very evident;” For the kingdom of God is Righteousness Joy and Peace in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17ff
    14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
    14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

    • Would people genuinely full of the holy Spirit believe in, and rejoice over man-made “doctrines” such as the infallibility of the Pope (in matters of religion), the preservation of Mary (at her personal birth) from all form of ‘original sin’, the assumption (bodily ascension) of Mary into heaven after her earthly life, praying to deceased “saints”, and, alleged supernatural “visions” of the supposed, perpetually Virgin, Mary?

      Cf. ” In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

      and, “Leave them. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch”.

      Matthew 15:9; 15:14.

  11. My referencing of this morning’s Sunday Worship @August 13, 2023 at 4:23 pm or the referencing of previous popes future expressions of church does not imply an endorsement of their doctrines on my part.
    Neither do I think that the RC fortunes might be improved with a new pope,
    I have little interest in denominations or churches. My experience of them is that there is a great need of repentance in all, but there is little reference or even understanding of it therein.
    My focus is on the kingdom of God which is central to the NT Gospel but again little understood within our churches.
    Hence my reference to Psalm 51 as an example of repentance that the church might consider, perhaps a starting point.
    Without repentance one cannot know or live in the overwhelming joy of God’s Salvation. Nor realise the nature of the Kingdom of God as Righteousness [Truth] Joy and Peace in the Holy Spirit.
    A good example of NT Church praxis teaching see Romans Ch12
    12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good….. Be not wise in your own conceits.


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