The Church of England after COVID: quo vadis?

David Goodhew writes: The Church of England is beginning to recognize that the years of COVID had a hugely corrosive effect. The Church lost a fifth of its congregation members in 2019–22; more, if we just count children and families. So, quo vadis, where does the Church go next? Well, there is bad news and good news.

The Bad News

The COVID effect is substantial and long-lasting. Drilling down, there is a further cause of deep concern: vocations to ordained ministry. During the pandemic, the number of people starting training for ordained ministry has fallen dramatically. It is about 40 percent down in 2023 compared to 2019.

For stipendiary ministry, the situation is close to collapse.

Stipendiary Ordinands Starting Training in the C of E

 370 399 403 417 321 263 229

The number starting stipendiary ministry was 417 in 2020, but only 229 in 2023. So, the number starting training for stipendiary ministry fell by nearly half in three years, 2020–23. Non-stipendiary (self-supporting) ordinand numbers have been hit less hard but have still fallen by about a third.

Stipendiaries tend to be younger and non-stipendiaries tend to be markedly older, so these figures mean a further aging of the clergy, who were hardly brimming with youth to start with. This dramatic fall continues. There is little sign of any post-COVID rebound. And the conflict over sexuality is further depressing vocations, so the decline may grow worse in 2024.

The consequences will not be felt immediately, but in five to 10 years the collapse of stipendiary vocations is utterly toxic for local churches. Without a rapid rebound, these figures mean far fewer curates from 2025–26 and far fewer incumbents from 2028 onward. There are going to be some mighty short short-listing meetings in future. To mitigate this stark picture requires action, now, in 2024.

And there are other profoundly serious consequences.

There has been a large drop in those training full time, and the drop in full-timers affects theology. Those who train for ordination part-time do a fantastic balancing act, juggling study with work and family commitments. But far fewer part-time ordinands have the time to learn Greek or Hebrew or dig deep into doctrinal or historical theology. It would be an entertaining, though depressing, exercise to discover how many current ordinands can spell Irenaeus, let alone articulate what he said. The church’s ability to replenish its ordained ministry is in steep decline, but so too is its future clergy’s ability to do theology.

Then there’s geography. The overwhelming majority of stipendiary candidates are training in the golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London. Far fewer stipendiaries train in the Midlands and North of England (where roughly half of the English live). Only 129 out of 592 (just over 20%) stipendiary ordinands were training north of Cambridge in 2022–23. It has long been more difficult to find stipendiary clergy to serve in the north of England; that is likely to grow much worse, since people tend to take up posts in regions nearer to where they trained.

The main causes of the slump in ordinand numbers is the combination of COVID with the profound divisions over the Living in Love and Faith program. Before 2020, ordinand numbers were gently rising and growing younger, on average. A church facing sharp decline due to the pandemic has torn lumps out of itself dealing with a profoundly divisive matter at the same time. We should not be surprised that the numbers of those offering themselves for ministry in that church then dropped off a cliff.

Before the pandemic, the Church had been seeing a growth of ordained vocations and a slightly younger age profile of ordinands, so things could change in the coming years. However, the situation now is far worse than before COVID. The church is markedly smaller, markedly older, and markedly more divided.

The church faces a choice between finding some kind of modus vivendi on sexuality or the possibility that this near-collapse in stipendiary ordained ministry becomes the new normal. Any modus vivendi requires a recognition that the church is deeply divided and people of both integrities must have room to hear and follow a call. There is no point telling orthodox ordinands to become liberal or telling liberal ordinands to become orthodox. We have to find a way to respect the other’s theology and ministry and leave the future trajectory of the Church to God. And we’ll need the structures to enable that to happen. And if we can’t do that, there may not be a future trajectory of the Church of England.

At a recent ordination of priests in an English diocese, the diocesan newspaper noted in passing that the average age of candidates was 70. This is where we are headed, if nothing is done.

Some may opine that we can get by with fewer, older non-stipendiary clergy. This is delusional. Stipendiary clergy, especially younger stipendiary clergy, are vital if the church is to connect with those under pensionable age, if the church is to arrest its decline and begin to grow. If the current trends persist, the church will, in most places, be a tiny remnant or be wholly absent in 20 years.

The Good News

Having spilt much ink on church numbers, I have to say that these data are as bleak as I have ever seen. But there are some reasons to be cheerful.

Let me take you to Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and one of the largest urban areas in Britain. Church of Scotland parishes in Glasgow are shrinking dramatically, as are most other historic denominations (including Glasgow’s Anglican churches). Contemporary Scotland is cited by academics as an example of unprecedentedly rapid secularization; Professor Callum Brown has recently argued that this is making Scotland a profoundly secular country: “There’s been nothing like it in recorded history.”

But a recent Aberdeen doctoral dissertation by Sheila Akomiah Conteh showed that 110 new churches were founded in Glasgow between 2000 and 2016. Their Sunday attendance is 9,000 or more people (incidentally proving that the current official attendance data for Scottish churches are a serious undercount). (The thesis is available through the University of Aberdeen.) These new churches are highly diverse ethnically and, in the main, growing. Most are more robust than many historic congregations, and look likely to be around a good while. Judging by the baleful trajectory of the historic denominations, these new congregations will become more and more significant for Christian witness in Glasgow as the years progress.

Alongside other studies of cities like London and New York, Glasgow shows that what goes down can go up.

(See, for example, Mark Gornik’s The Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City (Eerdmans, 2011); David Goodhew and Ant Cooper, The Desecularisation of the City: London’s Churches, 1980 to the Present (Routledge, 2019).)

Quo Vadis?

The Church of England took one heck of battering from COVID. It lost one in five of its Sunday worshipers. Children and families were hit even worse. That battering includes a deep decline in numbers of ordinands and the near-collapse of stipendiary ordinands, made worse by the division from debates over sexuality.

So, quo vadis? One option is to treat decline as inevitable, as the result of ineluctable social forces over which we have no control. This has a seductive attractiveness. If we think we can do nothing about decline, we can lie back, with a comforting glow of martyrdom inside, relaxed in the belief that we are being faithful in unpropitious times.

A second option is to look hard at what has happened. There were many good things going on in the Church of England pre-COVID. They could sprout up again. We should also look hard at what is happening to the church due to the ongoing conflict over sexuality. The church’s infighting will lead to its oblivion in many places if it continues as it is. There are many keen younger Christians, who could lead churches. But they are likely to lead churches outside the Church of England or not offer for church leadership at all, given its current state.

And we should look hard at Glasgow and London and the many other places where congregations have proliferated in the late modern West.

We do not have to decline. We do not have to become a church of geriatrics. There is a path towards the flourishing of Anglican congregations in 21st-century England. The question for the Church of England is: is that a path we dare to take? The church in England has a future; whether the Church of England has a future is more difficult to say.

Revd Dr David Goodhew is vicar of St Barnabas Church, Middlesbrough, England. He is also visiting fellow of St Johns College, Durham. Prior to this, he was director of ministerial practice at Cranmer Hall, an Anglican theological college which is part of St. John’s College, Durham University.

This article has also been published at Living Church here.

Appendix: Ian Paul writes: This is the speech I gave at General Synod in February 2024, which picks up many of the themes of David’s article. It featured in the Church Times leader the following week.

Brother and sisters in Christ, T S Eliot commented that humankind cannot bear too much reality. Synod has made avoiding reality an art form. What is reality we are facing? It is that we are standing on the brink of a precipice.

Since the first report on marriage and sexuality in 1979, in contrast with debates about divorce and about the ministry of women, no consensus for change has emerged. The Shared Conversations and the LLF process have taken up most of the last ten years. The result? We are more anxious, more divided, more uncertain. The fateful phrase ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’ has unleashed a civil war in the Church.

In that time, adult attendance has fallen 30%, and the decline is accelerating. Child attendance has fallen 40% in the same period. And in the last three years, vocations to ordained ministry have collapsed by 40%. There is a very real prospect that ministry is going to collapse in large parts of the Church of England within the next five years. Where is this on our agenda?

But here is the other stark reality: Other churches are growing. But we are reluctant to learn from them. We now represent something less than 18% of all Christians in a church on Sunday. We have another eight hours scheduled to talk about LLF. What it will it produce? More division, more frustration, no more progress.

Fiddling whilst Canterbury burns doesn’t even capture it.

Isaiah 3.6 vividly recounts the collapse of the people of God:

For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”.

If we continue this fruitless process, that will be the legacy we leave: the Church of England, a heap of ruins. It is up to us.

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148 thoughts on “The Church of England after COVID: quo vadis?”

  1. Tw other relevant verses:

    If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for the battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8)

    Every house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25)

    Justin Welby is personally responsible for promoting LLF and for the response to Covid by which all parish churches in England closed their doors. There can be no revival while he is at Canterbury. He must resign or face a letter of grave rebuke from the remaining faithful.

    • Sadly the truth. His “leadership” has been abysmally poor and those outside the Church hold him in low regard as a depressed looking Guardianista who shows no joy in believing and has alienated most of the Anglican world.
      He is unable to inspire and has only deepened the divisions among his dwindling followers.
      The covid closures were disastrously wrong in so many ways.
      In Canterbury, where he foisted the spectacularly incapable ‘Maxine Waters’ on a semi-rural, conservative diocese, the decline has been the worst. The recent post-covid national survey showed that attendance is now worse than in 2019 and most churches have no children’s work – while the Cathedral sees its future as an entertainment centre. ‘Maxine’ has tried four times to get a diocesan job but has been rejected each time by dioceses who understand that bluster and bullying are no substitute for competence and education – and an actual grasp of theology. Canterbury appears stuck with her until she retires.

      • James… I have absolutely no idea what this means. I’ve seen (you?) reference “Maxine” before.

        “‘Maxine’ has tried four times to get a diocesan job but has been rejected each time by dioceses ”

        Might you explain please?

        • He’s referring to Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Dover.

          The actual Maxine Waters is an 85-year old, long-serving African-American member of Congress from California. She’s best known these days for her ferocious attacks on Donald Trump and his acolytes. There was a viral video of her a few years back in a hearing with Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, where she repeatedly shouted out, “Reclaiming my time!” every time he tried to dodge her questions or run out the clock with longwinded non-answers.

          Using “Maxine” as a put-down to the Bishop of Dover is one of the more ugly episodes on here.

    • ‘…or face a letter of grave rebuke from the remaining faithful.’

      Yes (as I keep saying):

      ‘It should be common ground among evangelicals that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

      The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

      But are these messages believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?

      The clear answer to that is “No”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, and the need to help the homeless and those in dire need, very important though such things are!

      That being the case the time has come to follow the remarkable example set out in Galatians 2:11-14:

      “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”’
      where one Apostle who met Christ on the Damascus Road openly rebuked another Apostle on whom Christ said he would build his Church.

      What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the whole Church about this failure.

      A serious effort by the CEEC and Church Society to do everything possible to organise this would involve mobilising all the Diocesan Evangelical Groups to support such a letter
      together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.

      I have suggested this to CEEC and Church Society more than once without any response.

      Philip Almond
      (former member of Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Network)

  2. “Quo Vadis”

    Only a conversation about the Church of England would include Latin that less than 5% of people understand.

    We’re out of touch and even when we talk about being out of touch we do it in an out of touch way!

  3. “We have to find a way to respect the other’s theology and ministry”

    Why? I don’t want to fund liberal churches, nor agree to disagree with liberal theologians. I won’t engage in mission alongside people with a fundemantally different Gospel. I won’t agree that matters of sexuality are secondary just for convenience. I wonder what sort of churches are planting and growing in Glasgow.

  4. I left the Church of England over twenty years ago. The final trigger was the childlike sermons (children were never present) and implicitly being told how to vote. Since then the church has continued its remorseless decline and under the present Archbishop, it has turned into a virtue signalling business. Many of ‘the faithful’, having got out of the habit of churchgoing for a long period see little to attract them back. The latest initiative of giving £1 Billion (!) for slavery reparations will be the last straw for more to leave!

    • Ken

      I’m not sure any amount of money would be enough to rectify the church of England’s involvement in slavery and I’m not sure what I personally think about reparations – its probably not for me to say since my ancestors were not slaves or investors. However trying to make amends seems to be one of the teaching points of the story of Zaccheus. I’m always surprised that the people who are most stridently for a return to scriptural Christianity seem to often also oppose it being lived out?

      • Except Zacchaeus was remedying sins he had committed. If you can find me a theology of ‘I must atone for things people unrelated to me did 200 years ago’ I’d be fascinated!

  5. “QED…” I assume this was a joke, given the context?

    “Any modus vivendi requires a recognition that the church is deeply divided and people of both integrities must have room to hear and follow a call. There is no point telling orthodox ordinands to become liberal or telling liberal ordinands to become orthodox. ” Personally I like this approach, but I appreciate that many here won’t. (Ian, I assume you don’t, so thank you for nonetheless publishing David Goodhew’s article.)

    I am a Guardianista, I suppose, but I remember Justin Welby’s attitude when he was faced with an unexpected and extremely embarrassing issue about his own parentage. I think everyone must have admired the way he coped. It does not look as if the leadership has dealt well with the sexuality issue (I’ve tried to read Andrew Goddard’s admirable summaries) but who could have done better? Who in their right mind would want to be Archbishop of Canterbury at the moment?

    • To everything there is a season; a time for war and a time for peace. An Archbishop who understood that this is a time for spiritual war against liberal theologians and theology would have left the church in a better state. The ructions would have been huge, but any such Archbishop would have had Jesus Christ on his side and you might think that that would help a little.

      • Anton

        I think that depends what you mean by a better state.

        Declaring war on anyone who disagrees with the ABC would leave a small moderate conservative rump who really agree well with one another!

          • TBH I disagree with him on a very great deal of what he says and does, save what I choose to assume is his continuing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. On all the other things I also choose to see him not as intentionally malign so much as being psychologically captured by his birth within the English establishment and (more seriously) by cultural Marxism which now has a firm grip on that establishment

            I don’t want to see him broken, but I think both he and the Church of England would benefit from his speedy retirement. In fairness, I think he is the symptom rather than the cause of a deep-seated malaise in the C of E which goes way further than his tenure as ABoC. In that sense, any assumption that his retirement would solve all (or any) of our problems is neither realistic nor fair. Our true adversary is the Devil himself; we have to discern his activity wherever and through whomever it occurs, not least our own hearts. Happy days!

          • Don

            I was born in the early 80s. From my point of view there has been a movement throughout my life to move towards equality on the basis of gender, race, religion, orientation and to a lesser degree disability/ability. However I don’t agree that this move has come from the establishment or is approved of by the establishment. Until the 90s the establishment fundamentally opposed this. Between the 90s and the mid 2010s the establishment took an attitude that some sort of compromise might stop the overwhelming argument for equality, but now they seem to have totally u-turned and are even arguing against things they supported only a few years ago.

            The establishment has never been in favor of equality.

          • Peter,

            ‘The establishment has never been in favor of equality.’

            Establishments of all sorts inherently behave in their own best interests; if they didn’t do that they would very quickly cease being the establishment! In that sense they are amoral, and such convictions as they hold will necessarily bend to whatever will best maintain their survival.

            You’re right that the English establishment long held to some pretty conservative viewpoints but the institutions (and large corporations) of Britain have, along with much of the collective West, been subject to ‘the long march through the institutions’ of cultural Marxism. While this process was quietly (surreptitiously) proceeding most of us were blissfully unaware or psychologically resistant to accepting such a disturbing reality. As with many such phenomena, the final overtaking of the institutions can be swift and shocking in its totality. And that’s where we now are.

            I suspect many of us might be amazed to compare what our MPs and big establishment figures think and say now with what those same people would have thought and said as recently as 20 years ago. However the real point is not about defending views from the past because we think they were comfortably ‘conservative’. Christianity is radical and eternal; its challenge doesn’t call us to look for a golden point in history for our salvation but to God’s son hanging on a cross in agony and then bursting from the grave a few days later. His battle is done; it’s won! Ours is to hold on to the enormity of what that means as, bloodied and reeling, we resist the urge to seek comfort and convenience now and look with hope and certainty towards eternal peace with God.

          • Don Benson

            Religious leaders have always been more.motivated by small p politics than caring about real Christianity. If Christian leaders truly followed Christ there wouldn’t even be any debate about equality, inclusion, crt or cultural Marxism

  6. I think with church growth you really need (at least) five different categories

    A people who stay
    B people who have stopped/started attending but they also attend a different church
    C people who have moved to/from a different church of the same denomination
    D people who have moved to/from a different church of a different denomination
    E people who have stopped attending church, but still have faith or restarted after a period not attending anywhere
    F people who have lost their faith or become new Christians

    Unless your growth strategy is hitting D, E and F then its not touching denominational decline, but merely rearranging people who you were already counting (which may be a good thing in itself)

    Unless your growth strategy is hitting E and F then you are not addressing the decline in institutional Christianity

    I say this as someone who was part of what used to be called a “fresh expression” a while ago and it seemed to me that we were mostly getting people from other churches. We did have some actual new Christians, but they were only a handful over a period of ten years or so

    • See my article on ‘What does church planting achieve?’ It demonstrates clear evidence that it reaches both unchurched and dechurched people.

      But the other question is: how come so many *other* denominations are managing to grow, whilst the C of E is shrinking?

      What characteristic do they share? (Hint: David mentions this in the article…)

      • They (e.g., Redeemed Church, Elim, Vineyard, FIEC) are certainly less well resourced on average. If they were as well resourced as the C of E is, then they would probably be growing even more than they are, and the difference would be even starker. (Though with resources come bills too.)

        The main difference is that some churches understand and inhabit that the gospel is life changing and real, and indeed urgent, and some don’t. This is a generalisation, because each church is obviously made up of a variety of individuals.

        • Christopher

          I have been to an Elim church (possibly not representative) and heard their pastor preach at other events. From memory it was mostly lessons from the pastors personal life, didn’t seem to even be secular ethics, just his opinion. More successful than the CofE, perhaps, but also less Christian I would argue

          (My experiences of Vineyard and FIEC are better. I have no experience of Redeemed Church)

      • Ian

        I don’t think growth is enough. Hillsong has been incredibly successful especially with the under 30s, but they are hideously corrupt. There has to be growth for the right reasons.

        You can have tremendous growth while behind the scenes the “conservative” pastor is being blackmailed over photos of him with a pool boy. You can have a deeply devote and sincere leadership who put Jesus teaching first in everything and yet nobody attends.

        • No, I don’t think growth is enough either. And I have no idea why you keep assuming that, because I say growth is necessary, you immediately project on me the idea that ‘growth at all costs’ is what matters.

          This is like, ifI say to you ‘You cannot run a car without petrol’, you immediately respond ‘But you don’t think wheels and an engine matter??’

          • Ian

            Because you are pointing to denominations that are growing as if they are great examples of Christianity that the cofe should copy. I think you need to be more careful about their beliefs, practices and accountability before suggesting these are good churches!

          • I am actually pointing out that no churches which are growing have revised their doctrine of marriage. I am making the opposite of the converse point.

          • Ian

            But we just agreed that being popular doesn’t mean you are making Christian decisions.

            I’d guess we would lose at least 2/3rds of the anglicans supporting same sex marriage if they weren’t trying to be ethical/follow Christ. Even now its not an easy path to follow! The easy path is to be vocally opposed to SSM in meetings of conservative leaders and then avoid the subject in public and in the pulpit

      • The only Christian churches growing in the UK are Pentecostal and independent evangelical ones, especially as they attract black immigrants. However they are growing from a low base, the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches still have the largest membership of Christian denominations in the UK

        • None of what you say is true. Growing churches include Vineyard, FIEC, Grace Church, as well as black-led churches and mixed Pentecostal.

          RC is around 45% of attendance; C of E 18%. The other new churches comprise much of the remaining 37%—so twice the size of the C of E.

          • All the churches you mentioned are either independent or evangelical or Pentecostal so what I said was true. I said membership not just attendance, once you include those who go to weddings, baptisms and funerals or Christmas and Easter or to occasional cathedral services then C of E attendance is higher than those who go every Sunday. Though of course even on your figures Roman Catholic and Anglican attendance still makes up well over half of Christians even just looking at those who attend every Sunday

          • Those churches classed as Pentecostal are also still smaller in number than those classed as C of E, as are Baptist and Methodist churches so even on weekly attendance the C of E remains second largest denomination after the Roman Catholic church but on those who define themselves as members regularly attending or not the C of E is still largest denomination in England

          • The new churches don’t put much store by denominational identity. So it is odd that you insist on measuring in this way.

            The reality is that these churches together are more than twice the size of the C of E. And you can see that on the ground by visiting any city.

          • Why? The C of E is a denomination which can only be compared to other denominations. Independent evangelical churches effectively have no formal organisation beyond themselves. So they can’t logically be put together as they have no logical formal connection with other independent evangelical churches at all apart from being Christian but then the C of E is obviously Christian too

          • No mention of Orthodox churches in any of this discussion. And yet the Romanian Orthodox Church has grown from perhaps 100,000 to in excess of 500,000 members in the past decade. The Russian Orthodox Church is small but stable (and growing where the congregations are multi-ethnic). The Antiochian Orthodox Church seems to be growing slowly from a low base. And the Greek Orthodox Church seems is growing steadily.

          • Ian

            Are you including Hillsong in that? Sorry to pick on them, but they are well known for corruption and false teaching and popularity. They will be some part of the 37%, but they aren’t preaching Christianity.

            This is why I keep mentioning this. You’re assuming all these popular churches are proclaiming the apostolic faith, but we known that at least some of them are not and/or are using corrupt means to increase the size of their congregation. Its easier to win the game if you are willing to cheat

          • hang on—because of the corruption of some of their leaders, nothing that Hillsong did was Christian, and no-one who attends Hillsong churches is a Christian?

            That’s a bit of a claim!

          • Peter J – you are generalising about a large movement as though it were an amorphous mass. Your comment goes to the bottom of the pile because the greater the generalisation the less detailed accuracy there will be.

            Secondly, you seem to have uncritically fallen hook, line and sinker for the idea that the tabloids want to sell you that we judge an entire movement not only by its worst members but by the worst ever behaviour of its worst members. If a movement is of any size, then the worst ever behaviour of ANY leader will probably be bad – and in this case not exceptionally bad for a large organisation.

            As for the behaviour of Brian Houston, he like Cliff Richard was the one the media wanted to ‘get’, but it has been exaggerated and needs to be put in context. His wife knows he is a good man and you don’t know better.

            Again and again we get simplistic generalisations (always abiding by the rule the spicier the better) rather than anything more detailed, critical or contextual. So, which of the two should we follow, by a country mile? I think you already know. But it sounds like you have been thoroughly duped by the prevailing narrative whose purpose as ever is to build up then tear down. That is the reverse of what Christians should be doing – and would be even if accuracy were involved, which it often is not.

          • These new analyses are often the same. Some people are totally goodies. Some people are totally baddies. The baddies are beyond redemption. There is not the slightest chance of their changing. There are no greys. The goodies are also victims. They are also beyond questioning or debating with.

            Sounds a very convenient narrative, but its ubiquity and convenience harm the chances of anyone believing it even on those occasions when it actually holds true.

            It also sounds like the sort of simplistic narrative that used to be called half baked because it was so simplistic. It is common sense that the more detail and less stereotype the more we ought to take a narrative seriously. The less, the less.

          • Christopher

            If you think its just a few corrupt members of Hillsong then I’d encourage you to investigate in more detail.

            The whole structure of the church was created to make the leaders wealthy, building on 1) similar mega churches Brian Houston had seen in the US and 2) a need for Frank Houston to build a new life for himself after fleeing sexual abuse accusations in New Zealand. Brian Houston, Carl Lentz and several other leaders have been caught leading elite promiscuous (and in Houston’s case, drunken) lifestyles while requiring poverty and purity culture from their congregants.

            Again, popular, but a pseudo Christian cult, not real Christianity

          • I will do so if you point me to where I mentioned ‘a few’.
            The idea of ‘a few’ is entirely your own projection. Please read what I say.
            What number do you have in mind?
            And what proportion of the denomination or leadership is that number?
            And are you playing the ‘They’re all the same ‘ stereotyping game?

          • As for ‘promiscuous’, can you confirm your allegation in the case of BH, or otherwise withdraw it? It does not seem at all likely that he was unfaithful on even one occasion, let alone several.
            You are showing yourself to be someone who itches after magnifying every (from your perspective) titbit. Totally carnal attitude.
            You care for truth so little and for gossip so much? These things are how we assess character profile.

  7. If there was ever a moment to gird one’s loins (there must be a Latin equivalent! ) it is now.

    We, CofE, need to prise out of the Church Commissioners a substantial sum of money to fund more ministers on the ground, not more central support posts which seem to be an industry in themselves on occasion. Added to that the putting right of the stipend and pension injustices that exist. I’m not arguing (and do not believe) we pay more to recruit better but that we play fair with younger ministers and for their encouragement.

    And better training not shorter /thinner input. No one trains less for harder races…. It’s beyond dispute that cutting posts kills off mission. If £100 million can be found for “reparations”… The Commissioners are rolling in *our money*, it’s well past time to use a more substantial part of it.

    Churches which claim to have a “saving Gospel” to proclaim need to get on with it courageously and make it priority number one, two and three…. The LLF has been a massive distraction and sapper of energy/focus. I think it’s true that those of us who are “orthodox” or “traditional” on sexuality may have been poor with our pastoral framing but we shouldn’t hamstring ourselves because of that. Saying nothing because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing or upsetting others isn’t sensible. The Gospel was born an offence. Clearly that’s not the same as setting out to be offensive or seeking confrontation.. We need to speak out what we believe… Silence brings no harvest.

    I think there is a spiritual hunger beyond the church walls, including young people who are looking for answers… and the more elderly. “How are they to hear if no one tells them?”

    To steal from “Fedora man”… The CofE has no right to exist… we are not the sum total of the Church of God but a passing part. (I wouldn’t take anything else from under that hat!)

    • Ian Hobbs

      I agree the LLF has been a colossal waste of time. I also agree that the gospel can be offensive, but I think simply going around saying nasty things about LGBT people is *not* the gospel and will *not* grow the church. This is not Christianity as Christ taught

      • the problem is that the statement ‘Marriage is between one man and one woman’ is almost universally interpreted in our culture as ‘saying nasty things about LGB people’.

        So where do we go?

        • I truly don’t think it is seen as such, Ian; but you go way beyond and will not contemplate any other relationship as something that can be blessed.

          • I don;t go beyond anything. If marriage is between one man and one woman, then sexual intimacy outside of that is sinful and to be repented of.

            That is, quite explicitly, the doctrine of the C of E, as confirmed in Synod debates.

          • If… then… that’s exactly the problem. “If marriage is between one man and one woman, then sexual intimacy outside of that is sinful and to be repented of.” You fail to show that or why sexual intimacy is to be shunned by those incapable of entering marriage as you define it.

          • No-one is ‘incapable’ of entering such a marriage. I have gay friends who are single and celibate, and other gay friends who are other-sex married—because they don’t allow their pattern of attractions to define who they are.

            But you are right—I have failed to show this. All I am pointing out is what has been the consensus view of the church catholic, which reflects the consistent teaching of all of Scripture, and is also found in the doctrine of the Church of England.

          • Ian

            I think part of the problem is that the church is not good at applying this principle equally. Ill give you an example.

            This happened to a friend of mine. He was in a band in a cofe church. He was told he couldn’t play any more because he had started dating. He wasn’t having sex. Other members of the band were dating and having sex with their girlfriends, but the leaders tolerated that.

            There’s labyrinthine unspoken rules expected of gay people and no standards at all expected of straight people.

          • ‘Other members of the band were dating and having sex with their girlfriends, but the leaders tolerated that.’

            that’s hypocrisy and it is wrong. That is not what churches teach.

          • Ian

            But it’s what the church practices – that’s a huge part of the problem, the gap between what the church says and what it does.

            It says it is for zero tolerance to homophobia and opposes conversion therapy and it says it opposes forced exorcism for gay people, yet all of these continue and as far as I can tell there’s been no effort whatsoever to stop them

            Another example (its been a few years since I read his book so correct me if I’m wrong)

            On reading Ed Shaw’s book, he is accountable to the other church leaders at his church. He has to tell them which men in the congregation he feels attracted to etc in exchange for being accepted as a leader. Straight male leaders are not required to tell their senior pastor which women they are attracted to.

          • So if errant parts of one denomination practise something, that means that the entire church practises it?
            Sleight of hand, sleight of hand.

        • Ian

          But that’s not the gospel. You may believe it is a teaching from scripture (although I don’t agree), but its not faith in heterosexuality that will save people.

        • Are you really surprised? If your answer to questions about how to respond to gay people can’t even bear to mention gay people, then it probably won’t go down well and is likely to be viewed with suspicion.

          Where do we go?

          Well, we could start by clearing up what we think people should actually do. What is “marriage is between one man and one woman” supposed to mean for gay people?

          Are we saying that sexual orientation doesn’t really matter (maybe the argument is that it’s just a social construction and not real, or maybe it is real but not terribly important) and gay people ought to be as open to mixed-sex marriage as their straight brothers and sisters? Or is it not quite that, and there are a bunch of extra complications we think gay people ought to consider? Or is it not that, and we’re saying that technically they could but it’ll be very rare and is neither realistic or recommended for most?

          Or are we saying that being gay is best viewed as a calling to lifelong celibacy? If we are, does that mean we’re expecting gay people to take on particular responsibilities or burdens within the Church as they are unencumbered by families? Or is it the opposite and they need explicit extra support?

          Or should we be clear that ruling out marriage is very specific, and we’re not ruling out things that might look like marriage to the untrained eye, e.g. covenanted partnerships and the like, because it’s the sex where we think the problems lie?

          • AJ

            Its almost like the CofE could do with a decade of discussion and theological work to get their teaching on gay people worked out…unfortunately they blew it and actually have made things even more muddled.

          • ‘Well, we could start by clearing up what we think people should actually do. What is “marriage is between one man and one woman” supposed to mean for gay people?’

            I gave a very full answer to that question when you posed it previously. I am unsure why you think it helps to ask it again as if no answer has been given.

          • ‘If your answer to questions about how to respond to gay people can’t even bear to mention gay people’

            That is a bizarre projection. I had though we were having a sensible discussion…

          • You might wish to consider this recent entry on my blog where I explore among other things what it really means to suggest that “God makes people ‘gay'”.


            I don’t think it can be stated strongly enough that people are intended to love people, including men loving men and women loving women, and that as we are physical beings interacting in a physical world a good deal of physicality is to be expected. I also don’t think it can be stated strongly enough that ‘gay sex’ is an inappropriate way to express love between people of the same sex, and that it is very clearly scriptural teaching that such ‘sex’ is not part of God’s creative intent but part of the disorder of human life resulting from sin.

  8. “but I think simply going around saying nasty things about LGBT people”

    Where did that come from? Not even a whiff in my post. Try engaging (or ignoring) not building windmills to tilt at.

    • “may have been poor with our pastoral framing”

      Aka telling gay children they are demonic (as has happened in many cases)

      • Peter, it is a bit odd when people make a simple, orthodox comment, and you immediately tack onto that something horrendous.

        I think we are all agreed here that telling gay children they are demonic is shocking and unacceptable. Is it possible to agree on this, rather than you accuse people of supporting such ideas when they don’t?

        • I was responding to Ian’s original comment acknowledging poor pastoral framing, but saying that shouldn’t stop evangelism. I’m saying its not evangelism if all you have is poor pastoral framing

  9. A decline in prospective stipendiary ordinands does not surprise me. Who would feel called to entrust their life, livelihood and their family’s wellbeing to the C of E? I fear things could be even worse than portrayed. Does anyone know what has become of e.g. the cohort who completed full-time training say 10 years ago? Especially those who entered colleges under the age of 30? Do we know how many of those we trained have found themselves able to serve in stipendiary roles in the C of E 10 years later?

    • This is an important comment! I think that your questions are important! It seems to me that the article raises questions, that if researched, the answers might also reveal how little attention or care has been given to the retention of recently trained clergy.

    • Anecdotally, I was talking with a vicar in his thirties and he said that of the seven in his ordination cohort, six had left the ministry and he was unsettled himself. He said that LLF was a significant cause.
      Clearly he was evangelical and from an evangelical college, and I can’t verify his comment, but it was grim to hear.
      Is there any way that these statistics can be sourced?

  10. No mention of church assets and funds going to lay and non stipendiary preachers doing ‘church planting’ under the current evangelical Archbishop while stipendiary priests posts are slashed or positioned as oversight managers of large numbers of parishes. No wonder ordinand numbers have collapsed if they no longer see as many paid posts available for them.

    That is far more of a problem than LLF, especially as every poll and survey shows younger Anglicans and Christians more supportive of some recognition of same sex couples married in English civil law than the oldest Anglicans.

    COVID at least had the benefit of increasing online congregations via Zoom some of whom did not come in person before lockdown and still don’t

    • that is not true.

      Funding goes to all dioceses through LiNC funding. But the remainder goes to projects seeking to grow churches, of any and every tradition…if they have a credible plan.

      • Funds should be going to Parishes to grow their congregation as the Church of England as established church in England is by definition a Parish centred denomination. That means funds for a stipendiary Parish priest ideally in every village as well as many stipendiary priests in our towns and cities too. Projects seeking to grow churches by church planting can be done largely by volunteers, they don’t need to be paid for it

          • Paying a priest to be in a building and performing communion is what an established church of apostilic succession like the Church of England should be doing.

            If your primary goal is evangelism in new buildings or halls or even cafes and house sofas then you shouldn’t be in the Church of England at all but a Pentecostal, Baptist or independent evangelical church

          • ‘Paying a priest to be in a building and performing communion is what an established church of apostilic succession like the Church of England should be doing.’

            Seriously?? Can you point me to the teaching of Jesus or any other apostolic teaching which says ‘Go into all the world; create a clerical caste; and maintain buildings’? I think Jesus said something rather different. Do you know what it is?

          • Ian

            I know two people who became Christians and later CofE priests because they felt drawn into their parish church and encountered God there.

            I think the parish church is the cofes USP and it should be used rather than discarded. It seems to me that many not these church plants don’t have any accountability and cause a lot of heartbreak and scandal. I don’t know much about the finances, but I do think more care needs to be given before financing these projects

          • Jesus also said to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him. That is done at Holy Communion by ordained and paid Parish priests and is one of the most important roles of the Church of England

  11. Last time I checked average weekly attendance of the CofE was barely 1% of the population. Allowing that attendance in a single week is not every reasonably regular attender, it’s still hard to get a reasonably regular figure of 2%. Anglicans are on figures quoted here only about 18% of the UK’s Christians and among single denominational units seem to be outnumbered by at least the Catholics.

    Guys, the jig is up. The idea that Anglicanism is the national church is absurd; that the law says it is has me wanting to quote the Dickensian phrase that “The Law is an ass”. Add to that the further absurdity for evangelicals that the NT (a) does not teach an established church, and (b) actually teaches a very different style of church/state relations, so even the evangelicals are being unbiblical by going along with the establishment…. The only sane thing to fdo at this point is to stop the absurd posturing and seek disestablishment ASAP; then go back to the LLF issues uncompromised by entanglement with the state….

    • Yes, you are right, that is the dilemma.

      In law, as the established church, and in the perceptions of many on the inside, particularly bishops, we have a privileged position.

      In reality, we don’t.

      • 45 years ago, the Student Christian Union I was part of had 150±. That was approximately 1%. We voted to disestablish ourselves from the SU. Immediately we lost our venue. Those who turned up found the Canoeing club, about 6 people, using the hall. We became invisible in all SU literature.
        You’ve got to know what you wish for and plan for it. No point in hyper-spiritual rhetoric if you only have short term plans.
        So, what’s the plan? This debate is uncannily like the ones we had before we voted out.

          • The fall-out was after my time… and I have not thought about it since 🙁
            Once the evangelicals decamped I expect the liberals had it all to themselves: Freshers Week; venues; advertising space; etc..

        • steve – I don’t think that is a truly comparable situation – not least because 45 years ago I don’t recall the Students Union having policies that would have really compromised the Christian Union. Back then I think that would have been ‘hyperspiritual rhetoric’; it might be different now as I suspect the SU would be challenging deep Christian beliefs particularly about sexuality. But yes there needs to be a plan.

          One of the clear risks at present is this; if the CofE positively rejects the modern ideas about sexuality, then its position as national church is likely to be challenged anyway and it may be forced into disestablishment unprepared. There have already been parliamentary mutterings on those lines.

          • In my experience Christian Unions at Universities tend to fall foul of Student Union rules about student societies because they’re really not student societies. In my day (admittedly 20 years ago) the issues were twofold:
            1. Being a member meant signing up to a Statement of Faith. That runs completely contrary to the basic SU philosophy that any student ought to be able to join any society they like.
            2. The leadership is selected after prayerful consideration by the leadership generation above them. That’s a complete no-no for any SU who will insist that societies they fund and support have a democratically elected leadership.

          • AJ

            We got round number 2 by the previous year selecting the new year of leaders and then having all the members vote.

            Some UCCF CUs (not the one I was in) had the additional problem that they didn’t allow women to speak at meetings. I think that might still be the case. So the SUs weren’t happy, more liberal Christians weren’t happy and then the newspapers run with “University bans Christians from meeting on Campus” etc

        • steve – well, I did my undergraduate studies at Edinburgh, mid 80’s – where the C.U. (Christian Union) wasn’t associated with the Student Union, for one reason that A.J. Bell gives below – the C.U. required members to declare that they were Christian, which was contrary to the basic SU philosophy that AJ Bell outlines below (S.U. societies open to all).

          In terms of numbers (because that seems to be the issue of overwhelming importance here – the ‘success’ of a church or denomination is measured in terms of the size of the membership) this didn’t seem to do the C.U. any harm; it was well attended on Friday evenings.

          I never attended (or joined) the C.U., because it wasn’t my cup of tea. One thing about them: they seemed to think that ‘doctrinal’ and ‘devotional’ could somehow be separated – so they would ask the membership questions about whether they wanted more ‘doctrinal’ or more ‘devotional’ emphasis – and ‘devotional’ seemed to mean sitting around with their hands in the air ‘feeling the vibes’, no doubt accompanied by inane ‘spiritual’ music.

          Friday evening had other attractions for me – the S.N.O. (Scottish National Orchestra) performed at the Usher Hall at exactly the time the C.U. met and I preferred to get a student discount ticket to listen to the orchestra.

          I did go along to the C.U. one Friday evening. The orchestra had a programme filled with the horrible late 19th century heavy romantic bring-the-sick-bag stuff that (a) I strongly dislike and (b) other people do like (so the concert was sold out and no student discount tickets available). Also, James Philip was talking at the CU that evening. I had never heard of him before, but somebody told me that he was precisely the sort of serious guy that most CU members probably wouldn’t like – and I figured that (from my perspective) this was a terrific credential.

          I was not disappointed. He was given the topic ‘Keeping in Step with the Spirit’ and he spoke for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I more-or-less remember the gist of it; it was because of that encounter that I started attending his church (Holyrood Abbey). He was trying to get across to them that if you’re keeping in step with the Spirit, you have to understand that God uses different time scales; things don’t happen instantly. He spent some of the time talking about Exodus, that it took 80 years from the time that Moses was born to the time that he led them out of Egypt – and through all that time the Israelites more-or-less believed that God had abandonned them. It took 80 years to prepare Moses for the task; things were not instantaneous. One of the points he wanted to emphasise in that talk was that God used natural means (e.g. a baby being born, whose upbringing and further experience prepared him for the task) – people keeping ‘in step with the Spirit’ understand this and aren’t looking for the rabbit-out-of-the-hat.

          I think that parts of that basic message are probably relevant for the discussion of the C. of E. on this thread; when things are at their darkest, that may be precisely the time that God is working.

      • I think in terms of senior government the cofe has a lot of privilege, but most of it is unhealthy and it probably, if anything, hinders attendance

    • Absolutely not. If you want disestablishment you must also leave the C of E. Evangelicals clearly have no interest in Anglicanism anyway if they reject its doctrine of apostolic succession and want to turn it into a Pentecostal church in all but name.

      Weddings and funerals also open to all members of the community in their Parish C of E church is part of what makes an established church great

      • Did those who wanted the Church in Wales to disestablish have to leave that church?

        Apostolic succession is about believing and passing on the apostolic faith, including the doctrine of marriage. Tactile succession is a sign of this, but does not guarantee it.

        Those who do not believe the doctrine of the C of E, which it shares with the church catholic through the ages, should surely leave, shouldn’t they?

        • Those in the Church in Wales who didn’t believe in apostolic succession should certainly leave it. Having bishops based on apostolic succession is pivotal to Anglicanism. All Anglican churches do.

          Not having same sex marriage however is not, the Scottish and US Anglican churches perform same sex marriages for example. Though the Church of England of course still maintains holy matrimony for heterosexuals while offering prayers for same sex couples now

  12. T1 – be careful what you wish for. By your logic, evangelicals following the teaching of the Bible should leave the CofE – but if they do go, will what is left be sustainable? As I understand it the non-evangelical CofE is really, really in decline and going nowhere, and to a large extent parasitises upon the more active and prosperous evangelical wing.

    But what is wrong with the idea that a church could find it has gone astray in some aspect, and rather than doubling down on the straying should try to put itself back on course? Why ‘have to leave’ if reform and retaining most of the institution is possible?

    As I would understand it, ‘apostolic succession’ was originally not a bit of ‘magic’, in a way not even a ‘doctrine’, but a practical deal that until the apostolic testimony was available in the form of the NT, it was a workable thing to rely on people who had been taught/trained or appointed by the apostles as at least likely to know what they were doing. It would not be a ‘magical’ continuity of laying on hands or whatever that would be important, but that the people concerned were meaningfully something like ‘apprentices’ in a line back to the apostles. And until the NT was available that succession of training would be useful. With the NT available, the NT itself becomes the ‘touchstone’ for apostolic teaching and the other continuity has to be very secondary or it becomes a rival to the Word of God in the same way as the Pharisaic traditions that Jesus criticised.

    What might make an established church ‘great’ would be IF – repeat IF – the NT taught that national establishment was the way to do Church. It doesn’t. Indeed when I started looking into this stuff some fifty years ago I was shocked by how thin, not to mention anyway ambiguous, the supposed biblical justification of establishment was. The NT picture, until things went astray three/four hundred years after Jesus, is of an independent Church which is itself “God’s holy nation” on earth, in continuity with the OT people of God but now operating as a peaceable ‘diaspora’ of ‘resident aliens’ throughout the world. The various nations in which we live are ‘the world’ OUT OF WHICH we call people into Jesus’ “kingdom not of this world”, and we are not meant to be entangled with the world, the apparent advantages of such entanglement are illusory.

    • Apostolic succession descends from St Peter as first Pope, himself a disciple of Jesus so is entirely in accordance with the NT. The C of E continued the line in England from St Peter after the Reformation through to its current bishops.

      Evangelicals are able to stay in the C of E but they have to accept it is an established church that believes in apostolic succession. Given the Church of England has £10 billion in assets and makes good returns from its investments it is more than capable of funding its Parish based ministry by properly directing resources to it whether evangelicals stay or go however

      • And yet, T1, it is an inherent part of the founding of the Church of England that Henry split from Rome because he regarded the Pope as in error, over the ‘dispensation’ granted for Henry’s marriage to his brother’s widow and therefore more widely in error too. Apparently ‘apostolic succession’ did not prevent that problem.

        In the later fully Protestant formulations of Anglicanism I note that Article XIX is rather emphatic that “As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith”. Apostolic succession would seem to be of little value according to this….

        Article VI is again emphatic that the Bible is the ultimate authority for the Church and there is not the slightest suggestion that ‘apostolic succession’ can somehow overrule Scripture, and article XX says basically the same. “THE Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation”.

        So by its statements of belief the CofE is evangelical, and the further implication of that is that it is possible that parts of those statements of belief could be unscriptural and would have to be subjected to the test of Scripture which is clearly stated to be the Church’s ultimate authority (and note, the Church, not just the CofE). Apostolic succession should only be believed if the Bible teaches it (it doesn’t!) and logically the same goes for ‘establishment’ which is also not a biblical teaching (or to be precise, is an OT teaching about the ‘congregation’ of Israel which is changed in the ‘new covenant’ for Jesus’ “kingdom not of/from this world”).

        Logically from that evangelicals can stay in the CofE – though also logically they should be prepared to change unscriptural ideas like establishment.

        As regards the CofE assets – Yebbut…. While evangelicals bring in people and money, there is no need to dig into those assets – but if there were no evangelicals, and the church had to rely on the clearly not as popular liberal version of a ‘gospel’, wouldn’t they rather soon end up gradually depleting the capital assets…?

        • Henry VIII intended the Church of England to be a Catholic church with him rather than the Pope as its head. As C of E doctrine makes clear governance by the monarch and Bishops in the C of E is not repugnant to the word of God.
          The C of E was founded precisely to be an established church of apostolic succession, its bishops descended from St Peter as first bishop of Rome as a church Catholic. Attempts by evangelicals to disestablish the C of E and deny its doctrine of apostolic succession would effectively end the C of E and indeed the Anglican communion. At that point most Catholic Anglicans like me would rejoin the Roman Catholic church and evangelical Anglicans like you would become Pentecostal or Baptist or independent evangelical

          • T1 – On the face of it, to say that the Pope, successor of Peter, even *can be* so mistaken that your national church must declare itself independent of him amounts to a pretty solid denial/rejection of any significant ‘apostolic succession’. Not sure how Henry himself saw this but suspect his decidedly selfish and worldly motives blinded him to any illogic in his decision. Also, T1, not sure how you have failed to notice that inherent illogic as it affects your position….

            Secondly in any case I know of no version of apostolic succession which claims that the ‘apostolic successor’ is allowed/empowered to contradict the Bible. God will not through that kind of route ‘make void’ his own Word. Jesus is particularly clear about that….

            The 39 Articles don’t seem to include any doctrine of apostolic succession and quite a bit in conflict with that idea. ‘Establishment’ yes but by giving priority to biblical authority said establishment is logically open to scriptural review. For myself the worry is that Anglican evangelicals are sub-scriptural on that point.

            Struggling to understand why you haven’t already left Anglicanism like Cardinal Newman and Ronald Knox. Would want to warn you that the seduction of ‘going back to the original’ is deceptive – going back to Roman Catholicism is not ‘going back to the original’ but adopting a heresy from some 3-4 centuries after Jesus….

            “… evangelical Anglicans like (me) …” It is a long time since I was an evangelical Anglican! (late 1960s) Though more concerned to be part of the capital-C Church than any denomination, I currently attend a Baptist church and am somewhat involved in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Network UK. Way more biblical than Anglicanism and way way way more biblical than Roman Catholicism….

          • It doesn’t, Henry intended the Church of England to continue as a church of apostolic succession with Bishops just with him not the Pope as its head, otherwise it remained Catholic. Indeed only under Oliver Cromwell and arguably Edward VIth has the Church of England been more evangelical than Catholic in nature.

            I remain Anglican as I support women priests and blessings for same sex couples and like being in the established church. If the Roman Catholic church did the former, the Pope has now at least considered same sex couples prayers and the C of E was ever disestablished I would consider becoming Roman Catholic. I could certainly never be Baptist, far too low church for me though clearly if you have found that it suits your evangelical worship style then fine

        • The C of E assets make a healthy return from investment in the stock market and rental income which can be used while retaining the capital

          • T1 – again your assumption about my position is a bit amusing; as a person with mild autism, often severe shyness, and little musical ability, ‘worship styles’ are just about the least important thing in a church for me. Though I can find ‘high church’ style impressively showy but frankly empty. Doctrine and the effects of bad doctrine, on the other hand … that really concerns me.

            The ideas of ‘establishment’ and its equivalents in various Christian denominations and also in other religions like Islam have been a massive concern since I realised the baleful effects of the ‘Christian country’ idea in Northern Ireland – around 3500 deaths over about 30 of my 76 years of life. (Yes, I know there is more to NI than the religious divide, but that divide and the implication of fighting a ‘holy’ conflict exaggerated and exacerbated the situation and meant that Christians fought each other instead of being peacemakers in the shambles)

            I’m confused by some of your position here – if apostolic succession via Peter is so important, why not follow that consistently? Apparently your personal opinion about women priests and homosexuality ‘trumps’ the apostolic succession…. ??????????????????

      • I take Apostolic Succession (capital initials, please!) as fundamental for Bishopric as pedigree for race horses and exposition dogs.

        • And yet, Ze Ribeiro, one of the clearest things in the NT is that actually ‘episkopos’ is not a word for a regional ‘CEO’ but simply a synonym for ‘presbyter/elder’ emphasising a different aspect of the one office. So having ‘bishops’ as a separate office is another area alongside establishment where the CofE is contrary to the Word of God…..

  13. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written that “Much of the trouble in the church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric… Having forgotten God, and having become so interested in ourselves, we become miserable and wretched, and spend our time in ‘shallows and in miseries.’
    The message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to God, to humble us before God, and to enable us to see our true relationship to him…
    The lack of influence of the Christian Church in the world at large today is in my opinion due to one thing only, namely, (God forgive us!) that we are so unlike the description of the Christians that we find in the New Testament….[ Exposition of Ephesians 1:1]
    Paul’s “Vision” of the Church is glorious { See Ephesians}
    The church{s} had a clearly observable structure and 20 of the 27 books of the NT are devoted to the illumination and teaching of the Church;
    In Peter’s case we are to be a Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation;
    Living Stones.
    The current view of the Church as being the conscience of the Nation
    Is frankly laughable given its own disordered crumbling state.
    The people are not fools; they recognize this.
    Joel 2:17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?
    Hos 14:2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.
    Psalms 74:18-23
    Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O LORD, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name. O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty. O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproaches’ thee daily. Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increases continually.
    Psalm 44:24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?
    44:25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth.
    44:26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake.

  14. I’m not sure Latin GCSE is necessary for knowing what “Quo Vadis” means. i know it not from that but a childhood spent reading the Asterix books…

  15. Very, very true Steve; a very rare bird now in this country; and rarely if ever heard in our churches these days.
    IS SoS 2 V 12 true today?
    I venture to say that if this voice were to be heard we should see the beginnings of flourishing amongst us.
    Of all the “solutions” posited, the voice of the turtledove must and will be heard on high.
    Overall, the turtledove’s imagery is of humility mixed with sadness caused by the overwhelming accumulation of the effects of sin and repentant sorrow because we have been so much trouble to God.
    The turtle dove also was long known in romantic prose in antiquity as speaking of Fidelity and Whole Hearted, Life-Long Commitment.
    On turtledoves see tps://

    • Thanks Alan,
      That was worth reading.
      Is it true today?… There will always be, on the one hand, a big important Christian Tree propped up, splitting apart, its barren branches falling off, with last years foetid apples clinging on. On the other hand, looking closely, a few flowers, sung into action by the turtledove are emerging.

  16. Mourning is very significant and congruent with repentance.
    Lam 1:4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.

    Consider before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon
    Ezek. 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof
    Ezek. 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
    Consider the rise and rebuilding of same commences with mourning;
    ……I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
    Neh.2:2 Wherefore the king said unto me,” Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart”. Then I was very sore afraid, 2:3 And said unto the king,…. why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
    Messiah is anointed to turn mourning into dancing and to give beauty for ashes, there is a “ time to mourn”
    the way up is down.
    Isa 38:14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

  17. Mourning is very significant and congruent with repentance.
    Lam 1:4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.

    Consider before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon
    Ezek. 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof
    Ezek. 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
    Consider the rise and rebuilding of same commences with mourning;
    Neh.1:6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.
    I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
    Neh.2:2 Wherefore the king said unto me,” Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart”. Then I was very sore afraid, 2:3 And said unto the king,…. why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
    Messiah is anointed to turn mourning into dancing and to give beauty for ashes, there is a “ time to mourn”
    the way up is down.
    Isa 38:14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

  18. David Goodhew draws our attention to the startling decline in full time recruitment. Thank you David. However, not everyone realises what is also happening…there are not many vacancies. I know five full time curates, across several diocese, who were forced out of full time ministry by the lack of full time ‘jobs’. In my small experience I still know of a few full time vacancies were massively oversubscribed by applicants. If the CoE had hundreds of new clergy, I am inclined to think many, if not most, would not find a vacant full time post. I would tell any person considering CoE ministry- don’t walk this path unless you are prepared to leave it, there may not be any employment at the end of training.


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