The Church of England, money, people, and mission


The Church of England finds itself in a very odd situation. On the one hand, it is facing continued decline in attendance, and I think in influence and reputation in our culture. The decline in attendance has been calculated with mathematical precision at John Hayward’s Church Model website; if nothing changes, then he calculates that the Church of England will be extinct by about 2060.

There are some questions to be asked about this prediction; on the one hand, decline happens exponentially, in a curve not a straight line (as John has assumed), for organisations. On the other hand, my observation about local churches is that when decline sets in, it often accelerates as people suddenly all ‘jump ship’ and go somewhere else, and for older congregations there will be a ‘cliff edge’ decline when a whole generation dies off. Either way, it is not looking good—but the key phrase is ‘if nothing changes.’ The C of E has done plenty of its own research, and has a clear idea of what to do to see growth (though is, arguably, avoiding the most obvious question), and has put plenty of money in that direction.

But here is the paradox. Whilst the C of E doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of growing attendance, it is doing an excellent job of growing its investment assets.

The Church Commissioners’ active investment approach and risk-mitigating diversification across a broad range of asset classes enabled it to generate returns of 13.3% in 2021, exceeding its target of CPIH +4%, and the Commissioners has [sic] beaten its return target over the last three, 10 and 30 year periods. The fund was valued at £10.1 billion as at the end of 2021.

The continued strong investment returns have enabled the Church Commissioners to increase its funding of the Church’s mission and ministry in the 2023-2025 triennium to an all-time high. The Commissioners will contribute £1.2 billion to the Church’s funding in the next three-year period, which will account for about 20% of the Church’s expenditure. The Church Commissioners plan to maintain that level of funding in the subsequent six years, subject to investment performance and market fluctuations, which would help the Church to plan for the medium and long term.

(I have quoted the article in the logical order, but note that it is reversed in the article, in order to put the good news for the wider church first—wisely!)

This is surely good news, and those managing the investment portfolio are to be congratulated, and will be remunerated accordingly.


But this is good news which creates a significant tension in the Church, one that I don’t think is sustainable. It is the tension and sheer incongruity that I experienced three years ago when in a meeting of the Archbishops Council in the Guard Room at Lambeth Palace. We were discussing the steady erosion of the clergy stipend—and I was sitting next to one of the portfolio managers who had that morning been awarded a bonus of £250,000. As he was, in the meeting, congratulated, it felt like we were in a strange, parallel universe, not least because I myself am non-stipendiary. It was tempting to ask if he’d like to share it!

This sense of tension and incongruity is (it seems to me) one of the main drivers of the Save the Parish movement, along with others who are frustrated by the central strategy of distributing some of the Church Commissioners’ money across the dioceses. Around half of this is distributed as the Lower Income Community Fund (LInC) which are allocated according to need, and the rest as Strategy Development Funds which must be applied for with an explanation of why the projects funded will have a good chance of leading to growth—that is, not merely sustain existing ministry, but reach into new areas, and call people beyond the Church to faith in Jesus. It is very hard to challenge this as a strategy; if we have money, and we are not growing, surely we should put our money towards projects that have a chance of seeing some growth?

Yet this does not address the question felt on the ground, where unsustainable patterns of ministry are allowed to wither, and clergy are not replaced. In fact, there is a genuine contradiction developing in many dioceses, where repeated annual deficits which have eroded diocesan reserves cannot be sustained, and so they are now looking at cutting clergy numbers (as has been announced in Chelmsford, Sheffield, Leicester and Lincoln, and will surely follow in at least ten more very soon). At the same time that we have been increasing the number of ordinands…because of a predicted shortage of clergy!

The Church’s own research has demonstrated that investing in stipendiary ministry is the one of the key elements of seeing growth—though it is not enough on its own, as those stipendiary leaders need to also be intentional about growth, and the culture needs to be one of invitation. But we appear to have a national strategy of funding that is oriented towards growth, whilst at the same time many dioceses are adopting policies in the opposite direction.


At this point, it is worth doing some simple sums.

The Commissioners’ assets grew this year by 13.3%. Last year the growth was 10.4%, and that itself was well ahead of both target and what was needed to fund ministry and protect the assets. But taking that as a base line, there is this year a surplus over last year’s performance of 2.9%, or £293m. That works out at an average of £7m per diocese, and with stipendiary clergy costing around £50,000 per annum, it could pay for 139-stipend years in each diocese, that is (for example) it could fund 30 full-time stipendiary clergy for the next 5 years.

In each diocese.

Just from the marginal surplus from one year’s investment results. 

I find that a little eye-watering. Don’t you?

We could go a little further. CPIH in 2021 was 4.8%, so the Commissioners own target for growth was 8.8%. Against that, the 13.3% was 4.5% more than was needed, and in 2020 CPIH was 0.8%, the target therefore 4.8%, and the surplus over target that year was thus 5.6%. In total for the two years, the excess over target works out at around £1,020m, or £24m per diocese, or 486 stipend-years per diocese—enough to pay 30 additional stipendiary clergy in each for the next 16 years.

It is very welcome that the Commissioners have agreed to increase their support of ministry over the next three years to £1.2bn, that is, an average of £9.5m per diocese per year—but passing on this surplus would nearly quadruple that.

All this raises some important questions!

Should the Commissioners assets all be returned to the parishes, reversing the Endowments and Glebes measure of 1976? Undoubtedly not, since there is no guarantee that parishes would manage their assets as well, and part of the reason the Commissioners have had such a good return is because of their size. The two questions of managing assets, and control over distribution, do not need to be held together.

Should the Commissioners pass significant funds, in terms of income, to dioceses in order (for example) to eliminate their deficits? I am sure that many bishops would welcome this (is this the understatement of the year?) but I think it would create more tension in parishes, since it would invest diocesan structures with even more power, and this imbalance is precisely what is currently creating resentment at local and national policies. And if dioceses are running deficits, do we want simply to subsidise that and avoid the hard questions about sustainability?

Should the surplus in assets be paid directly to parishes in order to invest in ministry at ground level? That would be a very interesting approach—though the challenge would be in working out how to make such a distribution. I think this is seriously worth considering in some form.

Should the Commissioners continue with their policy of ‘CPIH + 4%’ as their growth target? This is an important question to ask, but so far answers have not been very forthcoming. This target has been formulated in anticipation of poorer performance in markets over the coming years, since recent growth is unlikely to continue, and there is plenty of uncertainty in the world just now. But the underlying question, for which I cannot find an answer, is: what is the goal for overall assets?

It is not very hard to work this out. Suppose we say that the ministry of the Church should be supported to the tune of £500m each year. Suppose that we estimate that we will get an average return on assets of 8% (not unrealistic, given performance over the last 30 years) and, assuming we return to a low inflation economy in the longer term, we need 2% of that to protect the asset base. In order to deliver this, we would then need an asset base for which 6% is £500m, which is £8.3bn. We are now past that milestone, and it means that the Commissioners are sitting on a surplus of around £2bn of assets, 20% of the total, beyond what is realistically needed to sustain current levels of ministry support.


The reason why we need to address these questions urgently, and make some changes, is fourfold.

First, with the cutting of stipendiary ministry we are facing the real possibility of the C of E withdrawing from large parts of the country. Perhaps that needs to happen, in order for new and effective ministry to be re-established at a later date—but we cannot just ignore this reality.

Secondly, clergy stipends have been in long-term decline, and there is a real sense of hardship amongst those clergy with children and without a second income. Given the overall financial situation, I think this is a scandal.

Thirdly, in 2015 the clergy pension was unilaterally reduced by a third, by what I regard as a sleight of hand. Questions in Synod have confirmed that this would cost a mere £25m per annum to rectify. (I say ‘mere’ in the light of the numbers above). This must surely be put right, and better provision made for housing for clergy in retirement who were not able to buy their own property during ministry. If you are a member of General Synod, please sign my Private Members’ Motion proposing that we address this.

Fourthly, our residential theological colleges are under threat and financial pressure, for a range of reasons, but principally because of the disaster of the RME changes, and because of the unmanaged growth of other forms of training. Historically, these have been vital sources of theological learning; we have already lost what was the largest college, and it would be a tragedy to lose another. These are assets which can never be regained once they are lost.

We need to talk now about making these things happen. The maths is not complicated; what is needed is the will.


DON'T MISS OUT!
Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.


Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.


Comments policy: Good comments that engage with the content of the post, and share in respectful debate, can add real value. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives. Don't view debate as a conflict to win; address the argument rather than tackling the person.

169 thoughts on “The Church of England, money, people, and mission”

  1. Thankyou Ian, for this excellent analysis. 3 brief points:
    a) Here in Bath and Wells, cuts were recently agreed from 178 to 150 stipendiary clergy, to address the running £2m annual deficit. As in every other Diocese, the one thing not factored into the maths is the feedback loop – more thinly spread clergy = smaller congregations = lower parish share = less income for the Diocese = more deficit.
    b) Nearly all the vital work of the CofE goes on at parish level, but what does it do to the church if the balance of financial power shifts more and more to centrally allocated funds?
    c) One thing that I’ve not yet seen addressed in these discussions is the clergy remunation package itself. It’s calculated at over £50k per year, but yet clergy are ‘underpaid’. Perhaps we need to look at how that £50k is made up, or give Dioceses (or clergy) the freedom to experiment with different models.

    Reply
    • Indeed. On a., this is both common and bonkers.

      On b. this is the current central question of our time!

      On c. you can increase the stipend by a significant proportion eg add £3k, but that does not put the overall cost up by *all* that much, eg from £50k to £53k. It is the actual stipend itself which is the problem.

      Reply
  2. I thought, in the discussion last year about the ‘minster communities’, that the figure for how much clergy ‘cost’, was closer to 80k than 50k, and I seem to recall figures backing that up.

    Clergy costs are not just Stipend + housing, but training, support, legal etc…

    Reply
    • Yes, but the difference is in central costs, and they tend to be fixed rather than increase with the number of clergy.

      The danger with the higher figure is that you end up counting central costs twice. I was simply looking at the marginal increase in cost in a marginal (in the economic sense) increase in stipendiary numbers.

      Fixed v variable costs, innit?

      Reply
  3. There is a difference between necessary overheads (applied to clergy cost in quota calculations) and overhead costs that that are not so necessary but sound good. Check any Diocesan website and ask yourself if some of those posts (often adviser roles) are really needed.

    This applies even if the posts are part funded by others.

    Reply
  4. I think the role of a priest/minister is often challenging in the extreme, and I have huge admiration for many ordained people for the work they do and the burdens they carry.

    That said, I am a registered nurse. Also a hugely challenging job which is vital to every community in the country, obviously.

    Ian, you say that the stipend is at a level that causes financial hardship. I wish that on no-one.

    However, could you clarify please: is it correct to estimate that typical stipend would be close to £27,000 a year? What money from that has then to be paid back in accommodation costs if any?

    Now take a nurse. His or her salary at the standard Band 5 rate for a staff nurse is £25000 rising over time to £31000. It’s true that salaries rise for promoted posts, but to compare nurse with priest, I’m speaking of staff nurse and vicar, not senior clinician or bishop.

    We pay for our own accommodation. Typical rented accommodation is probably £750 – £800 a month, so when you deduct £9000 – £9600 a year, that means that an equivalent nurses salary in comparison to a priest is: about £21000 for a nurse and £27000 for a priest.

    Are you suggesting that a priest for some reason deserves more than a nurse? You could obviously make a case, but I’d need some convincing!

    In reality, if you take a typical priest on a large estate, by far the majority of parishioners will be in hardship compared to the priest, and I’m having difficulty understanding how a family can’t live off £27000 a year if accommodation is thrown in. That’s assuming the priest even has children (which will often be true only for part of career) and does not have a partner, or one who is earning.

    If anything, I suggest that surplus may need to be directed towards ‘treading water’ during a period when inflation is running near 10%. In other words, yes stipends should rise, but at the level of inflation if possible. Surplus could be helpful covering that.

    Meanwhile many children cannot get school lunches if the household earns more than £7400 a year. It’s another world.

    I suspect what you or I may wonder is whether nurses and priests deserve a ‘higher class’ professional salary, comparable to lawyers etc. But really, I’m not sure priests should feel an entitlement to a basically upper-middle class lifestyle.

    £27000 a year + free accommodation seems like sufficient to me. Factoring in accommodation that’s really £36000 isn’t it?

    (Of course, luckier families may also have a second adult who earns as well, in which case they’re rolling in it!)

    These are my perceptions, but no intention to be disrespectful as I do indeed respect lots and lots of priests. I stand to be corrected if I’m wrong on the accommodation thing.

    Reply
    • The stipend is below median earnings, and has been slowly declining in comparison with median earnings over the last 20 years.

      Though clergy are provided with accommodation, the standard of that is not under their control, and they are often locked out of the property market which, at least in my generation, their peers were in. So housing provision in retirement is a real challenge.

      Reply
      • Thank you Ian. I’m happy for clergy if they get more – it’s not jealousy. Truth is, both ministers and nurses work really hard. Being a priest/minister is a very hard job. I was mostly trying to get my head round the accommodation issue, and how that factors in when you try to make comparisons. And I guess the concept of ‘hardship’ is relative. We’re not really talking about poverty line I suppose. If, as you say, stipends are slipping further below national average wages then obviously for financial planning into the future that is an issue. Anyway… I hope and trust people respect the work of both nurses and priests/ministers.

        Reply
        • It is just very difficult to say ‘we cannot afford to pay a more generous stipend’ at the same time as saying ‘Commissioners assets are £10bn’.

          Reply
          • *nods*

            Well one thing’s for sure. 10% inflation is not going to make things easier. I suspect that for the time being ‘keeping up with inflation’ will be presented as the reason for holding back on real increases.

    • Susannah Clark

      ‘Are you suggesting that a priest for some reason deserves more than a nurse?’

      Of course he does. He is not applying sticky plasters.

      He is using resources from the world of metaphysics; answering the questions of teenagers:

      1. Who am I?
      2. Where do I come from?
      3. Where am I going?

      The world of the priest is superior to the world of cause and effect (your sticky plasters).

      Reply
        • Penelope Cowbell Doe

          ‘“The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.”

          Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize Lecture

          Reply
        • But Mr Singh continues to be offensive.

          Interestingly this is true, but not in the message you reply to, which (unlike some of D. Singh’s other messages) is perfectly reasonable in its language — you could perfectly reasonably disagree with it, and indeed I’m not sure I agree, but there’s nothing in it you could point to that’s offensive.

          Reply
        • Just ignore it then. There is a serious point here; in the past clergy were esteemed as professionals, but not any more. That is worth thinking about.

          It seems to have gone hand in hand with reducing Christian faith to a social service.

          Reply
          • Yes.

            But it has also gone hand in hand with the perception that the clergy (in the main) do not have the courage of their presumed convictions. That may ever have been so, except at times of revival, but as society drifts more and more away from Christianity, having that courage – being willing to speak out prophetically against what is happening in the world, so as to make it clear what Christianity stands for – becomes ever more necessary if the clergy are to be seen as having integrity. Perhaps that is what you are saying, for if we ask who has reduced Christian faith to a social service, it is largely the clergy themselves.

            Fundamental questions such as Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going are very effectively stifled by the all-pervasive frivolities of the mass media, and if they are asked, are rarely answered from a radically biblical perspective. More typically, the institution’s answers are along the lines of:

            “Who am I?” Someone somewhere along the heterosexual-LGBT spectrum, made in the image of God (a meaningless phrase when probed in the light of the next question).

            “Where do I come from?” Ultimately, the primeval soup; we follow the science where the Bible tells us something different.

            “Where are we going?” Everyone goes to heaven when they die.

          • I couldn’t care less. But his misogyny (the priest being *he*) and his disparaging of Susannah’s profession is very offensive.
            One doesn’t raise the priesthood in public esteem by insulting other professions.

          • his disparaging of Susannah’s profession is very offensive.

            You mean the comment about ‘sticking plasters’? I don’t think that was intended to disparage the progression of nursing; I think it was intended to point out how relatively unimportant physical well-being is compared to the eternal destiny of one’s soul.

          • I agree, S.

            Nevertheless, it was framed in an unpleasant way really. Because it’s obvious that there’s far more to healthcare than sticking plasters, and anyone with brains would know the effect was dismissive. There could have been respectful acknowledgment that healthcare *is* valuable, and far more complex than that, and it could have afforded a tiny bit of respect to doctors and nurses. That would have been more emotionally intelligent.

            I really don’t care for myself… it’s the internet after all, it’s full of these brave ‘warriors’… though I think he could have acknowledged so many of my colleagues and the amazing work they do.

            I take far more offence at pretty obvious misogyny elsewhere, and some kind of psychological hang up about women’s place, which again has manifested in unpleasant language – more clearly intent on being dismissive. While respecting people here who believe in male-only priesthood, male leadership etc as I think that can be a conscientious reading of scripture… I dislike what I think are clearly offensive caricatures of women, written with intent to offend in my opinion, and possibly stemming from some kind of insecurity towards females. There are strong, masculine men who I very much respect – in general many men in the military earn my respect, for example. Real men. Men who know the meaning of chivalry, courtesy, respect.

            What I observe, however, suggests an individual who seems to lack the core strength of a real man… the gentleness that comes from strength in relation to women. I appreciate the irony to some of me preaching about ‘real men’ but this page is about money not sexuality etc. It’s the language I’m taking issue with. We don’t need diatribes about priests in skirts, tights and suspenders (ludicrous really). I just don’t see grace in that kind of discourse.

            This is Ian’s blog. Ian has to his credit, in my view, championed women priests. Other views may be understood, and this person has a right to his beliefs. But a basic level of grace in discourse might be nice.

            Whoever this person is, he has a right to freedom of speech with regard to women. Penny or I or anyone else (including the blog owner obviously) has a right to disagree.

            We move on.

          • Nevertheless, it was framed in an unpleasant way really.

            It was certainly blunt. And bluntness can be unpleasant. But blunt is a long way from offensive.

      • Jesus’ healing ministry was pretty prominent – he was well known for it. Seems God is really quite interested in physical well-being as well as spiritual.

        And nurses are now degree-educated, so they do a hell of a lot more than putting on sticking plasters. Perhaps you can remember that next time you need help with your health.

        Reply
        • Covid put an end to the veneration of the NHS. Getting a face to face doctor’s appointment is almost impossible and a very large number of people are now questioning where all the money goes. Which is why Boris (who is skilled at reading the room) is lining up major cuts.

          Reply
  5. On dwindling church numbers – pretty obviously most people in the UK have been voting with their feet. It’s a question of ‘relevance’.

    If people are to be drawn back in to church, they have to think it’s relevant to them and their communities (obviously).

    Therefore if surplus is to be spent, what about pushing money into playgroups, youth clubs, shared ventures in the community, help for the elderly, transport to hospital, adventure playgrounds, trips and holidays for people with disabilities etc.

    Those are things people in the community would see as relevant.

    I won’t go into some aspects of church teaching that alienate people (especially young people) because that’s not a money issue, and off-topic. I’m just suggesting that maybe surplus should be directed to those services that actually help the secular community and seem relevant.

    Reply
      • Ian …. so you are saying (in other words) that the churches that are growing are the churches that seek to be relevant to Christians.

        Reply
        • Jock,
          If the church is indistinguishable from the culture its in, and the prevailing culture dictates its theology, then why should people take any notice of it?

          Reply
          • Chris – of course, what you say is 100 percent correct. But – hasn’t the C. of E. spent several hundred years trying to be the culture it is in (and hence indistinguishable from it)? Every village has its church, the church is the centre of the community, everybody in the community is expected to attend the church ……… The gospel is (of course) `counter-cultural’ and always has been – but `counter culture’ does not fit well with the image that we have of the C. of E..

        • Jock

          Nein!

          ‘the churches that are growing are the churches that seek to be relevant to Christians’.

          Psephizo, by providing you to a link to that brilliant mathematician, is suggesting that those denominations who hold on to ‘primitive’ faith are being blest.

          The ‘primitive’ faith answers the questions which our scouts and girl guides are asking:

          1. Who am I?
          2. Where do I come from?
          3. Where am I going?

          Reply
          • D. Singh – if by `primitive faith’ you mean Christianity, then you make my point.

            The churches seeking to be `relevant’ are those that have abandonned Christianity.

            By the way – I clicked on the link. Is `seeking to be relevant’ a euphemism for `accepting SSM’?

    • Therefore if surplus is to be spent, what about pushing money into playgroups, youth clubs, shared ventures in the community, help for the elderly, transport to hospital, adventure playgrounds, trips and holidays for people with disabilities etc.

      Because what happens when churches provide those services is that people treat them like an arm of the state — that is, they avail themselves of the services, say ‘thank you’ (if you’re lucky) and then go on with their lives without giving the Church a second thought. They certainly don’t feel like making any kind of commitment to Christ out of gratitidue for a playgroup.

      The only reason people are going to start coming to Church nowadays is, indeed, if they see it as relevant, but not in the way you mean. The only reason they will come to Church is that they realise they need Christ because they are sinners who need to be saved. There is nothing more relevant to people than the state of their soul, but the problem is that people don’t see that as relevant to them. The Church’s job — its only job, really, the only job it has ever had — is to get them to see that that is relevant to them.

      So yes, it’s about relevance. But not about changing to fit what people think is relevant to their lives. What the Church has is already the most relevant thing in the world to everyone: the Church is the only thing which offers the way to eternal life as opposed to eternal death. The Church doesn’t have to ‘become’ relevant, it already is relevant, it just has to somehow explain to people its relevance to their eternal destinies.

      Reply
      • The only reason they will come to Church is that they realise they need Christ because they are sinners who need to be saved.

        But that is a framing that very few people respond to – as only those who grew up in the culture repeat it. If there is a “meaning crises” out there, then churches need to address it in a way that seems relevant to the uninitiated.

        Reply
        • But that is a framing that very few people respond to – as only those who grew up in the culture repeat it. If there is a “meaning crises” out there, then churches need to address it in a way that seems relevant to the uninitiated.

          C.S. Lewis spotted the problem long ago (but unfortunately did not come up with a solution):

          ‘The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin… The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes, or Pagans, a sense of guilt. (That this was common among Pagans is shown by the fact that both Epicureanism and the mystery religions both claimed, though in different ways, to assuage it.) Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.’

          Reply
    • Susannah Clark

      ‘Therefore if surplus is to be spent, what about pushing money into playgroups, youth clubs, shared ventures in the community, help for the elderly, transport to hospital, adventure playgrounds, trips and holidays for people with disabilities etc.’

      Yeah, babes, let’s turn it into another arm of the local Social Services department.

      Reply
      • …and the Good Samaritan should have walked on by because, really, that’s just using a ‘sticking plaster’ on the poor man’s physical injuries…

        … who is our neighbour?

        …our secular community – ‘other’ than Christians – is our neighbour.

        We grow in God as we care for others.

        Souls matter to. It’s not ‘either’… ‘or’…

        At this time in history, Christians are not very accepted in society. Indeed, the general population sees more relevance in the social services, the NHS etc.

        I’m simply saying that directing investment to actual projects on big estates, and joining in, and living alongside, and providing much-needed resources and provisions at Church as well… would start to show people a bit of the ‘Good Samaritan’ reality of the love of God.

        There is huge need and deprivation as I’m sure you know very well. In which case… does the Church just walk on by, and pray for their souls?

        Will that make the Church seem relevant, or make them feel ‘God is with them’?

        Reply
        • Will that make the Church seem relevant, or make them feel ‘God is with them’?

          Well, acting like the welfare state certainly will not make the Church seem relevant or make anyone feel ‘God is with them’. So maybe praying for their souls is worth trying?

          Reply
          • They’re *both* worth doing.

            People need to see love in action.

            And anyway, pastoral care is right simply because it is the right thing to do.

            As a Church, we can’t abandon people and just say ‘Oh well, they’re all going to die anyway, and the only thing that matters is their souls.’

            They matter here and now.

            If we are Christians, we have to live out our faith, and reach out in love, not just to convert people, but because love is the right thing to do – indeed the great imperative.

            I believe we are called to live alongside people in their communities, share in their sorrows, rejoice in their joys, support when people are sick or helpless.

            Being ‘born again’ is only step 1 in being a Christian.

            Step 2 is love your neighbour. That’s more than just preaching in church. It’s the old, the sick, the disabled, the lonely, the depressed, the marginalised, the deprived young, the different, the foreigner, the single mother.

            As Christians we should not serve our community to make us more relevant. We should do it because it’s the love for neighbour we are expected to give, but in fact by doing so, it is at least a beginning of relevance in the eyes of some.

            None of that gets in the way of preaching the gospel.

            It IS preaching the gospel.

          • And anyway, pastoral care is right simply because it is the right thing to do.

            Yes. But it won’t get people interested in Jesus. It just won’t. Get that in your head. It’s the right thing to do and it should be done for that reason alone, but it will not bring people to Jesus.

            It might have in the past when Christians were the only people doing such things, so they stood out and made people wonder why they did them. But nowadays people have a massive sense of entitlement and expect all sorts of things to be done or provided for them, mostly by the state, so they aren’t thankful for them: they just take what’s given and move on.

            If we are Christians, we have to live out our faith, and reach out in love, not just to convert people, but because love is the right thing to do – indeed the great imperative.

            But isn’t converting people the most important loving thing we can do for them? What could possibly be more loving that saving them from eternal death in sin so they can live eternally in Christ? Surely that’s far more important that any playgroup or taxi service?

            I believe we are called to live alongside people in their communities, share in their sorrows, rejoice in their joys, support when people are sick or helpless.

            I believe we are called to tell people to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

            As Christians we should not serve our community to make us more relevant. We should do it because it’s the love for neighbour we are expected to give, but in fact by doing so, it is at least a beginning of relevance in the eyes of some.

            No it isn’t. Nobody thinks the Church is relevant because it gives them stuff. They just take the stuff, if you’re very very lucky they say ‘thank you’, and then they move on.

            That’s not a reason not to do it. But it is a reason not to have any illusions about it making the Church ‘relevant’.

            It IS preaching the gospel.

            No, it isn’t. Otherwise the DHSS would be preaching the gospel. If you’re just doing stuff that people feel is their entitlement from the welfare state, you’re not preaching the gospel.

          • The voluntary sector would already collapse without church-going Christians – but nor do we have a monopoly – the idea that if we just did a bit more than the country would come rushing back to the pews is just silly. The actions have to involve actually pointing to the God who is the sustainer, motivator and inspiration . But, I do think a lot of what is happening does indulge a sense of entitlement and stokes a never-ending gluttony; heaping up coals upon heads rather than any sort of gospel preaching.

            I would also say, Susannah, that your definition of “neighbour” is very different from the answer that our Lord and saviour gave on that very question.

          • S

            Won’t get people interested in Jesus…

            I don’t know about that…. Men may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.

            If Christianity is not seen to be compassionate it will attract no-one.

  6. Where on earth can I invest to get those returns- the Bank of (the Church of)
    England? Is there a local branch, or is all online?
    And the Bank of England’s interest rates are?
    And where does it all fit in God’s creation- human- salvation economies.? The real church resource is people, living stones? Pentecost, growth anybody? St Paul’s collection service was to deposit and invest where?
    This all seems so far removed from work in the ground and even well outside the norms of the third sector, charitable organisations, that it boggles.

    Reply
    • Geoff,
      Not to detract from the point that Ian is making I think you will find that gain in 2021 has already been wiped out in 2022 with the market sharply down.

      I wonder if that gentlemen will hand that £250,000 back?

      Reply
  7. I am no expert on the administative machinations of the CofE but it does seem to me that it suffers (like hte NHS) from too many managers (who like to pay themseleve large salaries and be thought important), and too few foot- soldiers whose job it is to minister to the flock and actually make things happen.

    Maybe this is a natural consequence of the way large organisations evolve.

    Perhaps each diocese needs to review each post and ask themselves what would happen if it was abolished – carried out by an independent agency with no vested interests of course.

    Fat chance of that happening though. Shame that they don’t read Dilbert.

    https://dilbert.com/

    Reply
    • Not too sure why we should read Dilbert at this point, but there is a ‘Dilbert Principle’ associated with that widely-read cartoon strip.
      According to the Dilbert Principle, people are promoted within an organisation to get them out of the way. The useful stay where they are, the useless get promoted. Far be it from me to suggest that the C of E is a living, breathing example of Dilbert, but the general inability of Bishops to have any original opinions of their own suggests it has a place.
      On the other hand, the Church Commissioners work brilliantly, regularly achieving double-digit percentage returns when the rest of us can barely achieve 0.1%. No Dilberts there, obviously.

      Reply
  8. I suggest that there needs to be increased Lowest Income Community Funding.

    There are, from my own research, over 500 parishes where the CoE is the only church building (left) located among areas of social housing, many of which can be described as estates.

    If the CoE shuts up shop, who will share the love of Jesus through words and deeds to those who may not have the means to travel to a gathered congregation?

    Reply
  9. Can you really sustain a National Church covering the country ( esp rural areas) when there is no Church Tax? Scandinavia. Or a different model Germany/ Switzerland/ Belgium … Inevitably in an increasingly pluralist society with churches operating as voluntary organisations this is very difficult even in the C of E’s case with the Church Commissioners. The huge variations of “churchmanship”in the C of E is also another complicating factor when it comes to reform

    Reply
    • Perry Butler

      ‘Can you really sustain a National Church covering the country ( esp rural areas) when there is no Church Tax?’

      What are you on?

      We, the working-class, are reduced to heating or eating.

      Reply
      • ‘Can you really sustain a National Church covering the country ( esp rural areas) when there is no Church Tax?’

        What are you on?

        It’s a perfectly reasonable question (and I don’t think that the suggestion was that a Church Tax should be established, but rather that there was no point in pretending any more that the UK can sustain a National Church).

        Reply
        • S

          ‘Not very sporting’ of you old boy (Blade Runner).

          Butler went onto state:

          ‘Scandinavia. Or a different model Germany/ Switzerland/ Belgium …’.

          Those countries impose a tax to support empty church buildings.

          ‘No taxation without representation!’

          But of course the liberals would argue: “Then come to church and be represented.”

          The national churches, on the continent, have nothing to offer the people except:

          1. Endless sermons by priestesses on relationships.
          2. Homosexulality.
          3. Priests in skirts, tights and suspenders AT THE ALTAR.
          3. ‘Feel good, um good.’ (Full Metal Jacket)

          S. We, are men: competitive; reject passivity; long for battle. Give us St Paul – Maximus the Gladiator:

          ‘I fought with beasts at Ephesus.’

          Give us John Bunyan: ‘He would valiant be…’.

          Give us, working-class blokes, a cause worth living and dying for.

          Then, we shall know what it is to live.

          Reply
          • D. Singh:
            “1. Endless sermons by priestesses on relationships.
            2. Homosexuality.
            3. Priests in skirts, tights and suspenders AT THE ALTAR…

            We, are men: competitive; reject passivity; long for battle. Give us St Paul – Maximus the Gladiator: ‘I fought with beasts at Ephesus.’ ”

            This is all so offensive to women in the way it is written.
            It sounds angry and aggressive.
            I have full respect for men who are soldiers etc. (and women for that matter). Real men and women.

            But the way you phrase your diatribe just comes across like toxic masculinity.

            Real men don’t need to mock female priests, or have melodramatic language like ‘suspenders at the altar’… what is wrong with you? I mean, how many women priests do you think actually wear suspenders?

            I don’t know if you’re in the Church of England, but the majority of churches in the CofE are fine with women priests, and believe women priests have brought additional gifts to the Church. Now I actually respect people who believe in an all-male priesthood, but writing the way you do just sounds like a pumped up male intent on being insulting.

            Anyway… must go… as a Scot I have to go full Braveheart this evening as Scotland have to break everyone’s hearts and crush Ukraine in the football tonight.

            Like I say, real strong men, with the gentleness that comes from strength, I can respect them fine.

  10. A superb analysis, as usual. It remains to be seen whether, and how, the Commissioners’ latest gains have been compromised by the recent rout in all asset classes bar residential property. I note that the Commissioners had a significant stake in equities (34.6%) and only 8.1% in defensive equities. Equities have taken quite a pounding in the last couple of months, and this retreat is likely to continue as QE is wound down in the US. The longer the war continues, the worse conditions will get.

    I understand why the Commissioners have decided to buy off discontent by increasing their subventions of pet projects (for which bids must be made), without going so far as to enhance stipends (to make up for inflation running at 9%; the CPS is indexed-linked). However, Dr Paul is surely right in noting that clerical incomes have declined significantly, and that this is becoming a major problem.

    Indeed, this is probably the largest fall since the mid-1970s: then, the Commissioners raised clerical incomes, but this led them into more speculative investments, resulting in the crash at the end of the 1980s. That experience was so searing, it might help to account for the Commissioners’ present apprehensions.

    The big difference between now and then is that the Commissioners have plenty of fat, and that much of that fat has been made possible by the parish share system since the Colman Commission abdicated responsibility for about half the stipends bill (1995) and all of the prospective pensions bill (1998). The ability of DBFs to raise clerical incomes and to increase pension contributions (for post-1997 accruals) is, perforce, limited by the ability of the laity to provide additional subventions via the parish share. A large section of the laity will likely be unable to enhance their giving, especially if they are annuitants, or people of working age who are currently taking an effective 9% pay cut.

    Therefore, if clerical incomes are not to fall further, the Commissioners will have to take up the slack and/or the remorseless reduction in the number of stipendiaries will have to continue. The question is whether, by increasing clerical incomes, the Commissioners will have the ability to recover once this period of stagflation is at an end (*assuming* it will end; I have my doubts).

    What I am hoping is that this ‘crisis’ will act as a spur to a more fundamental reconfiguration of the Church in the name of economy. Is it really sensible, for instance, that there should be 42 DBFs, 42 DACs, 42 safeguarding teams, etc.? Why shouldn’t there be a single consolidated administration at Church House (which should move away from London)? The Commissioners already manage the payroll far less expensively than would be the case if there were 42 separate payrolls, for example.

    Reply
      • Indeed, and many thanks! However, I fear this time the stagflation might be more protracted than many people expect because of: (i) stalemate in Ukraine (Putin elevating commodity prices and causing a world food crisis); (ii) price gouging by commodities cartels (including OPEC); (iii) deglobalisation (the attempt by the US to revive a policy of containment); (iv) embedded inflationary expectations; (v) the lack of transformative Pareto-optimal productivity improvements underpinning wage growth and feeble investment by firms; (vi) massive debt loads, obstructing the taming of inflation via another Volcker shock; and (vii) mounting resource constraints relative to population pressures. The stagflation of the 1970s (really 1971/73 to 1981/82, but especially problematic in 1974-76) was quite protracted and whilst very high interest rates tamed inflation, they did so at enormous social costs, which continue to this day on both sides of the Atlantic. I wonder whether these factors might help to explain the apprehensiveness and defensiveness of the Commissioners. That said, I hope that they will be persuaded by your very compelling arguments!

        Reply
        • But high interest rates worked then because of the internal causes of inflation. The causes now are external, and will not be affected by interest rates, which I think are likely to stay low.

          Reply
          • But high interest rates worked then because of the internal causes of inflation. The causes now are external

            Some of them are, some of them aren’t. Remember inflation was shooting up before the end of last year; it’s not all because of Putin’s invasion, though that hasn’t helped. A lot of the current inflation is due to rebounding demand, constrained supply, and the billions of pounds of government-debt-funded spending pumped directly into the economy over the last couple of years… all internal factors, all things that rising interest rates could reasonably be expected to have an effect on.

            How to bring down inflation isn’t actually a mystery. The problem is just that all the ways to do it also have their own undesirable consequences. It’s entirely possible that the government will try to avoid those consequences until things are so bad that they have no choice, at which point they will have to cause even more pain than if they had started sooner. High interest rates are likely to be a part of that pain (pain for borrowers, anyway, savers who for the last decade have seen the value of their savings dwindle compared to inflation might be glad of some return).

  11. “It is very welcome that the Commissioners have agreed to increase their support of ministry …”
    …… But if the ministry stays more reliant on tradition and opinion than the word of God it is still going to fail.

    Reply
  12. A short-out for your final point 4 – the shift from residential, full-time training to non-residential part-time training will have dismal long-term results. The more our culture drifts away from the Christian faith the more important it is that clergy have deep scriptural and theological roots.
    Saving money through shallow ministerial formation is a recipe for ineffectiveness two or three decades down the line.

    Reply
      • Is there any evidence of residentially trained clergy being more effective in growing congregations?

        Given the collapse of church attendance the reality is that going forward most ministry will need to be lay or non-stipendiary. There is little point in giving someone 2 or 3 years residential training if they won’t have a job at the end of it. Frankly I think we should be moving to 100% non-residential training.

        Reply
        • Maybe a mixed economy, a combination of both?

          One aspect of residential training which I think is significant and valuable:

          Christianity is about community, and while trainees of course also live in community out in their own parishes, I do think there is something additional about preparation for ordained ministry being carried out (at least in significant part) as part of a community of study, shared journey, shared prayer…

          …because formation is not only about academic study. I recognise there is a counter-argument that would suggest that residential training could be an ivory tower, detached in its own academia, and cut off too much. However, community that is close like that, and shared in journey together, and in prayer, brings its own challenges… as any sister of a religious community will tell you. But the disciplines of shared daily life, shared liturgy, shared lives during recreation time… that seems to me to offer a kind of formation that perhaps they will never experience again once they hit the road running in the parishes.

          All that said, it costs.

          If the Church can find the money, I favour residential training and formation, but with the proviso that there should also be challenging placement out in the field as well.

          If it can’t find all the money (but it does sit on rather a lot of money) then maybe a mixed economy approach. For the past 6 years I have been involved with courses the NHS run for potential senior executives. They still hold their highly responsible jobs, but they have periods of time as a group of potential executives, sharing a journey together, and sharing experiences, at the NHS Leadership College in Leeds.

          That’s a thing about residential aspects of training. It helps people with different experience, and in the Church of England maybe different parish origins and different views, share journey together and learn from each other and respect each other.

          We badly need that in the Church of England today.

          Reply
        • I think there is a good pedagogical argument for mixed mode training—but the problem is that it stops too soon, and in three years ordinands only get half the teaching input. So I’d be happy with a pattern of say, five years context based training.

          The problem we face is that ordinands start training with less and less knowledge of scripture and thinking about theology year by year. The loss of teaching input hours means that there is less chance to make up that.

          The net result is a generation of clergy who don’t understand theology.

          I agree that people need to know how to lead churches into growth. But it is not either/or. You cannot grow healthily without good theology.

          Reply
          • “The net result is a generation of clergy who don’t understand theology.”
            Exactly why I left the CofE at 71 and found sound teaching an an evangelical church plant.
            My Pastor has a degree in Theology and reads the Ancient Greek of the New Testament. He teaches what is there without the embroidery of his opinion.

          • The problem is your commitment to such a rigid clergy/laity structure. Most of my lie has been in churches with either a totally lay ministry or with a combination of clergy/lay ministry. Here clergy/lay are very blurred categories implying only a more robust training,

            It is a sin against the giftings of the Spirit to limit public preaching to those ordained in a system. It has led to churches where most of the congregation have a low biblical awareness for such awareness is necessary only for the ordained.

            I previously belonged to a city church in Glasgow. It has a couple of full-time workers, one being a Pastor. However, a good number of others are able to preach with knowledge and authority. The elder ship has no first among equals. It is a thriving church bursting at the seams with young people and is well represented in every age group.

            I have no doubt this is much nearer to the biblical model and is all the more effective for being so.

    • Surely, a question that needs to be asked about the residential colleges is whether they are assets at all?

      Certainly, such “doing life” together will be a crucible of formation. But, forming into what? If it forms people into liberals with contempt for the word of God only trumped by their disdain for the peoples of England, then that is no good at all?

      Have they lost faith, and lost value, long before they get shut down?

      Reply
  13. Might it not be a good idea for the Church of England to preach the Christian Gospel?

    Instead of, as at present, the weird liberal distortions of the Gospel that comprise the newfangled Anglican Religion.

    I won’t say, Anglican Faith, because no one really believes in liberal religions. Certainly not enough to die for them. And, outside comfy places like university towns, not even enough to get out of bed on Sundays for them.

    Reply
    • The general population have tuned-out of gospel conversations as well – although they are still receptive to talking about ‘meaning’.

      Meanwhile, evangelicals will always start with the bigger “What is the meaning of life?” questions and then quickly switch to the minutiae of correct speech/living – say this stock Christian phrase, observe this trivial rule, conform to a pattern of life that seems like a brainwashed cult to outsiders. The fact that it is wholeome (based on family life) doesn’t make it any less intimidating to those who aren’t looking to join a cult.

      Reply
  14. I’m not convinced that clergy stipends should be increased – £25k plus a free 4-bedroomed house and a non-contributory pension represents a package of at least £60k (and significantly more in London and the South East). There might be a case for providing additional support to clergy with a non-working spouse and dependent children.

    Similarly, the C of E pension is already very generous compared to other churches, although the Commissioners could do more to help priests who do not own their own property.

    Reply
    • Calculating the apparent value of the ‘package’ doesn’t give the real picture. In expensive areas, the cost of living is higher, yet the stipend remains the same. Clergy are often frozen out of the housing market—though this is now becoming true of most young people. But the tied housing is not all plus.

      If the stipend was right ten years ago, then it is not right now, and vice verse. I explore the complex issues around stipend here: https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/how-much-are-clergy-worth/

      and revisited it here. The figures showing change over time, and the number finding the stipend inadequate are worth paying attention to. https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/once-again-should-clergy-be-paid-more/

      Reply
        • evidence? is attending a lunch at church, organised and delivered by others, really ‘work’ when everyone else is there in their free time?

          Reply
          • To be fair, I do think many priests/ministers do work under a lot of pressure and demands, if not in hours, then in emotional demands. Some work excess hours as well (observing my priest). It can push some to breaking point, as in a number of other jobs.

            What I also suspect though, Peter, is that the role varies between different priests. I have observed some priests who don’t seem to pull their weight (though it’s hard to be certain of course).

            Personally, I’m relieved that I am not a priest. I don’t begrudge them a living wage for the work they do. I’m grateful. I think my doubt (expressed higher up) was about whether they should expect professional-level pay when many below the poverty line contribute tithes from what little they have. I don’t want a priesthood with any sense of entitlement. There’s a balance somewhere in all this.

            Honestly, with regard to the ability to feed your children on your wage of £27000 or whatever, with accommodation thrown in… try claiming there’s a poverty problem making ends meet… to a healthcare assistant in your congregation, maybe earning £14000 a year for a desperately needed social role, who also has to pay rent for housing too.

            I hope the Church manages to keep priest’s stipends up with the coming period of 10% inflation, but I’m not sure further increase is justified in the present time. I think we all have to try to ride this economic storm out as best we can, and any excess funds would be best directed to food banks and other means of financial support for the poor.

            None of this means I disrespect the sacrifice and devotion of many priests. I believe in an ordained ministry, as a calling. I don’t believe in that being elevated above the social class and wages of typical working people. That is olden days stuff.

          • is attending a lunch at church, organised and delivered by others, really ‘work’ when everyone else is there in their free time?

            If you have no choice about whether to attend or not, it’s work. That’s why it’s work for the minister but not for those who are there is their free time — ‘free’ time being the clue.

    • As Ian Paul says, the ‘package’ doesn’t give a true picture….

      I lived a significant time of my ministry (now well retired) in a house that was huge and cold, with a huge garden. Way beyond my financial ability to heat it. Ice inside not just out. It was, in theory, worth a fortune but irrelevant to my future housing and detrimental to saving for it.

      I wouldn’t claim poverty, we always had enough. But…. It was a significant miracle, kindness and hard saving, that made a retirement home purchase possible….

      £25k is easier to understand as £395 a week after stoppages.

      Reply
  15. If you are a member of a diocesan synod, or bishop’s council, make sure a discussion takes place about how the increased funding from the CCs to your diocese is going to be spent. Diocesan synod usually approves the DBF budget. I’ll be pushing for a fixed percentage subsidy in year one of the new funding period on parish share for all parishes to help parishes regroup after COVID-19, followed by a year on year review. It could be an incredibly easy way to build up morale and good will. And from that kind of positive culture all kinds of good things can happen in a diocese.

    Reply
  16. What does the C of E (and other churches) need?

    1. Men who preach God’s gospel word in its entirety – glorious hope and hard edges.

    2. Congregations who gossip the gospel and who live out kingdom priorities

    3. Praying people.

    4.God to send upon the land a spirit of conviction that leads to eyes being opened.

    5. Apostates purged from the church.

    Reply
  17. Allow me to offer a comment in two parts.

    First, on social media you introduced your post with these words:
    “The Church of England appears to be very good at growing its assets, but less good at growing its congregations. Are we going to end up with lots of money but no people? If so, what should we do?”

    What should we do? Give surplus funds to missionaries! Use it for (Anglican) institution building in Africa and Asia. Use it for Christian theological education in Africa and Asia (working through Anglican institutions is fine, but be willing to train those from other Christian traditions as well). Use it to support African and Asian missionaries **who minister in the UK**!
    ……………..

    Here are my thoughts in response to your actual post.

    1. “a bonus of £250,000”
    “a bonus”
    “of £250,000”
    “a bonus of £250,000”
    Wow. I don’t blame you for being tempted to ask if he wanted to share! I am sure that we don’t work less hard or fewer weekly hours than that guy, but my wife and I together with two incomes have never earned that much *over any three year period*. But then we’ve been in ministry and education, not high finance.

    2.a. “there is a real sense of hardship amongst those clergy with children and without a second income. Given the overall financial situation, I think this is a scandal.”
    This is absolutely scandalous. The workers are worthy of their hire, are they not?

    2.b. Calling someone who is celibate to a monastic life of poverty is one thing and can be appropriate. Expecting married clergy to raise their children from within economic impoverishment when the Church is sitting on this kind of wealth is reprehensible.

    2.c. Sending retired clergy out to pasture when the pasture has neither grass nor hay for winter nor byre for shelter is likely reprehensible. “A mere £25m per annum to rectify,” you say? Make it £30 or £40 and really provide for these servants of the Church in their retirement.

    3. I’m located in Africa, and not the UK. And so I’m definitely But I would suspect that while historic state funding of the Church of England has created the conditions for this surplus to exist it may have *also* created an ecclesial culture, at least in some quarters, where generous giving is just not a thing. While raising that as a possible issue, however, I have seen a 2016 CofE report of “record giving levels” for 2014 [1]. But then I saw that “Average weekly giving per tax-efficient givers has continued to rise year on year with members giving on average £12.01 in 2014. Average weekly giving per electoral roll member rose to £8.85 in 2014.” Having spent most of my church life in the USA and in Kenya, and for most of that time having an income that the USA’s Internal Revenue Service considers to be below the poverty line (for the size of our family at a given time), to me these figures look shocking low.

    4. Teach total Christian stewardship at the congregational level, which should include Pauline instruction on living generously.

    5. See my initial comment, above. Having read the post, I find it applicable.

    6. Use it to support African and Asian missionaries **who minister in the UK**! This might be the best way to help revitalize the Church of England and to make new disciples.

    grace and peace,
    joshua robert

    Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA)

    ……….
    [1] http://www.ChurchofEngland [dot] org/news-and-media/news-and-statements/parish-finances-show-record-level-giving

    Reply
  18. I would just like to clarify the estimated extinction date. I fitted a straight line to the Church of England attendance data from 2000 to 2020 because there was no evidence of a systematic slowing down in the Church of England’s rate of decline over that period. Normally, decline is exponential, as you state, but that assumes the age distribution stays the same. Most congregations that decline do so because they fail to add enough new people. They then decline through ageing, which follows a straight line. The whole church is a mixture of such ageing congregations, exponentially declining ones, plateaued and growing. As congregations die out, this mixture will change, and the decline rate should slow. That pushes extinction later than the date I gave but does not avoid it as long as the R rate is less than one.

    I really hope and pray the Church’s renewed focus on mission does increase additions to the church and turns decline to growth. Most denominations would agree that congregations with full-time stipendiary clergy are more likely to give growth. Re-planting churches in redundant parishes may be one of the best uses of such clergy. But people will have to be patient. Even in times of revival, growth can be slow, and strategies have to be sustained over many generations.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment and the clarification, John! And thanks for your fascinating work.

      I agree with you that replanting into redundant parishes is the best way—there are examples of that happening all around me at the moment.

      I was very struck by Rodney Stark’s research, which showed that, in the early centuries of ‘explosive’ church growth, the average overall was 3.4%. Thus just did that, year in, year out, for 300 years!

      Reply
  19. I agree that SSM shouldn’t be offered by the church, but I get the impression from the chart in the link

    https://churchmodel.org.uk/2022/05/20/uk_church_decline_and_progressive_ideology/

    that the author has only considered one item, which might not be the most important item. Note that the Roman Catholic church is marked red (i.e. rejected SSM) and is in decline. The Salvation Army, marked red, is in decline; the Open Brethern (marked red) is in decline.

    The churches on the right hand side (i.e. those increasing) – well, yes, they’re all red (i.e. reject SSM), but while I haven’t done an exhaustive study of all of them, I suspect that they are all endowed with a certain level of charismatic tendency. Vineyard certainly is (unless they have rejected some fundamental aspects of their founder Wimber).

    I find charismatic tendency very worrying: I thank God that I am saved; that is a miracle – and I don’t need any additional miraculous signs, wonders, healing. That is my view; if I get to heaven and the Good Lord tells me that I was wrong on this matter, I’ll be happy to accept it.

    I just point out two things: 1) perhaps the main driving force for church growth (in the churches that are growing) is charismatic tendency (rather than a rejection of SSM – since no-Charismatic denominations listed, which reject SSM are also in decline) and 2) I don’t really see why we should be prioritising church growth anyway, since there are times when God hides his face. We should be prioritising proclaiming the Word, Christ crucified and risen, repentance to remission of sins. If this yields fruit which results in church growth, then this is a blessing – but if we prioritise church growth, we may find that we’re compromising the Word in order to get it.

    Reply
    • ‘I dont need..’ Good for you. Some of us are quite happy to let God do as He wills, in response to need, as evidenced by Jesus.

      Reply
      • PC1 – this is getting side tracked – the point is that the statistics don’t establish what is claimed – there is a `hidden factor’ – which is sticking out like a sore thumb – the churches with highest growth are those with charismatic leanings, while there are churches which reject SSM – and are going down. These are churches that are not known for charismatic tendency.

        If you want to go discuss the pros and cons of charismatic tendency – something is clear from the gospels – miracles can *confirm* faith – the faithful who believed that this was the Messiah and were looking for confirmation – but they do not generate faith – as evidenced by the end of John 6, where the crowds had seen all the miracles – and they abandonned Jesus anyway.

        Reply
  20. Joseph came to power in Egypt and slowly enslaved the whole population except the priest-caste. Egypt’s whole economy eventually revolved around the cult of the dead.
    Perhaps, the NHS will eventually be the whole economy of Britain. The CxE could then be incorporated as the chaplaincy to NHS Britain?

    Jacob bred the sheep amongst the speckled and spotted sticks to increase his flock. Perhaps Christians should give the pure , grand, National Trust church buildings to the state and focus on the speckled and spotted .
    Christianity could simultaneously thrive unnoticed whilst lottery funded, liberal NHS Britain could take over as the National cult of the dead.

    Reply
    • Steve – yes – this is an aspect of the Joseph story that struck me with full force; Joseph really wasn’t a very nice man. God gave him advanced warning – and elevated him to a position where he could do something about it. What we see after that is an astounding land grab. He sells the Egyptians their own grain at exorbitant rates so that by the end of the seven years of famine, Pharaoh has absolute control over everyone and everything except for the priesthood.

      As for the C. of E., yes – well – I pointed to the contradiction earlier. Ian Paul rightly says that The Church should be counter-cultural. This is basically what Jesus taught. Yet the ancient and tasteful church buildings in leafy villages all speak of a C. of E. that is very much part of the culture.

      God is not found in nice buildings, fancy altars, stained glass windows – it would do the C. of E. no harm at all to get rid of all of these and pass them onto the National Trust – as you suggest.

      Reply
      • After commenting I reflected.
        This could be a way for both camps to separate and claim legitimacy.
        Liberals love priestcraft and ceremony; they can inherit the old buildings with the proviso that they take the king’s shilling. That is, they become a chaplaincy to the NHS until the state owns everything material. They become the priest-caste of NHSUK. They can use Joseph as their biblical model.
        Jacobites can collect the speckled and spotted, ~ any Christians not deemed liberal enough, or clever enough, or wise enough.
        Not nice? Joseph? Not nice? Luther? Nice is staying on the blog. As soon as we go outside our preconceived ideas, prejudices, temperament and narrow view takes over. If we could anly see oursels as others see us.
        Unt now back to the platinum jubilee on to.

        Reply
        • Yes.

          This is very clear. All the great men of faith who are described to us in Genesis had serious issues. This isn’t accidental. The author of the Pentateuch (ultimately God) didn’t accidentally miss out the `nice’ ones.

          Reply
        • Good question. I always assumed that Joseph was portrayed as a basically good guy who had been wronged, but who God vindicated in the end.

          It’s a key question, isn’t it? What were the original authors actually trying to communicate?

          In this case of Joseph, I sort of assume the author’s intent is to show that God can vindicate the one who the brothers betrayed out of jealousy. God journeys with Joseph, and raises him up out of his doom in the pit (nice piece of baptismal imagery perhaps)… and so I don’t really read it that the author was trying to criticise what he did.

          As you say John, what was *intended*?

          Throughout the Bible, the authors – human beings like ourselves – were using stories, reports, witness statements to try to express things about God and the narrative of God. Maybe, in reality, if the account of Joseph has historical accuracy at all, he wasn’t a particularly nice guy. We may not think all his actions were very nice. But I think the authors themselves felt that God was on his side, watched over him, and vindicated him in the end.

          Reply
        • (reply 2) – ….. and the place where I began to understand this was from a commentary by William Still. (Collected Writings of William Still Volume 3 Genesis and Revelation Edited by Sinclair Ferguson).

          I can’t remember specifically what he had to say about Joseph, but all throughout he pointed out that the great men of faith were all very far from perfect. Being of a Salvation Army background (before he entered the C. of S.), it isn’t surprising that he was particularly scathing of Noah – pointing out that the first thing that Noah did after the flood was to plant a vineyard and get absolutely drunk …..

          There is (of course) a very good reason why God shows us men of faith who were all very flawed characters. Perhaps this applies to the way we should think of Susannah (who is clearly a person of faith – and at the same time there are serious issues which aren’t `by the book’).

          Reply
          • “it isn’t surprising that he was particularly scathing of Noah – pointing out that the first thing that Noah did after the flood was to plant a vineyard and get absolutely drunk …..”

            Maybe we should cut Noah some slack Jock. If you were banged up for 40 days and nights in a wooden crate with lots of smelly animals and probably sea sick as well, then you might well go and get drunk.

          • 🙂

            He had to grow the grapes first, so it wasn’t like he went on a bender as soon as he landed.

          • I think we are to see Joseph in a positive light. It can be difficult in narrative to discern the narrator’s intent. However, I think with Joseph disapproval is aimed at others ad not Joseph; his father for showing favouritism; the brothers for yielding to murderous jealousy; Potiphar’s wife. Employing his skills with grain to enrich Potiphar was his job. Joseph is I take it a type of Christ… decreed to be the saviour of the world yet hated by his brothers (Israel) as he told them who he was. Ultimately his rejection brings salvation to the world.

          • John Thompson – of course we see Joseph in a `positive’ light. He was called by God and, ultimately, was faithful to his calling.

            At the same time, describing him has a `type’, pointing to an `antitype’ is precisely the sort of reductionist thinking I expect of a Brethern background. You miss something very important when you overlook the serious flaws as you are doing.

            The text makes it clear that he was an insufferable smarty pants – and we understand why his brothers were somewhat hacked off (although we also understand that the reaction of his brothers (killing him or sending him into slavery) was horrendous.

            It is extremely important to understand that the people of God were (except for one or two very notable exceptions – Moses and Elijah spring to mind as perhaps the only two) were very flawed characters.

            Yet they were saved – and this is vital for helping us to understand that we (those of us who have appropriated the gospel of repentance unto remission of sins) are also saved – even though we keep on sinning.

          • except for one or two very notable exceptions – Moses and Elijah spring to mind as perhaps the only two

            Um Moses was famously so flawed he wasn’t even allowed to go into the promised land.

          • S – well, yes – thanks! I was being generous. This helps to establish the point.

            But his only misdemeanour was to hit the rock in anger – and forget to attribute the miracle of the water to God.

      • God can be found in them. There’s nothing wrong with an aesthetic building. God clearly enjoys beautiful things, as do humans.

        Reply
        • I wasn’t suggesting that one position is bad and the other good. I think Jacob should keep the speckled and spotted and Joseph should keep the priesthood and property for the crown. Let each biblical template work for each tribe.
          Like the Judah/Israel split after Jeroboam, Israel took the large part but fractured eventually ,,or Lot who took the fertile plain,, let each party go their separate way in the knowledge that ‘having it all’ buildings and land may not be in the best interest .
          A golden handshake may be the best for everyone.

          Reply
        • Personally, I think it’s a real grace that churches have existed over so many centuries in so many towns and villages all over the land. A millenium of Christian witness. I believe the buildings themselves are witness to the continuation of faith in God . As you say, Peter, great love and craftsmanship was put into so many buildings. It was like, “Here’s God, this is a place of God” in countless villages for countless centuries.

          We can indeed find God in beauty and in holy places. I am sure I’m not alone in having visited a quiet church, and just sat there, and felt God. Although our God seeks personal relationship with us, possibly the greater part of God is numinous, reclusive, and mysterious. I think holy places like churches can be places where people sense God, even if they don’t fully understand what they’re sensing.

          To me, parish churches up and down the land are like a signal of the continuity of faith. I think that continuity through old buildings matters – because of the ways God works with grace in ways we don’t understand.

          I think aesthetics do indeed matter, whether beautiful buildings, beautiful music, beautiful landscape, beautiful art. We are made to be open to beauty. We are made that way by God. After all, we are destined for the eternal and beautiful country. God wants to restore our original beauty – the beauty of the image in which we are made. We are made for beauty, and beauty can unlock our feeling for God, I believe.

          There is an urgent need to address the issue of church buildings in this country, and how they can be preserved and looked after, for all the future generations and the centuries to come.

          Reply
          • The last old church building I visited was Ely Cathedral. I liked the sundial so much I was inspired to make my own version as a work of art. I did not sense the numinous but I did enjoy it, like I enjoy anything out of the ordinary.

          • After all, we are destined for the eternal and beautiful country.

            Some of us are, not all of us. I hope I am, but I would never presume to say ‘we’ as if I was certain to be in that number.

  21. I do wonder where God is in all of this!!! In all of this speculation, and methodologies? In declension? In hostility? In grieving, in lament, in prayer and fasting.In sowing, watering, reaping; note the order.
    Whose church is it? Whose work is it?

    Reply
    • Maybe God is challenging us to love one another, even when we have different views, instead of vilifying each other?

      The history of the Church is blood-stained with terrible divisions and inability to love each other enough. Is there a lesson in that?

      I ask that as a sincere question.

      Reply
    • Geoff

      Now just wait a cotton-pickin’-minute.

      Everything was just fine until those liberals walked into our sonorous decline.

      First they told us “What we do in the bedroom is none of your business.*

      It never was.

      Then they told us, after 2,000 years, “we want priestesses”.

      We lost the vote – not the debate. C.S. Lewis told us – during World War II – that if we admitted priestesses then we would invoke shadows who would deal with us.

      They are. Judgement.

      Once priestesses were admitted (sex being irrelevant to the priesthood) the homosexuals demanded (logically consistent) equality.

      Now we have the transgendered slamming their stiletto heels in our backs.

      Next is proposed homosexual ‘marriage’ when everyone is bewildered as to how such a ‘marriage’ can be consumated.

      After that will ‘Christian’ men demand four wives so that they can achieve equality with Muslims?

      If it’s good enough for them, then why not for us?

      Men long for peace. There can be no peace. The centre has been shattered.

      As S said, on another thread, we have two religions occupying the same space.

      There can be no peace. We are a house divided. Civil War.

      Reply
      • We lost the vote – not the debate. C.S. Lewis told us – during World War II – that if we admitted priestesses then we would invoke shadows who would deal with us.

        I have read Lewis’s essay, and it’s one of the places I disagree with him. Not with his conclusion that having priestesses in the Church would be bad — it would — but that he doesn’t identify that the real problem is that the Church of England has priests at all. Christians shouldn’t have (human) priests. We have one priest, Jesus of Nazareth. We need no others to stand between us and God.

        Women ministers on the other hand are fine.

        Reply
      • “There can be no peace. We are a house divided. Civil War.”

        Have you learnt nothing from the ignorance and the suffering of sectarianism in Belfast and Derry? Or the European wars of religion? Or the burning of martyrs?

        Your portrayal of the Church of England as ‘at war’ is melodramatic.

        Up and down the land there are Christians in parish communities with different views. They co-exist. They love each other. They serve their communities together.

        As for women priests, there is space in the Church of England for those (the large majority) who affirm female priesthood and believe they have brought further gifts to the Church; and also for those who believe ordained priesthood should be male only (a substantial minority, but a position I respect as held in conscience and sincere theology).

        You do seem a bit worked up about women. “Men long for peace.” You make it seem like women don’t know their place. Women long for peace as well. Men and women are both made in the image of God. Men are no wiser than women, and no stronger in moral virtue or spiritual wisdom. “Men and women long for peace.” “People long for peace.” Not just men.

        What we actually need is the maturity to pass the test God sets us: to love one another, to co-exist even with diverse views, to pray for one another’s flourishing. To realise that the Wars of Religion were a disgraceful aberration, and that the real challenge is to live in community, and to serve community, according to our best consciences.

        That’s the real challenge.

        Giving ourselves to the daily task of loving people. God is love. Some find it easier to see Christian calling through the prism of religious warfare. But it’s far harder and more costly to love our enemies, to do all the hard and practical work of serving the needs of our neighbours. The talk is easier than living out the action.

        In your other post this morning, you castigate the Church in England for the alleged failure of people to tell our youth about Jesus. It’s just not true. Up and down the land, in tens of thousands of church communities, week in week out, people put time, preparation, effort, patience, love into youth groups and telling young people about Jesus – as well as quite rightly just loving them and listening to them.

        Is your own church in the Church of England?

        Are you a youth leader at church?

        “Is there anybody left, in any church hall who can wipe away their tears and say: “Jesus said…”?”

        Well yes, in thousands of church halls up and down the country.

        Male teachers and female teachers… people actually doing something.

        And then the melodrama about various minorities.

        I’m not going to open up that again. Nothing to do with money. All this is de-railing, driven by some obsession about how women are wrecking the Church. You seem fixated on it. I guess I’m falling into the trap by responding.

        Religious war is horrific language. This is not Derry in 1970. This is not Afghanistan, Shia against Sunni, Sunni against women. The Church of England is people who come to worship and take the sacraments, and try to live that out in their daily lives. Sadly millions have completely switched off from dogmatic assertions against evolution, gay sexuality, etc. It makes the Church look stupid and disgusting and people just switch off.

        Most people in the Church of England are not into those kind of dogmatic issues – they are into the daily call to seek God and to serve their neighbours. The Church does fantastic work, shows grace in action, and it’s more costly than you and me typing at a keyboard. The true warriors are out there actually doing Christian service, living Christian lives of compassion, visiting the lonely, caring for the elderly and sick, driving people to hospital, fetching shopping. Realities of life. Not ‘social services’ as some have caricatured it. Living actual Christian lives, that as John Thompson rightly said, was ‘Kingdom Living’.

        They are the ‘centre’ you mention. They have grace in getting on with the challenge to help in their neighbourhoods. They have no interest in ‘Religious Wars’. And yes, they DO care about their youth. An alienated youth who truly are put off by archaic views on sexuality, or stupid ideas like “we did not evolve from other animals”. Frankly they just shrug at that, and it’s part of why overall so many have abandoned the Church as irrelevant or even harmful.

        If they heard your ‘call to arms’ they would think: “What are you on?”

        It’s out of touch with their lives.

        Kindness and inclusion starts a conversation. Up and down the land, there are decent Christians doing that.

        Join in if you want. Build peace.

        Reply
          • 🙂

            I’ll say this for you. You are a handful. Your logical and thinking processes are so precise. I figure you have a very high IQ. Emotional IQ – juries out. Impossible to measure reliably. I don’t think you’re keen on ‘feelings’ though! But I appreciate sharp and challenging discourse – makes the other participant shape up.

            Yes, of course there is theological discord in the Church of England on a number of fronts.

            I’m not persuaded the solution will be found in the direction of ‘War’.

            Especially when the term is deployed in posts that come across a bit like those beleaguered mentalities at Westboro Baptist etc. Then there’s the risk of melodrama and paranoia.

            Some posts today could have been written by the Taliban.

            No, I don’t think there’s going to be Jihad in the Church of England. Far more likely that there will eventually be a compromise, and a few people at polarities will choose to go elsewhere.

            Everyone else will resume ordinary parish life, which has nothing to do with women confined to dishwashing and flower arranging, and nothing to do with Jihad.

            Some people will think that sums up the organisation – tepid, insipid, too inclusive etc… but others would say there is grace in the moderation and desire to love people with diverse views.

            YMMV.

          • I’m not persuaded the solution will be found in the direction of ‘War’.

            I doubt that too, if only because the spoils of such a war are increasingly not worth the cost of fighting (what would the winner get? A load of old buildings that are more shackles than assets; a lot of money, but that again looks like more like a gilded cage).

            The solution really is only to be found in the honesty to admit that the two sides have utterly incompatible beliefs, and a (hopefully peaceful) agreement to go their separate ways.

        • Susannah Clark

          Evolutionary theory remains just that – a mere theory.

          If it was true then there was no justification for the abolition of slavery; the condemnation of Stalin’s Gulag; nor Mao’s Cultural Revolution; nor Hitler’s concentration camps; nor the killing of nine million babies in the womb.

          It is fascinating to read a Christian defend: The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

          And you want peace?

          Reply
          • “Evolutionary theory remains just that – a mere theory.”

            It’s not “mere” theory. It’s the dominant theory.

            Adam and Eve had parents and ancestors.

            Only dogma says they didn’t.

            Truth-seekers tend to find the evidence on evolution more persuasive.

            Why should we be afraid of that?

      • DS.
        Maybe, you are trying too hard to second guess me.
        God gives us over to the desires of our hearts, in judgement. Romans 1.
        I posted a comment a few hours ago, but it doesn’t seem to have passed Ian Paul’s moderation, perhaps necause it contained a link to quotes from J Gresham Machen, who a century ago identified liberalism as a diffent religion from Christianity and wrote a book about it, “Christianity and Liberalism.”
        You’ve opened up a can of worms, regarding the femalisation of the church.
        It has been the subject of books such as; Why Men Hate Going to Church; The Church Impotent.

        It is hardly a new topic, but it clearly is perhaps even more contentious, best left under the carpet.
        Anglican minister Daniel Cozens, started an evangelising mission organisation in 1980/90 with a name that today would be blocked- The Walk of a Thousand Men, or Through Faith Missions (TFM). He saw that a lot of men didn’t get involved in church. While women took part – those keen to evangelise- only the men slept on church hall floors, and team leaders were male. TFM still exist, thougg Daniel Cozens has retired. I don’t know how they operate now.

        Reply
  22. Susannah Clark

    Your message above (no reply link).

    ‘Freedom of speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having. What Speakers’ Corner (where the law applies as fully as anywhere else) demonstrates is the tolerance which is both extended by the law to opinion of every kind and expected by the law in the conduct of those who disagree, even strongly, with what they hear. From the condemnation of Socrates to the persecution of modern writers and journalists, our world has seen too many examples of state control of unofficial ideas. A central purpose of the European Convention on Human Rights has been to set close limits to any such assumed power. We in this country continue to owe a debt to the jury which in 1670 refused to convict the Quakers William Penn and William Mead for preaching ideas which offended against state orthodoxy.’

    Sedley LJ, Redmond-Bate v DPP (1999)

    Reply
  23. (On a different tack in response 😉

    I have a more nuanced feelings to the issue of the financial need of the CofE versus the value of the Church Commissioners’ Endowment, having a little insight into their predicament. I am a trustee of a smallish charity which also distributes money from the return on an endowment, which at about £11 million is rather smaller than the CofE’s! However, it has seen similar growth over the last few years – it was about £7.5 million in 2013. We also operator a total return policy, which means the funds we can distribute can include sales of assets, and not just the ‘natural’ income from those assets (dividends, interest and the like). Our target is similar – CPI + 4%. That has been hard over the last few years as the natural income has fallen. You are lucky to get perhaps 2% of asset values. Dividends collapsed in 2020.

    The aim of the charity is to operate ‘in perpituity’. This means we need to consider the needs of future beneficiaries as well as current ones. This means trying to maintain the value of the endownment in real terms. (The dip in assets values in March 2020 resulted in valuation falling below the real-terms value briefly.) This means that in the long term you use the excess of the return over inflation. I think that the amount the Church Commissioners distribute is in line with the same principle.

    However, following advice, with the recent (surprisingly) bouyant asset values we have overspent this amount by dipping into capital. However, this coming year we will not be able to do this. This will mean hard choices about those to whom we give grants, as demand is soaring.

    Assets values have fallen this year, maybe about 3-4%. Those looking at markets are very nervous. Inflation has risen. The current CPIH figure is 7.8%.

    There is a significant difference between us and the Church Commissioners. We can stop paying out and we have done so for the last month. They cannot. For them, if asset values plummet, and income dries up, they still have to pay out stipends and pensions. So, I understand their caution.

    There are a couple of other numbers which might be relevant. Our investment managers charges us a fixed fee which is 0.5% of the asset value (there are additional costs for the management such as dealing charges). I think if we had a larger endowment, the percentage would be lower. Should the Church Commissioners receive a fixed percentage of the value? They could then pay bonuses out of that to those who perform well.

    Our overheads for running the business itself of the charity are low – about 10% of the amount we distribute. If the parishes – and cathedrals – are the work of the CofE, what percentage of the money from the Commissioners goes outside these?

    Reply
    • It’s an issue of medium and long-term sustainability, isn’t it?

      What needs to be avoided is a collapse in support, leaving commitments high and dry. Say you invest in a children’s centre in Africa. That’s wonderful. The centre does wonderful work, the community starts to rely on it, it’s a blessing.

      But an organisation distributing money needs to plan and commit, not only to the start of new missions, but to their continuation and sustainability.

      In the present economic climate, where there is imminent risk of sustained levels of inflation, or even of share value collapse, the longer-term commitment and need for sustainability and fidelity to commitments would suggest that trustees should be risk-averse because of accentuated danger that their funding models may falter.

      It may be a time to hunker down rather than ‘cashing in’ earlier surplus beyond inflation in previous years.

      With regard to stipends, if the Church is able to simply keep pace with at present runaway inflation, I suggest that would be an achievement. That said, of course one can increase commitment in one area by reducing it in another.

      I agree with Froghole, that there is a real possibility that inflation, possibly also raised interest rates, and economic pressures leading to falls in investment portfolios… may be with us for longer than we hope. That may not be certain, but in the interests of fidelity to commitments longer term (eg sustainability) I believe that possibility needs to be responsibly factored in.

      Thank you for your own example, which is illustrative in the way your own charity aims very long-term (perpetuity) and therefore logically does not eat into heritage funds if possible, but tries to operate on surplus gain beyond inflation.

      Reply
  24. Readers should be aware of John Hayward’s follow-up article:
    https://anglican.ink/2022/06/01/uk-church-decline-and-progressive-ideology/
    where he focuses on the effect of ‘progressive ideology’, defined as the belief ‘that human reason overrides God’s revelation’.

    This broad definition resonates with me, because the core philosophical belief from which all the modern excrescences derive – the values of ‘diversity, inclusion and equality’, critical theory and its derivatives, LGBTQ+ rights, etc – is the belief that there is no such thing as spirit, man evolved from bacteria (via fish, reptiles and eventually the apes) and the whole universe created itself from an entity smaller than a garden pea, following the Big Bang. Soi-disant evangelicals can see that ‘progressive ideology’ is bad fruit, but very few can see that their own substitution of Darwin (or Dawkins or Brian Cox) for Moses comes from the same tree.

    A propos of my comment above.

    Reply
  25. Steven Robinson

    ‘man evolved from bacteria (via fish, reptiles and eventually the apes) and the whole universe created itself from an entity smaller than a garden pea’

    Is it then any wonder the teenagers are asking, who am I?where do I come from? where am I going?

    Long ago the Christians had the answers – and they applied those answers to science (Sir Isaac Newton); law (Mr Justice McLean,
    Dred Scot v Sandford – each man bears the impress of God (US Supreme Court (1856)); art (Rembrandt); abolition of slavery (Wilberforce) prison reform (Elizabeth Fry) and the list goes on into eternity.

    Today the number of children applying to study R.E. is so large that there are not enough teachers to answer the demand. These teenagers are desperate to know the mystery of life.

    And Archbishop Welby’s response?

    Ethical investments
    Climate Change
    Immigration
    Sex – and every kind of sex
    Agreements, disagreements; agree to disagree

    Is there anybody left, in any church hall who can wipe away their tears and say: “Jesus said…”?

    Reply
  26. S

    I know the priest doesn’t stand between us and God.

    Installing a priest is good administration.

    Women ministers are great; they do the flower arranging; polish the brass; make tea; do the washing up and instruct the younger women in manners and modesty.

    Reply
    • Installing a priest is good administration.

      It isn’t though. It’s an unnecessary and problematic distraction. A qualified minister — a teaching elder — is necessary to teach and to lead worship. But a priest? No. Unnecessary. Wrong.

      Women ministers are great; they do the flower arranging; polish the brass; make tea; do the washing up and instruct the younger women in manners and modesty.

      They do. They also preach the word and expound the scriptures, just like male ministers should do.

      Reply
      • S

        I have no difficulty with qualified ministers nor a teaching elder.

        A female teaching and preaching to women is fine by me.

        Women preaching to males and females is unacceptable.

        When you have such a woman preaching to men the blokes’ masculinity is ‘irritated’. That is why blokes say church is a place for women and children.

        They cease attending church (along with their wives and children).

        Women preachers focus on relationships. A recent study was completed on women’s speeches in the House of Commons. Their speeches rapidly collapsed to ‘personal relationships’.

        Men are hard-wired for action, struggle, conflict – they can’t stand being passive-recipients.

        Give them sermons on battles, conflicts, struggles and they’re all ears.

        Fish for the men and their wives and children will follow. Attract the young men and the young women will come too.

        Reply
        • Moreover, somebody, somewhere along the line is bound to ask the question: why is there an imbalance between the sexes in church?

          Why don’t the other religions have the same imbalance in mosque, temple and synagogue?

          I was surprised to see John Hayworth suggesting that the Roman Catholic church is likely to be extinct along with the Church of England.

          I see many Roman Catholic families marching to church on Sunday morning – led by their fathers.

          One Sunday morning, by coincidence, I found myself on the same route as these families.

          As they neared the large Catholic church, to my astonishment, I witnessed something extraordinary.

          The fathers peeled away from their wives and children. I followed the men. They entered a pub.

          The following Sunday I did the same thing: the men entered the pub. I followed them in. It was packed. They left when they saw their wives and children exiting church.

          Rome is failing to attract men.

          Reply
        • Women preaching to males and females is unacceptable.

          When you have such a woman preaching to men the blokes’ masculinity is ‘irritated’. That is why blokes say church is a place for women and children.

          Ah, so your argument against women teaching men isn’t theological, but sociological – that it repels men to be taught by a woman?

          But if that’s the case why are men okay with women being in charge of them or teaching them in other areas of life — at school, in university, at work? Why is it only in the Church that it’s a problem?

          (Or is it your claim that men aren’t okay with being managed / taught by women in other areas, but they don’t have a choice other than to endure it, whereas they can opt out of church?)

          Reply
          • S

            No. Not sociological. When we enter church – we’re supposed to have left the world at the door.

            ‘But if that’s the case why are men okay with women being in charge of them or teaching them in other areas of life — at school’ etc.

            I think they tolerate it in those other contexts. They have mortgages to pay.

            School is an interesting example.

            Christians condemn knife crime.

            Many boys are growing up in fatherless families. They are wounded. State policies do not favour the family.

            These boys ‘hear’ their mothers voices at home; they then ‘hear’ the female teacher at school. They long for male authority to enforce boundaries – mother and female teacher find it nigh on impossible to control these hurting boys. Some attend church (because Mum says so). And they ‘listen’ to the female priest.

            They then see the neighbourhood gang. Male comradeship, authority and a substitute father figure.

            The female priest cannot administer communion that blood work belongs to the male priest – did so in Judaism and the early church.

            Women’s blood work is of a different nature – going all the way back to Genesis.

            God permitted the women to announce the empty tomb.

            The empty womb.

          • I think they tolerate it in those other contexts. They have mortgages to pay.

            Okay, I suspected it might be something like that.

            Another question then: why are so many men so happy to be reigned over by a Queen? Why are those in the services proud to salute Her Majesty as their commander-in-chief? Because I don’t think you can deny that most men — especially working-class men, especially fighting men — are happy and proud to do so. They aren’t ‘putting up with’ Her Majesty until a king comes to the throne again: they really do think she belongs there, reigning over them.

            But according to you men should reject and chafe at the idea of a female sovereign and head of state. Yet demonstrate that is not the case. How do you explain that?

            I totally agree with you about the plague of fatherlessness, and the horrific effects of the lack of male authority figures in certain areas though. I just don’t think the answer is to reject all female authority. What is needed is make authority to complement the female.

            The female priest cannot administer communion that blood work belongs to the male priest –

            ‘Blood work’? You are aware that Holy Communion is an act of remembrance, right? There’s no magical change in the blood and the wine. So I’m not sure what you mean by ‘blood work’; could you explain?

        • “When you have such a woman preaching to men the blokes’ masculinity is ‘irritated’. ”

          I’ll fix that for you…

          “When you have such a woman preaching to men, the masculinity of blokes with sexual insecurity who only feel ‘big’ if they can posture and parade their toxic masculinity and patriarchal status… is ‘irritated’. ”

          Real men are not ‘irritated’ by strong women. Real men respect strong women. Because they’re not insecure about their manhood…

          You are obsessed by women being ‘contained’ in stereotypical women’s roles.

          Most women would regard your previous comment above about women washing the dishes as pretty pathetic and insecure.

          The problem with insecure men is themselves, and their culture. Women are not the problem. Insecure men (just like the Taliban) need to grow up and be strong alongside the strong women. They are humans together, and it’s a weird kind of man who wants to ‘lord it’ over women, and keep them in their place.

          You seem desperately insecure to me, when you write: “Women ministers are great; they do the flower arranging; polish the brass; make tea; do the washing up and instruct the younger women in manners and modesty.”

          You may as well live in Afghanistan.

          Seriously though, try to stop fearing the power and sexuality of women. We are all humanity together. Just build your life on being that kind of strong masculine that knows the gentleness that comes from strength, and likes the strength in women, and their equality with you… not just arranging flowers (men can do that too), but running countries, contributing to science, fighting for justice, awesome women. Why be afraid of women like that?

          Men can be equally awesome. Strength recognises strength, courage recognises courage.

          Reply
          • Sussanah Clark

            ‘Just build your life on being that kind of strong masculine that knows the gentleness that comes from strength.’

            Yes that’s right.

            ‘Brutal on the battlefield, and meek in hall.’

            Prof. C.S. Lewis

    • “Women ministers are great; they do the flower arranging; polish the brass; make tea; do the washing up and instruct the younger women in manners and modesty.”

      You are a member of the Taliban, and I claim my $5.

      That remark of yours is unbelievably sexist.

      Reply
  27. Made my final comment on this page. Clearly we got de-railed again. I tried to address financial issues in various posts. I just get drawn in if I think someone is being sexist etc. Apologies to Ian.

    Reply
  28. Sussanah Clark

    ‘You are a member of the Taliban, and I claim my $5.’

    I’m sure you would condemn all practising Jew and Christian men prior to the 1950s.

    Reply
    • Susannah York

      A word to the wise.

      You’ve shown us the many comments from bishops who appreciate your views on LLF.

      Do you believe that the same bishops will support you, or distance themselves, when they are shown how you have ‘racialized’ this debate?

      ‘Apologies to Ian.’

      Reply
      • You’ve shown us the many comments from bishops who appreciate your views on LLF.

        If I were an Anglican, I would find it very disturbing that the hardline activists on one side of the debate seem to be quite so chummy with the bishops. It would make me seriously question the impartiality of the advice the bishops are getting.

        Reply
        • S

          You are clever. You fight with guile.

          Like the parliamentarians of 1641 you want us to condemn the King’s adviser – the Earl of Stafford.

          That induced the King to sign Stafford’s Death Warrant.

          After the advisers are ‘rejected’ – all that was left was the homoerotic court of King Charles I.

          Reply
  29. S

    No reply link your post.

    Her Majesty’s case is interesting.

    Men see her not only as head of state but as set apart from them. She is seen in her splendour – above even that of the rat infested House of Commons – above politics. Someone who is unstained. She is not linked in men’s imaginations to a tiresome and quarrelsome woman. Her soldiers salute her as a matter of honour, respect and duty. Her office radiates an authority – which seems – dare I say it -‘sexless.’

    I’ve never heard a soldier say he loves the queen. When you speak to soldiers they do not fight for queen and country (of course I’ve heard veterans say that – but there I think they are saying “We gave to our country -respect us.”)

    Soldiers die for each other – not queen and country. I’ve spoken to many. When you’re terrified the voice of just one comrade – keeps you going. You sometimes want to run away – but you’re with your mates. You’re there and nowhere else.

    Putting women on the frontline (even as officers) is degrading morale – on both sides of the Atlantic. They just can’t keep up with the lads.

    I wish I had a computer – rather than this 2×5 ins phone. A magnifying glass is required to read.

    The blood. It seems to me that it was the male that killed the sacrifice in the Old Testament. This blood work was never done by a woman – there was no female priest untill 1944.

    The Lamb was killed by men – blood work – Jesus gave his blood (in which there is life). The Lamb is still bleeding in Revelations. Jesus (as our High Priest) instituted the Supper (he as male and High Priest) carried out that blood work (the wine). He was carrying on what the male priests had always done. It is a man’s work.

    His blood is still being poured out for us (years ago the Christians would sing – usually before a revival – about the blood – not anymore).

    I am sure that there is more to communion. But this I know – there should be no confusion about the roles of the sexes at the altar.

    That is as far as my thinking has taken me.

    Reply
    • S

      I also agree – no magic – but the extraordinary thing is He would use material (mud) to minister. I think it’s more than an act of rememberance. Men die if they partake of it unworthily.

      Reply
      • I just thought. His blood is still being poured out. The Lamb is still shedding blood for us.

        Can that blood be taken from the metaphysical world and applied in our space-time world?

        Reply
        • Moreover, why do the denominations who are unlikely to go extinct sing:

          There is power, power in the blood,
          In the blood, in the blood of Jesus?

          Reply
        • D

          His blood is not still being shed. The blood was shed at the cross for atonement. Atonement was made once for all – once at the end of the age he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

          Reply
  30. Men see [the Queen] not only as head of state but as set apart from them. She is seen in her splendour – above even that of the rat infested House of Commons – above politics.

    That reminds me — men, including working men, three times elected Margaret Thatcher to lead their government. How do you explain that, if having a woman in charge is so unimaginable for most men?

    Her office radiates an authority – which seems – dare I say it -‘sexless.’

    Indeed. So you admit some offices can be ‘sexless’.

    I’ve never heard a soldier say he loves the queen.

    Well no because that would be weird. But they respect her authority over them.

    Putting women on the frontline (even as officers) is degrading morale – on both sides of the Atlantic. They just can’t keep up with the lads.

    In some roles, yes — infantry or marines. But there are roles in modern warfare that don’t depend on physical strength, and for those roles women have no intrinsic disadvantage.

    I wish I had a computer – rather than this 2×5 ins phone. A magnifying glass is required to read.

    That does sound awful.

    It seems to me that it was the male that killed the sacrifice in the Old Testament.

    Yes. But Holy Communion is not a sacrifice. It is a meal of remembrance. So who did the sacrifices is irrelevant.

    Jesus (as our High Priest) instituted the Supper (he as male and High Priest) carried out that blood work (the wine).

    No, the blood work Jesus did was His death on the cross.

    He was carrying on what the male priests had always done.

    No, He wasn’t carrying in what the male priests had done — He was completing it, once and for all. There is now no more need for male priests, because of what Jesus did.

    But this I know – there should be no confusion about the roles of the sexes at the altar.

    Ah the very fact you call it an ‘altar’ tells me you’ve got it all wrong. It’s a communion table. Not an altar.

    Reply
        • If you look at the Temple with east at the top, He sits on a throne, with the Great Sea of humanity under His feet. The Glory of the Lord entered the east gate as the Prince in Ezekiel’s vision. Prophecy was fulfilled as the star of Bethlehem returning from exile. Summed up figuratively in Jesus’ baptism.
          His belly is the holy of holies. His heart is the great altar. His hands are the north and south gate. His feet are over the western wall, over the sea.
          His right hand was stretched first over the north, samaria, Antioch and the seven churches. his left hand holds the keys to Death and Hades (the south and Egypt).

          Reply
  31. Part of the problem with the whole predictability indicators is that two cases in particular have proved the indicators wrong. Winchester diocese should have grown confidently but instead there was a grass roots rebellion to the new ways of being church that should have confidently brought about growth.
    And London diocese, one of the most diverse in terms of church tradition, with liberals, conservatives, traditionalists and radicals co-existing along side each other, has bucked the trends and grown.

    Reply
    • And London diocese, one of the most diverse in terms of church tradition, with liberals, conservatives, traditionalists and radicals co-existing along side each other, has bucked the trends and grown.

      Have all of those categories grown though, or it is just that (say) the conservatives have grown so much that they have more than made up for the decline of the liberals?

      Reply
        • God’s Spirit revelation in scripture can, and does: mystery solved, logic included

          And just for you, today, AG.

          https://youtu.be/kDYjn-YdnD4

          Holy Spirit, living breath of God,
          Breathe new life into my willing soul.
          Let the presence of the risen Lord,
          Come renew my heart and make me whole.
          Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
          Give me faith for what I cannot see,
          Give me passion for Your purity;
          Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

          Holy Spirit, come abide within,
          May Your joy be seen in all I do.
          Love enough to cover every sin,
          In each thought and deed and attitude.
          Kindness to the greatest and the least,
          Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
          Turn my strivings into works of grace;
          Breath of God show Christ in all I do.

          Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
          Giving life to all that God has made,
          Show Your power once again on earth,
          Cause Your church to hunger for your ways.
          Let the fragrance of our prayers arise;
          Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
          That in unity the face of Christ
          May be clear for all the world to see.

          Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

          Reply
        • human nature is a mystery which logic alone cannot illuminate.

          True, but my question wasn’t any human nature, it was about statistics. I’ll repeat it:

          Have all of those categories grown though, or it is just that (say) the conservatives have grown so much that they have more than made up for the decline of the liberals?

          Reply
          • I know conservative churches that have seriously declined, liberal churches that have seriously declined, and vice versa. The obviously growing churches are the ‘open’ HTB types.
            But all that is to miss the point. The diocese as a whole has a complete mix of traditions and is growing. End of conversation.

          • But all that is to miss the point. The diocese as a whole has a complete mix of traditions and is growing. End of conversation.

            Clearly not the end of the conversation. You might as well say, ‘the Church of England as a whole had a complete mix of traditions and is shrinking. End of conversation.’

            The answers, if answers there are, clearly lie in drilling down into the details rather than taking the headline figure of what is as you point out a very heterogenous diocese.

    • Andrew – I think it would be a good idea to look at where the growth is coming from before getting too excited. I don’t know anything about the statistics here. I *do* know of someone from the inner parts of a major English city, who developed a deep love of the C. of E. during lock-down – and seems to have a relentless `kinder kuche kirche’ view of what the Christian life means for women.

      You may have seen something of this. If that is where the growth is coming from, then it isn’t good news.

      But I very much hope that your optimism about London is well founded.

      Reply
  32. And there is Dallas Willard’s book: Jesus the Logician.
    And relevant to Pentecost he writes:
    “… In this connection, it will be illuminating to carefully examine the logical structure and force of Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2).”

    Reply

Leave a comment