The Extinction of the C of E: Two Issues

anglicanrevisedThere has been some very interesting discussion on Facebook and the blog following my previous post ‘When will the C of E be extinct?’. Out of this, two issues stay with me.

The first comes from John Hayward’s comment in his original article on reasons for decline that the three episcopal churches he compares with the C of E have greater uniformity.

ECUSA, SEC and C in W, are all Episcopal by conviction. It is having bishops and prayer books that set them apart from the other denominations. By contrast the C of E is the national church, which just happens to be Episcopal. It is defined more by being national, and less by being Episcopal, as it is the national and established element that really sets it apart from other denominations. Thus the C of E has more variety between congregations than the other three.  To give an example from Wales, one Church in Wales clergyman described his denomination to me as like a Henry Ford car, “any colour you like as long as it’s black”! Generally speaking I have found in Wales, Scotland and the USA a fairly rigid uniformity when visiting different parishes, more so than I have seen in England. Thus the C in W, SEC and ECUSA are narrower, and thus almost sectarian in their relationship with non-Anglicans, compared with the C of E.

But the second, contrasting point is that the other churches have found it easier to change with the times theologically, and their uniformity has meant that this has happened lock, stock and barrel. John does not express his view in these terms, but more in terms of the C of E being open to evangelical and charismatic influences than the others. But a fascinating article I read yesterday by J John makes this point in terms of historical continuity.

First, and most fundamentally, the foundation of the conventional Church of England is good, incorporating as it does both sound doctrine and wise practice. In terms of doctrine, the Church of England was founded on the Bible and in terms of practice it has, despite frequent episodic swings to excesses, retained a wise balance between Calvinistic severity and Catholic ceremony. A key strength of this good foundation is, I would claim, the Anglican Prayer Book with those oft-neglected 39 Articles and the tradition of liturgy associated with it. In a world of increasingly unchurched people both liturgy and creed are enormously helpful in giving a script to follow.

He (perhaps unsurprisingly) goes on to lament the fact that many people don’t attend to this historical foundation or the claims that it makes on them—but it is there nonetheless. The most obvious distinction between the C of E and ECUSA, as well as a number of other members of the Anglican Communion, is that the C of E has retained is founding documents as the touchstone—the ASB (as its name makes clear) and Common Worship were both introduced as strictly alternative to the BCP, and not replacements of it. By contrast, when ECUSA introduced its Prayer Book in the 1970s, it replaced the BCP. Whatever the cultural issues around this, it turned the church into something with a basic historical discontinuity at the level of its theology.

One of my regular commentators, James Byron, observes in comments on the previous post:

I suspect the evangelical model of growth — culturally liberal, theologically conservative — has topped-out in the West. What’s needed is a combination of liberal theology with evangelical style. At the least, it’s worth a shot.

But both John Hayward’s analysis and J John’s perspective suggest quite the opposite. Cultural adaptability, rather than uniformity, combined with theological continuity, rather than cultural conformity, are precisely the combination that has, to some extent at least, protected the C of E. This doesn’t mean that the C of E is necessarily evangelical to the exclusion of other theological traditions, as some might infer from J John’s comments. It does mean that the C of E has a fundamental hospitality towards evangelicalism, which is not always found in other parts of the Communion. But much more fundamentally, it has a sense of theological continuity which, paradoxically, provides a sense of stability and security which might itself be the thing that is necessary to give the freedom needed to be culturally adaptability. In other words, being culturally liberal and theologically conservative go hand in hand, and both need each other. In Martyn Atkins’ words, it makes it much easy for us to rediscover our founding charisms, and make them relevant to our current context.

This then implies that there are two vital tasks for the missional church. The first is articulated most clearly in the Fresh Expressions movement: the ongoing search for cultural forms of being church that most effectively engage with our contemporary culture. But the second is found, if anywhere, in the Doctrine Commission—or at least in our serious debates about theology. Although some find these debates unpleasant and wonder if they are necessary, they are in fact a vital sign of a missional church. Without the anchor of theological security, we won’t be free to engage in the journey to meet our culture—and some would argue, we wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to offer when we got there.

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37 thoughts on “The Extinction of the C of E: Two Issues”

  1. “A key strength of this good foundation is, I would claim, the Anglican Prayer Book with those oft-neglected 39 Articles and the tradition of liturgy associated with it. In a world of increasingly unchurched people both liturgy and creed are enormously helpful in giving a script to follow.”

    I think this just shows how incredilby out of touch J. John is with unchurched people. Unchurched people don’t even know what liturgy and creeds are, still less care about them or want to read them or participate in them.

    As for the 39 articles: it is absolutely clear that the articles are a product of a particular point in history which, looking back, should cause us to hang our heads in shame rather rejoice at what it acheived in the form of the 39 articles. They were written to settle arguments much in the same way as despairing parents get naughty children to write apology notes to each other. Those who put their faith in the 39 articles as the future of a rosy Church of England probably just need to get a life. They are grim and nasty little historic formularies, and that’s what we assent to them as. They are insulting to Roman Catholics and if you gave them an unchurched person they’d just laugh – and rightly so.

  2. I agree with all that you say – especially debate and discussion about doctrine and theology. The challenge there is to broaden the scope of who is involved in those conversations. Having had a background in the Baptist church, I’m staggered at either the lack of interest in deep thinking in the pew or, the lack of teaching beyond the basics – repeated again and again from the pulpit. Wrestling with what we believe and why – and what that means as we live our lives – is an essential part of being a disciple. Another aspect of the CofE spoken less about is it’s “mongrel” nature. The ability the CofE has, because of its breadth, of hoovering up those from others churches, denominations who are dissatisfied, or more simply perhaps – move and find they have an affinity with their local parish church and start joining in there. Working, as I do, with youth and children’s workers from all over the country, many who are working for anglican churches would not define themselves as Anglican, would not speak in such terms with the young people they are nurturing and disclpliing.

    Of course, it might all be moot. Because there is another more obvious reason we might be extinct pretty soon, and its very obviousness seems to be causing a kind of spiritual blindness about what needs to be a priority in our mission. In the CofE there is only one child for every six adults. Add that to this stat :: 90% of our adults were involved in church as children. This needs to sink in. We have always been one generation from extinction, but we have not been living in an unprecedented state of loss of our children . . . reaching, engaging with and keeping families should be the number one missional priority.

  3. Canon Andrew,
    You wrote

    “Those who put their faith in the 39 articles as the future of a rosy Church of England probably just need to get a life. They are grim and nasty little historic formularies, and that’s what we assent to them as”]

    That seesm to me quite a strong statement to make for a Cof E clergyman. Could you explain and articulate what is grim and nasty about them?

    • Chris: they are basically the product of an anti Catholic establishment aren’t they? They are the product of war rather than negotiation. They are full of prejudice and intolerance. The language is grim. The sentiments are nasty. Do I really need to say more?

  4. Canon Andrew,

    Yes – I see your point about their anti-Roman Catholicism . A few questions if I may,

    1. Do you think they should be scrapped completely?
    2. If not, then what would you keep or modify?
    3 Would having a new set of articles, in whatever form (and in any way) -help contribute to church growth?

    Yesterday, I was helping to conduct a funeral which was in a Baptist church. One of the things I sometimes encounter (as a Baptist lay pastor) is that many people are unclear exactly what the the C of E believes, other than some vague something after death and that God is a sort of avuncular uncle. I even find myself clariying points of doctrine for the CoE on behalf of people coming to our services!

    Now they must get this impression from somewhere, but In the C of E, there seems to be embedded a kind of fuzziness that makes the message unclear. Don’t get me wrong – I rather like the CoE liturgy and the BCP I think, says most things concisely.

    However, if the Cof E was to formulate, a Mark 2 set of articles which made their position clearer to modern audiences then I think that might help. Or would they not be able to agree on what they should contain?

    • Hi Chris

      Thaniks for the great questions.

      I don’t think the 39 articles should be scrapped. They can’t be scrapped. I simply think they are part of our history, but not a part that we should be especially proud of – rather like we are not proud of the events that led up to the great ejection of those who were dissenters. Indeed we even held a service in Westminster Abbey to say how sorry we were about the awfulness of that part of our history and I think we probably need to do the same about the history surrounding the 39 articles. We live in a very different church age where ecumenism has taught us that Roman Catholics and Baptists are partners, not enemies.

      I definitely don’t think having a new set of articles would lead to church growth, and I think that is why the proposed Anglican Covenant failed so spectacularly. I’m pretty certain J John would have supported it and that he will go on supporting the 39 articles but they are simply side shows that detract from the work of building the kingdom.

      I do take your point about the fuzziness of C of E belief. But I don’t actually think it’s different elsewhere. Ask Roman Catholic lay people in the West if they abide by their Church teaching on birth control, for example, and they will find that question quite amusing. And I don’t recall my baptist parents staying away from the baptism of their grandchildren. I think the message of bible is terribly ‘unclear’ – by which I mean it needs explaining and interpreting and putting in context and translating. And we have differences in our interpretations and explanations and translations. That’s why the church is unclear.

      As I said on the former thread I think Church Growth is not the answer except in a secondary way. Better to focus on church health with something like the Natural Church Development work, and see how healthy churches grow.

      • I only robe for some services like Remembrance day, Easter and Christmas.
        They are all services in which people who don’t usually come to Church attend and come in numbers.

        Canon Andrew says that “…Unchurched people don’t even know what liturgy and creeds are, still less care about them or want to read them or participate in them….” Yet people come precisely because they have an expectation of Church that includes liturgy even if they don’t know what it is. People come to Church because they expect certain aspects of a service in Remembrance. People come to Church precisely because they DO expect a Church service for Easter and for Christmas. They don’t have to know the details of the liturgy or the service. The reality is that they are real opportunities and we let them down badly if we try to simply be hip and trendy.

        So no, Canon Andrew, I don’t agree because people DO want to participate in creeds and liturgy because that is what they want.

    • Chris, all I can add is that this discussion shows how wide are the range of views in the C of E!

      I’ve said before to Andrew, I am unclear how his views fit with his affirmation of the historic formularies of the Church in his ordination vows. But he appears happy to hold these views together!

    • Chris, I have just been reading Graham Tomlin’s ‘The Widening Circle: Priesthood as God’s way of blessing the world’. Chapter 3 sets out Luther and Calvin’s critique of mediaeval understandings of priesthood, and it is quite illuminating!

      Scripture is sufficient, and does not need an additional, separate authority of Church teaching above it or alongside it; Christ alone is priest, though he shares that priesthood with the whole body of his people; Christ’s atoning sacrifice alone is sufficient, and is not re-presented at the Mass; the ordained ministry has no sacerdotal role.

      On all these things (and others), this is what the BCP and Articles set out. They are contrary to official RC teaching (friendly as relations might be). And they continue to be Anglican doctrine which informs its worshipping life. You can see these things all spelled out pretty clearly in e.g. Common Worship.

      So Andrew might not like the tone of the Articles, but there is little doubt that they specify Anglican identity. (There is some irony in the fact that Andrew’s comments in fact match the Articles in tone…!!)

  5. The whole discussion so far has been about the theological identity as a vanguard for mission for the C of E, this is helpful for those already committed to the C of E and the Christian faith. The crux of the matter though is that fresh expressions engages mainly with finding culturally specific ways of being church, equally commendable. However, the vital aspect of mission is to find ways to engage with those under 35, it is the only way to stop the C of E from an inevitable decline and extinction. A few years ago a programme was mentioned whereby school leaders and teachers could access theological education. The effect of potentially having a theologically trained teacher in every church and community school would have created an Alpha course like possibility of children and young people having access to the Christian faith which was both nuanced and knowledgeable, the potential was actually limitless. Although welcomed countrywide by teachers like me, nothing has happened, sadly. We can have as many ‘in house’ discussions as we like, it is our praxis that matter as liberation theology taught us and if we don’t get this right within a small window of opportunity available, the extinction of the C of E within less than a generation is the only rational conclusion to reach.

  6. Ian, I agree that evangelicalism’s firm beliefs facilitate its openness to changes in style: many liberals seem to compensate for radicalism in belief by sticking to traditional forms. This doesn’t alter the limits of this model’s potential for growth. People are alienated by ideas that stray too far from their social mores.

    As I went on to say, reflecting cultural change, many evangelical churches are already “liberal” on women’s ministry and, especially, divorce. Evangelical material like Alpha plays down controversial positions on eternal damnation and ethics, as does the HTB/Willow Creek brand of evangelicalism in general.

    To recruit, counterculturism can only go so far, and the tension is ever-present. Evangelicalism is most popular when it downplays or changes some of its most distinctive beliefs. In a strange way, as evangelicalism slowly marched through England’s state church, liberalism is slowly marching through evangelicalism!

    • I am not sure that is true. You will find the contentious issues still taught in HTB and new Wine churches; Alpha didn’t want to put such things up front as though they were the first bridge to cross.

  7. Although published in 1978 Robert Currie,Alan Gilbert and Lee Horsleys substantial Churches and Churchgoers. Church Growth in England since 1700 gives an important historical perspective not least as it sees exogenous factors having greater importance than endogenous factors.I suspect historians and sociologists may evaluate religious statistics ( and perhaps possible remedies) rather differently than practitioners of other disciplines.

    • I am not sure that that is convincing. It suggests that the Wesleys were immaterial to the renewal of the C of E, and is contradicted by Rodney Stark’s analysis of the early church.

      I certainly would agree that cultural factors might make the institution of the church more or less amenable. But that is not quite the same thing. I think that numbers are a necessary—but definitely not sufficient—measure of church growth.

  8. People don’t realise the power of God’s Holy Spirit to surprise everyone, The Christian faith is like a river, there are seasons and times. Sometimes it is a torrent, at other times it trickles for a while but the rains come eventually.

    9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    And do not return there without watering the earth
    And making it bear and sprout,
    And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

    11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:9-11)

  9. Ian

    Could you please explain what you mean by culturally liberal? Do you mean allowing a wide range of worship or ideas?

    What evidence have you that there is less continuity of theology in the other churches of interest compared to cofe?

    • I mean happy to change aspects of social meetings, and forms of liturgy and practice.

      I mention one key example of less continuity in theology, in the ditching of the 1662 Prayer Book in ECUSA. Many evangelicals left on account of this, and ECUSA became mostly liberal catholic as a result. A similar move was rejected by lay evangelicals in parliament in the 1927/28 Prayer Book controversy here. John gives other examples in his blog post.

      • Thanks Ian. I think for sure contemporary worship style is a big draw for most younger people and some older people and draws in people who are not yet believers or rather I think *professional sounding* music does this.

        I don’t think you are right about the continuity of theology. Unless a church is massively different to their own theology I doubt the average churchgoer cares what the official line is, as an extreme example I know that significant numbers of people who worship at New Frontiers disagree with their theology around women leaders.

        I think the example you give is more about worship practise than theology and surely the result has been less change in worship practise?

        I would question whether CofE has changed less. Over my lifetime things like vestments and liturgy have -at least on the ground – changed from being an essential part of the church’s theology to being an optional extra. As you said in an earlier post I think acts of the Holy Spirit within the church have also been given more of a focus over a similar period. I would think that a broad church approach was more likely to embrace theological change than a narrow approach.

        I still think the principal difference between the rates of decay is down to the COFE being established and the default church in England.

  10. As a diocesan ecumenical officer, I tend to read carefully what other denominations say of us and likewise us of them and too many communications are not helpful. Anglicans can be woolly and even embarrassed by ourselves (the comment by Chris was entirely fair) but no more so than most other British institutions.

    What I think has been missing from the conversation so far is the success of chaplaincy in formal and informal arrangements. I need my own ministry I believe I reached more people for Christ as an ordained Chaplain in the YMCA than I ever do as a vicar. Is it time that in multi denominational teams we worked as Chaplains more than we do at present and actually fund it?

    I’m not the best history buff but one of the bedrooms of the Welsh Methodist revival was church members going into the mines and teaching the miners to read and then leading prayer and praise in the mines. Many times I have heard it in sermons that it would be great if the Lord brought back the days of the Welsh revival and I say amen. Can we however do the work together to plant that harvest first?

  11. Errors in above text apologies

    I need Should have read. I know from my own ministry

    Bedrooms is a spellcheck issue and should have been bedrocks

    Apologies but if you have been amused great

  12. I have a couple more thoughts which I think might be mutually exclusive. I have no idea if either is right.

    1. The decline in church attendance is because the church largely lost generation X with our wishywashy view of morality and distaste for authority. I think there is some evidence to suggest that millennials are more black/white in terms of morality, desire authority and are more likely to have traditional life goals. This seems to sit much better with the cofE than the culture of the previous generation. However this will take time to build up the numbers again.

    2. That “death” is inevitable and the decline is already such that it is irreversible and unstoppable. I write “death” because I think it is highly unlikely that the institution will stop, but it may stop having a presence in every community. There may come a time when we have more clergy than laity. The deathroes started when church attendance started becoming unimportant to the baby boomers and their children had no pattern to follow and no sense that this was an important or necessary thing.

    • “I think there is some evidence to suggest that millennials are more black/white in terms of morality”

      Yes, but what the church has traditionally called “black”, they call “white”, and vice-versa (FWIW, I think the millenials are correct, or, in Gospel langauge, they are 2nd brother of Matthew 21:30: they may say “No”, but they’re the ones actually going to work in the fields!)

  13. Reblogged this. There is a danger of forcing parishes and clergy to be of one mould and unless one has a “growing” church to be discouraged from being “different” – whatever that may mean. There is pressure to conform and not to ask questions

  14. I do not agree with John Hayward’s comment quoted by you – so far as it refers to SEC. Firstly, although we are Episcopal, the SBCP is not much used now. Secondly, although Evangelical/Charismatic congregations are in a minority, in terms of attendance and giving they punch well above their weight. I do not recognise the idea that SEC is uniform in churchmanship.

    However, the graph is as good as it is sobering. My hope and prayer is that the steep decline of TEC will snuff out any remaining enthusiasm for following their example.

    • Thanks Nigel. ‘My hope and prayer is that the steep decline of TEC will snuff out any remaining enthusiasm for following their example.’ Amen! Though I am not sure that that is the case…

      I am not sure John was suggesting that SEC is uniform, only that it is much less diverse than the C of E, which I could well imagine.

    • This “steep decline” in the Episcopal Church is really no such thing, so quit licking your chops in anticipation. We have almost the same decline as every other denomination in the US (even the Muslim mosques in the US are facing significant declines, as are the Baptists, charismatic, all branches of Judaism, and even the new age cults). Religion has taken a significant hit in the past few years, and much of that is a reaction to rather aggressive Conservative Christian behavior in the political realm. Even church goers are ashamed to admit as much for fear of being seen as Tea Party viewers of Fox News. Politics is everything here and the public image of religion has been claimed by one side.

      Secondly we (TEC) didn’t reject the 1662 BCP in 1979. We have had our own BCP which was very different than the C of E BCP since the 1780s. The 1979 BCP replaced the 1928, though there was much continuity that many do not understand or appreciate.

      Conservatives who left in the 70s and 80s did so supposedly over women’s ordination. They also left because of the large socio-political division that has split America since the 1970s. Across the board Americans worship with, and tend to live near, and go to school with, and even share clothing brands and auto model preferences with the people with whom they vote. Conservatives left the Episcopal Churches for conservative churches because every American did this. Republicans want Republican churches. Democrats do, too. I joined TEC in the 80s unknowingly part of this very same sorting. Large numbers of most Episcopal converts are escapees from conservative churches and if TEC suddenly became conservative our immediate flight out would cause instant collapse.

      This sorting is across every aspect of life in a very divided America and has nothing to do with any evangelical superiority as a way of faith.

      English comments on TEC often impose their own issues on a very different environment. Very few in the U.K. church scene seem to understand just how much of the Episcopal Church in the US is composed of people who have left evangelical or conservative churches, and people who have left the Roman Catholics. This is a defining part of who we are as a denomination, now. As converts who have “escaped” as it were, there is no going back to the evangelical or conservative model that we fled.

      One thing I will grant: as a church we are much more loyal to our Prayer Book (using it across every diocese and in probably 99% of parishes) and our understanding of Anglicanism as being essentially Episcopalianism (Archbishop Laud’s heirs) is quite at odds with the mindset of the C of E. But we would be more likely to think that this is perhaps a loss for the C of E.

      • Dennis, thanks for the information which is very interesting. I am afraid I am much more familiar with the C of E than ECUSA in terms of the development of liturgy. Just a couple of things worth noting.

        I think the ‘steep decline’ really is such a thing, even if others are also experiencing it. I am not sure anyone is ‘licking their chops’ but simply facing reality with some honesty, and I am grateful that John has done the statistical work behind this—and thought it through so carefully.

        I understand your comment about Conservatives and US culture, and things are very different here in the UK. But my understanding from people I know who were involved at the time was that, even if women’s ordination was a key presenting issue, the underlying anxiety was the loss of evangelical character or sympathy within the Church.

        Was the 1928 Prayer Book any relation to the 1928 failed Prayer Book over here? That would indicate a clear differentiation between the churches. If you see yourselves as the heirs of Laud (which I find fascinating, having been at Laud’s college in Oxford), then the C of E is clearly, in terms of its constitution, the heir of Cranmer, and that puts is in quite a different place. I think that really reinforces the accuracy of John’s analysis.

        (Incidentally, this also clarifies relations within the whole communion, as so many Anglicans in Majority World countries would identify with Cranmer rather than Laud.)

      • Thank you, Dennis, for your Witness. CoE evangelicals need to stop using the “steep decline” nonsense to support their exclusive theology and justify their power base in CoE.

  15. Mmmmm…. I’ve been reflecting for some time about the need for the rediscovery and reintroduction of the Catechumenate as practised in the early post-apostolic church. [Introductions to Christianity such as Alpha, Start, Christianity Explored, Emmaus etc, are precisely that – ie introductions which may or may not lead people to discipleship].

    The conversation above illustrates this need for something that is obviously missing….. a formational process to equip people with a sure grounding in what they are to be baptised into (or have been baptised into) in a post-christendom culture. In an Anglican context such a catechumenate would obviously need to include some basic introduction to the historic formularies of the Church of England. Though from what I read and hear in many forums, it might need to begin with (some) Anglican clergy!

    • Yes indeed! I would want to move beyond catechumenate only though—I think we ought to be taking learning as a continuing part of discipleship much more seriously altogether.

      • I entirely agree, Ian. I would see a catechumenate as an essential beginning of a life-long journey of discipleship, rather than an end in itself. But it is something I sense we need to reintroduce now that post-christendom is clearly here to stay for the foreseeable future. The thing is that the ancient catechumenate emerged in pre-christendom – a culture not entirely dissimilar to our own.

        • As I understand it there is, at least in some quarters, a commitment to exactly this, with plans for a new catechism backed by my own Bishop (Steven Croft). Google the report “Developing Discipleship’

  16. J John’s focus on both “liturgy and creed” is interesting. Whilst the CofE as a whole undoubtedly does both, do individual congregations? I think the conservatives would say that the liberals don’t do creed, and the liberals would say the conservatives don’t do liturgy. Fair cop?

    Taking up another point, was the CofE really founded on a charism, and if so which one? I think most people would, rightly or wrongly, point to the break with Rome as the beginning of the CofE, a state religion independent of the papacy. But few would argue that that was anything more than an act of political (and sexual) expediency, and certainly not a “charism”.

    OK, well if that wasn’t the founding charism then what was? Perhaps it was the ensuing development of the foundational texts by Cranmer et al during Henry VIII’s reign? Or was it their widespread adoption under the reign of Edward VI? Well, perhaps, but in 1553 they all went out of the window anyway. Or was it the Elizabethan Settlement? But is that too late to be “foundational”?

    Others, of course, look much further back than this to Augustine of Canterbury. But if that is our founding charism then it would seem to have nothing to do with evangelical Protestantism.

    What one views as the founding charism of the CofE seems as much open to interpretation as, well, just about anything.

  17. I can’t agree with the point about the BCP. The ECUSA uses a revised BCP (not a “replacement for the BCP”). The uniformity this gives us is far closer to the unity of the 1662 BCP before the “alternatives” made their debut. We pray Evening Prayer with the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; and in general our normative services are recognizably after the old pattern.

    This was driven home to me this past Sunday, as I was visiting Canada and worshipped out of the BAS there. Here is a book (as I encountered it) whose sole purpose is to salve embarrassment with the BCP, not to conserve engagement with the BCP.

    Am I wrong that BCP services are rare in England and Canada?

    The ECUSA also recognizably has charismatic, evangelical, and Anglo-Catholic diversity.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m as concerned as anyone about the fate of a dying mainline denomination I happen to feel is the church where I belong. But the spin of this report to reassure the CofE strikes me as wishful thinking. I am most struck by how dead the CofE was already at the left end of the chart (1900)! I’m supposed to look at that and envy the advantages of establishment?! I feel more hopeful about the U.S. situation because the tide of secularization hasn’t *already* washed over us, so at least there may be some Christians left over to come one day and look for “ancient future worship” or whatever it is that’s supposed to be out distinctive.

  18. “when ECUSA introduced its Prayer Book in the 1970s, it replaced the BCP”

    Dennis addressed this well.

    TEC’s ’79 BCP includes the Rite’s of the 1928 BCP, we call it Rite I. So it’s odd to say that ’79 replaces it.

    The next claim is even more bizarre. “it turned the church into something with a basic historical discontinuity at the level of its theology.”

    What Rite II does is reach back historically, using the Oxford Movement and and Anglo-Catholic trends, and re-captures that liturgy. The 1979 BCP includes the epiclesis and speaks to the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, which is the official belief in TEC (though personal belief and piety about it varies). My spouse is a leading scholar of medieval liturgy. TEC’s BCP includes our ’28, but also includes richer expressions from the past. It is NOT a departure, it only allows for departure from “low church” practices, but we include all without much fuss.

    I wish our BCP used more inclusive language, like New Zealand’s, but we were too early for that. And by the way, there are tons of feminine images for God in Scripture. The exclusion of those images is the news, not the currents trends toward re-inclusion.

    The use of “doom and gloom” of TEC to bolster the evangelical position in England is getting old. It is intellectually dishonest. I was happy to see Ian respond to Dennis by saying he doesn’t know the TEC well.

    Here’s a recent survey. In it, you can see that there’s a mix of growth and decline. The common denominator of growth is that the growing parishes and dioceses are liberal or very liberal. And that this fact is very much connected to demographics of urban growth and young families. Here it is:


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