What state is the Church of England in?

The Church of England statistics department released its Statistics for Mission report last week, quite a bit earlier than last year, and it is was not good news—though curiously there was almost no comment on it on the airwaves, in contrast to last year. We will be discussing this at the next meeting of the Archbishops’ Council, since in the end this is a major way in which we can assess whether or not policies for evangelism and discipleship are having any effect.

Overall, I think the headline things to note were:

a. that overall attendance continues to decline, and the pace of decline does not yet appeared to have slowed;

b. that, following a six-year trend in increased attendance at festivals, there was for 2018 a sharp decline. It is worth remembering that we have seen one-off anomalies before, and as the report comments, bad weather on a single occasion can affect the figures. What matters more than single statistics is longer-term trends;

c. that, nevertheless, there are dioceses where there appear to be consistent signs of growth and change.


I noted a number of things when reflecting on the same report last year, and they mostly still apply. The mixed picture of statistics does look as though it is coherent, though this time the writers of the report do note (p 11) an inconsistency in the measure of Worshipping Communities (a measure which has been much debated). Churches report more people joining their communities than leaving, but the overall numbers this year have declined.

Large churches continue to be of disproportionate importance, in that a large percentage of those attending C of E churches attend large churches. It would be interesting to explore how that compares with other denominations (for example, Roman Catholic Churches are almost all large, since there are many fewer clergy than in the C of E and so congregations need to be bigger). A friend did some numerical analysis on the participation summary table to see if we could work out what proportion attend larger churches, but I didn’t understand it!

The trend in decline in the occasional offices appears to have continued, and even be accelerating. We are now conducting almost as few as half the weddings that we did as recently as 2012. If you thought occasional offices like this were a good means of outreach, you will be saddened by this; if you think (like the majority) that these are a burden which distracts from the main business of spiritual leadership, then you might find that encouraging. Either way, it does indicate a major social shift.

As previously, and contrary to the cries of despair often heard, the proportion of young people attending C of E churches matches the proportion in the population as a whole. However, a question at July’s General Synod from Charlie Skrine produced a statistical answer which showed that the vast majority of work with young people is concentrated in a relatively small number of larger churches.


There are a number of things to put alongside the data in the report which give it some context. The only substantial response that I saw came from Steven Croft, bishop of Oxford, who suggested that this was a season for growing deeper rather than large.

How are churches responding in love to a population which understands less and less about the Christian faith? It’s important to meet people where they are, without judgement. It’s important to offer loving service and friendship without qualification.

Churches are also learning (slowly) that it’s important to offer simple, accessible ways to explore what it means to be a Christian from the very beginning. More than a third of churches now offer some way of doing this every year. For me, it’s right at the top of the list of what you should be able to find in every local church.

I agree with Steven that we need to offer accessible ways to explore faith, and that is why Alpha and Christianity Explored continue to be important—and why every church in England should be offering these every year (currently only offered by 34% of churches). I don’t think I understand the connection between this and the previous comment; we do need to meet people where they are (which is what lay Christians spend most of their time doing!) but the greater need is to build confidence to share something of faith, rather than keep silent.

Steven goes on:

There is a huge appetite to learn and explore. We may not be called to be a bigger church in this generation. But we are called to be a deeper church: helping beginners come to know Christ and be formed as Christian disciples for a life of faith and adventure.

If we are not called to ‘be a bigger church’ then this assumes we are not called to be inviting people to come to faith in Jesus, and I cannot find any theological reason for that. And it seems to me supremely ironic that it was Steven who led us through the process of RME (‘Resourcing Ministerial Education’) which has immediately led to a decline in full-time theological training and a massive switch to part-time and contextual training, which limits the opportunity for deeper theological engagement by future church leaders. (There are good arguments for the contextual model of training—integrated learning, motivation, involvement in practice—but I am not aware that deeper engagement has been one of them.)


Part of the challenge of these numbers is reconciling them with experiences on the ground. I am in a diocese which has heavily invested in the strategy of church planting and resourcing drawing on Strategic Development Funding from the Church Commissioners and administered by the Archbishops’ Council. As a result, we set out a series of ambitious goals for growth—which have as yet not been realised. But overall decline has been halted; the church I am part of has seen a little growth, and we regularly baptise adult new believers; we just had a diocese mission week, and there was a generally positive response; and we were visited by bishops and senior clergy from the northern province who seemed happy to be leaders in mission and evangelism. It all felt quite positive.

One aspect of reconciling these two things (experience, and the statistics) is to continue to recognise how much our culture is continuing to change, in the relentless move from meeting and learning ‘in real life’ to the importance of digital engagement at every level. Our youngest has just started university, and wondered aloud why she should bother actually attending lectures when the PowerPoint and audio recording of the lecture were going to be available online. There are good social, personal and pedagogical reasons for attending in person—but the question can now be asked, when it couldn’t be even five years ago.

At the same time as the Statistics for Mission were published, a report was released on the growth of the Church of England’s digital engagement.

Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, said following the publication of the data: “The digital figures show how people are using apps, smart speakers and social media to explore and engage in the Christian faith wherever they might be.

“Christians have been praying in the morning and evening offices for centuries and it is inspiring that this is available through new platforms and devices to meet the way people live now.

“The Church’s digital innovation is enabling people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that weren’t previously possible alongside regular Sunday worship and at significant moments such as Christmas and Easter.”

Apps allowing users to pray the ancient ‘Daily Office’ of morning, evening and night prayer were used 4.2 million times on Apple devices alone in the last 12 months, an increase of 446,000 on the year before, new figures show. Figures for Android devices show an increase from 855,600 to an estimated 966,000, bringing the predicted total across both operating systems to more than five million.

Note that 4.2 million uses does not equate to 4.2 million people—there is some way to go before this use compares with actual attendance. But it is growing fast, and only the most churlish and unrealistic would say that this is not highly significant.


There are two other issues of context which we need to put alongside the content of the Statistics for Mission report, and they arise from some parallel analysis published by Peter Brierley in the Church of England Newspaper.

Just under three-quarters of a million people in England currently attend a Church of England church on a Sunday. On average about a further 10 per cent will come to some of the church’s mid-week services or other activities (but excluding Sundays).

That is 1.5 per cent of the population, with another 4 per cent attending from other denominations (3.5 per cent on Sundays and 0.5 per cent midweek). Anglicans are thus a major constituent of the total.

In other words, only one quarter of all those attending Christian churches on a Sunday are in C of E churches. That is rather sobering. I understand from Peter that another quarter are in non-conformist and ‘new’ churches; Trent Vineyard here in Nottingham have just introduced a third morning service, since their numbers are growing, and have in recent years extended their buildings. And the other half attend Roman Catholic Churches; the picture of the C of E is not the whole story by any means! I find all this particularly challenging; we have vastly more resources in terms of buildings, clergy and central finance than these others, so how come we are not doing a lot better than we are?

The second thing Peter Brierley analyses is the mix of different traditions in the Church of England, according to self identification.

About a third of the Anglicans attending on a Sunday will be evangelical (mid- week churchmanships not being readily known), 31 per cent. A similar proportion, 30 per cent, will be attending a Broad or Liberal church, and slightly fewer, 26 per cent, an AngloCatholic or Catholic church.

The rest, 13 per cent, will be mostly Low Church. The figures come from the various Church Censuses that have been held and projected forwards using information other than a straight line…

The graph indicates how the numbers (not percentages) have changed and how they are projected to do so for, say, 2030. All groups, including the Evangelicals, are seeing declining numbers (something true for all denominations except the Orthodox and Pentecostals).

It may be seen that there is likely to be a severe drop in the 2020s in all churchmanships and in total attendance. This is due to the increasing paucity of those under 40 attending and many older people dying (which affects all churchmanships), and is despite the many growing congregations and new church plants which are being reported.

This latter growth is real and vibrant but not as yet sufficient to offset the enormous numbers of losses. What is the significance of these figures in relation to churchmanship in the other denominations?

He then puts together the information about denominations with the information about different traditions to make this prediction:

There are almost as many Baptist Evangelicals as Anglicans (16 per cent), and the Pentecostals have slightly more than both together, 34 per cent, with the remainder spread across all the other denominations.

The Pentecostals are a crucial part of the mix, however, as they have been, are, and are likely to continue, growing. This means that overall, while the number of Evangelical churchgoers (across all denominations) decreases from 1.4 million in 1990 to an estimated 1.2 million by 2030, the overall proportion of Evangelicals among all churchgoers increases from 34 per cent in 1990 to 42 per cent by 2010 and a likely 51 per cent by 2030.

I think this all leaves Anglicans with three challenging questions. First, will we remain committed to the goal of evangelism and making disciples as God’s call on us, despite the discouragements of this year’s figures? Secondly, that notwithstanding, will we take a good hard look at the current implementation of policy, and ensure we are learning from mistakes as well as rejoicing in encouragements? Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult, are we ready to learn from other Christians in our land where they are being effective in sharing faith and growing disciples? This last question is the hardest, because it demands the most humility—something the church established by law has not majored in in years gone by.


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300 thoughts on “What state is the Church of England in?”

  1. Hmm.

    It is interesting that Soul Survivor (the church) have passed the baton of Soul Survivor (the event) principally to Limitless (Pentecostal, Elim) and Dreaming the Impossible (Vineyard). Do you think it would be wise to draw connections here. Is this is a sign of emphasis shifting?

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  2. +Croft explained: “There is a huge appetite to learn and explore. We may not be called to be a bigger church in this generation.”

    This perception is clearly at odds with the Archbishops’ explanation at the inception of Reform and Renewal 2015 (GS1976):
    “the urgency of the challenge facing us is not in doubt. Attendance at Church of England services has declined at an average of 1% per annum over recent decades and, in addition, the age profile of our membership has become significantly older than that of the population. Finances have been relatively stable, thanks to increased individual giving. This situation cannot, however, be expected to continue unless the decline in membership is reversed.”

    How is that “we may not be called to be a bigger church in this generation” when numerical growth was a central plank of the Reform and Renewal proposals and targets?

    Reply
      • I dont think +Steven really subscribes to this as a policy position, given his commitment to new forms of Church, leadership of Fresh Expressions, and recent investment in Church planting in the diocese. He is a Church growth leader, not a manage church decline man.

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  3. It is not logically impossible to target projects which will bring about numerical growth, while accepting that the global figures for church attendance are nevertheless likely to decline for a long while yet.

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    • Hmm… So, can this reference to “global figures for church attendance” be logically inferred from evidence in +Croft’s statement, or is that just not beyond the widest realm of speculation?

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  4. The Diocese remains cumbersome, costly and bureaucratic. Resources need to go into parish clergy not more experts and advisors. The atmosphere it engenders is anxiety and fear of doing the wrong thing. The joy of the lord should be our strength.

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    • Abolish Dioceses. I’m on the edge of one of the largest Dioceses (Lichfield) and only about 8 miles away from the Cathedral but in my town-wide deanery (Tamworth) there are two parishes from Birmingham diocese. This breaks up an otherwise coherent urban unit and prevents all sorts of opportunities for teaming-up and working together and making new benefices etc. etc. Because while parishes and their borders / boundaries are increasing written in pencil and prone to be combined or merged or changed or whatever, the Diocese is still sacrosanct. Parish glebe and fees have long since been sequestrated and centralised by DBFs (so no more rich clergy in wealthy livings; we all get paid the same) — a process of nationalisation, very Socialist and commendable. But all that happened was that the Dioceses became meta-parishes, just as unevenly rich or poor and just as fire-walled against sharing with their neighbours.

      The parish (also team/benefice and to a lesser extent Deanery) is the primary elemental building block of the C-of-E. Abolish the silly middle tier of the organisation — the Diocese — and centralise the C-of-E in, say, Birmingham (actually, Coventry would be a better site). Think of all the savings: the huge economies of scale too be had; no duplication of offices taking up prime real estates in cities; single policies on all kinds of issues where there are currently confusing and contradictory differences; the ability to team up across Diocesan borders / boundaries where the de facto geography on the ground dictates something other than an ancient and often arbitrary line on the map etc etc.

      For years now parishes have been teamed / beneficed; combined and occasionally created. This has often been done to make savings or to reflect the changing reality on the ground (motorways and new housing estates and so on). Sometimes it is to even-out the size of an area that a vicar looks after or to redistribute resources more equitably. All very commendable. My own parish, while still huge, has ceded territory to two of its neighbours in the last 30 years, and it was good and right to do so: it made sense, on the ground. Parishes’ wealth has been centralised and their powers reduced. It’s now time to do the same to the Diocese. Except: who can? The DBF is almighty and no-one want to either give away their wealth or take on another’s poverty. So we have a crazy situation where some Dioceses are tiny and some huge; some rich and some poor; some with expertise in this area and others with it that area. Some do this well, other do that well. Kent, a small county, is home to two diocese; other Dioceses contain two large counties. It’s uneven, it’s unfair and in it’s unChristian.

      So my proposal: no more Dioceses. A single Church of England HQ in, say, Coventry. Cathedrals might still need to be separate, independent entities (at least for the time being) but all parishes and schools and chaplains and everything else to be run centrally, efficiently and equitably.

      Reply
      • The other side of this proposal is that Bishops have to go as well, and Archdeacons and Suffragans. What any big organisation would call ‘local management’. It’s a tempting idea, as, on most issues when they might be expected to have an opinion, they say nothing. Or, if they do, say it when nobody is looking. Management is what they do; prophetic words they are short on. Isaiah 6 – ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips’ – just before Isaiah’s encounter with Jesus, and his commission to prophesy to a people who will not listen and will never change their ways. Bishop Isaiah would certainly try his best to be heard in 2019, despite his apparently futile task.

        Having said that, Baptists, Methodist and all other non-conformist and independent churches manage quite well, thank you, without dioceses, Bishops, Cathedrals and diocesan bureaucracy. But they have no prophetic words at all. Does anyone know what Baptist church policy is on…, well, anything?

        So, I quite fancy the idea of Bishops being relieved of all their responsibilities except telling the truth. That might concentrate their minds, if they actually have to justify their existence.

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        • Baptists have a policy and a reference point. It’s generally known as the bible … and prophecy is alive and well. How else would we be growing?

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        • Methodists and URCs don’t have Dioceses, but they do have the equivalent layers of bureaucracy (Conferences and Connexions) and regional leaders. Granted they don’t have Cathedrals, but then even in the C of E those are largely separate entities, legally and financially.

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  5. “there are dioceses where there appear to be consistent signs of growth and change”
    Where is the evidence for this in Stats for Mission 2018?

    “overall decline [in Southwell & Nottingham] has been halted”
    That’s not what the plot on p41 shows.

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    • Mark and Ian,

      My reading of the stats for Southwell & Nottingham shows:
      1. continued decline in overall attendance – 11.5% over the last five years, with a drop last year after a couple of steadier years
      2. a sharp fall in both attendance and even more in communicants at Christmas and Easter Services – which is both concerning and perplexing. Being connunicant is some measure of commitment – though I know what that amounts to is questionable – so to see it diving is a worry.

      The diocesan bishop set himself a very tough harget to meet when he arrived – urging as a target for evangelism a doubling of average Sunday attendance. So far, all we have seen is more decline for all the frantic expenditure of energy. Ian is rather vague about the recent mission. It had a lot of events, and that felt nice, he says. But the wind passed over it and it is gone. There is no evidence of it having contributed to anything like the growth the bishop will need to hit his publicly stated target.

      Ian, you are a GS member for this diocese – I don’t think you are being realistic with yourself or the rest of us if you spin these figuers. We are shrinking. Why? As far as I know there is no real research going into talking to the people who leave. That won’t change the gospel message, but it might help us understand why what is happening is happening. One other thing – please can you get the diocese to drop the YWD slogan. Most people just giggle at it, it sounds rude. It is also ageist.

      Reply
      • Jeremy,
        Thanks for picking up on my comment. I agree the trend in S&N diocese is still decline in weekly attendance and at Easter. Christmas is harder to read because of the large year to year fluctuations (see the plot on p41), which are also present nationally. It is suggested, plausibly, that this is related to weather and where Christmas falls in the week. Smooth out the fluctuations and Christmas attendance in S&N looks more stable, though because of the noise a longer time period is needed to be sure.
        YWD must be the most embarrassing diocesan slogan in the C of E. We don’t have one in Chester and I’m praying for a bishop who won’t give us one.

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  6. Great blog Ian (as always). Just one challenge (admittedly from a position of personal sensitivity as a proud St Mellitus graduate……)

    “which has immediately led to a decline in full-time theological training and a massive switch to part-time and contextual training, which limits the opportunity for deeper theological engagement by future church leaders.”

    There are a couple of unspoken implications in this statement which are worth (gently) challenging:
    1. Does “deeper theological engagement” necessarily lead future church leaders to be better at their jobs at driving church growth when they arrive in parishes? I am struck by the fact that the more theological content in some sermons the less approachable and attractive (particularly to “searchers” who are after all our key target audience) they are. This is why contextual rather than text book training may just be the key to solving the decline problem. The Alpha course simplifies theology to the Nth degree and has been the most successful driver of Church growth in recent years. I’m not saying deep theology engagement isn’t important – it really is, but it’s not what is going to get people back into church.
    2. And actually while we’re at it, in what way does part time training limit deeper theological engagement? Surely, theological engagement can, should and does happen in context as well as in the library? Are you saying that because I have a full time secular job I’m not able to experience deeper theological engagement? Do you believe that I can’t engage with theology by reading on the 0610 to King’s Cross? Forgive me, but I think that patronises my fellow part time graduates, some of whom have the finest minds I’ve ever encountered.
    PS… I’m guessing St Paul didn’t spend much time tearing himself away from his job as a tent maker to be in the !st Century equivalent of the Bodlean!

    Reply
    • Hi Tom…
      “I am struck by the fact that the more theological content in some sermons the less approachable and attractive (particularly to “searchers” who are after all our key target audience) they are.”

      *Some* might be but that’s surely not a rule. The best preaching and teaching I have come across was by extremely able biblical /” professional ” theologians

      I’d agree about Alpha… People keep thinking and sometimes the initial theological input does not meet the questions of developing disciples.

      I confess to three years full time residential training in the 70s… The benefit was the sheer amount of time and input… not to forget the huge amount of interaction with other ordinands

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    • You write, “the fact that the more theological content in some sermons the less approachable and attractive (particularly to “searchers” who are after all our key target audience) they are.” May I gently suggest that the barrier to deeper understanding is not ‘theology’ – after all, he who prays is a theologian – but the opaque language and jargon in which said theology is delivered, often making it seem, to copy a phrase, “boring, irrelevant and untrue” simply because it isn’t understood inside and outside the pulpit.

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  7. Its also deeply ironic that Steven Croft is pushing for a revisionist agenda (the Oxford Ad Clerum) which is shallower discipleship, not deeper discipleship.
    Could it be that God has withdrawn his Spirit which is why we are seeing the decline we are?
    God will not be mocked and the whole denomination is now suffering/under judgement.

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      • Holding up.
        What do you think of the shallow discipleship prepared by Steven Croft, Ian? Do you find his call for deep discipleship church ironic, or not?

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        • Well, I have commented on the irony already. Glad you are holding up—does that mean not growing? And a small or large church?

          Any of us choosing to criticise the approach of others really need to have a better example to offer…!

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          • The rightness of theology does not depend on results.
            Otherwise we would all become like Joel Osteen.
            I’m sure you know that.

          • James, your logic here does not hold up. Attracting many people does not automatically equal good – it depends what they are being attracted to/by. On the other hand, attracting few (or net minus, or net zero) does equal not-good, for numerous central reasons –

            (1) the value of each person
            (2) the oddness of holding to a primary message and worldview – rated by participants as superior to any other – which it’s held not to be necessary to let other people know about
            (3) the possibility that nothing overwhelmingly good is being seen by others in participants’ lives
            (4) the Acts blueprint.

            I’d say the phrase is ‘necessary but not sufficient’. It is necessary to attract more people but not sufficient in and of itself.

  8. “…only one quarter of all those attending Christian churches on a Sunday are in C of E churches.” I remember reading some stats a couple of years ago which said that C of E members would soon be in a minority of the Christian population as a whole. I have a hunch that some of the new members contributing to the growth of new churches – Vineyard, FIEC, African Pentecostal etc – are ex-Anglicans. We all know of stats showing how many are leaving the C of E each year – does anyone know of any research which estimates how many of these are not dying or giving up faith but transferring to join other churches – and what their reasons are for doing so?

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  9. “The trend in decline in the occasional offices appears to have continued, and even be accelerating. We are now conducting almost as few as half the weddings that we did as recently as 2012. If you thought occasional offices like this were a good means of outreach, you will be saddened by this; if you think (like the majority) that these are a burden which distracts from the main business of spiritual leadership, then you might find that encouraging. Either way, it does indicate a major social shift.”

    I’m a Vicar who does a funeral a week and a wedding a month. If 10% of them lead to on-going pastoral contact and then 10% of *them* lead to some sort of “discipleship” / “membership” / “conversion” then even at 1% I’d say that was worthwhile. Beats knocking doors.

    Second, at £100 a go 50 funerals = £5k. 12 weddings @ £200 = £2400. Call it £7.5k pa. That’s about 15% of what I need to run my church (c. £50k pa). So if it takes 15% of my time at least it pays for itself.

    Reply
    • “Then even at 1% I’d say that was worthwhile. Beats knocking doors.”

      not sure knocking doors wouldnt give a far better return

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      • Is that coming from a man with a preaching ministry to middle-class city-centre gathered congregation in Oxford who’s never actually been the vicar of a large parish (or, indeed, a small one)?

        Took me a while to decode the double negative: so you ARE sure knocking doors WOULD give a far better return? If so, I think you’re wrong and my thinking is based on both experience and theory.

        It’s basic marketing: if they’ve contacted you or made the first move then you’re in with a shout. If they actually employed you to do a job then you’ve got a relationship and one that they initiated. It’s the difference between cold calling or being called (in the business sense, not in the theological sense of “vocatio”).

        Try knocking doors in my working class parish in the Midlands. See what happens. You’re welcome any time. Bit of real life might do you good. 😉

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        • Oliver – that’s off side

          You simply stated that 1% return on occasional offices yielded better return than on door knocking your parish – I merely asked the question.

          As it happens I have knocked my fair share of doors – I helped plant & lead a church (albeit in somerset suburbia) and knocked every door on the new estate. For several years as an evangelist I knocked doors working missions on inner city estates in Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Gloucester and later in a Bradford UPA as a curate.

          I reckon back then knocking doors produced better than 1% return – admittedly I have not knocked too many in Oxford

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          • Yes, sorry. Black dog. Seasonal, I think. Makes my tongue sharper and my wits duller. The worst combination. I could up my meds but I’ll battle on. Consider yourself collateral damage. Spare a thought for the others. The field hospitals are full. Apologies.

            Back to the issue: I honestly don’t think I could get better contacts and do more evangelism by cold calling than I do through weddings and funerals. Maybe that’s just me.

            I gave 1% as a rather arbitrary figure (10% of 10%) but I have seen fruit from pastoral / occasional offices. How much from how many? Hard to say.

            I was being unkind but there was also a kernel of truth: it’s odd how God seems to call so many clergy to jobs in nice places (the south of England, university cities, spa towns, North London, the Cotswolds). Middle class clergy being called — oh inexplicable mystery — to middle class parishes. Try advertising a post in Stoke or Blackpool and see how many apply.

            And this cashes out, literally: a house the equivalent of a vicarage in Oxford would be, what, a grand a week in rent / mortgage? And in my modest but unexceptional town in Staffordshire it’s maybe a third of that. (My daughter shares a two bedroom flat in an ordinary part of Oxford for £650 pcm; I rent out a three bed house in a decent part of the Midlands for the same.). That’s a de facto difference in stipend and allows clergy spouses to work in high wage areas and clergy kids to go to good schools. How nice!

            The Church of England should make it a condition of ordination under Common Tenure that all stipendiary clergy serve a minimum of seven years in either a Northern diocese or a UPA context (not including curacies). If the post met both conditions then the minimum term would be reduced to five years. (“Northern” could be defined as either in the Province of York or, say, above Birmingham – i.e beginning with and including the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.)

            How long have you been in Oxford now? Feel like a change? If / when you do, where will you go? I’ll be interested to see.

  10. I would like to see a breakdown of the attendance by age. I suspect a high percentage of attendees are over 60. If so then decline may well accelerate as these people die without being replaced.

    I wonder what the C of E is doing about these statistics. There are some good initiatives around mission and church planting but there are a lot of easy wins which don’t seem to be on the agenda, such as:
    – modernising the appointment of clergy particularly the timetable and avoiding long vacancies
    – ending the requirement for each church to have a PCC, churchwardens, treasurer, safeguarding officer etc. Groups of parishes/team ministries should do this as a whole
    – making it easier to close/mothball sparsely attended churches
    – redundancy/early retirement for underperforming clergy
    – Oliver’s suggestion above for radically reducing diocesan offices/staff
    – scrapping diocesan/deanery synods

    I am sure there are many other examples.

    Reply
    • ‘I would like to see a breakdown of the attendance by age. I suspect a high percentage of attendees are over 60.’

      You can. It is all there in the report. By age band by diocese. There is surprising variation.

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      • Thanks Ian. The table on page 23 shows 33% of people are over 70. It seems reasonable to assume that this group has an average age in the late 70’s and an average remaining life expectancy of 10 years. On this basis we would expect decline of about 3% per year due solely to the demographics.

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        • The average age of C of E churchgoers in 2010 was 61. Nine years on, it will be over 65, since – with disproportionaly few among the young hearing and responding to the call to follow Christ – the Church is simply getting older. Thus lumping all adults under 70 into one age bracket masks the fact that a large majority between 18 and 69 will be over 60.

          According to one survey, for every one child brought up in an atheist family who becomes a Christian as an adult, 26 brought up in a Christian family end up outside the fold. Parents (with whom the responsibility chiefly lies), Sunday schools and youth workers are simply not laying solid foundations, arguably because they do not have them themselves.

          The average of those in ordained ministry in the C of E is 63.

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        • I have now looked at Peter Brierley’s report covering 5-yearly intervals from 1980 to 2015 for all churches, with its higher-resolution break-down. We can ignore the age-bracket ‘younger than 15’, since these are children brought by their parents. As a proportion of the remainder, in 1980 24.5% of churchgoers were 65 or older and 26.8% 15-30 years of age; in 2015 the percentages were 39.7% and 11.3%. All figures relating to England only. The decline is catastrophic. Typically, one is most open to the gospel when young, but the young now make up only 10% of the adult (15+) congregation.

          In 1980, children under 15 made up 26% of the (shrinking) total Sunday attendance; in 2015 they made up only 17%. The totals were 4.5 million in 1980 and 3 million in 2015.

          In 1980, 34% of church-attending children under 15 continued to attend to the age of 15-19; in 2015, only 20% did. In absolute terms, the 15-19 sector fell from 394,300 to 102,900.

          Stickability increases with age. In the period 1980-2015, the 15-19s shrank by 80% (i.e. 4/5ths smaller), the 20-29s by 70%, the 30-44s by 44%, the 45-64s by ‘only’ 19%. The over 64s grew by 22%. Life expectancy for a 65-year old increased during the period by 5.3 years, from 78 to 83.3, so that more than accounts for the growth in over 64s.

          Reply
  11. This ruinous decline can only be reversed by ditching structures built for a Christian country. England, like much of the West, has now reverted to her pre-Christian status. That being so, it needs to be looked on as evangelism from scratch.

    Think of how missionaries first evangelized (when they couldn’t simply get a local chief to convert his people en masse): spreading out from a handful of hubs. England needs mission stations.

    Dump the parish system that’s slowly bankrupting the church with maintenance costs and pension bills. Sell off or mothball any church that can’t hope to pay its own way within the next few years, retreat to the cathedrals and beacon churches, get the finances fixed, and once you’re consolidated as a lean, efficient organization with a clear focus on re-evangelizing England, spread out again, planting new congregations carefully in key locations.

    Tactical retreat now, or total collapse down the line: the choice is a hard one, but the longer it’s delayed, the harder the strategy becomes.

    Reply
    • James,
      yes, but in the past you have been more radical than that. Not first “dump the parish system” – though it may come to that – but first dump the Establishment – the system that means Parliament has the final say on what we do and how we do it. The only way to give heart-and-soul Ownership back to the laypeople who are currently paying the bills – and paying them inadequately and unwillingly because we know in our hearts that a secular state rules over us and is tying our hands.

      Reply
      • Can’t think which policy suggestions in particular you’re referring to, but I certainly support maximum religious liberty, and a secular state with no say in church governance.

        The above was principally about strategy and tactics for re-evangelizing the West.

        The further once-Christian countries get from the days of Christendom, the more they seem to decline. National polities have dropped even the vestiges of responsible government, and lying’s lost all its taboo. Across the developed world, we must rise from this mire: and to do so, the churches must rise again.

        Reply
  12. David Keen’s 2017 blog post (http://davidkeen.blogspot.com/2017/10/church-of-england-attendance-change-by.html) makes for a sobering, but prescient read.

    He wrote: “Either the system will collapse under its own wait (scroll up – maybe we’re witnessing that already), or we need a decisive shift away from ancient buildings, paid clergy, or an over-clericalised theology and practice of church that stifles lay leadership. Or there’ll be a miracle. I’d argue we need both.”

    Two years later, and this latest report provides evidence of yet further decline. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but, surely, the CofE leadership must now start to heed his advice.

    As Keen explained back in 2012: “One possible starting point: at present, 8 out of the 27 churches in our Deanery have membership in single figures. I don’t know if that’s typical, we probably have a higher proportion of rural churches than most. But that means that we have 8 churches which could currently meet from week to week in a house, rather than a 150-seater medieval Grade 1 listed building, which costs getting on for £10k a year to heat and insure. Yes those seats are needed for the baptisms, weddings and funerals (see above), but it’s not as though there’s a national shortage of church buildings at the moment.”

    At some point, there will be a time to build, but, surely, it’s now time to divest: “For everything, there is a season,…a time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.” (Eccl. 3:1,5)

    Reply
  13. Such an important issue. Thank you for highlighting it.

    The current decline in average adult Sunday attendance in the Church of England is currently 2.7% p.a., and over the last 10 years 16.3%, with 10.7% occurring in the last 5 years, under Archbishop Welby. For comparison, The Episcopal Church in North America (TEC) has shrunk by 22% over the last 10 years. The C of E’s annual rate of decline over the last 2 years is the same as TEC’s average rate over the last 10. There is no bottoming out trend, as the total gets smaller. At the current rate, it will take just 36 years for the C of E’s present average weekly attendance of 634,000 to reach zero. Actually the situation is worse, since the average age of attendees is over 65.

    Of course the more probable reality is that there will still be a few vital churches in 2050, but their persistence will be counterbalanced by other churches closing faster than the average rate. As was asked a few days ago: when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

    The most important prerequisite for growth is a well-grounded understanding of the gospel. Or put another way, faithfulness to the Lord. The consequence of indifference to him is that he will close the church down (Rev 2:5) and spit the congregation out of his mouth (Rev 3:16).

    At its simplest, the gospel is this: at the end of our lives we will all come before his judgement seat. If we believe in him and what he did on the cross, our sins will be forgiven – they will not even be remembered. If we believe in him, we will also follow him, and at the end receive a reward for the good works we have done. There is a double incentive to take what the Lord says with the utmost seriousness. If we do not have his forgiveness of sins, he will judge us on the basis of our works (Rev 20:13) and, as a matter of simple justice (which everyone can understand), unforgiven sins will be punished, even if eternal life is granted thereafter. Who would want to go through that?

    I don’t hear this in the churches, even though most of the unchurched privately suspect (cf. Rom 2:15-16) that there is indeed a weighing up of one’s life at the end. Either preachers substitute a judgement-free doctrine of unconditional love for the gospel (which does not convince, and is certainly not what we read) or they say that anyone who does not receive Christ is condemned to never-ending torture in hell, a message surely contrary to any natural concept of justice (it too does not convince, and is not what we read). Few people are even aware that Jesus our lord and master rewards us, his slaves, at the end.

    There is of course much more to be mulled over. I am not, for example, convinced that sermons – i.e. passive listening – work well as a way of imparting understanding and knowledge in today’s world. Prayers in the middle of a service rarely express any sense of corporate mission, any understanding that God’s solution to the problem of evil (its power and its effects) was to found his Church. As Bill Hybels put it, the local church is the hope of the world. Christ has no body now on earth but ours. … Altogether, radical rethinking is needed.

    Readers may find profit in these thoughts from an Australian reflecting on church decline back in 2011:
    https://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2011/08/why-arent-we-growing/

    Reply
    • Steve
      “The most important prerequisite for growth is a well-grounded understanding of the gospel. Or put another way, faithfulness to the Lord”.
      I emphatically agree.
      “…and at the end receive a reward for the good works we have done”
      Not in all cases (1 Corinthians 3:14-15)
      “…unforgiven sins will be punished, even if eternal life is granted thereafter”.
      There is nothing in the bible to support “..even if eternal life is granted thereafter”
      “…or they say that anyone who does not receive Christ is condemned to never-ending torture in hell, a message surely contrary to any natural concept of justice (it too does not convince, and is not what we read)”
      The Bible supports eternal retribution – God decides what sin deserves.
      Phil Almond

      Reply
      • Phil
        I’m not clear what you mean by eternal retribution. If you mean eternal torture in hell, I refer you back to natural concepts of justice (not least, as in Ex 21:23-25). In any case,
        – I Cor 3:14-15 does not contradict what I said.
        – The Bible does support “..even if eternal life is granted thereafter”. Matt 5:26 and Luke 12:45-48 are two instances.
        – I agree that God decides what sin deserves.

        Reply
        • Steven
          By ‘eternal retribution’ I mean ‘eternal punishment’ as in Mathew 25:46. Exodus 21:23-25 is saying that the punishment should be proportionate to the crime. But since we both agree that ‘God decides what sin deserves’, if sin is an infinite crime it deserves an eternal punishment, the intensity of which is in accordance with Luke 12:47-48. Matthew 5:26 is about reconciliation with a brother, and a picture of what happens if we refuse to admit our fault and be reconciled, or bear a grudge, not about final judgment. I don’t see how the Luke quote supports eternal life after punishment. If your “…and at the end receive a reward for the good works we have done” also acknowledges/implies that our works of “wood, hay, stubble” will be burned up and we shall suffer loss – Ok, I agree.
          As I see it retribution inflicted by God on the unsaved and the atonement doctrine of penal substitution go together. If one is true the other must be true. If one is not true then the other must not be true. Also it really matters whether that retribution is eternal. If it stops followed by annihilation or eternal life, well, then (not to trivialise a dreadfully serious and sensitive personal subject) – that might not be a very fearful prospect. Also, if, as some assert ‘The outcome of being unsuccessful at the judgment is exclusion from relationship to God’ and, quoting Tillich, ‘Judgment is an act of love which surrenders that which resists love to self-destruction…’, then that might not be a very fearful prospect either. At stake is what is the terrible warning the Church needs to proclaim, alongside the wonderful message of deliverance. I see this as the most important disagreement in the Church, and an area where those who agree with me should be much more forthright in challenging those who disagree with me.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
    • Andrew
      Maybe not. But are quite a few, not ‘here’ who agree with me that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God and that the paramount need of us all is to be delivered from that wrath and condemnation by submitting to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and that a faithful preaching of the Gospel has to include that terrible warning as well as the wonderful invitation to embrace that salvation. If I was convinced that the Church of England as a whole was believing that and doing that I would shut up.
      Phil Almond

      Reply
  14. Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.

    One can rationalise or theologise that that is God’s will.

    If its cause of decline is against God’s will, how can the outcome of that cause be in God’s will?

    And secondly, how can decline per se be in God’s will? Some of the souls are expendable, or their generation is expendable whereas the next one somehow is not?

    Reply
    • “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”

      Could you show your workings for this blanket statement please Christopher?

      Reply
      • It is a bit like saying ‘Show me the evidence for grass or air.’. It is everywhere.

        Which churches are growing?

        Which denominations are growing?

        Which churches are shrinking?

        Which denominations are shrinking?

        If Christianity is similar to secularism, then why attend church? You could just attend world.

        Reply
        • That’s simply unsubstantiated and fashionable conservative opinion. It’s like saying ‘if we leave the European Union we will all be better off’.

          I know all kinds of churches that are shrinking and growing and some are and some aren’t embracing ‘secularism’ – which you simply don’t define anyway, so it’s an even more general and unsubstantiated opinion.

          Reply
          • I’ve read Peter Brierley thanks. He is clear that there are ‘no simple answers’. So your comment is just a sweeping generalisation that tries to be simple – which as Brierley acknowledges, is not possible.

          • Well, that’s just a decoy argument, since your own subjective opinion about ‘all kinds of churches’ doesn’t nullify what you call ‘unsubtantiated opinion’.

            The Church-commissioned study, From anecdote to evidence, does highlight that “evidence from the European Values Study shows that among Anglicans who say that religion is very important in their lives, only 36% listed religious faith as an especially important quality that children can be encouraged to learn at home, compared to good manners (94%) or tolerance and respect (83%).”

            Well, here’s little chance of mobilising Anglicans to participate in Reform and Renewal’s commitment to evangelism and community outreach, when (contrary to 2 Tim. 3:15, Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4 and the parental promises at baptism) there’s a firm majority of them who don’t see their faith as as an especially important quality that children can be encouraged to learn at home.

            This mindset, which is concomitant to decline, is in stark contrast to that of independent and Pentecostal denominations which the Brierley report cites as growing.

            https://www.eauk.org/church/research-and-statistics/church-membership.cfm

            And the Brierley report isn’t unsubstantiated opinion.

          • No – his report is very substantiated. And he makes it clear that in terms of engaging the current generation of non church goers there are ‘no simple answers’. The sweeping genralisation is Christopher’s about ‘secularism’, which he doesn’t even define.

          • The privatization thesis in Bryan Wilson’s seminal 1966 study, ‘Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment’ was taken forward by Steve Bruce in ‘Post-Secularity and Religion in Britain: An Empirical Assessment’.

            As Ribberink, Achterberg and Houtman explained (http://www.egbertribberink.nl/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/post-secular-turn-in-attitudes-towards-religion-1.pdf)
            “For instance, Bryan Wilson defined secularization as the decreasing social significance of religion, yet he pointed to decline in church membership and church attendance as evidence of secularization (Wilson 1966, xiv).”

            “Steve Bruce also maintains that privatization is one of the key processes responsible for religious decline in modern societies. As i (Bruce 2011; 2013). Hence, in time, non-religiosity will grow.”

            For Christopher to write that “weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline” is no different from Bruce’s explanation that “it becomes harder for religions to influence the public domain, bounded as they are to follow the secular rules of engagement, it becomes more difficult to socialize the next generations in their religion.”

            The British Social Attitudes Survey indicates that Anglicanism is declining faster than any other major denomination.

            The steep decline of Anglican affiliation in the face of secularism is understandable.

            When compared to other denominations, as secular rules of engagement become even further embedded into British social practice and state policy, those who belong to the established church are under a far greater obligation to defer, rather than to overtly challenge them.

            In fact, Justin Welby mentioned this impact when, back in 2013, he described being “struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland.”

          • In that case David it would be better we abandoned things like Twitter, blogs, Facebook, cafe style services, pub meetings, multi media presentations instead of sermons, modern music instead of plainchant, as these are all taken from secular culture and indications of massive rates of change in the cultural hinterland. And maybe we could go back to Latin, Greek and Hebrew so as to stop the advance of secular things like modern language. And we can avoid electrically lit churches and so on, as all such advances came from secular culture.

            The arguments against secularism just don’t stack up. You are beginning to sound like my grandmother who was appalled that BBC radio newsreaders no longer wore dinner jackets and that women were allowed to read the news at all.

          • Unfortunately, your argument hinges on confusing “influenced by secularisation” with secularisation per se.

            So, “ Twitter, blogs, Facebook, cafe style services, pub meetings, multi media presentations and modern music” are influenced by, but are not synonyms for the decreasing social significance of religion

            On that basis, the rest of your argument becomes no more than an ‘unsubstantiated opinion’.

          • Ok David then please offer some examples, apart from issues of sexuality, where the church has to compromise or is weakened by secularism.

          • As the linked study explained “ Whereas outside remaining pockets of orthodoxy the typical Christian has perhaps transformed his or her religiosity into a strictly private affair, increasingly Muslims insist on public recognition and state support for their faith (Cesari 2011). This is also visible in an increased political participation of Muslims when institutional arrangements open up (Cinalli and Giugni 2016). In doing so, they challenge the secularist accommodation of religion that has evolved in Western societies over the last hundred years, claiming right to confessional education, protection of their faith from criticism and ridicule, and remedying of inequalities in laws and policies on the freedom of religious expression (Achterberg et al. 2009; Casanova 1994; Glendinning and Bruce 2011, 504; Modood 2009).”

            So, examples of where the Church has compromised with secularism would include its educational policy retreat that now advocates complete exclusion of confessional religious education from church schools; its capitulation on religious exemptions from the Equality Act which advocated protections for clergy alone; its persistent refusal to offer advocacy or mediation in the face of recent unwarranted police harassment of street preachers.

          • David,
            You have articulated my point about Muslim’s authenticity more clearly than I have including their refusal to accommodate secularism in my post in a thread further down.

            I was reading the late Canon Michael Saward’s autobiography where he recounts his time as the Radio and Television officer to the Church of England in the 1960’s, It is a fascinating account of how the Church of England hierarchy under Michael Ramsey and his successors capitulated to the liberal secularism of the time. The Cof E is reaping some of the fruits of that today.

          • ?? No simple answers to what question? Are you saying there is only one question in life?

            The big picture (and when we are working on a big scale, big-scale patterns do emerge) is that Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are considerably more likely to grow and most other denominations shrink. Both David Barrett and Peter Brierley have shown this extensively and repeatedly.

          • Christopher: you’d have to ask Peter Brierley about ‘no simple answers’. I was quoting him.

            David: whilst I might agree with you about Church schools it isn’t evidence. There is a brick wall between Church/state/school in the USA and churches still grow. And as Christopher points out above, denominations without church schools seem more likely to grow currently.
            As the the Equality Act – I’ve no idea what you are referring to.
            As to Street Preachers: well, I’ve never heard a good street preacher – have you? I think they are more likely to be about themselves, and not about the gospel. Preaching is regulated for a reason. And I’m not sure they have ever been ‘harassed’ by the Police. I haven’t seen any unbiased real evidence for the that, still less evidence that the C of E supported such harassment.

          • Andrew,

            You asked for me to “offer some examples, apart from issues of sexuality, where the church has to compromise or is weakened by secularism”.

            1. Your counter to my example of the established church’s “complete exclusion of confessional religious education from church schools” is that “there is a brick wall between Church/state/school in the USA and churches still grow.”

            My response is that you’re comparing ‘apples with oranges’ because the entirety of the CofE’s obligation to the State is far greater than in any church encounters the US, where no such obligation is imposed.

            Also, I never suggested that any one factor of secular compromise was the principal cause of church decline, so to state that “denominations without church schools seem more likely to grow currently” is neither here nor there.
            2. If you’re not aware of how the Church advocated solely on behalf of clergy for religious exemptions from Equality Act 2010, then I suggest that you read Hansard.
            3. “I haven’t seen any unbiased real evidence for the that, still less evidence that the C of E supported such harassment.”
            Well, you might not have encountered such ‘unbiased real evidence’, but the police saw enough to offer compensation to Pastor Oluwole (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jul/28/christian-preacher-racism-wrongful-arrest-payout-bible) and drop charges against others.

            And the fact that you’ve never heard a good street preacher cannot justify the Church’s connivance at the denial of their right to freedom of speech.

            Certainly, no more than any connivance at denying the civil rights of
            revisionists can be justified by not having heard a good revisionist argument!

          • David: Christopher’s claim, which you seem to support, is that “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”

            You still don’t present any evidence for this blanket claim.

            The fact that churches can and do thrive in the face of secularism has always been the case. That has everything to do with it.

            Please by my guest if you want to campaign for bishops to surrender their places in the House of Lords or else provide evidence of how their arguments concerning the 2010 equality act have brought on church decline.

            Likewise, any real evidence you can provide that the church connived with hostility towards street preachers is welcome and please present it.

            What you and Christopher are doing is fine – and what blog comments are about. They are opinion. Without substantial evidence they remain just that – opinion and not fact.

          • Andrew,

            Concerning that claim: “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.” I’ve already referenced a study which explains the privatisation thesis: “ “For instance, Bryan Wilson defined secularization as the decreasing social significance of religion, yet he pointed to decline in church membership and church attendance as evidence of secularization (Wilson 1966, xiv).”

            “Steve Bruce also maintains that privatization is one of the key processes responsible for religious decline in modern societies. As i (Bruce 2011; 2013). Hence, in time, non-religiosity will grow.”

            If you disagree with the empirical evidence that they present in support of this thesis, then you should clarify where they are mistaken.

            Presumably, you can provide similarly peer-reviewed statistical evidence to the contrary. If not, you are merely dismissing a carefully reasoned thesis in favour of your own subjective position, which, as you say, is “opinion, not fact”

          • David: I find this study interesting.
            https://oxfordre.com/politics/politics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-898

            My opinion is that it’s far too soon to tell whether secularism will impact in the long term on church growth or decline. I do not believe that secularism is consonant with a decline in spiritual observance. As obvious examples it’s not clear that was the case in Russia or China. Historically, *some* churches thrived under persecution, although that’s by no means all.

            I have a more optimistic view than your statistics suggest David.

          • Christopher’s claim, which you seem to support, is that “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.” […]

            The fact that churches can and do thrive in the face of secularism has always been the case.

            Yes. Of course some churches thrive in the face of secularism. the ones which are strong and do not compromise, thrive.

            The ones which are weak, and which do compromise, die.

            Unless maybe you have an example of a church which compromised with secularism, or was weak in the face of secularism, and thrived?

            I note one of the surprising figures from the article is that there are twice as many Roman Catholics in England as Anglicans. Which of those churches do you think has compromised most with secularism, the Roman church or the Church of England?

          • Well, it is interesting, but does not amount to empirical evidence that contradicts the privatization thesis.

            The paper outlines the privileged public role of the CofE, but doesn’t clarify that this role (which includes “involvement of religious authorities in the upper legislature,…a prominent role the education system,…a variety of exemptions for religious groups on issues relating to tax and legal regulations”) largely involves congruence with State policy, except where the CofE wants to protect its clergy and their organisational decisions from State interference.

            You wrote: “I do not believe that secularism is consonant with a decline in spiritual observance.” However, that’s a ‘straw man’ because we are not debating whether spiritual observance will decline in the face of secularism, but, instead, whether “weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline”

            Thanks for “your opinion” and your “more optimistic view”, but, in the absence of hard evidence, as you’ve explained, “that’s simply unsubstantiated…opinion.”

          • David: I think there are two strands intertwined in this discussion. One is secularisation generally. The other is the Church of England compromising in the face of secularism. It is the latter I have been asking for hard evidence for. That is what is missing. You have provided your opinion about that based on one or two confused and confusing instances.

          • Andrew,

            If anything, what’s confused is your constantly changing and self-contradictory lines of argument.

            You’ve rejected Christopher’s position as “general and unsubstantiated opinion”, only to present your own unsubstantiated opinion and “more optimistic view”.

            You’ve confused “influenced by secularisation” with secularisation per se.

            Your counter-example of the US in which there is no established church obligation to the state bears no resemblance to church-state relations in the UK.

            And, you’ve advanced your own opinions, but provided no hard evidence either to support your own position, or to refute the peer-reviewed studies which support the privatization thesis.

            You’ve simply adopted a line of argument that is so weak that it can only repeatedly place the onus of proof on everyone else, but yourself.

            That’s not a debate worth continuing.

          • Churches can very much thrive in a secularist society. What they almost never do is thrive when their *own* direction of travel is in the secularist direction. There are few clearer laws of church growth/shrinkage.

          • David: what we need for any meaningful debate is the peer reviewed paper/evidence that indicates the relationship between numerical decline in the CofE and the compromises and weaknesses by that organisation that you have suggested caused this decline. That will then create a level playing field for debate. Currently we have one set of opinions against another.

          • Christopher: what you therefore need to do is offer evidence that the CofE has moved in a secularist direction and specify what you mean by that.

          • Andrew:
            So, now, you’ve resorted to sophistry to bypass the role of deduction in the scientific method.

            The privatisation thesis, which is not an opinion, has already been scientifically corroborated as a general rule by deduction from the empirical evidence of the study that I referenced.

            You’ve been unable to provide any peer-reviewed studies that provide empirical evidence to the contrary.

            Your assertion is that, for the specific instance of the CofE, we need to seek further evidence that “indicates the relationship between numerical decline in the CofE and the compromises and weaknesses by that organisation that you have suggested caused this decline”.

            However, based on deductive reasoning, the privatisation thesis, which establishes a relationship between decline in religion and secularisation, stands, until you can provide evidence that undermines it, or that the CofE is, in some way, an exception to this thesis.

            This far, you haven’t, whereas I’ve provided evidence of the CofE’s capitulation to secularisation, that perfectly echoes the hallmarks described in the study.

            This debate has been simply a case of your opinion baselessly contradicting the privatisation thesis, despite the latter being based on peer-reviewed scientific deduction.

          • S, I recall a pre-Prom lecture (which was very good) given by a last-minute substitute, at the end of which questions were invited. The first questioner congratulated the speaker on the talk, but said ‘but wait a minute, who exactly are you? You didn’t say who you are.’. The speaker responded with something like ‘These are the questions that we often have to mull over in life’ – but he did not answer the question….

          • “This far, you haven’t, whereas I’ve provided evidence of the CofE’s capitulation to secularisation, that perfectly echoes the hallmarks described in the study.”

            David: no you havent. You’ve made some claims. 1. About church schools. And Christopher clearly disagrees because he states clearly below that Church schools are one specific reason he favours the CofE.
            2. About the 2010 equality act. There was clear disagreement amongst the bench of bishops there – no huge surprise.
            3. An unsubstantiated claim about the CofE being in league with Police in wrongful arrest of street preachers.

            None of those amount to any capitulation to secular culture by the CofE. It’s just an opinion.

          • The first questioner congratulated the speaker on the talk, but said ‘but wait a minute, who exactly are you? You didn’t say who you are.’ The speaker responded with something like ‘These are the questions that we often have to mull over in life’ – but he did not answer the question….

            Sounds like he knew that it’s the speech that matters, not the speaker.

            (‘Say, who was that masked lecturer, anyway?’)

          • Andrew,

            1. You are clutching at straws when you highlight Christopher’s mere mention that ‘C of E provides “the added benefit of school places” as contradicting the evidence of the Church’s policy retreat on confessional religious education as an example of its capitulation to secularisation.

            Christopher has not indicated that the CofE’s “added benefit of CofE school places“ is a bulwark against secularisation, so I do wonder how you arrived at such a wrong-headed idea.

            2. You wrote: “About the 2010 equality act. There was clear disagreement amongst the bench of bishops there – no huge surprise.”

            That there was disagreement among them is not in dispute. What you’ve not addressed is the fact that (as I’ve highlighted) the Church didn’t advocate religious exemptions for lay people. Instead. they did advocate protections for clergy alone, which is entirely consonant with a retreat to the privatised view of religious life.

            3. “ the CofE being in league with Police in wrongful arrest of street preachers.”

            Er, no, the word ‘connivance’ does not mean ‘being in league with’.

            It’s really shouldn’t be too much to expect you to adhere to the plain meaning of that word: “pretending ignorance of or failing to take action against something one ought to oppose.”

            The wrongful arrest of the aforementioned street preacher made national news and, consonant with the privatisation thesis, the CofE leadership turned a blind eye to it.

            Based on your ‘straw men’ and fallacious reasoning, I am now more convinced than ever that there’s no point in further engaging with you on this.

            But, thanks again for sharing your opinions.

          • Thanks for sharing yours as well David. As I suspected, neither you nor Christopher are able to produce any evidence that particular actions by the Cof E towards secularisation have produced decline – which is what Christopher was flaming. The rest has just been a smoke screen.

          • As I suspected, neither you nor Christopher are able to produce any evidence that particular actions by the Cof E towards secularisation have produced decline – which is what Christopher was [clai]ming.

            Can I just check Andrew Godsall, is your claim that:

            (a) the Church of England has not declined

            (b) the Church of England has not compromised with secularisation

            or

            (c) the Church of England has compromised with secularisation, and it has declined, but there is no causation between the two, only highly suggestive correlation?

          • S: the C of E has declined. No one can dispute that. I am asking for evidence of ways in which it has compromised with secularisation and some definition of what that actually means. David has provided three rather unsubstantiated ones.

          • the C of E has declined. No one can dispute that. I am asking for evidence of ways in which it has compromised with secularisation and some definition of what that actually means. David has provided three rather unsubstantiated ones

            So, again, just to be clear, are you claiming

            (a) that it hasn’t compromised with secularisation; or

            (b) that it has compromised with secularisation but that there is no causal connection between that and the decline?

            Or perhaps you mean

            (c) that the concept ‘compromised with secularisation’ is so vague as to be meaningless and therefore it’s a pointless question?

            Simple question, (a), (b) or (c)?

            (Because it’s impossible to rebut what you’re saying until you’re precise about what your objection actually is.)

          • Andrew, I did not say that church schools are one specific reason I favour the C of E. Your misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations of people’s meaning pile up – why are they so many more than those of other contributors?

            Nor do I favour the C of E.

            We attend C of E because one has to attend somewhere; we are in favour of all the churches pretty much; and why would one attend one that did not offer the incentive of good schools rather than one that did? Rather mercenary I know.

            I am always happy when people identify as C of E because it often means that they are both Christians and community minded, and what could be a better combination than that?

            C of E also ranks comparatively low among the denominations for me when it comes to identifying with their beliefs and values.

            And yes, church schools do absolutely exemplify the C of E at (historically) its best.

            A love-hate relationship therefore.

          • S: Andrew provided this earlier description of Christopher’s claim that he sought to refute: “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”

            And now he has changed this to assert the (significantly different) straw man: “neither you nor Christopher are able to produce any evidence that particular actions by the Cof E towards secularisation have produced decline – which is what Christopher was [sic] flaming.”

            And he appears to have forgotten my reminder about this straw man (25th Oct. at 4:47pm): “Also, I never suggested that any one factor of secular compromise was the principal cause of church decline.

            Andrew may or may not give you an unequivocal answer, but, given the foregoing, I have my reasonable doubts.

          • If the big picture is (as Barrett and Brierley always seem to show, and as I did not think was in dispute) and that secularising churches decline, and churches grow when they are confident that their worldview is (and works) better than the prevailing one – then why would the C of E be any different? It is Ratner again. The less one believes in a product and its distinctiveness and/or superiority, the less one will endorse or sponsor it.

            We are not, for sure, going to believe your lack of data over against the data provided by the main researchers. I do not know why you would ever ask for ‘our’ views or evidence when the only evidence that matters especially is that provided by the main researchers.

          • S: It’s very easy to read what Christopher said. I quoted it exactly and will quote it again :

            “compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”

            I simply asked (and again you can read this by scrolling up) Christopher to show his workings for this blanket statement. He then offered more blanket statements – saying the evidence was everywhere, like the grass is green. That’s all a matter of record.

            I asked for examples. And David provided three. I find all three unconvincing as none of them have clear evidence of causing decline in the C of E.

            It’s as simple as that. If Christopher, or David or indeed you S can produce evidenced examples of compromise in the face of secularism causing decline then it’s worth engaging. If you can’t – and so far you haven’t – then there is little point in engaging.

          • You’re welcome to remain unconvinced that my examples provide evidence of the outworking of the privatisation thesis.

            And, let’s face it: your only engagement with the cited scientific study was to write: “ I have a more optimistic view than your statistics suggest David.”

            Furthermore, your own counter-examples (churches in the US, Russia, China, etc.) bear no resemblance to the situation for established church in the UK.

            And when all else fails, you resort to repeating the “unconvinced” mantra,…as if such optimism for the CofE in defiance is logical reasoning and statistical evidence could ever entertain contrary persuasion.

            LOL!

          • I asked for examples. And David provided three. I find all three unconvincing as none of them have clear evidence of causing decline in the C of E.

            Ah, so you accept that the Church of England has compromised with secularism but deny that there is any causal relationship between those compromises (such as the three cited, which are, it must be said, only the tip of the iceberg) and the decline.

            Understood.

          • Not convinced on either score I’m afraid S. Lack of evidence

            So you’re seriously saying you don’t think the Church of England has compromised with secularisation? Really?

        • Christopher
          The churches I go to – which are liberal and deeply orthodox – look nothing like the secular world. Except that the men wear dresses and a lot of bling.

          Reply
          • And I think the point about the incarnation and tearing the curtain temple in two was that we attend both church and world isn’t it? The divide between sacred and secular is gone.

          • But it was already obvious that no-one could avoid attending world. The issue I highlighted was a different one: whether one did that exclusively, or whether one in addition attended church, which one would do only if the church’s vision was sufficiently different from the world’s.

          • “….which one would do only if the church’s vision was sufficiently different from the world’s.”

            Just another sweeping generalisation….

          • It’s a very odd generalisation, Christopher.

            The church of my ’50s and ’60s childhood was very much in tune with the zeitgeist: anti-gay, anti-women, anti-contraception and abortion, anti- sex before marriage. Indeed, in some respects, such as the decriminalisation of male homosexuality, the church was more liberal than secular society.

            The picture in the 21st century is much more nuanced.

          • Penelope’s point about the 50s and 60s – I think the clear church growth patterns we’re speaking of apply well in the last couple of generations, but Christian-majority and Christian-convention cultures (and Christendom) are another question.

        • Definition of secularism – I agree the word (and the strategy too?) is slippery. It is a worldview that takes the constricting step of trying to remove the more awe-inspiring transcendent dimension(s) and concentrates on things that are already part of people’s ‘surface-level’ lives and are immediately apparent (something that is true of less than one percent of the universe) and more quickly demonstrable, without feeling any need to dig deeper. However, the way I was using it was in association with the tendency to conform to each wind of fashion as though being contemporary in one random culture had some connection to being true.

          Reply
          • As for comparing assertions about which kinds of churches grow with the maxim ‘If we leave the European Union we will be better off’, the former are assertions about facts and graphs and the latter is an unsupported prediction about the unreal future. The very opposite.

          • “However, the way I was using it was in association with the tendency to conform to each wind of fashion as though being contemporary in one random culture had some connection to being true.”

            As you ably demonstrated on a former thread, truth is relative to culture.

          • The point I was making is that the church of the 59s and 60s was much more in line with secular society than the church today.

          • The point I was making is that the church of the 59s and 60s was much more in line with secular society than the church today.

            Which is what you’d expect to see as secular society regresses quickly to a pre-Christian, degenerate state, dragging the church after it.

          • Truth is not even remotely relative to culture. Truth (with a capital T, as opposed to more trivial truths) is beyond time and circumstance otherwise it would not be truth. Culture is (a) short-term, (b) merely local, and (c) always changing, so it is obviously on a lower plane.

            I am not sure this is the first time you have claimed I have already demonstrated something which I could not possibly ever have thought. Is that a tactic? If so, it is not an honest one.

          • Penny, obviously! In the 50s and early 60s the church was closer to society because society itself was markedly more Christian. In fact, Christianity was the dominant philosophy (not yet replaced by secularism).

            Sayings that Jesus, if he went along with you:

            ‘If anyone wanna harm these little ones, it’s kinda same difference as if they don’t. Choice is cool. Depriving the little ones of every conceivable choice and every conceivable right is especially cool. And motherly.’

            ‘If anyone shall put away his wife and marry another, it’s okay and especially okay if it’s another guy because then he’s belatedly acknowledging his true self.’

            ‘How often have I wanted to dismember you as an enlightened mother doth to her chicks (or, more often, hireth a hit-man to do the same).’

            Ipsissima vox?

            You will see (obviously, or obviously to most people) that these are not only different to what Jesus said but opposite to what he said.

            While we are on clumps of cells, think how many millions of them there are in a pinprick, and yet how intricately designed a single one of them is. Holy – holy – holy.

          • Christopher

            Abortion has been carried out for millennia. In Jewish and Christian societies, as well as in pagan ones. It didn’t begin in 1967.

          • Penelope, I cannot believe you said that.

            It is the classic fallacy – how come you are still repeating it, when it has so often been simply refuted?

            (1) You already knew that we know that bad things have happened for millennia. Why tell us so then? To tell people things that they obviously already know is a ploy to make them seem unintelligent?

            (2) A lot of things good and bad have happened for millennia. Not always in remotely equal numbers though. Legalisation brings normalisation and desensitisation. If those in charge have ceased to care, that motivates their charges to care less too.

            (3) Can you explain the mechanism whereby occurring for millennia is in any way connected to whether something is good or bad?

  15. I have not read the report in detail but I wonder if it addresses the question as to whether in olden times when the number of church attendees was higher, the beliefs of the congregants was authentic rather than being ‘the socially done thing to do’.

    I think that people in this day and age are more discerning and look for authenticity rather than tradition. This may be one reason why Islam grows so fast since that many (if not all) muslims take their religion seriously. They are ‘authentic’ muslims and are respected even if the secular world disagrees with them.

    This is probably true of any organisation religious or otherwise that is not afraid to assert its beliefs in the public square. I doubt that the population of Anglican churches will fall to zero but I imagine that what will remain are isolated but large pockets of authentic believers whose message is very clear and unambiguous even if the world opposes them.

    Interestingly enough, the church always appears to grow when it is persecuted. Perhaps that’s what we need to arrest the decline? Maybe we should stop trying to be inoffensive and ‘liked’ all the time.

    Reply
    • I’m sure that many if not most congregants believed ten juicy heresies before breakfast without even realizing it, but that’s inevitable with folk religion. Not that I mind, since church shouldn’t be a theology test. They at least showed up and absorbed much Christian teaching, and even those who didn’t attend benefited through osmosis, just as vaccines offer passive immunity if enough get their shots. Such are the rewards of the Christendom now lost.

      Reply
      • James, I’m not sure that they had a semi-permeable membrane to absorb much Christian teaching. If they had then it would have changed them. They did acquire an outward veneer of respectability and assent even though nothing had really changed internally. I don’t think there were very many rewards to be had. Your expression ‘ folk -religion’ is an accurate term for it.
        Incidentally I see the same kind of thing happening in non-conformist churches of which I am member. It is not unique to Anglicanism.

        Reply
  16. Looking around most churches, we’re certainly going to see a big drop in Sunday congregations over the next 10 years. Those of us just hitting retirement are about to be handed the keys, and the temptation will then be to follow the pattern of our predecessors by remaking ‘church’ into something that suits us. Instead, we need to be passing on those keys down the generations as quickly as possible towards any young leaders who have the faith, dedication and energy to explore what Evangelism and Mission could mean today. Of course, they will make mistakes… But in about 20 years we just might see the beginnings of a Church reborn, and growing fast.

    Reply
  17. Q. What do you call six blokes talking with the vicar over a few pints in the pub?
    A. A Fresh Expression

    Q. What you call six old ladies who attend their local church every Sunday and pay their parish share/common fund in full?
    A. Decline

    Reply
  18. I am a keen student of the British Social Attitudes surveys. That indicates even faster decline for the C of E than its own statistics, both measured by church attendance and by declared church affiliation. A few years ago, they did an analysis of church affiliation by age, which looked disasterous for the C of E.

    What should be particularly worrying, is the BSA’s comparison with the Catholic Church. Whilst that also shows decline by both measures, it is a much lesser decline than the C of E.

    Reply
  19. Ian, your statement:- I find all this particularly challenging; we have vastly more resources in terms of buildings, clergy and central finance than these others, so how come we are not doing a lot better than we are? I view it from the opposite end of the telescope ; what you view as resources, I view as, certainly,potential liabilities. 1. How many Anglican churches regard their gothic buildings more as a liability, both in terms of maintenance and public perception, for the younger generation of the public whom we would wish to attract. 2. How many parishes enjoy a “vast resource” in terms of a vicar? Have you any statistics showing how many are splitting one vicar between at least 3 churches. If there is a “vast resource” of clergy, then it’s not finding it’s way down to the churches at the bottom end of the food chain. 3. “Central Finance” is exactly that – central. How many of the smaller churches are struggling with their Parish Share -a significant number, I would venture to suggest, if our local experience is anything to go by. What “Head Office” views as “income” on it’s P&L A/c, represents “blood, sweat and tears” at PCC level. One very relevant factor in the “struggling” equation, which you don’t mention, is obliquely evidenced by the huge push now being given to “Safeguarding”. Why are we now so publicly pushing it? It’s because of the unforgiveable failure of the Established Churches over centuries to properly supervise what has been going on under their watch; what amounts to church establishment sponsored abuse? If you want to look at reasons for decline in numbers, perhaps it has a great deal to do with public perception of being an institution which is irrelevant to modern society and with a dubious track record of practising the very values which they propound.

    Reply
    • Thanks Barrie. Some brief responses:

      a. Yes, old buildings can be a burden. But even new churches are investing in buildings—and in the kinds of infrastructure e.g. theological training, that in the past some mocked in the older churches.

      b. If you don’t think we have significant assets, just talk to your ecumenical neighbour about whether they have access to £2m for a new church plant!

      c. We still have many more clergy per congregant than any other denomination as far as I can work out.

      d. Every institution has burdens like safeguarding—and, curiously, when you ask those outside the church this issue hardly registers as a reason why they might not attend. We are at a considerable advantage in have centralised resources and guidance on this.

      e. The relevance question is interesting. When people see the church running food banks, schemes for the homeless, or campaigning on payday lenders and betting, there is no question that we are relevant. But I would also cite David Runcorn’s helpful phrase: what matters is not so much relevance as resonance. One of the areas of growth is in cathedral and chapel worship amongst students…

      Reply
    • Interesting that the church in ‘my’ diocese which costs most to maintain is a modern concrete building. Rather lovely, but expensive.

      Reply
  20. On secularisation, I do strongly recommend Sam Brewitt-Taylor’s recent book on the 60s.

    On his reading, the attitude of the church (as personified by the in fact atypical JAT Robinson) was the main cause of secularisation in the UK. ‘Honest To God’ functioned as a Ratner moment. If you don’t believe in your own product, why would we believe in it either? What is particularly interesting is the way Robinson, in an unjustifiably historicist and teleological manner, referred to secularisation as something inevitable (why?) even before it had really set in! Such normalisation could prove self-fulfilling.

    Reply
  21. Is the wrong question being asked by the survey? Perhaps Sunday attendance is not how we should be measuring church growth/decline statistics. For example in our diocese there are many churches that have a primary meeting on a Saturday or midweek and so Sunday’s not the focus point for that church community.

    Reply
    • Thanks. That is precisely the point about the ‘worshipping communities’ measure. It does seek to include those, so is showing a slightly different picture from Sunday attendance. But is also less precise, and there is discussion both in the Statistics for Mission report and elsewhere in these comments and the comments on the previous year’s report.

      Reply
  22. I am torn between two opposite views.
    1. We on this thread are concerned that the Church of England should do well. That’s the wrong concern – because Christ will be honoured when “each part of the body has the same concern for each other” – ie when we in the Church of England are as much concerned for the growth and holiness and correct doctrine of the Catholic and Pentecostal churches as we are for our own growth and holiness and correct doctrine (and vice versa.)
    2. On a superficial view it appears that the most “successful” churches are the Vineyard type who may have as little concern for the growth and holiness and correct doctrine of other denominations as we do! (I am open to correction.)

    Basically the fact that we have all alike swallowed the denominational principle (that each Christian chooses his/her church) means than none of us is able to confront our society with a claim to embody an absolute truth (Lesslie Newbigin, “Foolishness to the Greeks”, ch. 6.)

    Reply
    • I don’t swallow the denominational principle. One might wish to choose one perspective but be driven by the evidence to accept another, whether or not it was anything like one’s preference.

      Reply
      • Hi Christopher, I want to ask for clarification please. Where you live, to which denomination or congregation has the evidence led you? And if person X lives there too, and is a sincere Christian., does the evidence inevitably lead them to the same place, or are there other valid alternatives?

        Reply
      • Well that is 2 questions. (1) Which denomination to be part of. We love them all, and C of E provides the added benefit of school places. (2) Which denomination is most authentic and/or has the best-evidenced worldview? My answer to that one is eclectic, and again therefore I would operate with a multi-denominational model. But of course some are much better than others. One that I admire for its maturity is RCCG, and they also happen to have the best church growth figures.

        I don’t think one can engage this issue clearly if one tries to do so in terms of ‘labels’.

        Reply
        • The leader of the largest RCCG church in the UK says:

          “The Pentecostal and Anglican traditions had much to learn from each other, he added. “In black majority churches, prayer is a big thing. We have a culture of prayer. And the C of E is light years ahead of black majority churches on theology – we just don’t have the depth that the C of E has.”

          The RCCG had embarked on a radical programme of change, he said. “Society is changing rapidly. If the church doesn’t change too, it will be irrelevant in five to 10 years’ time. We’re going to chuck a lot of what we do because it just doesn’t work.”

          The key to appealing to the millennial generation was informality, contemporary music, creating “life groups” around thematic issues such as male identity, and harnessing technology, he said. Next month, the RCCG is launching an online prayer group, which is expected to attract up to 500 participants, initially twice a week and eventually daily.”

          Interesting. Sounds like that Church is having to change to fit in with culture as well. Which, according to some, has been a recipe for decline in the CofE

          Reply
          • Sounds like that Church is having to change to fit in with culture as well. Which, according to some, has been a recipe for decline in the CofE

            If you are fighting a way, you may find you have to change your tactics in response to either changes in the enemy’s tactics, or changes in the terrain of the battlefield. You may even need to change your grand strategy.

            But both of those are very different to compromising with the enemy.

            The Church Militant may well find herself having to change tactics to react to changes in the culture (but never to ‘fit in’ with culture; rather, to more effectively fight against it), or to the Enemy’s new devices.

            But what she must never do is compromise with the culture. For that is the same as compromising with the Enemy; unless, as above, you have an example of a church which has been successful by compromising with secular culture, rather than by standing strong and defining itself firmly in opposition to secular culture?

          • The difference is between cultural trends and cultural ideologies. One has to understand the former in order to communicate. One will only go along with the latter only on those occasions when they are accurate.

          • Christopher: the very notion of an “accurate ideology” begs so many questions. Accurate by what measure? Who judges?

          • That investigation is actually easier to undertake for ideologies than for anything else, because the quality of the field is so low. The criterion is (as ever) matching up with the evidence. Ideologies left right and centre are uninterested in evidence and concerned largely with preference. That is why they are called ideologies. They therefore fall at the first hurdle, which only outlooks interested in evidence (and reality, and the real world) clear.

          • So what would cite as examples of ideologies the Cof E has already gone along with that are inaccurate Christopher? (Note that I am very specifically using your language and phrases in asking this question)

          • S

            Is secular culture necessarily evil? Paul didn’t seem to think so.
            As a nun I know once remarked, most social change for the good has been wrought by secular society and not by the Church.

          • As a nun I know once remarked, most social change for the good has been wrought by secular society and not by the Church.

            An interesting, and at first glance implausible, claim. Did she have figures to back it up?

          • Figures? I think she was referring to stuff like:
            The married woman’s property act
            Female suffrage
            Decriminalisation of male homosexuality (though the church did play a part in that)
            Decriminalisation of abortion
            Safe and effective contraception
            Criminalisation of marital rape
            Equality acts
            Race relations
            Etc.

          • Figures?

            Yes, figures. To prove the claim ‘most social change for the good has been wrought by secular society and not by the Church’ I would like to see a list of social changes for the good, divided into those which have been wrought by secular society and those which have been wrought by the church (with justifications for the placings*), so we can compare the relative amounts.

            Also, for comparison, I think we also need a list of social changes for the bad, divided into the same categories, so as well as raw amounts of social changes for the good we can also see the net effect.

            (Also, do things like ‘decriminalisation of abortion’ really count as social changes for the good? Surely that specific one is a social change for the bad?)

            So, yeah, ask your nun for figures to back up her claim and then we can discuss it.

            * eg, ‘The married woman’s property act’ — didn’t the idea of women being legal people in their own right and not merely the property of their husbands come from Christianity? So that should be counted in the ‘church’ column, not the ‘secular society column.

          • Inaccurate overarching ideologies and/or misnomers which mean something other than what they say (and get mindlessly repeated, having already been mindless in content):
            ‘Right to choose’
            ‘Trust women’
            ‘Clump of cells’
            ‘Born in the wrong body’
            ‘Gender identity’
            ‘There are different kinds of families’
            ‘Trapped in a loveless marriage’
            ‘Some marriages die’
            ‘Gay’ [which names a purported identity] and/or ‘homosexual’ [which names a purported condition] as opposed to words for behaviours and acts, such as used to be centre stage.

            Has the C of E gone along with these? Not entirely but increasingly – so the traffic is in the wrong direction.

          • S
            I gave you a list of social goods which came from secular society (a few, such as the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality vanguarded by the Church).
            The married woman’s property act was not the outworking of a Christianity which regarded wives as chattels and commanded them to obey their husbands.
            Contraception has freed women from unwanted pregnancies and allowed parents to control family size.
            Abortion is a fraught issue, but I would argue that criminalising it simply leads to unsafe backstreet abortions and maternal deaths. Besides which it forces women – and girls – to have babies which are the result of rape and incest.
            Liberal divorce laws have freed women and men trapped in abusive marriages.
            Equality acts have determined that people cannot be discriminated against because of their faith, colour, creed, sexual orientation, ability.

            Would you like to return to a ‘theocracy’ which hanged ‘sodomites’; burned witches; allowed men to keep the children if a marriage broke down, even when he was the abuser; allowed marital rape; disenfranchised most of the population, etc. etc?

          • Christopher

            I am glad that the CoE has ‘gone along with’ some of these. Sadly, it has much further to go.

          • I gave you a list of social goods which came from secular society

            Indeed. But such a list is hardly rigorous data.

            The married woman’s property act was not the outworking of a Christianity which regarded wives as chattels and commanded them to obey their husbands.

            Didn’t the whole idea of wives not being chattels come from Christianity? In Roman society women were the possessions of men (their father, then their husband); it was Christianity changed that, wasn’t it? So the married women’s property act was indeed the outworking of Christian views of all being equal before Christ, and so that absolutely should be placed in the ‘church’ column, not the ‘secular society’ column.

            Liberal divorce laws have freed women and men trapped in abusive marriages.

            They have also encouraged the view of marriage as a contract which two people enter in order to seek happiness and mutual fulfillment and which can be ended easily and cheaply whenever one or both no longer feel that they are getting their money’s worth, so I think on balance they have done more harm than good.

            Equality acts have determined that people cannot be discriminated against because of their faith, colour, creed, sexual orientation, ability.

            And again come from the Christian idea of all being equal before God; before Christianity arrived such ideas would have been unthinkable (just try telling a Roman, or a Viking, that you shouldn’t discriminate against groups of people — you’d be laughed at). So again these belong in the column of changes which the church is responsible for, not secular society.

            Would you like to return to a ‘theocracy’

            Britain has never been a theocracy, has it?

          • S
            That’s special pleading, like arguing that slavery was abolished because Christianity.
            Wives and slaves were property to Christian husbands and masters, just as they were to pagan husbands and masters.
            The exhortation to wifely obedience was dropped from the marriage vows only recently. It is still valid liturgy.
            Some think divorce is ‘too easy’. Probably not those who endured abusive marriages and were told that it was God’s will.
            As they were told that it was God’s will when they died in their twelfth childbirth.

            No, we haven’t lived in a theocracy. Hence the use of inverted commas.

          • That’s special pleading, like arguing that slavery was abolished because Christianity.

            It’s not special pleading at all. It’s pointing out that those things only came about because of Christianity, so they can hardly be used as evidence that secular society has done more good than the church, because secular society would never have done those things if it hadn’t been for the church spreading the ideas of Christianity in the first place.

            Wives and slaves were property to Christian husbands and masters, just as they were to pagan husbands and masters.

            Indeed; and if it hadn’t been for Christianity, and the church spreading it and influencing society, they still would be property to pagan husbands and masters.

            Some think divorce is ‘too easy’. Probably not those who endured abusive marriages and were told that it was God’s will.

            Probably those wives whose husbands have left them for a younger model do, though.

            But then I wouldn’t expect someone who thinks that one-night stands can be moral to understand the first thing about sexual ethics.

            No, we haven’t lived in a theocracy. Hence the use of inverted commas.

            So if Britian has never been a theocracy how could we ‘return’ to being one? Your question makes no sense.

          • S

            It’s special pleading and nit picking

            Some social change has been wrought by radical readings of scripture, e.g. the abolition of the slave trade. And since the church wasn’t the only engine in the abolition of slavery, t’s faar too simplistic to argue that wives and slaves would still be enslaved were it not for Christianity. We have no evidence that in the early years of the church wives and slaves were treated any better by Christian than by pagan masters. Mostly, the church has been complicit in discrimination and inequality and I have given examples above.
            Men leave wives for younger models whether divorce is easy or not. What wife would want a husband forced to stay although preferred a younger model and was unfaithful? In any case, it is usually women who instigate divorce.
            Do you understand the use of inverted commas? If we return to a ‘theocracy’, it is because we are not returning to a theocracy.

          • It’s special pleading and nit picking

            No more than your nun’s list.

            And since the church wasn’t the only engine in the abolition of slavery, t’s faar too simplistic to argue that wives and slaves would still be enslaved were it not for Christianity.

            Less implistic than the idea that such social changes came from secular society uninfluenced by Christianity, or that they would have happened even in the absence of the church. That’s the really simplistic idea.

            Men leave wives for younger models whether divorce is easy or not. What wife would want a husband forced to stay although preferred a younger model and was unfaithful?

            Ah, see, the remedy for that isn’t easy divorce: it’s proper punishment for infidelity.

            Do you understand the use of inverted commas? If we return to a ‘theocracy’, it is because we are not returning to a theocracy.

            So the question you were actually asking me is, ‘Do you want to return to something that wasn’t a theocracy’?

            Well… we don’t live in a theocracy now, so to return from that to something that also wasn’t a theocracy would be no change at all so… again, I’m afraid your question makes no sense.

          • The casual, conscienceless attitude to killing little human beings just leaves one unspeakably sad. It is an attitude never found in mature individuals. A parent’s bond with their child is something ultimate.
            Deprivation of choice. Affirmation of the knowingly false cliche ‘clump of cells’.

            Can’t people stop holding trivial privileged entitled attitudes that expect little children to be sacrificed so that they/we can maintain the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed?

            Every time I am forced to speak on this horrible topic I want to weep. Please don’t make me speak on it again.

            And anyone who would normalise strife and division in homes (which are havens) must know that there are societies and lifestyles where such things are minimised. Esolen, Defending Marriage, final chapter.

            Again – I cannot talk about that without getting unnecessaruily depressed.

          • Christopher

            No one is impelling you to read or to respond to my comments.

            It isn’t about ‘lifestyles’, but about a girl being forced to bear her rapist’s child.
            It isn’t about ‘lifestyles’, but about a woman having a miscarriage who died of sepsis because her doctors would not intervene.
            These stories make me weep.

            It isn’t about homes and marriages as ‘havens’ but as places where rape, abuse, coercion and, sometimes, murder take place.
            These stories make me weep.

          • It isn’t about ‘lifestyles’, but about a girl being forced to bear her rapist’s child.

            How many abortions in the UK are to end pregnancies which were the result of rape, and how many are for lifestyle reasons?

          • Of coursed homes will be like that when there is less of the healthy family – extendedFamily – churchCommunity structure. If adopting the sexual revolution produces consequences, it would scarcely produce none, and the consequences in question are exactly those predicted. The bond between couples will be strong enough only if it is exclusive. Where a society does not encourage that exclusivity, that is laying up future problems at a hundreds of percent increased rate.

            Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Where the action has been past sinful or disordered patterns of sexual relationship, the inevitable reaction will play out every time a future ‘exclusive’ relationship is attempted. Unless Christ intervenes.

          • Let the one without sin cast not just the first stone but whatever is worse than that as well then…..

          • Christopher

            No one here is suggesting that marital bonds should not be exclusive. When they break through infidelity or are broken by physical and emotional abuse, divorce is there to prevent people being imprisoned by hatred and cruelty.

          • When they break through infidelity or are broken by physical and emotional abuse, divorce is there to prevent people being imprisoned by hatred and cruelty.

            I assume then you will reassure us that you are firmly against the idea of ‘no fault’ divorces, as the only allowable use of divorce is ‘to prevent people being imprisoned by hatred and cruelty’?

            And you will explicitly say that you agree that simply not being happy in a marriage any more is not reasonable grounds for a divorce?

            And that you will argue strongly against the currently proposed liberalisation of the divorce laws which would allow one party to unilaterally end the marriage even in the total absence of any infidelity or unreasonable behaviour?

          • For instance, take the case of the Owenses, currently being touted as a reason to reform the divorce laws to make them even more liberal:

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-44949856

            There is no suggestion here that there has been any physical or emotional abuse; nor is there any hatred or cruelty.

            Mrs Owens is seeking a divorce simply on the grounds that she is unhappy in the marriage.

            Penepole, I assume — as your stated reason for allowing divorce is to simply ensure that people are not ‘imprisoned by hatred or cruelty’ — you would agree that in this case, where there is no hatred or cruelty involved, it is correct that a divorce was refused, and that mere unhappiness should never be adequate grounds for divorce, and that therefore there is absolutely no need for divorce laws to be further liberalised?

          • In the case of Mrs Owens it is interesting that she was made a cause celebre as though the thinking was ‘Come on, surely in this case at least you can feel sorry for the petitioner.’.

            In this we see the extreme deviousness of the campaigners if they think she is an extreme case of suffering rather than the very opposite (a recipient of mercy), for the facts are these:

            (1) She did something utterly cruel to her husband by rejecting him.

            (2) Moreover he was an individual for which anything like that would go against the core of his being.

            (3) – and so late in life, just when he might think their lives were gently winding down together.

            (4) He was faithful throughout.

            (5) She was unfaithful.

            (6) He then forgave her (note: not vice-versa).

            (7) The idea was that her adultery was a cry for help. So any man who comes home and says ‘Honey, I’m having an affair – but don’t worry, because it’s a cry for help. It’s me that’s the victim not you’ – that man deserves our sympathy (?!). However it seems to me that in that hypothetical case my sympathy and most others’ would be strongly with the poor woman.

            This is the kind of thing that shows that secularism is not merely the most incoherent of lifestyles and so-called philosophies (I thought one had to *think* for it to merit the term philosophy) but also the among the very cruellest. Sensible sane people see Mrs Owens’s behaviour as extreme in one direction; the mainstream see it, or are encouraged strongly to see it, as inhabiting the opposite pole, the pole of virtue!! It takes something as bad as secularism to ‘turn’ black into white.

          • However they did have a few contretemps about taking out the rubbish (was it?) or daring to talk without having their heads bitten off. Just to show what an atypical couple they were, I expect.

          • S
            Since we don’t live in a theocracy it doesn’t really matter what my views on no fault divorce are

          • Since we don’t live in a theocracy it doesn’t really matter what my views on no fault divorce are

            That’s never stopped you before. What’s different about this topic?

          • Penny by asking ‘When was this mythical healthy society?’ is falling into the perennial trap (yet again) of imagining that all societies are all simply ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ – only 2 options. But it is obvious that that is false and that in the real world the options are on a continuum. So even where societies are not 100% healthy (like – all of them) there can potentially be absolutely huge differences between them in how healthy they are. If a Haitian society is governed by witchdoctors, is that equally healthy to a Bruderhof society? Why is it that so many idolise rural Oxfordshire at the turn of the century? Etc etc.

  23. IME (as a Baptist Con-Evo Charismatic) the CofE doesn’t want to engage on the ground with others unless they are calling the shots. It’s all quite disheartening for fellow travellers who want to work with you

    Reply
      • It’s not good in or back yard here tbh. There’s a lot to gain from working together but it all seems to be going one way … bearing in mind too that non Anglican churches are better attended than Anglican ones

        Reply
    • I echo Steve’s comments. Coming from a Baptist angle we have the sense that the Cof E has the attitude that they are ‘the church’ and others such as the non-conformist are somewhat amateurish with our informal liturgies etc.

      You work with them. They don’t work with us.

      Reply
      • Yes that seems to be the case here. Very sad when we really do want to work for the Kingdom …. it’s worse when our erstwhile colleagues set up competing activities for things that have been going perfectly well for years.

        Reply
    • What a trivial answer. Precious little human beings – and human beings are the most wondrous sacred and intricately formed entities in the known universe – are just sacrificed for cosmetic and lifestyle reasons massively more often than the less than one percent of cases that have to do with rape. That is a time to play logic tennis, is it?

      Love, nurturing and maternal instinct – I weep for when people deny or repress them.

      Reply
      • You think my weeping for women dying of sepsis, or for girls forced to bear their rapist’s child is trivial?
        You think my weeping for women abused, raped and killed by their husbands/partners is trivial?
        How utterly astonishing.

        Reply
    • I have no idea what a lifestyle choice is

      Of course you do, you just don’t want to admit it.

      But anyway. In 2018, 205,295 abortions were performed in England and Wales.

      145 were because the woman was at risk of death or grave physical injury if the pregnancy continued.

      1,104 were because of risk to the health of the woman’s existing children.

      3,269 were for reasons of a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

      Of the remaining 196,083, how many do you think were the termination of pregnancies which began as a result of rape?

      Reply
      • That would be ‘of the remaining 200,777’ i.e. 97.8%.

        The figure for rape within such totals is normally around 1%, which sounds a shocking subtotal even if rape is more broadly defined now. Incest is less than half a percentage point.

        If one is talking about 1%, one is not talking about the issue at hand, but about something quite different. That in turn raises the question of the *reasons* why anyone would want to avoid the subject so starkly.

        Reply
        • Yes, Christopher, I am weeping for the women dying of sepsis, the women travelling from NI for a termination because they are carrying a non viable foetus, the women who have been raped or trafficked, the victims of incest, the women who don’t want to bear a child in an abusive relationship.
          I don’t care how small the percentage is. They are precious in God’s eyes.

          Reply
          • I don’t care how small the percentage is.

            I’m not a utilitarian, obviously, but sometimes numbers do have an impact, and did you really just say — assuming the 1% figure — that you are okay with killing over 200,000 people in order to save 2,000 victims for rape from having to give birth?

            I mean I agree that having to give birth to your rapist’s child must be awful. But is it really so bad that it’s better to kill 100 people?

          • No, S, I didn’t.

            Are you sure? You defended the killing on the grounds that you ‘weep for’ the victims of incest and rape, didn’t you?

            That looks a lot like you are saying that 200,000 abortions a year is a price worth paying so that 2000 women don’t have to give birth to their rapist’s child.

            I mean if you really do think that, then it’s certainly an arguable point.

            But if you don’t, then how can you justify being pro-legal-abortion?

          • S

            That’s a terrible false equivalence. I weep for unborn foetuses just as I weep for victims of rape and incest, mothers carrying non viable babies and mothers dying of sepsis. No one is sacrificing thousands of infants to protect those who are the victims of rape and incest. To suggest that this is the case is morally abhorrent.

            What I do not do – and what many Christians of the right, especially in the US do – is privilege a potential life over an existing life. Mothers are people too. Migrants babies in cages are people too. Kurdish babies are people too. Children using foodbanks are people too.
            Too many Christians are pro birth, not pro life (and that was said by another excellent nun).

          • That’s a terrible false equivalence. I weep for unborn foetuses just as I weep for victims of rape and incest, mothers carrying non viable babies and mothers dying of sepsis. No one is sacrificing thousands of infants to protect those who are the victims of rape and incest.

            And yet, they are. 200,000 infants are sacrificed every year — that’s the department of health statistics.

            And your sole justification for this being allowed to continue is your ‘weeping’ for the — are we still going for the 1% figure? — for the couple of thousand women who might otherwise have to bear their rapist’s child. Which would I am sure be terrible. But we must be honest about the cost, which is counted in hundreds of thousands of lives.

            What I do not do – and what many Christians of the right, especially in the US do – is privilege a potential life over an existing life.

            That would only make sense as an argument if the mother’s life was in danger. But that is a vanishingly small proportion of abortions, much smaller than 1%.

            In the vast majority of cases what you are privileging is not one life over another life, but one person’s convenience over another’s life.

            Mothers are people too. Migrants babies in cages are people too. Kurdish babies are people too. Children using foodbanks are people too.

            Murderers are people too. Rapists are people too. These facts are as true as they are irrelevant.

          • S

            I don’t imagine the department of health states that 200,000 infants lives are sacrificed each year.
            Nor does this statistic have anything to do with the number of pregnancies caused by rape – of which you cannot possibly have any knowledge.
            That’s what I mean by false equivalence.
            And, yes, rapists and murderers are precious in God’s eyes too.

          • I don’t imagine the department of health states that 200,000 infants lives are sacrificed each year.

            They do. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/abortion-statistics-for-england-and-wales

            Nor does this statistic have anything to do with the number of pregnancies caused by rape – of which you cannot possibly have any knowledge.

            I thought we were assuming the 1% statistic for the sake of argument. But if you disagree with that, what do you think the level is?

            Or perhaps a more pertinent question is, at what level do you think the balance shifts? If you are happy for 200,000 babies to be sacrificed to save 2,000 women from having to give birth to their rapist’s child, would you still be happy if the figure were 0.1%, and 1,000 children who were not the product of rape were being sacrificed every year for every abortion that was the result of a rape? What if it were 0.01% and 10,000 children sacrificed for every pregnancy that was the result of rape?

            At what point does the sacrifice of innocent lives become not worth it? Or would it be worth it whatever the numbers — would you sacrifice every one of those 200,000 babies every year to save even one single victim of rape from giving birth?

          • S
            The department of health do not say that thousands of infants are sacrificed each year.
            That is not their language.
            Nor would it be true.
            Infants are not sacrificed to save those who are the victims of rape and incest, or non viable.
            I reiterate: this is a false comparison.
            It is also morally reprehensible.
            I am not engaging further on this issue.

          • The department of health do not say that thousands of infants are sacrificed each year.
            That is not their language.

            Well, of course they want to avoid truthful language at all costs. Wouldn’t you in their position? But if a life is ended in order to pursue a goal then I think most people would agree that that life had been sacrified to the pursuit of that goal.

            Infants are not sacrificed to save those who are the victims of rape and incest, or non viable.

            About 200,000 potential human lives are ended in abortions every year. Your defence of this is that you ‘weep’ for the victims of incest or rape who might be forced to bear the children that result from those crimes, or who die from complications.

            But the vast majority of those 200,000 infants were not the result of rape or incest, and the mother’s life was never at risk.

            That means you must regard the vast majority of those 200,000 as, say, collateral damage. As acceptable losses in order to spare your tears.

            And I’m just wondering and I think it’s a fair question, what level of such loss you think is acceptable. Is there any level at which you’d say, ‘No, hang on, that’s actually gone too far, it was a laudible aim to try to space those who were raped form having to bear their attackers’ child but the cost in terms of human life of this policy is just too high.’

            Or would you be okay with the ending of 500,000 pregnancies a year? A million? Ten million?

            I am not engaging further on this issue.

            As well you wouldn’t, not having a moral leg to stand on.

          • The only way out of that quandary for Penny, I believe, is that

            (a) she would be quite happy for my & my wife’s own children, whom we love, to be ‘collateral damage’ or else

            (b) she does not believe in equality (and disbelief in equality is, to liberals, supposed to make someone something called a ‘bigot’) – so that although our own children might not be allowed to be collateral damage of this unpleasant sort, other children of equal value somehow would be allowed to be.

            So which of the 2 is it? a or b?

          • Christopher

            Forgive me, but that is a very silly argument. No one’s children are ‘collateral damage’ for those who choose to have an abortion whatever the circumstances.

            Your wife would, presumably, never choose abortion, so the fact that some abortions are legal wouldn’t change her mind.

            This is rather like the equally specious argument that equal marriage undermines ‘traditional’ marriage. Since marriages were dated back to the contracting of civil partnerships, ‘traditional’ marriage must have been undermined for years before 2013. And no one noticed. How odd.

            Similarly, to choose an abortion for whatever reason does not mean that those in similar circumstances have to make the same choice.

          • Forgive me, but that is a very silly argument. No one’s children are ‘collateral damage’ for those who choose to have an abortion whatever the circumstances.

            Okay, you’re clearly not seeing this. So let’s take it slowly.

            Your justification for allowing abortion is that you ‘weep for’ people like the victim of rape, incest or abuse who might otherwise have to bear her rapist’s child.

            Okay. Let’s accept that for the sake of argument.

            But, the current abortion laws also allow, for example, a young couple who unintentionally become pregnant at a time they didn’t intend, when their careers are just beginning, to curtail that potential human life simply because to allow the child to be born would burden them at a time when they wish to be unburdened, interfere with their establishing themselves in their careers, and be inconvenient to their life-plan.

            There is, in this case, no abuse, no rape, no danger to the mother’s life, nothing that could possibly make this abortion in any way morally justifiable. It is wrong and it ought not to be allowed. Agreed?

            So: in order to avoid the victim of rape from having to give birth to her rapist’s child, you are defending a situation that allows that young couple to get rid of their child.

            You are, effectively, allowing the sacrifice of that couple’s child in order to obtain your goal of making sure that victims of rape do not have to give birth to their rapists’ children.

            But the young couple are the typical case, and the rape-victim the outlying, atypical case. The hundreds of thousand of inconvenient children of those young couples are the collateral damage of a policy you defend on the basis of your tears for the tiny minority of rape victims and other emotionally charged, but extreme cases.

            So my question to you is: is there any level of this collateral damage that you think is not worth it? Or would you be willing for a million babies to be killed just because they are inconcenient, in order to make sure that not one rapist’s child is born? How many will you allow to be sacrificed?

          • Penny, read my comment again. There are 2 options: either (1) you would be happy for our precious children to die or (2) you are already happy for children of precisely *equal* worth to ours (in other words, priceless) to die and therefore yourself do not believe in equality but in a 2tier system ‘wanted’ and (wicked term) ‘unwanted’.

            Is it (1) or (2) that you believe?

          • Christopher

            No those aren’t the only two options. Indeed, neither is an option.
            I am never ‘happy’ that an abortion is deemed necessary.
            I think that women have a right to choose.
            I will not make a window into their souls and judge their motives.
            Not allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest or when the baby is non viable is cruel and sometimes fatal, as recent cases in Ireland, both north and south, have shown.
            Abortions for other reasons (whatever they may be) are not ‘collateral damage’. That is false equivalence.

          • Christopher

            Neither. People choose abortion for all manner of reasons.
            There is no such thing as collateral damage.
            Some foetuses are not aborted so that other foetuses may be aborted with impunity.
            That is nonsense.

          • Neither. People choose abortion for all manner of reasons.
            There is no such thing as collateral damage.
            Some foetuses are not aborted so that other foetuses may be aborted with impunity.
            That is nonsense.

            Again, slowly. ‘Collateral damage’ is when people die as a side-effect of your policies, which are intended to achieve some other objective.

            You policy of allowing abortion is intended, according to you, to achieve the objective of killing children conceived by rape, incest, in abusive relationships, where there is a risk to the mother’s life, and sundry other extreme and atypical cases.

            This policy, we can see form the evidence, has had the side-effect of allowing the killing of lots of other children, other than the ones you intend it to kill.

            Therefore those children die as a side-effect of your policy of allowing abortion.

            How are they not collateral damage?

            What else would you call them?

          • I wasn’t focussing on the idea of collateral damage, though for mums and dads to maintain the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, new offspring clearly are very frequently being collateral damage.

            No, my point was a different one. You are agreeing rather than disagreeing with the law that kills children who are not my and my wife’s own but are of equal value to our own, which is in no way different from agreeing with a law that kills our own 3 children. That is my point.

          • You are agreeing rather than disagreeing with the law that kills children who are not my and my wife’s own but are of equal value to our own, which is in no way different from agreeing with a law that kills our own 3 children.

            Actually Penelope is correct that the law itself doens’t kill any children. What the law does is allow parents to kill their children. It is the parents who do the killing, not the law.

          • Yes, it is the parents (through a settled decision involving an intermediary) not the law. (The law, however, does not care.)

        • I have no idea, do you?

          No, but then, I’m not the one advocating the ending of hundreds of thousands of potential human lives. I would have thought that before you did that you’d want rock-solid figures and logic to back your case up.

          Instead you seem, well, would it be fair to say that you seem to be basing your entire stance on appealing to raw emotion by emphasising the most extreme, rare, atypical cases, and ignoring the vast majority, thus totally misrepresenting the actual-real world impact of your ideas?

          Or do you really live in a fantasy-land where the typical abortion is carried out on a victim of incestuous rape?

          How many were the result of a lifestyle choice?

          I’m going to guess the vast majority.

          Reply
          • S

            There is a difference between being pro choice and being pro abortion.
            You don’t seem to appreciate the distinction.
            Nor do you seem able to explain what you mean by a ‘lifestyle choice’.

          • There is not a difference of any importance between being pro choice and pro abortion. How awful is that?

            (1) The amount of difference it makes to the one that gets killed (which after all is the main point) is zero, nada.

            Do we plead with the baby ‘It’s ok that you died because I was not consenting to your death, merely to your parents’ right to order it’. So that’s all right, then…

            ???

            (2) Secondly, some abstract principle inaccurately called ‘choice’ is rated higher than another human’s entire life. Yet it is not choice per se, obviously, but rather choice to kill offspring. So choice to kill offspring is something more important than offspring’s entire life.

            It is, is it?

    • Penny,

      In a way I can see the point that the individuals who find themselves in the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy have not made an active lifestyle choice. But that is because most people do not make a deliberate and considered choice of the way to live, which considers all the possible outcomes. Unintended consequences creep up and have bad results.

      Most people pick up lifestyle unconsciously from those around them and the general cultural environment. The ‘social changes’ of which you approve have had precisely this kind of effect. The availability of contraceptives has led to a huge shift in attitudes to sexual behaviour and attitudes. This has actually been to the detriment of women as now men can use them seemingly without expensive consequence. I can recall back in 1969 my headmaster talking about the shift from sex as being, primarily, about procreation to it being about recreation.

      However, the true telos of sexual activity is not so easly thwarted. But now, pregnancy – the creation of a new human being made in the image of God – is seen not as a wondrous privilege but as a dreadful inconvenience which violates the rights of the automomous individual to have exactly the life which she wants.

      I believe Sir David Steel admits that the scale of abortion greatly exceeds what he imagined would be from his 1967 act. There is a whole industry about promoting abortion as the only possibility. Do you think that when a woman with a crisis pregnancy attends BPAS they will genuinely help her to explore all the possibly options including those which will not involve the use of their clinics? The language used is deliberately designed to dehumanise the foetus. It is ‘terminating the pregnancy’ not ‘ending the life of the unborn child’. Having an ultrasound scan is forbidden, as many women who do see a scan decide not to terminate. The CEO of Marie Curie receives a big bonus because of all the abortions which they have been able to perform.

      The culture of abortion is such that it is creeping up very close to eugenics. What degree of ‘imperfection’ disqualifies the unborn from life? What does this say about those with such ‘imperfections’ who are alive, and how they are seen? Abortion for sex-selection is having a dreadful effect in India – the frustrations of excess of young males is one reason for the dreadful rapes which have been happening there. How does the excess of female foetues being aborted over male fit a feminist narrative?

      Is the Church at fault here? Perhaps. I would that fault has been in the shame that has been put on those who find themselves pregnant under difficult circumstances. The right thing would be to provide support and help through this. Basic ethics says that “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and to ignore the profound ethical issue of deliberate termination is profoundly wrong, and actually unhelpful to the pregnant woman. But to carry a child under difficult circumstances is not somethng which can be done alone. It needs a community of support. Modern, hyper-individualised society cannot provide this.

      Just as in the Roman Empire, the Christians rejected and subverted the common practice of exposure of unwanted babies, so Christians today should value all human life and work to bring good out of difficult circumstances.

      Reply
      • David

        I agree with much of this. Safe and accessible contraception has not been an unmixed blessing, but I think, from women’s point of view, it is preferable to the alternative.

        Likewise, abortion. I am not an uncritical supporter of abortion. But I would describe myself as pro choice. Not only because of the cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger, but also because I do not want to make windows into (wo)men’s souls. I appreciate that the predicted disappearance of conditions such as Downs appears like eugenics, but I would not judge parents who felt that they could not bear a child with a disability.

        I think we are a long way from providing the community of support which would nurture disadvantaged parents and children, but then I think we always have been. Look at past attitudes to bastardy.

        Reply
        • ‘I appreciate that the predicted disappearance of conditions such as Downs appears like eugenics, but I would not judge parents who felt that they could not bear a child with a disability.’

          Except you are judging. You are judging that the life of a child with Down’s is less important than the distress caused to the parents. That is a judgement.

          Reply
          • No Penny is not judging that. She is sating she qwould not judge the parents who make a choice and would make that same ‘non-judgment’ whatever choice they made.
            Penny is basically saying what the Mission and Public Affairs Statement of the C of E said in 2013 – which presumably you agreed with as a member of the AC Ian?

            Here it is:
            The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative. This is based on our view that the foetus is a human life with the potential to develop relationships, think, pray, choose and love. Most women facing an unwanted pregnancy realise the gravity of the decision they face and do not take it lightly: all abortions are tragedies, since they entail judging one individual’s welfare against that of another (even if one is, as yet, unborn). We would like to see more support for women including access to information, advice and counselling, from a wide range of providers that would enable them to make a fully informed decision.

          • Penny is basically saying what the Mission and Public Affairs Statement of the C of E said in 2013 – which presumably you agreed with as a member of the AC Ian

            Does the Church of England operate cabinet collective responsibility then?

            You learn something new every day.

          • No Penny is not judging that. She is sating she qwould not judge the parents who make a choice and would make that same ‘non-judgment’ whatever choice they made

            Indeed; it would be more accurate to say that she is culpably abdicating judgement.

            And of course the decision to abdicate one’s responsibility to judge is a judgement.

          • And Penny has a responsibility to judge other parents in this matter because……? I am not clear why. Please do explain S.

          • And Penny has a responsibility to judge other parents in this matter because

            We all have a responsibility to exercise our ethical judgement. People keep on (rightly) condemning the church for, at times, abdicating its responsibility to make an ethical judgement on slavery and slave-owners. How is this any different?

          • Ian

            No I am not. I am saying that I would not judge parents who made that decision. I might have a personal ethical response, but judgement is not mine.

          • Oh I didn’t know Penny was now ‘the Church’!

            So you don’t think that we each have an individual responsibility to apply the consciences God gave us to important ethical issues?

            I mean if you don’t, that’s fine. I happen to think we do.

          • Oh yes I definitely think that S. But that’s different to judging other people isn’t it, as Penny has explained above.

          • Oh yes I definitely think that S. But that’s different to judging other people isn’t it, as Penny has explained above

            Penny has stated that she abdicates her responsibility to come to a judgement on the important ethical issue of whether it’s okay to kill a child in order to prevent distress to the parents.

            Would you say the same about someone who abdicated responsibility to come to a judgement on people smuggling? Sexual slavery?

            If not, what’s the difference?

          • Penny is supporting the clear Church of England position on the matter. Please show me the position the C of E takes on people smuggling and sexual slavery. Then I’m sure we will see the difference.

          • Penny is supporting the clear Church of England position on the matter.

            As I say, I wasn’t aware that all member sof the Church of England are required to support the positions of the Church of England in all matters, even when the Church of England’s position is manifestly a craven abdication of its responsibility to give moral gudiance.

            But if you want to use the ‘just following orders’ defence then be my guest.

          • I don’t really know how we got on to this…but saying ‘I am pro choice’ (Penny) is not the same as being ‘strongly opposed to abortion’ (C of E).

          • “make a fully informed decision” – C of E sounds *exactly* like pro choice to me! Enabling people to make their own decisions is pro choice.

          • “make a fully informed decision” – C of E sounds *exactly* like pro choice to me! Enabling people to make their own decisions is pro choice.

            No: ‘pro-choice’ means that you think that it is up to the woman to decide and whatever she decides is, by definition, right for her.

            That is not compatible with ‘being strongly opposed to abortion with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative’.

            For example, take a woman who wishes to have an abortion because the child would be born with Down’s syndrome. This is not one of the ‘strictly limited conditions referred to’; therefore the under the Church of England’s position was described, this abortion is morally wrong.

            Whereas if you are ‘pro-choice’ then you have to hold that the woman’s decision, as long as it was made in full conscious connsideration of all the facts, is ipso facto morally the correct one.

            The Church of England’s position, as described, therefore, is totally incompatible with being ‘pro-choice’.

          • The C of E, as so often, tries to please everyone in its statements. It is certainly compatible with pro-choice.

            Being pro-choice means that someone can be personally opposed to abortion, or feel uncomfortable with it, but would not impose her or his moral, personal or religious views onto women; for example, by trying to get women to change their minds, seeking laws that reduce or restrict women’s access to abortions or judging women for their decisions. Indeed it is possible to be personally opposed to abortion but to support family members and friends who, for their own considered reasons, have chosen to have an abortion.

            “Pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels don’t reflect the complexity of how most people actually think and feel about abortion. Instead of putting people in one category or another, we should respect the real-life decisions people and their families face every day.

          • Being pro-choice means that someone can be personally opposed to abortion, or feel uncomfortable with it, but would not impose her or his moral, personal or religious views onto women

            Ah. So ‘pro-choice’ is not a moral position, but a public policy position? That is, someone can be ‘pro-choice’ and think that abortion is morally wrong as long as they also think it should not be illegal?

            (Same as, for example, someone who thinks that homosexual acts are morally wrong but also that they should not be illegal).

            So, the, laying aside legal policy, you and Penelope would be happy to agree that abortion is morally wrong (in all but a strictly limited set of circumstances)?

          • Andrew, you hav often left me speechless, but this?

            You define an act which is not obviously in intent different from murder (and murder of one’s own child, at that – or consent to or planning towards the same) as ‘choice’.

            In the child’s case, so-called abortion is not ‘choice’. Quite obviously the deprivation of every possible choice – therefore, the opposite of choice. Please tell me you are able to see something so obvious as that.

            In the parents’ case, so-called abortion is not ‘choice’. It is one particular choice out of trillions of possible choices, and is therefore not choice per se, nor choice absolute. It is only choice where people are too ashamed to name what it is that is being chosen – and why would they be ashamed, now, do you think?

            Also, are you unaware that ‘pro-choice’ was a ynically manufactured slogan whose manufacturers never thought people would absolutely fall for it, depending as it does on (1) leaving out the central fact that the little human gets killed and also (2) thinking that choosing the death of one’s own child is synonymous with choice per se. (1) and (2) are so obviously and wildly inaccurate that no-one half intelligent could fall for them. Possibly then the solution is that in the era of sexual-revolution thinking and secularism people have become in a way less intelligent in the sense that they are basing things on an inaccurate and contradictory worldview.

            in fact people did get duped and the antis couldn’t believe their luck. There were celebrations to rival those of the hordes of Mordor and Narnia.

          • Christopher

            There aren’t trillions of choices. There are about five:
            To bear a live children’s e
            To have an abortion
            To have a miscarriage
            To bear a dead a dead child
            To bear a child who dies soon after birth.
            Abortion is not a result of secularism.
            Abortion has been a choice for millennia.
            Sometimes it is mandated, for example in the Hebrew Bible.
            If we are genuinely pro life, we care for all children:
            The Muslim
            The migrant
            The child at the foodbank
            The drug addict
            The trans child
            The gay child.
            But do we?

          • There are trillions of choices. The choice to employ Bob not Sam as the builder. The choice to get out of bed in the morning on the left side. None of these save the choice to kill your daughter or son (which one would not have thought to be in pole position here) is called ‘choice’ per se or ‘choice’absolute. ‘Pro-choice’ without any reference to what it actually is that is being chosen. Maybe killing young humans is the ultimate thing or the all pervasive thing, so that no further qualification or clarification is needed.

          • Christopher: is there any distinction you can think of between “fully informed decision” (included in the the C of E position on this matter, quoted above) and anything I have written? I don’t think there is…….

          • is there any distinction you can think of between “fully informed decision” (included in the the C of E position on this matter, quoted above) and anything I have written? I don’t think there is…….

            What you have written is certainly incompatible with ‘there can be strictly limited conditions under which it [abortion] may be morally preferable to any available alternative’ (included in the the C of E position on this matter, quoted above).

          • On choice – exactly. Children are queuing up to be retrospectively killed off in the same vast numbers as turkeys are voting for Christmas. Children of that age are suicide risks?? Wish they had never been born? Full of angst, are they?

            Those who are killed off (should they survive) must really appreciate in retrospect having ”been consulted” (ahem). They would appreciate even more the fact that this complete lack of consultation, and on such an ultimate issue (the only issue on which all others hang), was dressed up as somehow constituting ‘choice’ (as opposed to what it really is: namely, being deprived of every conceivable choice)!!!

            Sounds like privileged western adults projecting their own tortured psyche onto these poor kids.

      • David Steel was surprised by the fact that 200,000 has become the norm p.a.. Students of human nature were not.

        David Steel did not care even if it were 200,000 or more, since in the Anne Robinson documentary he was in favour of further degrees of so-called liberalisation.

        Or perhaps he changes what he says depending on audience.

        In Oct 2007, he said on TV that he thought the number was also similar to 200000 before legalisation. Problem 1: it was from memory no more than 27000ish in the 8 months of legality in 1968. Equating to 40000 a year. Problem 2: legalisation brings normalisation and therefore proliferation. Problem 3: the hospital-admissions figures were 14,000 for one year and these are the only figures we have.

        He goes by the maxim ‘Better safe and legal than unsafe and illegal’. (Safe for whom?) Pretending that there is no third or 103rd option.

        It is likely that he was put in position at the head of the abortion lobby and of the all-too-Liberal Party of the 1970s as (like Tony Blair) an apparently acceptable face of a less acceptable movement.

        Reply
  24. Christopher: thank you for your list of ‘Inaccurate overarching ideologies’ offered on 27 October at 9.37pm. I am sorry I had missed it. But a: I’m not sure if the C of E has actually ‘gone along’ with any of those has it? It depends what you mean by ‘gone along’ with I suppose, and I’m very unclear about that imprecise language. And b: if the C of E has ‘gone along’ with them, have they actually caused decline in the C of E?

    Do you have any direct evidence at all for your assertions here?

    Reply
    • I said at the time that the C of E traffic had of late gone more towards than away from these things.

      Significantly so, since for most of history they would have been regarded as the antithesis of anything Christian.

      Reply
      • So in other words you have no evidence for your general assertions and you can’t directly answer my two questions. Thank you.

        Reply
        • So in other words you have no evidence for your general assertions and you can’t directly answer my two questions

          Well, Penelope seems to think that the Church of England has ‘gone along with’ those ideas at least to some extent, and she regards this as a good thing and wishes it would go along with them more.

          But for example:

          ‘Right to choose’
          ‘Trust women’
          ‘Clump of cells’

          — The quoted statement on abortion definitely goes along with these to the extent that it is possible of being interpreted (as it is by you) as endorsing a ‘pro-choice’ positon.

          ‘Born in the wrong body’
          ‘Gender identity’

          — The Church of England has gone along with these by allowing explicitly pro-‘trans’ groups such as Mermaids to give guidance to church schools on how to handle these issues.

          ‘There are different kinds of families’
          ‘Trapped in a loveless marriage’
          ‘Some marriages die’

          — the Church of England has gone along with these by adopting a liberal attitude to allowing divorce and remarriage (unlike, say, the Roman church’s stronger position which has not gone along with these ideas).

          You can question whether there is any direct or indirect causal relationship between the Church of England going along with these ideas and its decline; but can you really deny that the Church of England has gone along with them?

          Reply
          • It goes back to my original question – which was to Christopher, so I will wait for him to respond: – It depends what you mean by ‘gone along’ with I suppose, and I’m very unclear about that imprecise language. And b: if the C of E has ‘gone along’ with them, have they actually caused decline in the C of E?

            Do you have any direct evidence at all for your assertions here?

          • It goes back to my original question – which was to Christopher, so I will wait for him to respond: – It depends what you mean by ‘gone along’ with I suppose, and I’m very unclear about that imprecise language.

            Do you not think that the Church of England policies I have pointed out could reasonably be described as ‘going along’ with the ideas indicated?

            If not what do you think would constitute ‘going along’ with them?

            Or is your intention to reply to any and all evidence with ‘well the term “gone along” with is so vague than I deny such a thing exists’?

          • I have seen this trick employed for years by liberals, and addressed it at greater length in my chapter 10 in ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’.

            It is assuming without argument that life consists of A-causes-B.

            Every B has millions of surrounding circumstances. By what means do you therefore prove that any ‘A’ at all causes any ‘B’ at all? You would have first to address the possible contributory factor of all the other millions of circumstances. This endless task leads to a verdict of ‘not proven’ whatever the topic may be of which one is talking. A very convenient circumstance if one wants to obfuscate. Philip Morris and other cigarette manufacturers exploited this endlessly.

            Is the situation therefore hopeless? Not even remotely.

            Firstly, A and B are likely to be linked conceptually. That is indeed the case here. Things that are opposite to Christianity and characteristic of Christianity’s opponents are likely to work to undermine it.

            Secondly, there is the idea of constant correlation. Forget the intractable concept of causation. If there is a constant connection, that is not going to happen by chance. And there is indeed a constant negative connection between cultural accommodation to transient fashions and firm foundations for growth within a denomination.

            This applies even where the things correlated are ice cream consumption and sexual assault (to talk of unpleasant topics). The (indirect) connection is easily seen via the parent (hot weather).

          • And still Christopher you don’t answer the direct question or provide any actual and specific evidence. It’s a politicians answer once again.

          • Once again this thread appears to have lapsed into point-scoring.

            I wouldn’t characterise it as ‘point-scoring’ so much as ‘trying to get certain people to admit to what they actually believe’.

            But that makes it no less tedious.

          • Andrew – could you address my point about the fact that the vast majority of life (other than on a very small scale) not being A-causes-B for the reason I said. Do you believe, by contrast, that A-causes-B is more common than that?

          • Christopher _ I can’t get my head round what you are really getting at I’m afraid. Give me a specific concrete example rather than hypothetical maths equations please!

            It still simply sounds like you can’t answer a direct question and have no evidence. I think we have gone as far as we can.

          • Give me a specific concrete example rather than hypothetical maths equations please!

            For a long time, the exact mechanism by which smoking causes cancer was unknown. All that was known was that there was a significant positive correllation between people who smoked and people who developed tumors.

            Presumably you, Andrew, would have asked: have you any evidence that smoking actually caused any particular case of cancer? And when nobody could prove that that was the case, you would have concluded, by the same logic that you are using to claim that there is no connection betwen the Church of England’s capitulation to secularism and its decline, that in fact smoking was perfectly safe and continued to puff your way through forty a day.

            Concrete enough for you?

          • I think Andrew’s comments are showing a pattern. Repeating the same question without addressing any of the relevant interim discussion.

          • There is no relevant interim discussion. There is just hypothetical waffle. And then an example that has nothing to do with secularism or the C of E or decline whatsoever.

          • So a huge number of completely different point made by different people are undifferentiatedly hypothetical waffle?

            I should say that the generalisation factor here is though the roof, and that does not bode well for accuracy or nuance.

          • I asked for evidence for your initial vast generalisation well over a week ago. Still none, despite other people making general waffly points.
            You claim to want precision but your inability to answer a direct question is staggering.

          • I asked for evidence for your initial vast generalisation well over a week ago. Still none, despite other people making general waffly points.

            So are you still denying that the Church of England has gone along with the points that were listed, despite it being obvious to anyone with eyes that that has in fact happened?

          • I’ll repeat the gist of what’s been said. Any meta-analysis of the main analyses of which denominations grow (which you can find in Barrett, McGavran, Brierley etc etc) would give good average marks to Pentecostals/Charismatics. Reasonable marks to Evangelicals and to other traditional groupings like Catholics and Orthodox. Leaving the comparatively revisionist and culturally-conformist denominations (Quakers, Methodist, URC, Anglican) with a shrinking share of the market.

          • I can’t give examples of the principle ‘all surrounding circumstances may potentially contribute to explaining something’ since it is always manifestly the case. It is however hard to think of examples of simple A-causes-B causation beyond the small scale. Liberals sometimes imagine that all of life consists of cases of simple A-causes-B, and my criticism would be that you are presently imagining exactly that in the present case, without justification. Cite what you think is an A-causes-B, and in very many cases there will be other important unmentioned factors at work.

            For example – I wear glasses because both my parents did, because of genetics (not the same thing), because I read too many books when young, because I know I would be clumsy with contact lenses, because I wouldn’t want to pay the extra, because I might find them fiddly, because I am like most people a creature of habit, because I am the same person I have always been and that person has basically been a specs-wearer. Etc etc.

            So it is easy to find cases where causation is multiplex. But why are we operating with this simple ‘because’ (causative) model? We should be looking for constant correlations which would be puzzling if they were not causative.

            It would be far more difficult for you to find a simple A-causes-B (with no extraneous factors) on anything beyond a small scale – but do try.

          • None of which addresses anything about the C of E and decline at all. But thanks.

            S: if you can find any C of E statements that talk about clumps of cells, etc etc then please present them.

            You are both making vast generalisations and simply can’t provide evidence. No point in any further discussion.

          • S: if you can find any C of E statements that talk about clumps of cells, etc etc then please present them

            The ‘clump of cells’ idea comes from the ‘pro-choice’ movement.

            The Church of England has released statements which you yourself claim are compatible with the ‘pro-choice’ position (this is in contrast to other denominations which have maintained a strict anti-abortion line).

            And yet you still maintain that the Church of England has not gone along with such secular forces as the pro-choice movement?

            At this point you must realise that you are coming across either as wilfully blind, or actively dishonest.

          • Andrew, I think that part of the problem (from your point of view – though I see it as something beneficial) is that I am a holistic thinker. That means that any answer I give will normally be presented within context, which is of course preferable to one artificially removed from context. As to how broad a context one should give, there is no right answer but the broader the understanding of the connections the better.

            You therefore think I am being irrelevant. But if you think about it I am not – quite the reverse. I am trying to show not only the answer itself but also how the answer fits in.

            It is like Tom Wright on justification – he does not necessarily disagree with his critics but he does criticise them for not presenting their theory within a broader context that makes sense of the whys and wherefores, and gives an interconnected picture that makes sense.

            Wd be good to bear that in mind for future reference.

          • No Christopher. What would be worth bearing in mind for the future is that if you make massive generalisations like “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”, which begs so many questions and begs for evidence then you have to be prepared to offer them, rather than just more generalised waffle.

            You have not shown any evidenced examples of where the C of E has compromised or shown weakness in the face of secularism, or indeed explained, with examples, what that could possibly mean, or shown any evidence that such weakness has been the cause of the decline – a decline which no one can dispute. I’m very prepared to be persuaded about the causes of decline. So far you haven’t answered a direct question to help that. You’ve just presented general personal opinion.

            And yes of course context is important. But straight answers to straight questions are important too.

            What you are offering is your opinion. And that’s fine. But please don’t present it as science, cos it ain’t that by any means.

          • You have not shown any evidenced examples of where the C of E has compromised or shown weakness in the face of secularism

            Rubbish. He pointed out that the Church of England has compromised and shown weakness in the face of the secular pro-abortion movement by producing a position statement that makes it possible (according to you) to hold ‘pro-choice’ views and claim to be within the official teaching of the Church of England.

            Other demoninations have not done compromised with the secular pro-abortion lobby in such a way. For instance you can’t be ‘pro-choice’ and also claim to be following the official teaching of the Roman church, because the Roman church has remained strong and not compromised with secularism in that way.

            So that’s at least one black and white example ‘where the C of E has compromised or shown weakness in the face of secularism’.

          • Just as on former occasions, the citing of an entire context wherein the data points in the required direction is not only a straight answer (how is it not straight?) but a straight answer that holds true for the broad picture (i.e. for the real world, which is multi-dimensioned and comprehensive) not just within the limited context of a delimited and framed question.

            The answer is just as straight, but it also recognises rather than ignores the context.

          • In addition to which, it is eccentric to prefer a small-picture answer to a big-picture answer. Because the big-picture answer, being bigger, will cover more and will explain more.

            The big cross-denominational picture is that culturally conformist and less enthusiastic groupings will (unsurprisingly) be more likely to shrink while their opposites grow. Groups that have a raison d’etre and a reason to exist as distinct from society at large, groups that are vibrant and enthusiastic, more people will be motivated to belong to them. It could not be otherwise, tautologically and by definition.

            When one has a big picture that holds true, of what value by comparison is one single A-causes-B linear argument in a non-linear world? The world is not linear (diagrams are linear). The world is multi-dimensional, holistic, comprehensive.

          • Christopher: lots of what you say is just true but terribly general. And all I can say is ‘of course’. But it still doesn’t address the issue that you raised. It was this:

            “Weakness/compromise in the face of secularism will certainly accompany and/or cause decline.”

            What you are saying is: A (secularism) has caused B (weakness and compromise in the C of E) which has in turn caused C (decline).

            A causes B causes C
            When challenged about this vast generalisation and asked for evidence you can’t produce any but instead say (and again I quote)

            “Liberals sometimes imagine that all of life consists of cases of simple A-causes-B, and my criticism would be that you are presently imagining exactly that in the present case, without justification. ”

            What you are describing is yourself! You are a liberal! I absolutely do not think that all of life consists of simple A causes B. But that is what you are arguing here. A causes B causes C. And this case does not consist of that. Which is why, of course, you can’t provide any evidence at all.

            And then you go on to talk about inaccurate ideologies. You won’t say, again when challenged, what measurements you use to check accuracy. Just vague waffling about truth.

            This is all just far too general. Please tighten up your arguments and give evidence.

          • “When one has a big picture that holds true, of what value by comparison is one single A-causes-B linear argument in a non-linear world? The world is not linear (diagrams are linear). The world is multi-dimensional, holistic, comprehensive.”

            Exactly! Alleluia! We totally agree. But this is the *exact* opposite of what you argued from the word go in this thread. What you said was:
            A causes B causes C.

          • Certainly, the C of E capitulating to the secular agenda such as remarriage of divorcees; unclarity on the reality of what abortion is and its significance and how we ought therefore to regard it; the fact that homosexual behaviour does not stem from anything endemic but is largely attributable to family – life – societal circumstances. This capitulation is A.

            This A is, however, too large and diverse to be captured in any specific study (which was my point); but it is confirmed by the big picture (again, almost too big to be the subject of a study) whereby such studies as there are show again and again that growth attends enthusiastic groups most, that traditional groups hold up, and that revisionist groups (in the sense of going with the societal flow, every wind of etc etc) dwindle.

            So often I have said that there are occasions when the big picture is so clear that smaller scale study is otiose: not seeing the wood for the trees. The big picture, by virtue of being big, is far easier to see than small pictures are; but if we train our eyes only on the small scale we will miss it.

            To summarise: A (a degree of cultural conformity almost for its own sake) causes B (shrinkage). So we do have an A causes B. But the sort of study you are looking for is working on too small a scale. This is a big issue, and this perspective is confirmed by large scale findings whose A-causes-B operates on so large a scale that it is (paradoxically) easily missed.

          • Christopher

            The remarriage of divorcees in church is not a recent capitulation to secularism. Vicars and PCCs now have the right to opt out of remarrying divorcees.
            In the past the remarriage of divorcees was compulsory. A clergyman had the right to refuse in particular cases, but he had to find another priest willing to conduct the ceremony.

          • The remarriage of divorcees in church is not a recent capitulation to secularism.

            What does not being recent have to do with it? The decline isn’t a recent decline either.

          • What of course is even more confusing is that the two groups of the C of E that stand for traditional approaches and against the secular culture – The Society of Saint Wilfred and Hilda, and the Church Society, are both pretty small organisations and declining as well.
            So the *evidence* is still not there to support the very generalised view

          • The evidence is there. If a live and innovative group wanted to pursue the Christian line on this, they would mostly not place themselves in the C of E in the first place, but elsewhere.

          • More vague generalisations Christopher……

            Whereas you of course are always exactingly precise and would never dream of hiding behind ambiguous language.

            Still, at least you’re no longer trying to pretend that the majority of the Church of England hasn’t compromised with the forces of secularism. That’s progress.

          • It’s not a generalisation but a fact. Anglican Mainstream is C of E in basis if not entirely in membership, and there have been times when Church Society, Reform have spoken out. But most groups with the requisite passion and historic-Christian grounding are parachurch, including those that emanate from C of E like Philo Trust. Thus Christian Concern, the Christian Institute, VfJUK, Christian Education Europe, CitizenGo, Mediawatch, some 10 pro-life groups such as CBRUK / Brephos, certain Christian TV channels, etc..

          • “Still, at least you’re no longer trying to pretend that the majority of the Church of England hasn’t compromised with the forces of secularism”

            As I’ve said before that’s a vast generalisation and begs so many questions and has not been proven one way or another. The C of E has been a ‘secular’ church since its inception,

          • As I’ve said before that’s a vast generalisation and begs so many questions and has not been proven one way or another.

            And there’s that precision of language for which you are justly famed. No vagueness there, no siree!

            The C of E has been a ‘secular’ church since its inception,

            A church that is of the world, not merely in it, you mean?

          • “But most groups with the requisite passion and historic-Christian grounding are parachurch, including those that emanate from C of E like Philo Trust. Thus …”

            None of those organisations are churches! They are all tiny. Most of them unheard of by most people. And none of them growing I don’t think.

          • Quite often activist wings are tiny. The Methodists began tiny, but they were the most significant move in their day. Likewise the Salvation Army.

            Of course, the perspective of our present UK activist wing is historic-Christian and embraced by the present southern hemisphere. There would be nothing wrong with being tiny, but I don’t call that tiny.

          • But they aren’t a church in any accepted form of the word. They are tiny and declining pressure groups.

          • Why would they need to be ‘a church’? And how logistically could they be? What they are is Christians from here there and everywhere who connect and campaign. The ones who care enough. That’s good, in anyone’s book.

          • And your information on membership / affiliation is – what? Christian Concern in particular are a wonderful group with a wonderfully large following.

          • S

            The point is that the remarriage of divorcees in Church is NOT A RECENT CAPITULATION TO SECULARISM, as Christopher claims.
            Remarriage of divorcees in Church was once mandatory.

          • Christopher

            Christian Concern, the Christian Institute and CitizenGo are nasty organisations which shew us nothing of Christ.

            The last is particularly egregious, bankrolled by Spanish fascists and spreading its poisonous tentacles beyond Europe into Africa and the US.

          • The point is that the remarriage of divorcees in Church is NOT A RECENT CAPITULATION TO SECULARISM, as Christopher claims.

            The point is that I don’t think it was ever claimed that it was recent. It is obviously a capitulation to secularism, and that is the point.

          • (Hoping this gets in roughly the right place)

            Penny, you wrote:
            Remarriage of divorcees in Church was once mandatory.

            I presume that the context is the remarriage of a divorcee while the former spouse is still alive. In the Church of England marriage of such was not permitted at all until quite recently (less than 20 years ago?) and then an incumbent can choose as a policy not to do so. Some other churches have married divorcees for a longer period. Legal divorce is relatively recent (1857), and follows the introduction of civil marriage (1836).

            Prior to the introduction of divorce, in law there was only annulment or an act of Parliament – both of which make the first marriage void as if it had not taken place.

            So, I don’t think it was ever compulsory for divorcees to remarry in Church.

          • S

            So, if the remarriage of divorcees goes back, say 1986 years, it would still be a capitulation to secularism.

          • David

            I haven’t found the source, but I think, both before and after 1857 it was mandatory for a divorce to remarry in church.
            The minister could refuse but he had to find another clergyman to conduct the ceremony.

          • Penny,

            General Synod passed the measure that permitted remarriage following divorce in 2002, amid opposition. If prior to that it was compulsory, when did that compulsion change to a prohibition?

            Before 1857 there were no divorcees. (Very few) marriages were annulled, which means that it is if it never took place. The same is true today in that annulment exists separately from divorce.

            The Roman Catholic Church is, of course, much stricter than the C of E on this.

  25. (Not sure where to insert this comment in the threads, so here it is.)
    I’m awaiting by CEN subscription in order to be able to read Brierley’s article. However, there is one really obvious feature in the graph that Ian has included. Although all ‘churchmanships’ are declining, it is the “broad/liberal” which is declining most rapidly, and the Anglo-Catholic which seems to be holding up best. It is obvious to ask the question as to the reason for this.

    H. Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ & Culture” gives various views of the relationship between Christ(ianity) and the surrounding culture. I am going to propose that:

    a) the Broad/Liberal segment sees “Christ in culture”
    b) the Evangelical segment sees “Christ against culture”, or possibly “Christ the transformer of culture.”
    c) the Anglo-Catholic (who are actually quite a mixed bunch) might see “Christ above culture.”

    For (a), if the surrounding culture shifts, then so does the Church. The changing values of society at large are embraced into the values of the Church. This is the effect of secularisation on the Church of England. As many of its leading lights over the last, perhaps, 70-80 years have been rather in this segment, the leadership has participated in this shift.

    Secularization is not so much the denial of the transcendent, but the allow of the possibility of not believing in it. Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics have not abandoned the transcendent. The most conservative of evangelicals retain the action of God in bringing people to repentance, faith and new birth. The charismatics long to see God at work in the miraculous. The anglo-catholics in their liturgy which invades the senses meet with God in transformed bread and wine.

    But the broad/liberal church seems to have lost touch with a transcendent but present and intervening God. Theism has given way to, at best, deism. This is a generalization, but is there not some truth in this?

    Last year I had a conversation with a local vicar fairly newly in post. She acknowledged her liberal background, but she bemoaned- her congregation. She was wanting to preach Jesus, which seems was lacking before. She said that the church lacked perhaps the only saving grace of the liberal church in doing some kind of social action. She described the church as little more than a cosy, self-serving social club. With that kind of place, no wonder the church is declining.

    Reply
  26. The 2011 census reported that 59.3% of people (in England and Wales) reported themselves as ‘Christian’. This does not quite match the numbers in the Social Attitudes Survey which was about 48% (reading off a graph). The latter source has Christians at just under 40% in 2018.

    So, even with declining numbers, there are very many people who identify as Christian, but who do not attend church on a reasonably regular basis. Perhaps eight or nine times as many as those who do attend church.

    Perhaps this is evidence of the privatisation of religion brought about by secularization. “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”

    Does it matter that over 50% of people now define themselves as ‘no religion’? Does it matter that there are over 30% of the population who call themselves ‘Christian’ but who do not ‘assemble and meet together’ [to confess their sins and] “to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul.”

    Assuming it does, the question then is Church of England well placed to reach out to the lost, or are other kinds of church better placed? If the CofE is not well placed, then what is the point of its continuing existence?

    I can think of a few reasons why the CofE might be well placed. It has something of a presence in the community. James Harding has spoken of how people can have a sense of ownership of the church building in their high street even if they don’t go there.

    Then, for the non-church-going Christians we might ask which church is it they do not go to. In many cases the answer would be the Church of England. A friend pointed out that in the North, it might well be the Methodists. However, they are dire straits even more than the Church of England (because, I would say, that they embraced liberalism to a greater extent).

    Reply
  27. Steven Robinson writes:
    “Typically, one is most open to the gospel when young, but the young now make up only 10% of the adult (15+) congregation.”
    This caught my attention. Is this true? If so, why? I think it theologically highly improbabe that God, who has we know is no respecter of persons, would have a built in ageist message for humanity.

    Reply
    • Like Jeremy, I don’t think God is ageist. In our church we have often found the opposite is true. As people grow older and elderly, they get a stronger sense of their own mortality. Combined often with loneliness where their family lives a long way away and many of their contemporaries have died or in failing health, they can be very open to the gospel.

      Reply
  28. At St. Thomas’ Church, Stopsley, Luton, Beds, we are embarking on the “Leading Your Church Into Growth” (LYCiG) Would like to hear from others who have been on the course. We have a “Big Turnaround Day” coming up on the 16th November.

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  29. In my opinion, as a 21 years-old Reformed Christian, the CoE should behave like a de facto missionary church rather than like an established church. But this leads to another issue: the message.
    The Church has become irrelevant because many people inside of it believe that sin, hell and judgement are old-fashioned doctrines, even among evangelicals. So we have entire generations that can’t grasp what the atonement really means, and without atonement there is no gospel. No church is essential in order to learn and practice charity neither to listen to humanistic psychology, so young generations can’t be blamed if they rather prefer charitable organisations and professional psychologists.
    I’m aware it isn’t as simple as I say, specially in Europe, where people tend to be more intelectual than in countries such as the US and Brazil. However, any Christian minister, either trained in presuppositional or evidential apologetics, could easily debunk Richard Dawkins’ rhetoric. Many young people are searching for a robust and comprehensive worldview, which provides life meaning. Neither liberalism nor neo-orthodoxy will ever be successful.

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