This is a very good article by the Anglican priest, George Pitcher, in The Daily Telegraph. The problems that this priest is listing about the falling attendence in the Church of England are the same problems that are being witnessed in Malta by the Catholic Church. The same reasons for the decline in the UK are also given by woke priests in Malta and the same recipe of disaster is being proposed here. The priests are told to be popular. Priests are not there to be popular. Preists are not politicians running after votes. What priests need to do is to be truthful to their mission. This is the big problem of the Maltese Church under Scicluna. It is not true to itself. The archbishop is fake and the priests know that he is fake.
There is even an internal chat group of priests where the clergy share their frustrations about the situation in private. They know that they have a calculated archbishop who is unhappy after failing to be appointed cardinal despite all the backing he gave to the corrupt. But he was not been true to his mission. He is an archbishop interested in marketing. An archbishop is not there to market himself or the church but to speak out the doctrine of the Church irrespective of what society might think and consider it odd.
This Anglican priest is making it clear. The Church of England needs to start defending and speaking out for those priests who have had the audacity to speak out against insane laws. Has our archbishop ever spoken out in favour of those priests in Malta who were being attacked because the government wanted to pass these insane laws? Not at all. He even had the unChristian impertinence to call one of them a fallen tree. He supported the state’s persecution of priests who dared to speak the gospel to the full.
George Pitcher is repeating the words of Pope Francis. The Church is not a supermarket but a sanctuary for the marganalized that the oppressed.
Mild, non-clinical depression is my principal reaction to a new survey which shows that, not only is Church of England attendance falling, but that its clergy seem to have largely given up on it.
It’s not the research findings – that less than a quarter of Church of England priests think Britain can be described as a Christian country today, that a third of them have considered quitting over the past five years, and 67 per cent believe efforts to reverse church decline will fail – which get me down. In one form or another, we’ve heard it all before.
It’s the attitudes that this survey sparks in its conclusive commentaries. It’s that we need to be relevant to current social mores and we need to be more popular. In paraphrase, we need to get with the programme.
I’m not a white-knuckled, old reactionary. But I don’t want to be relevant; I want to be true. I wasn’t called to be ordained in order to be popular. I don’t chase votes like a politician seeking election. I’m wholly interested in Truth, while knowing that I’m not the sole guardian of it.
So I don’t want Church doctrine decided by focus group. And I’m not interested in marketing. We’re not a club for the enlightened – I’d rather we were a guttering candle in the world’s darkness, as the gospel has proven to be so successfully throughout its history.
But this means being brave, and standing up for what that gospel means for us, as well as accepting that it means different things to other people. Unlike Roman Catholics, we Anglicans in the reformed tradition have no centralised, catechistic authority and that, in turn, means trusting (and investing in) very diverse and, in some cases, atomised parishes.
To do so is to fly in the face of polarised, entrenched and, more usually these days, fashionable opinion and rejoice in our plurality – and that includes embracing our secularism too. And that makes the Church of England, established in law, less of the socially well-to-do institution that it once was, still less “the Conservative Party at prayer”, and more of a resistance movement against right-think and cancel culture.
We cannot, as a Church, tolerate circumstances in which a local councillor in Northamptonshire, Anthony Stevens, was arrested earlier this month, then bailed, for an alleged hate crime after posting a video of the heavy-handed arrest of a preacher. Or the cancellation of Anglican priest Richard Fothergill, who accused Yorkshire Building Society of closing his account for objecting to its transgender promotional material.
Nor can we countenance the arrest of a Catholic priest from Wolverhampton, Fr Sean Gough, and his charity volunteer colleague, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, for praying silently outside an abortion clinic – charges that were thankfully dropped.
I may not agree with all of what these people have to say – or indeed with any of it. But I respect their right to say it peacefully in a free society.
At the heart of a lot of the reaction to the latest poll of Anglican clergy is an acceptance that there is a right way to think about social issues of the day. And, if we’re to go down that path, it starts to make the Church of England a dangerous place to be if you don’t hold an approved opinion. And that’s a form of oppression.
This is not a charter for “anything goes”. I am vehemently opposed to expressions of racism and sexism – plenty of which I have heard in church circles. I oppose those views vigorously when I encounter them. But I hope it’s always in terms that I don’t recognise the gospel in them, rather than that I despise the person expressing the opinion.
In this model, the Church of England could develop an alternative role, as an oasis of peace in the culture wars, rather than simply be worn down into an acceptance of prevailing contemporary culture.
It’s that latter, depressing course that its clergy seem to be contemplating in this latest piece of research. But we’re better than that. We just need to see the world through the prism of our faith, rather than the other way around.
We’re not a supermarket responding to customer demand. We’re a sanctuary, for the disillusioned, the marginalised, the unpopular and, yes, the oppressed. If we stick to that gospel imperative, we can be a beacon of hope again, rather than a guttering candle.