The continuing decline of the Church of England

From Bruce Charlton:

This is a notice from my nearest Church of England establishment, concerning their programme of Lent Study for this year:

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Title: “THY WILL BE DONE… ON EARTH”


Week 1: Caring for the environment


Week 2: Eradicate hunger and poverty


Week 3: Life before death


Week 4: Promote gender equality


Week 5: Building a global partnership

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I don’t think any comment or amplification is required. A course in this-worldly secular political correctness is regarded as suitable fare for the major devotional period of the Christian calendar.

*

This church is not generally considered to be especially ‘liberal’ by Anglican standards (ahem), although there are priestesses, modernised language services and they have joined this organisation:

http://inclusive-church.org.uk/

*

What has all this to do with Christianity? What indeed. One can see that the organisation is lineally descended from Christian churches; that there are frequent references to God and Jesus – but since they have rejected the consensus of 2000 years whenever it conflicted with mainstream New Left radicalism, it is hard to be sure what the references really mean, or what surprising new discoveries about the nature of Christianity they will be announcing over the coming months or years.

*

When a Church is systematically deploying secular reasoning to evaluate Christianity, then can it be said to be Christian?

When this happens – week after week, in sermons, intercessionary prayers, and formal teaching – is not the net effect strongly anti-Christian.

This is what I term (as shorthand) an Antichrist phenomenon: by which I mean a phenomenon that contains enough Christian elements to be deceptively attractive to Good people, but which in its major thrust is working to subvert the Good and displace Christianity.

*

On the other hand, I attend another local ‘mainstream’ Anglican church (which is neither evangelical nor Anglo-Catholic) in a gorgeous medieval building – where in all the sermons and prayers – I have never heard anything but deep, traditional, sound teaching.

So all is not yet lost.

I’ve developed a soft spot for Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholicism in particular, since attending a gorgeous evensong service at Christ Church Cathedral during a recent visit to Oxford, so I find this particularly upsetting (though as Dr. Charlton points out towards the end, it’s not all doom and gloom—just mostly). Not that it’s anything new or shocking either; that evensong service, for one, was marred by a priestess and a prayer for the Libyan rebels. The Church of England needs more Incredibly Horrible and Twisted People Who Are Still Unaccountably Vicars.

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22 thoughts on “The continuing decline of the Church of England

  1. Speaking of Oxford, Anglicanism and its decline, from Peter Hitchens, last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday):

    In those times [the ‘40’s], Anglican Christianity also had a considerable hold on national life. Even if people didn’t take part in its services, they knew what they were and when they happened. For instance, I am fairly sure that most people would have known that today, 22nd February, was Ash Wednesday and known that the Litany (a rather beautiful if fearsome penitential service) would be read in church that day. The rather Roman Catholic habit of holding Communion services with ‘imposition of ashes’ would have been regarded as a bit foreign in the England of my childhood.

    And corporate bodies, colleges, judges, Government minters and so forth, would probably have made some effort to turn up. Now, I have the great good fortune to live in Oxford, a city where the past can still be found hiding in various shaded and secluded corners, so I was pleased to gather that the Litany was to be read early this morning at Magdalen College Chapel. I thought there might at least be some sort of shadowy official presence, a few dons in the pews. Choral Evensong at Magdalen, on Saturday or Sunday evening is one of the great glories of Oxford, and indeed of England.

    But as it happened I was the only member of the congregation, apart from the estimable College chaplain and his wife, in the half-lit glories of that superb room. The three of us made a reasonable fist of things ( the Litany requires a back-and-forth series of versicles and responses and couldn’t really be read by a Minister on his own). I left, as I often do leave Prayer Book services, with my head ringing with poetry and my temporal mind thoroughly disturbed by the different rhythms of the eternal.

    But it struck me as worth mentioning that this great Anglican ceremony, which is full of mighty poetry and 50 years ago would have been a recognised part of many people’s Ash Wednesdays, has now dwindled almost to the point of vanishing.

    (http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2012/02/the-abolition-of-england.html)

  2. All the churches (we have visited/regularly attended a dozen) in my area have become radically liberal, even the little country churches. Diversity is their main, nay, their only, mission. Success is apparently measured by how many brown skins are brought into the congregation. In one mega church close to us they have “services” for Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and who knows what else, during the week, right there in the same building. All talk is of diversity and tolerance. Women lead just about everthing now, and the men are only useful to keep order and keep the money coming in.

    At another church we used to attend, a Jew gave a Vegas stand-up type routine on Easter Sunday, about how Christians should be thankful to our “big brothers” for Christ and Christianity. He had his little table full of Jewish books and DVD’s, complete with the little Visa/Mastercard tent. I’d have turn the table over but no one would have understood the gesture. I brought it up to several in our church, no one thought it was a big deal. Catholic nuns, for some reason, accompanied this Jew that Sunday. The pastor was finally run off for some long-running sex scandal, which all the elders hid from us.

    Organized Christianity has turned putrid. There is nothing of substance in it anymore, and certainly nothing for men. Pastors apologize to the women about our past, about patriarchy, about tradition. It has declared its hostility to me and mine, loud and clear. No one at any church I’ve been to gives a rat’s behind about whites, about Europeans, about our future, about our heritage, or, as far as I can tell, about anything important at all. They are all more radically liberal than the hippies of the 1960’s.

    Goodbye to all that.

  3. When I checkout a new church, my checklist is pretty short. Do the pastor and elders tell the truth? Whom do they love more: me and mine or the foreigner? Is my traditionalist perspective welcome. These days, no church I have discovered passes even one of these simple tests.

    • Rusty,

      Here’s what I say to those looking for a good church to attend:

      Your greatest need is accurately to hear the message of Christ and the Apostles: the forgiveness of your sins through repentance and faith in Christ. And faith in Christ is built through hearing God’s Word (the Bible) accurately taught and through the correct administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The best place to find these is in one of the few Protestant churches that are faithful to the original principles of the Reformation. There are good churches out there.

      To be specific, look for an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a church with the word “Reformed” in its name, a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church (LCMS), or a traditionalist Episcopal/Anglican church. For the last three types of church, you will have to check out their website first, because liberalism has infiltrated the Reformed, LCMS and Episcopal churches, but congregations faithful to Christ still exist. On the website, check if they prominently display one of the historic Protestant confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian), the Heidelberg Catechism (Reformed), the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran), or the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (Anglican). If the church is faithful to Christ and the Apostles, it will require clergy and laity to know be faithful to the creeds, as a bulwark against apostasy.

      Once you find a candidate that seems promising, you can contact the senior pastor and ask him point-blank if his church is theologically conservative. Ask him if they teach the inerrancy of the Bible; if women are not permitted to preach; if the sermons emphasize the meaning of a biblical text rather than practical tips for living; and so on. If the pastor gives bad answers, or answers vaguely, look elsewhere.

      Good churches do exist. May God bless you in your search for a place of worship.

      • I didn’t know there were Protestants (other than Lutherans) that took the Dominical Sacraments seriously (I count Anglicanism as Catholic probably because I’m Anglican Catholic/continuing Anglican. Reformed and Presbyterian do?
        I don’t know the Reformed very well. Among Lutherans, the Wisconsin Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the CLC are more conservative (and smaller) that the LCMS. Among Anglicans, I’d go continuing Anglican (in the U.S. you’re talking about the ACC, APA, ACA, United Episcopal Church in North America and Anglican Province of Christ the King).

  4. @Rusty – I think if one adopts the attitude of Mere Christianity from CS Lewis, and is open to core Christianity in any denomination, then there is a reasonable chance of find a specific priest/ minister in a specific church (or several churches – as I do) by which you can be connected to the mystical body of Christ in some real – albeit not ideal – fashion.

    Partly it is a matter of deciding what is the vital minimum a church should provide, and (conversely) what is unacceptable in a church.

    I think that old fashioned denominational Christianity may become a significant barrier to faith under modern conditions, because all denominations – taken as a whole – are advanced in corruption.

    Old style simple obedience (which would be so valuable to moderns) seems to have been turned against us.

    I think Christians will need to seek each other out, almost on a person by person basis – and gather wherever they find others.

    And don’t look too far ahead. All churches seem to be on the brink of collapse, but who knows what will actually happen – and in the meantime we should make the best of what remains.

    *

    Finding out about the Orthodox Church under communism could be inspiring – the faithful somehow kept going in the face of decades of incredible persecutions and infiltrations – and when Communism was removed there was, in some places, an amazing Christian resurgence with thousands of new churches and scores of monasteries.

  5. @brucecharlton
    There IS an Orthodox Church near you.
    We are not only Russian, Greek, Romanian or any other Old World ethnicity, We are also truly American, Canadian and Mexican in the USA, in Canada and in Mexico.
    We have been in North America for 200 years.
    We are a growing church with many converts.
    We have kept the faith unchanged.
    We are are a well kept secret, directly descended from Christ and His Apostles, with a beautiful 1700 year old liturgy, very little if any PC and no “bad vestments” either…;-)

    “Come and See”

    • Thank you, Bruce. Joseph, we do have an Orthodox church or two relatively close to us in SW Houston, but they sure don’t *seem* American. The buildings and the services look foreign. They are populated by people obviously not from here. Lovely people, I’m sure, but not mine.

      We’ll keep looking. If we are looking, so are others.

      • ……but they sure don’t *seem* American.

        Look here: http://oca.org/parishes/state/TX

        I really don’t want to come across as inappropriately making “propaganda” for the Orthodox Church in America and if you have this impression I ask for your forgiveness…, but we are as “American” as the Lutherans or the Catholics…. Our churches, if they are not missions and thus most likely reclaimed utilitarian buildings, demonstrate the inheritance of more than a millennium and a half years of Christian architectural glory.

        Our services are Christian worship with a tradition that goes back to the Apostles…

        We are traditional, not “modern.” Maybe that is what makes us in your eyes seemingly non-American. But just as Pizza is now American so is Souvlaki… ;-)

    • Even though I am not Christian, I attend a Greek Orthodox church every Sunday because I love the values that I find there. I think Orthodox Christianity is the religion that best represents traditional values. The distinction between American and European culture is minor compared to the difference between modern liberal values and traditional values. All of these “ethnic” Orthodox churches in America will become Americanized over time, and now is your opportunity to get involved and shape this transition (and prevent liberal influences from coming in).

      • @fschmidt
        Thank you and a prayerful Lent to you…

        Most if not all of the services in the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) and the Antiochian jurisdiction are in English. That is true, but to a lesser degree, as well in the Greek Orthodox Churches, the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia) and other OChurches. The process of “Americanization” is well on its way…

        Our small church, I am in Western Canada, has a congregation with faithful of 21 ethnicities, about 70% former Protestants or non-Christians, 10% former Catholics and the rest are cradle Orthodox. We are Orthodox Christians and true Canadians…

        You will find that if you go from East to West/South in the USA that the OChurches have similar congregations. The “pure-bred” ethnic churches are mainly, if at all, in the North-East of the USA.

        I hope that I am not going too much off topic here. May I offer as excuse for posting in this thread that my priest is also a convert, a former Anglican priest…? ;-)

  6. That program is a perfect example of “Regnocentrism”, which the Holy Father identified and critiqued. See here: http://otritt.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/cincinnatis-post-christian-vision-of-faith/

    On closer inspection, this whole project proves to be utopian dreaming without any real content, except insofar as its exponents tacitly presuppose some partisan doctrine as the content that all are required to accept.

    But the main thing that leaps out is that God has disappeared; man is the only actor left on the stage. The respect for religious “traditions” claimed by this way of thinking is only apparent. The truth is that they are regarded as so many sets of customs, which people should be allowed to keep, even though they ultimately count for nothing. Faith and religions are now directed toward political goals. Only the organization of the world counts. Religion matters insofar as it can serve that objective. This post-Christian vision of faith and religion is disturbingly close to Jesus’ third temptation.

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  8. Orthodox Christian and recovering Libertarian who is beginning to lean towards Monarchism and reaction.

    I’ve just recently discovered the Orthosphere– both this blog and the others assoicated with it. I must say, it’s fantastic that I’m not alone in my reservations with modern society and government, and that there’s an veritable army of similarly-minded folk out there.

    I’ll be back often.

  9. Gentlemen, It’s part of the confusion that the burgeoning traffic in the Orthosphere has given rise to and which is the subject of this comment that I don’t even quite know to whom I am addressing it.
    I trust the confusion has made itself felt in the syntax of the sentence remarking it!
    The point I make is that we now have an array of separate blogs by various authors who then or concurrently ‘repost’ their observations to this site.
    There then being two separate postings at two separate places, there arise two separate sets of comments.
    I feel I would love to keep up with these conversations, especially since the helpful author often answers some of the comments and the conversation then becomes even more interesting, such that now there are two interesting conversations ensuing concurrently.
    I think you will be getting my drift and why I feel like I’m eating two meals at once, with the consequent feeling of indigestion.
    Is there a solution to this that anyone can see?

    • Many of us are taking steps to prevent the sort of confusion you’re talking about. Proph and Bonald have closed comments on their blogs, while I’ve gone even further and withdrawn all past posts from mine, as I’m unhappy with a number of them. (Thus, any reposts with my name attached will, despite being reposts, only be available here.)

  10. In the U.S., the Episcopal Church has been rotten since at least the 1970s. Traditionalists broke off and formed the continuing Anglican movement. Those that didn’t and are still somewhat Orthodox are now placing themselves under African Bishops. In my opinion, those that didn’t leave in the 1970s aren’t sufficiently conservative/reactionary.

    • Hey Bruce. I was ordained in the Reformed Episcopal Church back in the ’90s, and we REC priests used to tell a joke about ECUSA (I think it illustrates your point perfectly).

      Okay, so there are these two Episcopalian guys on their kneelers, waiting for the consecration prayer to begin. But instead of the usual, the celebrant leaves and up the aisle comes a dancing Buddhist, who places a statue of the Buddha on the altar and then skips back through the nave and out of the church. In mild disgust, one Episcopalian turns to the other and says, “So help me, if it gets any worse around here, I’m leaving.”

      I always thought that was a pretty good joke.

      Have a great day!

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  12. There have always been weird Anglicans. And there have always been really good theologians who are Anglican, and many who simply Obey. All englishmen knew that the anglicans were “High and crazy, broad and hazy, or low and lazy”.

    The buddhist service was clearly broad, as are the inclusive bunch. The low and the high are were the serious people are.

    (No, I’m Presbyterian, but in NZ we at least talk to the Anglicans :-) )

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