|Congregational cross-dressing - that's the key.|
Wayne Mueller's son Adam, a Church and Changer,
has the answer. He is the one in the green dress and make-up.
Church cannot carry on as it is unless decline "urgently" reversed -- Welby and Sentamu
By David W. Virtue DD
January 19, 2015
The Church of England is finally coming to terms with the fact that it has been invaded by a spiritual cancer and is facing inevitable death if it doesn't find the right spiritual solution to its rapid decline and ultimate extinction.
Former Archbishop Rowan Williams never really addressed the issue as he was more concerned trying to keep the Primates from imploding every time they met. Not so with Justin Welby. He is the prince of reconciliation. While he has reconciled no one and nothing to date, it is his guiding mantra and the star in his firmament of hope.
The Church of England will no longer be able to carry on in its current form unless the downward spiral of its membership is reversed "as a matter of urgency", the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warned. That's honest talk. Typical Sunday attendances have halved to just 800,000 in the last 40 years -- although the Church has previously claimed the decline has been levelling off in recent years. This in a nation of 60 million where more Catholics and Muslims worship God than Anglicans on any given weekend.
Dwindling numbers in the pews will inevitably plunge the Church into a financial crisis as it grapples with the "burden" of maintaining thousands of historic buildings, they insisted.
Their blunt assessment of the Church's prospects came in a paper for the members of its ruling General Synod, which meets in London next month, setting out the case for an overhaul of finances and organization aimed at turning its fortunes around.
Income from donations in the offering plate has risen slightly in the last few years as declining congregations dig deeper. In American economic terms, that's called "dead cat bounce". For the unenlightened, this is a temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, followed by the continuation of the downtrend. A dead cat bounce is a small, short-lived recovery in the price of a declining security, such as a stock, or, in this case, a church.
Last year, Bishop Christopher Goldsmith (St. Germans, in Cornwall), warned that the church in some areas is facing a "death spiral" unless parishioners put more money in the offering plate.
Truth is, increased offerings will change nothing if people don't come back to the church, or if they don't want renewal enough to come back. Aging congregations and their aging priests (40 per cent of parish clergy are due to retire over the next decade) will be gone in that same period of time.
The two archbishops gave their backing to a series of reports calling for administrative changes in the Church to be debated by the Synod next month, but added, "Renewing and reforming aspects of our institutional life is a necessary but far from sufficient response to the challenges facing the Church of England. The urgency of the challenge facing us is not in doubt.
"Attendance at Church of England services has declined at an average of one per cent per annum over recent decades and, in addition, the age profile of our membership has become significantly older than that of the population."
So what is to be done?
Church of England leaders think they have a solution. The two archbishops think the church can be turned around by investing more in building up its presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get its message across online as part of a "major program of renewal and reform".
Maybe. This is an example of focusing on the medium and not the message. Twitter and FACEBOOK only have as much value as people place on those they twitter. Actors, actresses, world leaders, and football players have millions of tweets. What does your local bishop have to offer that competes with that unless his message is distinctly different from them and the world around him. Being trendy won't cut it. Foppish priests, self-outed gay priests, and gay marriages in parishes make temporary news tweets, but hold nothing for the long haul either spiritually or ecclesiastically.
Some years ago, Archbishop Williams told his clergy to take on the "new atheists." He vowed to fight "new atheism" in an attempt to combat the rise of secularism and defend Christianity in Britain. Apparently, it hasn't been terribly successful as one of the fastest growing churches in England today is the new atheist church.
Recent efforts by the present Archbishop of Canterbury to send senior clergy on leadership courses look like a winner. But is it?
A 34-page report, entitled, "Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A New Approach", recommends a "new and dynamic curriculum" to create a "broad and appropriately equipped pool of candidates with exceptional potential for the senior leadership roles" in the Church of England.
It proposes offering senior clerics a 12 to 18-month course with modules on "Building Healthy Organisations", "Leading for Growth" and "Reshaping Ministry." It also recommends a mini-MBA, "targeted primarily at deans" which could be extended further down the church hierarchy.
The report came under fire from the Very Rev. Prof. Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, who called it a "dish of basic contemporary approaches to executive management with a little theological garnish". He's probably right bearing in mind that the whole idea will cost as must as $3 million with no guarantee of success. Critics said the proposal was full of 'executive management speak,' barely mentioning God. Newer techniques for reaching the masses will not necessarily translate into church growth.
"If the Church of England is to return to growth, there is a compelling need to realign resources and work carefully to ensure that scarce funds are used to best effect," say the archbishops. Again, this misses the point. The question still remains with all the resources the Church of England has, what is its compelling message!
This writer has been crossing the Atlantic for over 45 years watching as the whole Anglican ship of state has slowly been sinking beneath the waves. One bright hope was the emergence of ALPHA, through which the Archbishop of Canterbury was himself converted. Many believe ALPHA has run its present course and an ALPHA 2.0 is needed to reawaken the masses. Easier said than done.
One really positive idea, but not necessarily a solution, is calling on those mega-church pastors who are currently successful in Britain and ask them how they do it.
It would cost only a few thousand pounds to bring the top 23 pastors and priests in England (both Church of England and non Church of England) together for a week long gabfest.
Here are some facts:
The largest churches, some five percent of all the 37,500 churches in England, are collectively responsible for almost one-third of churchgoers. These churches are therefore a significant element of English Christianity.
There are many Catholic churches whose Sunday congregations are over one thousand people, but among other denominations, the chief ones are:
10,000 Kingsway International Christian Centre, Hackney
5,500 Kensington Temple, West London
5,000 Hillsong in Central London
4,000 Ruach Ministries, Brixton
2,500 House of Praise, Woolwich
2,500 St. Thomas Crookes, Sheffield
2,490 Holy Trinity, Brompton, West London
2,200 Jesus House for All Nations, Brent
2,000 All Souls in Central London
1,680 Holy Trinity, Cheltenham
1,450 Basingstoke Community Church
1,400 Community Church, Southampton
1,400 St. Andrew's, Chorleywood
1,400 Renewal Christian Centre, Solihull
1,200 Kingdom Faith Church, Horsham
1,100 Woodlands Church, Bristol
1,100 Trinity Baptist Church, West Norwood
1,080 St. Ebbe's, Oxford
1,030 Jesmond Parish Church, Tyneside
1,000 Christian Centre, Nottingham
1,000 St. Saviour's, Guildford
1,000 Altrincham Baptist Church, Manchester
1,000 Gold Hill Baptist Church, Chalfont St. Peter
Nine of these twenty-three churches have more than two thousand attendees on a Sunday; fourteen have between one and two thousand. Among the nine, five are Pentecostal (all with substantial black congregations), three are Church of England, and one is Independent. Among the fourteen, five are Church of England, four are New Churches, three are Baptist, and two are Pentecostal.
By comparison with church sizes in the United States and other parts of the world, these would not be called "mega-churches." In terms of churches in the U.K., these are, in effect, our mega-churches, said one report.
Virtually all the 1,900 churches with more than 350 people in their congregation are either Catholic (1,350) or evangelical (460); the remaining seventy are considered broad or liberal.
There are also virtually no churches with 350 or more in rural areas; just thirty spread across numerous commuter rural areas (and all between 350 and 400 people). There are one hundred churches of this size in city centers, 310 in inner city areas (many of which are Roman Catholic), 165 on council estates, 920 in suburban areas, and 350 in separate towns.
With these facts in hand, there are some success stories, even as England grows more secular with each passing day. Why not ask them how and why they are successful? Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury could invite Tim Keller from New York City and Rick Warren from Saddleback, California, to come on over to address the issue of England's spiritual malaise.
Both men have different churchmanships. Keller is Presbyterian; Warren is Southern Baptist. No matter. Both are successful church planters. Tim Keller is a theologian and Christian apologist. He is best known as the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York. Rick Warren is author of The Purpose Driven Life that sold some 40 million copies and pastor of 40,000-strong Saddleback church. He is also author of The Purpose Driven Church. Clearly, both men have a story worth listening to and pointers on how to bring spiritual renewal back to England.
American and British cultures are not that far apart anymore, so clearly Church of England leaders could learn from them. At least six of the group are Anglicans. -- Holy Trinity Brompton and All Souls Langham Place are centers of evangelical power in London.
Church of England leaders will have to eat humble pie listening to non Church of England leaders tell them how to do it, but who cares. English Christianity is in its death throes. If the Church of England doesn't want its dwindling parishioners to race for the lifeboats, it had better listen to those who have made it work. Part of that clarity is a clear conviction on what the gospel is. The real issue is how to present it to Millennials and Nones who have no interest in believing something, anything that does not touch their lives.