Tag Archives: Anglicanism

The C of E’s future. Andrew Brown’s Blog (Guardian)

The Church of England’s unglamorous, local future
The archbishop of Canterbury must acknowledge that disestablishment has already happened, and look to a future that faces reality

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The Church of England General Synod. Photograph: Johnny Armstead/Demotix/Corbis
The Church of England is already disestablished in all the ways that really matter. Whatever it tells itself, it has drifted to the margins of national life. Outside the upper classes and the traditional professions it’s no longer an essential part of the way in which the country understands itself.

England no longer capitalises “church”. This isn’t a problem about belief in God, or atheism. The number of people who call themselves Anglicans has declined a great deal faster in the last 30 years than the number who say they believe in God. Detailed polling shows that the problem gets worse as you move down the age groups, so that more people under 24 believe the church is a force for bad in society than suppose it’s a force for good.

This isn’t a problem with legal establishment – something that isn’t a live issue. It is about the role of the church in the country’s imagination of itself. And I think it is significant, and worrying for the church that the two huge national ritual self-presentations – the funeral of Princess Diana and the Olympics opening ceremony – show a marked diminution in Christian and especially Anglican content. The Diana funeral was about half Anglican, and half teddy bears. The Olympic ceremony, choreographed by two Catholics, one lapsed, had nothing Anglican in it at all.

So what the Church of England needs to do is to re-establish itself in the ordinary life of the country. Its instinct is obviously to do this with grand gestures, speeches, proclamations and debates, but this is entirely wrong. Instead of pretending it is a single coherent entity with clearly defined opinions and policies – something which simply isn’t true and never will be – it should just forget about the national level and get on with things locally.

This lesson has already been learned slowly and painfully at the international level. The attempt to present the Anglican Communion as a coherent church that could negotiate as an equal with the Roman Catholics has been an unmitigated disaster. When the resulting posturing was not vacuous it was poisonous, especially about gay people. The Anglican Communion is finished now. The schism happened and nobody cared. Individual churches have flourishing links in the ruins and this is a good and vital thing. But this is nothing to do with the Lambeth Conferences, any more than European trade was nourished by the Holy Roman Empire.

Now this must also happen at a national level. The General Synod and the “Church of England” as a body capable of having opinions or policies on anything need to shut up. No one cares what they think, except when they say or do something exceptionally crass and repulsive. No one cares what archbishops think, but churchgoers care for the good opinion of their congregations. No one goes to “the Church of England” anyway – people go to their local church. So that’s where the effort needs to go. What matters is not doctrine, but the way that faith plays out in everyday life.

This is an unglamorous and local future in which the Church of England becomes less coherent and more alive. But it’s the only future in which it has a chance. Christianity is interesting only in so far as it is true. Churches are compelling only in so far as they deal with reality. Far too much of the past 30 years has been spent in “voodoo Christianity” – the attempt to summon up importance in the world by performing bureaucratic ritual. Almost everyone in the institutional church knows this today. What Justin Welby has to do is give them permission to admit it, and to act on it. Only by admitting it has already been disestablished can the church hope ever to re-establish itself.

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Rowan

from The Guardian

Rowan Williams tells ‘persecuted’ western Christians to grow up

Former archbishop of Canterbury says UK and US Christians exaggerate ‘mild discomfort’, and gay friends may feel let down

 

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Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer
The Guardian, Thursday 15 August 2013 18.52 BST

Former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at the Edinburgh international book festival in Scotland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
Christians in Britain and the US who claim that they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable”, according to Rowan Williams, who last year stepped down as archbishop of Canterbury after an often turbulent decade.
“When you’ve had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely,” he said. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. ‘For goodness sake, grow up,’ I want to say.”
True persecution was “systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day”. He cited the experience of a woman he met in India “who had seen her husband butchered by a mob”.
Lord Williams’s years as archbishop of Canterbury were marked by turbulence over the church’s stance on the role of gay priests and bishops; gay marriage; and homophobia in the wider Anglican communion – with many members of the church expressing disappointment at a perceived hardening in its position on homosexuality.
Asked if he had let down gay and lesbian people, he said after a pause: “I know that a very great many of my gay and lesbian friends would say that I did. The best thing I can say is that is a question that I ask myself really rather a lot and I don’t quite know the answer.”
Sharing a platform at the Edinburgh international book festival with Julia Neuberger, president of the Liberal Judaism movement, Williams launched a withering critique of popular ideas about spirituality. “The last thing it is about is the placid hum of a well-conducted meditation,” he said.
He said the word “spiritual” in today’s society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean “unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me”, or “meaning ‘I’m serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility'”.
He added: “Speaking from the Christian tradition, the idea that being spiritual is just about having nice experiences is rather laughable. Most people who have written seriously about the life of the spirit in Christianity and Judaism spend a lot of their time telling you how absolutely bloody awful it is.” Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive. Williams argued that true spirituality was not simply about fostering the inner life but was about the individual’s interaction with others.
“I’d like to think, at the very least, that spiritual care meant tending to every possible dimension of sense of the self and each other, that it was about filling out as fully as possible human experience,” he said.
Asked by Neuberger whether he felt organised religion encouraged the life of the spirit, he replied: “The answer is of course a good Anglican yes and no”. While it can pass on the shared values of tradition, it can also operate as simply “the most satisfying leisure activity possible. It can also be something that you use to bolster your individual corporate ego.”
Discussing the relationship between church and state, he said the established church was “an odd business, a very messy and complicated business” but that he was “bloody-minded” about the notion of disestablishment. “I am not in a hurry to see the church disestablished if the pressure is coming from what I regard as the wrong kind of secularism.”
On Prince Charles’s apparent desire to be known as “defender of faith” (as in all faiths) rather than “defender of the faith” (as in simply Anglicanism) on his accession to the throne, the two clerics disagreed.
Neuberger said she believed “defender of faith” was exactly right. Williams replied: “You’re wrong … defender of the faith is just one of those historic titles that is part of the stream of things; it means almost what you want it to mean.” Neuberger replied: “What’s important about what Prince Charles has said is that it assumes parity of esteem, which for my lot is quite important.”
Williams was asked whether the Church of England ran the risk of functioning merely as a well-meaning NGO.
Referring to the current archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s recent statements on wanting to compete with payday lender Wonga, he said: “If the church or some of its representatives make remarks on matters of public interest, it can trigger the question where does that come from?
“Can you trace back your attitude to, say, credit unions or the environment to something that is distinctive in the religious heritage? And that means pursuing the conversation a bit.
“The risk of being reduced to an NGO, another woolly, well-meaning liberal thinktank or ambulance service – that’s not a fate I would relish for my church,” he said.

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