Tag Archives: Anglican

Battle of the Bishops

Something that you might have missed on Monday was a very interesting programme in the This World strand on BBC2 called Battle of the Bishops.

The programme primarily focuses on Archbishop Akinola and some of the other GAFCON during the run up to the conference. There are also contributions from Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark Cathedral and Bishop Tom Wright, and a visit to the Falls Church in Virginia, one of the most high profile split congregations (it counts several high ranking government officials amongst it’s membership, and can count George Washington as one of it’s former Churchwardens) where the bulk of the congregation have split from a small group that remain loyal to the Episcopal Church.

Aside from seeing some of what went on at GAFCON, the programme also shows something of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, and in particular a hint of the almost explosive level of growth that the Anglican Church in Nigeria is enjoying. I certainly don’t expect that as a programme it will make anyone change their minds, but it certainly underlines the fundamental differences in what those in Africa understand it is to be Anglican, and how we in the West understand it.

The programme will be available on iPlayer until next Monday, and I highly recommend taking a look if you get the opportunity.

GAFCON Announces a “Split” on Peter and Paul’s Day

As I watched the news yesterday morning with the announcement of what is effectively an Anglican split – the GAFCON group is saying that they will stay within the Anglican Communion, but will operate independently of the instruments of the communion – I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of the day on which they chose to make the announcement, the day of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

It may seem slightly odd that with many of the obscure saints across the Christian calendar who have a day to themselves, the church chooses to celebrate perhaps two of the most important saints together – but when you consider that these were the two people on whom the Church was built you can maybe start to understand why they are considered together. It is especially important when you start to look at the evidence within the New Testament and realise that whilst in later times the official recognition of Christianity in the Roman Empire needed some degree of orthodoxy to be imposed, back in these early days, Peter and Paul had significant differences in their opinions on a multitude of subjects in particular as the Church started to draw in Gentile converts alongside the original, Jewish membership.

Check out Mum’s sermon from yesterday that explores further the differences between Peter and Paul.

Annual Church Attendance Story

The annual survey of Church attendance figures has just been published, and as usual it is an opportunity for the media to publish a load of stories highlighting the figures. The Times in particular really went for it including this article – Churchgoing on its knees as Christianity falls out of favour – which in particular plays the Muslims will outnumber Christians card, and is being disputed by the organisation who conducted the research. As the Church of England response to the survey points out it does this using a figure taken from census data and compares it with the actual Church attendance – if a similar ploy was used to calculate numbers of Christians from census data the figures would show something like twenty million active Christians in the UK.

Ruth Gledhill also backs up the main piece with a comment article which includes a number of juicy quotes:

As the Religious Trends Survey shows, an ageing generation of churchgoers is about to die out and there could be, within a generation, a God-shaped hole at the heart of our society.

and

The decline forecast for the Church of England is so severe that its position as the established church of the nation with the Queen as Supreme Governor can surely no longer be tenable.

however this point does get to the heart of the problem:

Yet, as the report notes, the decline in attendance coincides with a surge of interest in religion, reflected in the growing numbers of children opting for religious studies at GCSE and A level. There are also increasing numbers of students at theological and Bible colleges.

Somehow, the churches, despite innumerable studies, reports, synod and assembly debates, are failing to get these people into church.

The thing is that whilst as a bit of rabble rousing all the press coverage is good, it doesn’t really reflect the true picture – needless to say that is a lot more complicated. David Keen, a vicar in Yeovil, looks in more detail and points out that a significant number of diocese have already reversed the decline. Bishop Alan gets straight to the point too, highlighting a cutting from the Times in 1971 that said the same thing, and on the basis of which the church will cease to exist in a couple of years. (Amusingly to show the ‘power’ of statistics he goes on to prove that the Diocese of Oxford Reporter will have a larger circulation than The Daily Telegraph by 2050…)

The main Times article again puts forward that only the evangelical churches are growing – which from my point of view is wrong. Seriously, Ruth Gledhill should come along to Finchampstead sometime as St James is anything but evangelical. We’re a mainstream middle of the road Anglican church, and yet for the past two years our electoral roll figures have gone up by more than 10% a year, and as I mentioned back at Easter we were struggling to find seats for everybody then. Whilst it is certainly correct to say that our growth area is in the young families, as our Rural Dean pointed out at his recent inspection we manage to produce a respectable fifty to sixty or so people at our prayer book services too.

As far as I am concerned the parts of the Church are growing aren’t anything to do with their Churchmanship – churches of all denominations and types are growing – it’s about getting the basics right, and looking at what people want. In the case of the prayer book services what people are looking for is familiarity and authenticity, so those are done absolutely straight with traditional hymns, and the King James bible. On the other hand the young families, who often come in via our play-group, are looking for accessibility, which is what they get through our 9:30am Family Services. The main 11am services are a bit more of a blend of the two, so we’re relatively traditional, with organ, choir and sermon, but with more accessible elements. The biggest thing though is to be a welcoming community. It is always frustrating to hear of other churches that are spending more time turning themselves into a private club and excluding people – as far as I am concerned whilst things have changed at St James to bring about our rise in numbers, they haven’t been particularly radical, and to be honest if they were radical we’d only end up marginalising a different group. The whole basis of what we do is to be inclusive of the broad range of people in the village rather than exclusively focusing on one group. Whenever the “how do you do it?â€? question comes up though, most people at St James’ really can’t explain, as from our point of view we aren’t doing anything particularly special or out of the ordinary, and equally the area around the church from which our attendance is drawn isn’t that much different from much of the surrounding area either.

An Island Parish Finally Talks to the Methodists

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If I were part of the Methodist Church on the Isles of Scilly, I’m sure I’d be decidedly annoyed with Nigel Farrell and the team behind An Island Parish. Up to now, the fact that there is a thriving Methodist Church on the islands, has been largely ignored by the programme. As I commented at the end of the first series Rev David Easton appeared in the background but isn’t acknowledged, and in the first episode of the second series appears only once making a joke in a Church service. After that, I nearly fell off my chair this week when he appeared in the programme more than Rev Guy – indeed you realised that some of the footage of Rev Guy has been filmed in the Methodist Chapel, and also how close the two church buildings are – if you look at the picture you can see the Anglican Church in the background, barely two minutes walk up the street!

I have to say though, that it has taken rather a tragedy to get some more balanced coverage. Earlier in the series the mechanic on the local lifeboat tragically died of a heart attack, deeply affecting the community. When it happened, Nigel Farrell interviewed Rev Guy, but then the commentary highlighted that it wasn’t Rev Guy that did the funeral. The family involved asked Rev David to do the service instead. To be rather brutal about it, the programme had to talk to the Methodists in order to actually get a continuation to that story. So as a result, this week we had a lot of discussion with Rev David, as the daughter of the family was brought to baptism, again in the Methodist Church.

He didn’t just appear without introduction, you had some shots in his Manse, and some establishing footage of him preparing for his role in the island panto. The commentary even mentioned the Anglican/Methodist Covenant that was signed nationally in 2003, and highlighted that when Rev Guy is absent, his congregation holds a joint service with the Methodists down the street. If all of this has been happening, it seems increasingly odd that he hasn’t featured more sooner.

Perhaps the An Island Parish team have wanted to simplify things – but if they have, I do think that they have simplified things rather too much by effectively sidelining the Methodist Church. Maybe the local superintendent and the local circuit didn’t provide support in the same way as the Diocese of Truro has done (only the Diocese is on this weeks credits). However, it is pretty apparent that Rev Guy and Rev David work quite closely together – another part of the programme shows them jointly leading a Remembrance Service – surely it would be a more accurate representation of life in the parish to show the two denominations working together rather than what has been done up to now. We’ll have to see whether this continues in the weeks to come.

Back to Normal Life

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So, here we are, 8th January, the Christmas lights are gone, it’s dark in the morning, and dark in the evening, and we’ve got what looks to be an endless series of storms coming across. I’ve been back at work for five days, Beth only two, and it already feels like we’ve not been away… and I’m sure we’re not alone in feeling the same.

As in previous years, this is the time that the BBC start on a new series of Island Parish, showing the lives of people living on the Isles of Scilly and revolving in particular around the Church of England priest on the islands, the Rev Guy Scott. It’s probably the filming, but it has to be said that the programme even makes the bad weather on the Isles of Scilly look somewhat appealing – certainly more than the wind and rain outside the windows here.

The first programme reintroduced us to some characters from last year, and also some of the new people for the series this year. So we meet Rev Guy and his family again, and we also meet the new vet, who arrived towards the end of last year, and has been discovering the difficulties of making a life on the islands – the relatively small numbers of sick animals being the main problem. Looking at the opening credits, the policewoman who swapped life in Plymouth for a summer on the islands is going to be back – although she didn’t appear tonight. We also have some interesting new people in the form of the baker who moved to the islands fifteen years ago after his divorce. In tonight’s programme he and his daughter were making plans to buy the local pub – the commentary dangled the high cost of the pub and questions about they could afford it – it wasn’t until towards the end that you found out the twist – his ex-wife is selling her house in Brighton and moving down to the islands in order to go into business. It does on paper seem like one of these recipe for disaster type decisions – but then Island Parish is one of these gentle documentaries, not particularly hard hitting, so I suspect it will all work out reasonably well in the end.

From a Church point of view, there were a couple of choice moments. I mentioned in one of my postings on the series last year the slight bit of controversy there had been over the lack of acknowledgement given to the Methodist Minister on the island. This time around, the programme showed a joint Anglican/Methodist service, and even features the Methodist Minister saying something – unfortunately it’s the point where he bounds up to assist Rev Guy with his Mothering Sunday sermon, and makes a joke about a pair of waterproof pants… Hopefully they’ll do something to try and redress the balance over the rest of the series, as at the moment if I were the Methodist Minister I’d not be overly happy.

With Rev Guy in post, I suspect we’re not going to get as much of the Church politics as we did last year – unless of course the brief clip of the PCC was a pointer to something to come… We’ll have to wait and see.

If you missed it, the programme can be found on iPlayer for the next few days.

New Year – Same Old Anglican Story

So here we are in 2008 – and the PM programme has kicked off the year with an interview about the same old Anglican story – but of course that is because this year comes another crunch point with the Lambeth Conference. The item today is a seven minute segment interviewing Katherine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It covers the current major issues, and to some extent there aren’t any surprises in what she says, still worth a listen though.

A Quiet Last Day? No Way…

Maybe it was optimistic to expect my last day before the Christmas Holiday to be quiet…

So far this morning:

  1. Last parcel from Amazon turns up having been damaged in transit – and probably no time to replace the damaged contents. Just waiting for Amazon to get back to me. Update: Just got an e-mail from Amazon – replacement items being despatched first class.
  2. After half a days worth of testing, we’ve found a trailing space in a bit of test data. Following a quick fix, as it is a fully validated system we have to go all the way back to the start of the tests and start again.
  3. Just had a call from one of my colleagues who should be on annual leave today. His team is doing an install in Cardiff and got to site to discover that they’d left the install CD that he’d put together for them at home.
  4. Had a moderation request from the Affirming Liberalism site – Peter Ould probably about as opposite in Anglican terms as you can get has linked to the site under the category “heresy” pairing it up with an unrelated video and a comment about growing liberal Churches seemingly implying that he doesn’t think there are any… Of course he’s most welcome to come along and visit St James – but he’d probably have trouble finding a seat, especially over the next couple of days.