Today in The Times
It’s not often that there’s a good Christian article in the otherwise secular press. But today’s Thunderer in The Times is an exception to the rule. CoMission get an honourable mention!
“Justin Welby’s biggest fight to date has been with sharks — the loan sharks he wants the church to drive out of business. But this week the Archbishop of Canterbury took on an even bigger fish: his own church. Speaking in New York, he warned against sermons containing “moral claptrap” that boiled down to “wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we were all a bit nicer?” This will be welcome news to many who have darkened the doors of an Anglican church from time to time or listened to a bishop on the Today programme’s “Thought for the Day” slot.
“The archbishop is perhaps responding to market forces. Churches that preach conviction rather than claptrap appear to be growing. Research by the statistician Peter Brierley suggests that 83 per cent of churches with congregations of more 350 describe themselves as “evangelical”. Two thirds of churches that describe themselves as “conservative evangelical” have grown in the past decade, with a third growing by more than 33 per cent every year.
“But in a paper on church growth — or, perhaps more accurately, church decline — for next month’s General Synod, the archbishops of Canterbury and York focus on the organisation of the church, the diversity of clergy, credit unions and social media. All useful stuff, but there isn’t a single mention of scripture or indeed belief, save for a concluding Bible verse. Without it, the church becomes a civic social club that happens to have pretty windows and colourful uniforms — and one that will continue to decline at an average of 1 per cent every year.
“The Co-Mission group of churches is excellent at attracting newcomers but it’s the strength of their belief, summed up by Paul in I Timothy i, 15, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst”, that encourages those newcomers to return. Otherwise people have no more reason to return than they do to stay at home and read a good book rather than the Good Book.
“The Church of England’s first female bishop, Libby Lane, is enthusiastic but clearly wary in interviews of saying what she believes. Yet showing that it believes in something will secure the future of the church. If Archbishop Welby manages to impress that upon his clergy, it will be a far greater victory than over any shark.”