The Decline of the Church of England

The past royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton brought the attention back to the Westminster Abbey in which they were married.

The building, in fact has a grand history behind it, and has by no means a sorry history. The church having been born “through the influences of St Alban, St Illtud, St Ninian, St Patrick and, later, St Augustine, St Aidan and St Cuthbert” These are not the weakest of Christians in the history of Christianity. Beginning as a humble church in 604AD built on an island on the River Thames, the building was refounded in 960AD. The church was supposed to have been miraculously consecrated by St Peter from his grave, this is something that the Pope pointed out in his address to the Abbey last September.

The architectural context of the Abbey is important, situated within the spiritual heart of London – the Parliamentary buildings were built close to this building, signifying the comparative importance of religion over politics. I am not going to comment whether this rings true today, but the building began as a beacon of light in those days, the shining diamond of the Church of England. But now, it seems to only be used as a meaningless beacon for no truth at all. That one day, royalty would get married inside, yet on Sunday and whatever day, they would struggle to be full of people singing hymns to God again. The statistics are dire, in only 3% of England attending the church of which is the established church of the country. Furthermore, this statistic is a once a monthly membership, which is hardly dedication.

“When a church forfeits its doctrinal convictions and then embraces ambiguity and tolerates heresy, it undermines its own credibility and embraces its own destruction.”

This is the subtitle of something I found on an article by Albert Mohler on his website describing the decline of the Church of England.

He quotes Adrian Hamilton, an Opinion columnist for the Independent newspaper of whom argues in his column that it is true that the Church of England’s disastrous controversies over gender and sexuality are not the causes of the church’s decline. They are instead symptoms of a far deeper theological disease.

He describes a church of which: “an overwhelming majority of people with weak or no particular faith, the presence of an established church to provide these services to the stricken, dying, marrying or proud with child, the Church of England has been and is there, all the better for being, for the most part, undemonstrative and unchurch-y”

That of which is not exactly wrong by any means, in fact it is applaudable that they are nursing the sick and the weary. This is certainly what church should be doing. But this in the place of a discernable and solid Gospel, there is no substitute.

In a church that has fumbled over issue of homosexuality and celibacy in recent years, they are undoubtedly media fodder in their indecisiveness. I read a article in an British newspaper of which they were made fun of, their synods not completing anything, but procrastination and a tendency to want to sweep things beneath the carpet. This has in turn eroded what image they had, and they are serving anything but an absolute God whom knows right from wrong.

A church on a public level is a representation of God, I especially liked what Stanley Hauerwas had to say on the relationship of the church and world that:

“My claim, so offensive to some, that the first task of the church is to make the world the world, not to make the world more just, is a correlative of this theological metaphysics. The world simply cannot be narrated – the world cannot have a story – unless a people exist who make the world the world. That is an eschatological claim that presupposes we know there was a beginning only because we have seen the end … [C]reation names God’s continuing action, God’s unrelenting desire for us to want to be loved by that love manifest in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.”

He is arguing for a distinction between the church and the world, and in many ways, this is reflected in the Old Testament. Moses was representative of God to the people of Israel. That is why he was punished when he struck the rock to bring water out. There was nothing wrong in that, except Moses forgot perhaps for a second of his role of being God to these Israelites, to act out of character was disastrous for him: eventually being disallowed from entering the Promised Land.

I’m not arguing for urgency and rashness at the cost of rational searching of the Scripture. I’m arguing for unity in the essentials, that God might be amplified through His people. For the non-essential honest searching, and personal reflection on what might be true.

I thank God that our Church is not built in brick and mortar, but only in the unfailing sacrifice of Jesus’ resurrection. We can know of His faithfulness because He rose again on the third day, and he stands stronger than the Westminster Abbey. Man’s doctrine can sway under tough winds, till even the grandeur of the Westminster Abbey can fail to awe man. Looking at the architectures of that building during the royal wedding, there is in the building a rich history of solidarity that represents the objectivity of God. There is nothing more beautiful than unity, and where else is better for a marriage, than to be gathered in Christ’s Church?

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About JN
what happened to dignity / never see it on MTV.

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