Today’s reports in various tabloid and semi-tabloid British newspapers that the Church of England is just ‘one generation away from extinction’, in yesterday’s words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, do not make news. We have known this for some time. Nor is the agreement with him of the Archbishop of York, who has told the Church of England General Synod that compared to the need to attract new worshippers, ‘everything else is like re-arranging furniture when the house is on fire’. However, the later was correct in stating that the Synod spent too long ‘arguing over words and phrases, while the people of England are left floundering amid meaninglessness, anxiety and despair’.
The Church of England was only ever a sixteenth-century Establishment fix, invented to prevent civil war between Catholics and Protestants, to keep ‘the plebs’ in order. The fact that it has survived into the twenty-first century was surely never meant to be; it is a historic anachronism. Its only hope of survival is if parts of it display real faith in historical, and not ‘make it up as you go’, Christianity. It is commonly said that 40% of Church of England clergy, including bishops, do not believe in God, let alone in the Holy Trinity, the Divinity and Incarnation of Christ, the Resurrection, the Virgin-Birth, the Communion of Saints or the devil.
If that is the case, it would perhaps be more honest if the Church of England closed itself down and handed over its vast fortune to believing Christians, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Unlike the tabloid reports, the former Archbishop never said that Christianity faces extinction – it is only the Church of England – and that is a very different thing from the Church in England.