jQuery Slider

You are here



By David W. Virtue, DD
November 22, 2021

"Our vision and strategy is a vision and strategy for growth. It is not about managing decline gracefully. We want the Church of England to grow and even if it doesn't -- then let our death be a grand operatic death, let it be fantastic and let's not crawl in a corner." -- Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York

First comes the vision, then reality hits, and then comes the final blow..."let our death be a grand operatic death."

The Church of England wants to go out in a blaze of glory, unlike a Guy Fawkes skyrocket that briefly bursts and then flames out as it hits the Thames River. A grand operatic death is what the Archbishop of York wants. That's what he told the Church of England Synod recently.

The question is, will the CofE even have that option?

The CofE is fast fading into the night as it becomes more woke over homosexuality. It excoriates and isolates its traditional and evangelical wings and hopes that by accommodating to the culture, it will bear spiritual fruit. In a population of 66 million, less than three quarters of a million people attend a local parish. most of the parishes have aging and dying congregants.

I was fascinated by a video I saw recently of a young Caribbean boy. He must have been about 12, standing on a street corner in London, a microphone in hand preaching his heart out, telling the old, old story of Jesus and his love. Of sin and salvation. Of hope and redemption. It was the gospel in its simplest and purist form. Passersby did not think it odd, they just ignored him, with full shopping bags, places to go and movies to see. It brought back youthful memories of Open Air Campaigners, street preaching and much more. A little child shall lead them. It's all gone now, and thus will be the fate of the Church of England. Can you imagine Rowan Williams or any bishop or clergyman standing on a street corner belting out the gospel? They would fear being arrested for disturbing the peace. Oh wait, I think a certain apostle got arrested for disturbing the peace, got beaten up, went to jail, wrote some letters, never making Lords Spiritual in the Pomerium of Caesar.

Of course, ministries like Alpha and Christianity Explored offer hope, but they don't seem to be making a significant dent in Britain's spirituality unwashed. A repentant sinner here, a repentant sinner there, but still churches close and die. Is there such a thing as a requiem mass for dying churches?

All Passion Spent, Vita Sackville West's moving fictional account of abandonment and freedom, but in the end, emptiness of purpose and meaning, might well be the epitaph of the Church of England.

All of this begs the deeper question as to why a growing, vibrant Global South Anglicanism continues to tie itself and its future to a ship that is clearly waterlogged and heading to the ocean floor.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has proven to be a worthless, apoplectic leader, full of apologies, frightened of his own shadow. He pleads the cause of climate change as apocalyptic while ignoring the fact that England is post Christian, totally godless and in desperate need of the gospel.

An article by Matt Parris in The Times captures the spirit of the Church and the Age. He wants and loves the CofE but only as a cultural icon and theater. He goes to church, loves the music and church spires, the graveyards (where he cries), and Jesus was a real and wonderful man, albeit under a serious misapprehension about paternity. He describes himself as an unbeliever, like his conservative maternal grandmother who, when he told her, as she approached the end of life said, "Never mind, Grandma, in the next life you'll be leaping around like a spring lamb!". She stopped dead, fixing me with an irritated glare. "You don't think I've ever believed any of that nonsense, do you?" Parris, as it turned out agreed with her.

Of course, most of western Anglicanism is in trouble. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are on life support. In the case of TEC, it still has millions of dollars of dead men's money to play with; the Canadian church not so much. Even with money, you can't manufacture people; and compromising with the culture over sex has not added bums on pews. There are few if any green shoots of renewal in Wales or Scotland I am told, though independent evangelical churches from Britain's former colonies are thriving.

Western Anglicanism is in a death spiral with no Good News to proclaim except a whole regimen of issues that save no one and nothing. The climate will be still be changing when Welby leaves this mortal coil.

Today's Anglican church is rotten with woke culture and it is embodied in Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, the trendiest of vicars, writes Tony Parsons in The Sun. "Under Justin Welby, the Anglican church has become nothing more than the religious wing of Twitter."

As the CofE increasingly becomes a managerial operation, true evangelism and discipleship disappears. Jesus is a course in management training.

Efforts to jump start the Church of England with alternatives to the local church have already failed according to Parris. Welby intones the latest Anglican faddism about "reaching out", "planting" new churches, targeting the Church's message on the younger generation, finding new ways, new media, to put Anglicanism across, be it virtually, from his kitchen in Lambeth Palace, or with tambourines and hallelujahs in the pews. However, he admitted at the Synod this week, that so far, the outreach has failed.

As Parris writes, Anglicanism was never really about God. A bit sweeping bearing in mind that people like C. S. Lewis, John Stott and a bevy of Anglican theologians and evangelists would clearly disagree with him.

Perhaps all that is left is the hapless cry of a kid on a street corner belting out the timeless message of the gospel to people walking by, unmoved by thoughts of a Christless eternity.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top