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"Standing on the brink of a precipice"

"Standing on the brink of a precipice"

Laity knits while the Church of England burns

The Rev. Dr. Ian Paul's speech in Synod
February 27, 2024

Brother and sisters in Christ, T S Eliot commented that humankind cannot bear too much reality. Synod has made avoiding reality an art form. What is reality we are facing? It is that we are standing on the brink of a precipice.

Since the first report on marriage and sexuality in 1979, in contrast with debates about divorce and about the ministry of women, no consensus for change has emerged. The Shared Conversations and the LLF process have taken up most of the last ten years. The result? We are more anxious, more divided, more uncertain. The fateful phrase 'a radical new Christian inclusion' has unleashed a civil war in the Church.

In that time, adult attendance has fallen 30%, and the decline is accelerating. Child attendance has fallen 40% in the same period. And in the last three years, vocations to ordained ministry have collapsed by 40%. There is a very real prospect that ministry is going to collapse in large parts of the Church of England within the next five years. Where is this on our agenda?

But here is the other stark reality: Other churches are growing. But we are reluctant to learn from them. We now represent something less than 18% of all Christians in a church on Sunday. We have another eight hours scheduled to talk about LLF. What it will it produce? More division, more frustration, no more progress.Fiddling whilst Canterbury burns doesn't even capture it.

Isaiah 3 vividly recounts the collapse of the people of God: For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: "You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule".

If we continue this fruitless process, that will be the legacy we leave: the Church of England, a heap of ruins. It is up to us.


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