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16.3.14

Ten more commandments: How to save the Anglican church

My take on Peter Stanford’s list in the Independent.


1. Stop obsessing about sex and gender

And start obsessing about good sex instead. Our society is in a mess about sex and sexuality. Let's have more positive engagement with what lifelong loving covenant sacramental relationships might look like. An illustrated course on the Song of Solomon as part of the Pilgrim course perhaps? And no I am not kidding.

2. Pick on a subject that matters

Yes the poor are important. But last time I checked the CofE has been all over the press in its support for the poor. So why not make the subject Encounter with God - how we can meet with God and grow in faith?

3. Break that link with the state

The CofE is an Apostolical church that just happens to be a state church. But I wonder how much law and effort it would take to unstitch all that. We may be more than a 'best boat to fish from' but this is not a boat to be burned lightly. But that doesn't mean we can’t emphasize our Apostolical foundation above and beyond our historical state connection.



4. Beef up the role of the ABC

And beef up local ministry too - it needs to go all the way down the line - which may mean some serious pruning of stuff that isn't working. Leadership in the CofE can be extremely difficult for lay and ordained ministry, and can be shipwrecked by all a small number of people. We need to renew our understanding of lay ministry and find effective ways of ensuring that Clergy, Lay Ministers PCC members and Church Wardens love God and his people.

5. Treat the Anglican Communion as a religious equivalent of the Commonwealth

In other words ignore it and look closer to Europe, where other churches are facing the same challenges as the CofE. We should draw on success stories amongst our own ecumenical partners in the UK too – which churches are growing and why?

6. Offload the property empire

No-one is going to want to take on half the medieval church buildings in the UK. But we do have some valuable property, especially in central London, including Church House and some Clergy Housing. Let’s sell it off and invest it in mission and ministry, even if it is more appropriate property. A review of Church housing nationwide could result in more equality, more suitable housing for modern clergy families, and maybe some thoughts about how best to support (and benefit from) retired clergy.

7. Get out of state schools

And get into Free schools & Academies. Western schooling has its roots in Christian Monasticism, let’s embrace it, de-emphasizing faith requirements for getting into CofE schools but ensuring that each Church school is a community of disciples learning to follow Jesus. Establish ordination routes for Christian headteachers and treat this as an important pioneer role in the Church.

8. Get some better PR (i)

Rev is profound. But it continues the lie of the magically self-sustaining parish. In other words it is Dibley for Guardian Readers. Forget TV - Youtube is a better way for the CofE to communicate to a wider audience.

9. Get some better PR (ii)

I like Richard Coles very much. I am not sure he would want to be a Bishop. But I would love to hear more from pioneers from all traditions – especially working in challenging areas, urban or country.

10. Get some better PR (iii)

We canonize too quickly. Let’s learn patience and remember that even the greatest ministers of the Gospel have feet of clay. And let us not be ashamed to say so.