Andrew Brown looks at the recent report on attendance in the Church of England and wonders “whether things are going to change, or whether the church will pootle along, like an exhausted cyclist, until it finally wobbles over and collapses.”
One thing he notices is that the more you live in your own world, cut off from the culture, the more likely decline will be. A similar mistake is to assume that since we’ve always been there then we will always be there.
From Andrew Brown’s Blog in the Guardian:
Perhaps the most interesting part of the statistics is the comparison of two dioceses, Southwark and London. In London the trend is reliably upwards from 2010 to 2011 – 3% on average weeklies. In Southwark, over the same period, it is down 5%, as it has been heading for a long time. But to the outside world, they are the same place: “London” is the city north of the Thames, and “Southwark” is the city south of the river. There really aren’t any huge theological differences between them, except that Southwark has many more, and much noisier, conservative evangelicals. But they are a minority there, too, and I don’t doubt there are theological hatreds just as vicious across the river.
What makes the difference is that the diocese of London has cared about congregational size for at least 15 years, and tried to ensure that the clergy are not content to preside over a graceful decline. Southwark has institutionally taken the existence of the Church of England for granted. You’d have thought that the release of statistics like this would have made some impression, year after year. But to believe that God will look after the Church of England demands a greater capacity for faith than believing that he exists, and perhaps that will prove impervious to evidence, right up to the final wobble, and the end.