Saturday, 2 February 2013

W(h)ither the Church of England? Mission in the post-Christian context

Picnicking around the signpost – post Christian? Secular? The exceptional case?

Alan Gilbert, The Making of Post-Christian Britain (1980) 
“A post-Christian society is not one from which Christianity has departed, but one in which it has become marginal. It is a society where to be irreligious is to be normal, where to think and act in secular terms is to be conventional, where neither status nor respectability depends upon the practice or profession of religious faith.”

Accommodation v Resistance

Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945 (1994): Mismatch between indices of religious belief and statistics of religious membership or religious practices. Believing without belonging – sacred persists but not necessarily in traditional forms.

Rowan Williams’ distinction between programmatic secularism and procedural secularism in Faith in the Public Square (2012)

Complexities of pluralism

  1. Religious pluralism – no religion can legitimately make ultimate truth claims
  2. Political pluralism – State as mediator of diversity; or State that takes a more passive role
  3. A case can be made (cf. Rowan Williams) for political pluralism that pays due attention to “interactive variety” and “argumentative democracy” in the public realm…
  4. What sort of pluralism? USA model; French model; a new UK version?
Mission in a context which is

  • paradoxically secular and full of faith
  • publicly disavowing Christendom and procedurally secularist
  • in London, affected greatly by the World City context and the multicultural context
  • Probably post Christendom; probably not post Christian…

Straws in the wind – the difficulties of bearing testimony

  • The loss of the grammar of the Christian faith
  • A strong ethos of condescending tolerance
  • An aggressive atheist/secularist agenda
  • Fearfulness on the part of the ordinary Christian to bear explicit witness to the faith
  • Presumptions in the public realm which may not amount to “persecution” but do eventuate in marginalisation of the Christian faith
  • Interference on sound – our own capacity to appear bigoted, irrelevant and marginal

Letting a thousand flowers bloom – multiplicity of church models to fit the new context

  • Mission as more centrifugal and less centripetal
  • Mission as holistic and multi-facetted – therefore an end to sterile definitional arguments?
  • Mixed economy church as prevailing paradigm – both/and of inherited/traditional and emerging/adaptive

“Mission shaped church can be seen as a hypothesis – that God will use new contextual churches to help the church be more relevant and available, as it takes shape within all the settings of life” Michael Moynagh, Church for every context (2012)

  • Parish and network
  • Cross-generational and targeted generational
  • Niche church
  • Anonymity – Cathedrals and other places to be “me”
  • Mother tongue congregations
  • Plants
  • Missional communities
  • Ambient and new monastic
  • Multiples and midweeks
  • Community-based engagement
  • Virtual Church?

Tentative conclusions about what will happen to church

  • Demographic change – older, multicultural, diverse
  • Ecclesiology lite – what is the irreducible minimum of Anglican polity?
  • Formality and hierarchy will have less traction
  • The shape of priesthood and “leadership” will need to be faced
  • We shall need a flexible and light touch understanding of Diocese and episcopacy
  • Entrepreneurial oversight and an end to defensive bureaucracy
  • Planting out from London to other parts of the UK
  • Re-evangelisation?
What sort of priests?

  • Priests! (cf the Ordinal)
  • Inspirational animateurs
  • Energetic multi-taskers
  • Appropriately vulnerable and emotionally intelligent; power aware
  • Missional – with the capacity to grow a parish
  • Priests for parishes; not chaplains to congregations
  • Human and friendly