What's Still Right with the Church of England
Can the Church of England survive the 21st century? What needs to change and what remains?
Can the Church of England survive the 21st century? What needs to change and what remains? How does the Church deal with contemporary challenges and how are these related to the situation it faced in 1966?
This book is an evaluation of Bishop Ronald Williams' 1966 book What's Right with the Church of England identifying the issues of that time with reference to the issues still facing the Church of England today. These include perception and position, resources and finance, ethics, ecumenism, a liberal church in a liberal society, ministry for today, marketing, and a contemporary parochial ecclesiology. Many of the issues from 1966 have not changed but the context is significantly different requiring different responses.
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Fifty years ago the then Bishop of Leicester, Dr R.R. Williams, argued that the Church of England had a “death wish”. In some ways, this still resonates today. To add a contemporary for context, the recent vote in the General Synod outlawing women to the episcopate has caused a high level of consternation for the energy lost over an issue that is considered largely settled in other walks of life. Consequently, accusations have been voiced that see the Church becoming irrelevant by debating matters that simply don’t resonate with the wider public. Since its publication in 1966, we now have women priests, authorised forms of worship in modern language, and in many churches Parish Communion has displaced Mattins on any given Sunday. Though the context has changed, the challenges raised by Williams are still relevant today. At this junction, Canon David Jennings steps in to update the discussion. From a somewhat more liberal, practical perspective, he sees a more inclusive role of the Church in today’s liberal society. The suggestion given is that churches should financially and socially look beyond their worshippers for fund-raising and caregiving. Similarly, where the minister’s responsibilities are too finely stretched, they should be delegated to the ordained priesthood to be more sensibly devolved to the laity. Canon Jennings’ analysis and recommendations should make for healthy churches. However, the ideals of liberal thinking are likely to conflict with discourse of Anglicans who are likely to source out neighbouring churches where they feel more at home. Similarly, concerns over how (or indeed whether) a church defines and measures “success” can be raised. A detailed analysis of what works and what doesn’t in differing contexts would be useful in any follow-up volume. ~ Martin Keiffer, Faith and Freedom