Church Burn Out

Dec 7, 2019 by

by Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism:

The Crown deserves credit for treating religion and the royal family seriously. In one episode of season three, Prince Philip becomes impatient with and almost hostile to the church. The dean at Windsor Castle’s chapel has become elderly and boring in the pulpit. But more broadly, Philip hankers for men of action over men of contemplation. He idealizes the astronauts who land on the moon in 1969. But upon meeting them he discovers with disappointment they lack deep spiritual insights. So he reluctantly turns again to the church.

At the Queen’s request, there’s an energetic new dean at Windsor, Robin Woods, who asks Philip for permission to create a retreat center at Windsor for spiritually exhausted clergy, known as St. George’s House. Philip reluctantly accedes, but when asked to join a group of clergy, he denounces them as introspective weaklings, urging them to be more like the action prone astronauts. Later, he apologizes, asking for their help with his own spiritual longing. Dean Woods becomes a close confidante.

In real life, apparently Philip supported St. George’s House from the start, and several years before the moon landings, which The Crown conflates into simultaneous events. But the larger story, of Philip’s rediscovery of faith, seems to be true. Another influence at this time was the return to London of his troubled and aged mother, who had found solace years earlier by becoming a Greek Orthodox nun devoted to the poor

The Royal Family has remained actively committed to the church, beyond just their ceremonial obligations. But the Church of England, of which the Queen is head, is in steep decline. Immigrant churches and evangelical urban congregations offer rare vitality in the otherwise somnolent state church. Britain as a whole has become religiously indifferent, as Prince Philip in the 1960s evidently had become. Liberal theology plays a role. But the laxity and privilege of being a state church also undermine the capacity for initiative.

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