Distinctive force or vague multicultural outpost? CofE must decide

Jun 13, 2024 by

by Catherine Pepinster, Religion Media Centre:

The Church of England is facing a clear choice between remaining a distinctive force in society or becoming “secular mush”, a historian has warned bishops.

Tom Holland, author of the bestselling history Dominion, told senior clerics that the church had a question to ask itself: “Does it affirm its distinctive character or does it dissolve itself into the secular mush? I suspect it is opting for the latter.”

Mr Holland told the annual conference of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life on Monday, that the Church of England had to make choices that are likely to cause resentment and anger.

“Does it affirm its distinctiveness or is it part of the religious wing of multiculturalism? Both are invidious,” he said. The changes happening now in society, he believed, were analogous to the Reformation.

“Generations are growing up without the basic fundamentals of the Bible,” he said, predicting that this would have serious implications for the next coronation and how it was received by the public.

He noted that the Prince of Wales did not seem interested in religion in the way that both his grandmother, Elizabeth II, and his father, the King, have been. Because of that, Mr Holland said, Prince William was “like the rest of society”.

The conference on public legitimacy of the Church of England was held at Pusey House, Oxford, which organised it in partnership with the Centre for Cultural Witness, based at Lambeth Palace.

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