Is this the last chance to save the Church of England?

Jul 8, 2021 by

by Marcus Walker, Spectator:

I am a key limiting factor. That’s a new one for a clergyman of the Church of England. We’ve traded under parson, cleric, priest, minister, padre and even pie-and-liquor, but never before have I heard us described as ‘key limiting factors’.

That this phrase was used during the announcement of a new official C of E scheme — to create 10,000 new lay-led churches in the next ten years — adds future injury to present insult. ‘Lay-led churches release the Church from key limiting factors,’ said Canon John McGinley introducing the initiative. ‘When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of church… then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.’ Well, maybe. But once you’ve ditched the buildings, the clergy and theological education, you don’t have very much of a church left.

On one level, this ‘key limiting factor’ business is rather amusing. It was only in February that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York took to these pages to accuse those of us concerned for the future of the parish system of being ‘rascally voices’. The articles Emma Thompson and I wrote for The Spectator were denounced as scare-mongering. Five short months (and one Freudian slip) later, and we are all rascals now.

On another level it’s just rude. We clergy might be ‘limiting factors’ to growth, but we are the ones who have been plugging our way through the hell of this pandemic, keeping food banks open, hospital chaplaincies staffed, lonely old (and young) people telephoned. We’ve had to learn how to put services on YouTube, hold prayer meetings on Zoom and minister to devastated families in desolate funerals of six while those much-maligned old churches became the focus of a fervent public desire to have them be open.

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