What state is the Church of England in?

Oct 24, 2019 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo

The Church of England statistics department released its Statistics for Mission report last week, quite a bit earlier than last year, and it is was not good news—though curiously there was almost no comment on it on the airwaves, in contrast to last year. We will be discussing this at the next meeting of the Archbishops’ Council, since in the end this is a major way in which we can assess whether or not policies for evangelism and discipleship are having any effect.

Overall, I think the headline things to note were:

a. that overall attendance continues to decline, and the pace of decline does not yet appeared to have slowed;

b. that, following a six-year trend in increased attendance at festivals, there was for 2018 a sharp decline. It is worth remembering that we have seen one-off anomalies before, and as the report comments, bad weather on a single occasion can affect the figures. What matters more than single statistics is longer-term trends;

c. that, nevertheless, there are dioceses where there appear to be consistent signs of growth and change.

…I think this all leaves Anglicans with three challenging questions. First, will we remain committed to the goal of evangelism and making disciples as God’s call on us, despite the discouragements of this year’s figures? Secondly, that notwithstanding, will we take a good hard look at the current implementation of policy, and ensure we are learning from mistakes as well as rejoicing in encouragements? Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult, are we ready to learn from other Christians in our land where they are being effective in sharing faith and growing disciples?

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