“We are dying . . . set up a committee!”

My daily news comes from The Telegraph: if you want literate center-right English perspective, then the Telegraph will not disappoint. In one story without direct editorial comment, the journalists at the paper summed up the state of Christian Britain. A former Archbishop of Canterbury stood at an Armageddon and he battled for the Lord:

In an impassioned plea for Church to adopt a new missionary stance, he told them that their constant internal debates were like no more than “rearranging furniture when the house is on fire”.

He called for an ambitious campaign aimed at the “re-evangelisation of England”, on a par with the ministry of the northern saints such as Cuthbert, Hilda and Aidan who spread Christianity in Anglo-Saxon times.

The Synod responded by voting to set up a committee.

Thank Sophia: the Synod voted to set up a committee.

This is the unionized England watched on television during my childhood before Thatcher or the Falklands:

This EC home of MEPs, this conquered isle,
This earth of agony, this seat of Indecision ,
This Committee, omni-bureaucratic
This Croydon built by Councils for itself
Using selfies and powerpoint,
This hapless breed of clerics, this little world,
With twee Church set in Canterbury  see,
Which serves it in the office of a hall
Where the Church defensive as a mouse,
Against the danger of doing things,–
This indecisive thought, this study, this working group, this C of England.

The Church must study more and avoid acting precipitously. The problem with the Church of England has been being too decisive, too confrontational, and too exclusive. The C of E expects the explosive growth of the ECUSA without doing half the studies, offending nearly as many people, and inviting even larger numbers of groups to leave the Church, because those vile groups wish to exclude those from the Church who do not wish to come.

Like any caring family, drive out those who wish to stay in order to make a place for those who do not wish to come! Study the result.

ECUSA dwarfs the C of E in producing programs, plans, and committees.

It was not always so. Look to your history Church of England!

When Patrick saw Ireland in barbarism, the Church paused and had him meet with a committee.

When oxen were fording the Isis, the Church started a committee to examine monastic education at the ox ford.

Of course, in a long history mistakes were made.

I am confident Saint Aidan had done no studies of the culture, geography, or religious background before evangelizing. What does it profit the Church if a missionary gains the whole region, but cannot publish a scholarly research project on it?

As the early Church sat in the upper room in Jerusalem, it was an outpouring of scrolls worth of research and planning that enabled Peter to summarize upper room committee work and bring growth to the Church.

Church history shows nothing more surely than that the sweat of a committee is the seed of the Church. Who can measure the evangelistic impact of the World Council of Churches? Those communities involved with this committee ridden structure have changed the face of global evangelism. The Church of England must study their successful studies in order to study evangelism successfully.

Perhaps most pivotal for the Church of England would be to study the reasons previous studies have not revitalized the Church. What has gone wrong with previous programs and action plans? Avoid at all costs acting like some Billy Graham and going out to change a generation. Where did that end? It ended with a vibrant and growing Evangelical church in America, but one that is an embarrassment at any University wine and cheese party.

The Church of England must embrace the Way of the Committee: the long road of pain that starts with the planning meeting and ends in the Golgotha of the power point presentation. Leaders, real leaders, embrace the path of Lord Hamlet and spend time with angst asking “to be or not to be” until they are dead, their nation conquered, and their friends fallen.

Perhaps, in fact the error was to let the Bishop speak in such a stirring manner: this is not conducive to the work of a committee. Instead, before starting a committee the Church of England should hear a report on the difficulties that face decision makers in this generation.

I only regret not seconding the motion to form a committee after the stirring speech by the former Archbishop. Some heard that motion made. Some were there, that lucky few. And I will go to bed tonight thinking myself accursed I was not there, and hold my personhood unfulfilled, when at last the report is issued calling for a study to be made from now until the end of the world.


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