…or so says Lord Carey–the former Archbishop of Canterbury in the Daily Telegraph. Carey is an evangelical and so he thinks the only thing that will save the Church of England is happy clappy services and the Alpha Course.
The more waspish A.N.Wilson comments sharply here saying that the reason Christianity is dying is because everyone believes fornication is okay and they don’t believe in stuff like the incarnation and the virgin birth and so forth. Even more crazily, Andrew Brown in the Guardian writes here saying the problem is that the Church of England has not been liberal enough. The problem is Carey himself was only half committed to women’s liberation (he stopped women bishops while endorsing women priests) and he remained homophobic and puritanical. So go figure.
I think they are all right and all wrong. Archbishop Carey is right that the Church of England is dying out and A.N.Wilson is right that it is dying out because everyone thinks the Christian view on sex is crazy and so is Christian doctrine and Brown is right that it is dying out because it is too liberal (although I know that was not his point)
Carey is wrong because the Church of England–like all churches–have a tendency to hang on a lot longer than people think possible. Wilson is wrong because the Christian view on sex and doctrine will always seem strange unless it is encountered in a living way and Brown is wrong because it is the liberal insanity in the Church of England which has got it to its doomed position to start with.
The Church of England has only itself to blame for the problem. The clergy and bishops of the Church of England have not preached the Christian doctrines for ages because they didn’t really believe them to be true themselves. When I was a Church of England priest the majority of my colleagues were thoroughgoing modernists and many of them were default atheists or agnostics. The priest of my neighboring parish said languidly at a clergy meeting, “I wouldn’t presume to tell any of my parishioners what might be right for them spiritually…” In other words, its not just the people in the pews who don’t believe or behave like Christians anymore. Neither do the clergy.
What’s the real solution? Not happy clappy services or more evangelical gimmicks.
The only thing that will convert the world is beauty, and by beauty I don’t mean just pretty stuff. I’m talking about the real, intense, authentic beauty of the saints. I have seen sanctity and wow! It is beautiful. It is attractive. It is the deep beauty of sanctity and only the deep beauty of sanctity that will win converts. Only when they see human sexuality lived out in truth and beauty and in faithfulness to the church will they understand the church’s teaching on sex, and only when they see the doctrines of the church lived out in the lives of the saints will they be converted to believe in the doctrines of the church.
Take two for example: Virgin Birth? This is not just about a miracle with a girl and her child two thousand years ago. It is about virginity alive in the world today. It is about the power of purity and the vibrancy of life and purity of goodness only seen in a girl or a boy given to virginity for life. Incarnation? Incarnation is not only about the incarnation of the Son of God. It is also about the incarnation of truth in the lives of the saints today. Incarnation of God in Man? Read the lives of the saints and live the life of God in the world and you will see this miracle everyday and believe.