IN THE SEPTEMBER issue of this magazine we wrote:
“For the new C of E Cornwall is about to prove a critical test case. For as we go to press, the eyes of the Crown Appointments Commission will be turning to Truro and a replacement for Bishop Michael Ball.”
“In the lead up to the crucial vote in November 1992 Truro was the one diocese that clearly and regularly expressed its majority opposition to the measure and proclaimed its traditional faith. It was hoped by many that, in view of this overwhelming support, the Bishop would declare a “no go” area. He did not. Indeed to the surprise of many, while expressing his own agnosticism about it, he proceeded to ordain women and appointed a protégé‚g‚ of Robert Runcie, who was in favour, as his suffragan.
“The diocese then experienced the highest percentage of resignations of any diocese including two notable retired bishops.
“In spite of this, the yearning for a traditionalist bishop with catholic teaching and evangelical enthusiasm remains overwhelming. No diocese has a stronger case for such an appointment. If a traditionalist cannot be appointed in Truro then it is difficult to see where, if ever, one will be.
Failure to make such an appointment will, in the words of one senior bishop, mean that “the game is up”. That is to say that the promises made in the Act of Synod have not been honoured and will not be.”
The appointment has now been announced. It is to be Bill Ind, suffragan bishop of Grantham in Lincoln.
This is not the place to dwell on the deeply unhappy recent history of that diocese, nor on the fact that, along with Canterbury and one or two others, Lincoln has operated one of the most severe one party states in the Church of England.
Suffice it to say that Bishop Ind neither meets those criteria of the Truro diocese nor the criteria laid down by the Bonds of Peace for senior appointments. Truro diocese, or some parts of it, may get used to this. The implications for the national church, however will not go away.
This was a test case for the Bonds of Peace and it has failed.
We said in September 1996, “Truro is the last chance to start behaving with honour.” That chance has now passed.
Those Christians who dare to believe what the church has always taught will draw their own conclusions.
Sooner rather than later Parliament will have to face the fact that its Ecclesiastical Committee was seriously misled.
The Press has made a great deal of the recent gloomy statistics published by the C. of E.
Average weekly Sunday attendances nationwide were down by 35,900+ between 1994 and 1995. The missionary Bishop of Wakefield, Nigel McCulloch, rushed into print to assure us that anecdotal evidence spoke against this.
The Bishop of Durham appeared in Hello magazine urging its readers to come back to church.
What are the facts?
1. The figures are probably pretty accurate. Clergy tend, if anything, to exaggerate their congregations.
2. Undoubtedly some congregations are growing. This means that others are declining even more startlingly. But the evidence is that, regardless of styles of worship, biblically faithful congregations are the ones that are growing.
3. The decline between 1994-1995 is the equivalent of the diocese of Winchester, Manchester, Lichfield, St Albans or Salisbury disappearing every 12 months. Or Hereford, Portsmouth and Truro disappearing simultaneously.
4. Next year the figures for the 7 year electoral roll renewal will come out when “downsizing” is traditional as accumulated “dead wood” or “ghost communicants” are removed.
5. The liberal establishment promised that their agenda would fill the church with new life and hope and, critically, people would come flooding back to church.
Sadly the Church of England is merely following the pattern of its Anglican Communion neighbours. Wherever liberalism is triumphant, decline is the order of the day.
We have had twenty years of appointments to ensure that nothing should stand in the way of the great liberal experiment. It has failed.
If those in power really want to know what is wrong and what is costing souls, they should take a long hard look in the bathroom mirror.