Margaret Brown offers a solution to the Church of England’s current difficulties
In my last article ‘Our current difficulties’, I set out what I believe to be some of the troubles of the Church of England. I would now like to say a little of what should be done to alleviate them.
The Church of England is weighed down by bureaucracy. What needs to happen urgently is to bring the message of Jesus Christ and his salvation to a needy country and world. Obviously there have to be a few committees in order to run the Church; however, I was concerned whilst a member of the General Synod about having an Archbishops’ Council and voted against it.
The Church always managed without it, and to me and many others, it just seemed to be another layer of bureaucracy. The Archbishops’ Council came into being at the beginning of 1999 under the terms of the National Institutions Measure 1998. There are almost more ‘chiefs than Indians’! The Church needs to get out amongst the people.
Confirmation and Communion
Sadly, the General Synod often makes unwise decisions. A case in point is Communion before Confirmation. The Book of Common Prayer states at a child’s baptism that as soon as it can say the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments then it is to be brought to the bishop to be confirmed by him. Having Communion before Confirmation is ‘putting the cart before the horses.’ Confirmation is the fulfilment of the baptismal promises made for us by our Godparents.
Of course, a child can go to the altar and receive a blessing, but must learn to wait until Confirmation to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. By having some parishes doing one thing and others another, it makes life very difficult for everyone.
Take Mr and Mrs Jones and their two boys. Timothy and Andrew have been allowed to receive Communion before Confirmation. Then the family moves away. Their new parish will not allow the practice. This causes controversy. The Church needs to return to everyone being confirmed before they receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
There is a similar situation regarding Holy Matrimony, although this is very serious. The Church, in certain cases, now allows remarriage in church after divorce. Some clergy permit this practice; others do not, because they say, and rightly so, that remarriage after divorce is adultery. The Church should return to Christ’s teaching and not allow divorced people to remarry in Church whilst their spouse is still living. The policy should be the same throughout the Church of England.
Then there is the question of belief. It is essential that all bishops and clergy teach the orthodox Christian faith as contained in Holy Scripture with conviction and sincerity. If they fail to do this, they are letting people down, and worse still, they are letting Christ down. All bishops and priests promise to be ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word and to frame and fashion their own selves and families according to the doctrine of Christ. Churchwardens, Secretaries, Treasurers and all members of PCCs should be expected to live holy and Christian lives: if they live in sin, why not us?
The General Synod, in other words, should do the Church’s housekeeping but not unravel Christian faith and morals. Why does it have to make everything so complicated? Our Lord taught people very simply. First, he sat them down and fed them and then he taught them through parables. The clergy need to be free of so many meetings. The laity can do a lot of the parish work, thus releasing the clergy to do visiting. The Church has to be seen out and about, teaching the Gospel and living the Christian life.
The demise of the Sunday School was another great mistake. Of course, the ideal is for parents and children to go to church as a family. However, there will always be some children whose parents will not go, and children do not like to go on their own; therefore, they go nowhere. Sunday Schools do a wonderful work. Children grow up learning about the Christian faith and knowing right from wrong. Some Sunday Schools have started up again, but every church should have one.
To sum up, bureaucracy must be cut down, practice must be uniform and the Church must proclaim the same Christian message with one united voice. We all have to be ready for Our Lord’s return. The Bible tells us he will come like a thief in the night. ND