Margaret Brown offers a personal view on how the Church has got into its present mess
The Church Assembly was followed in 1970 by synodical government which is based on the model of Parliament. Although a few good things have come about as a result of General Synod, very sadly, since then, the Church has been going further and further into decline. The General Synod, however well intentioned, has been constantly making changes, many of which have fallen on unwilling congregations.
The need to stand firm
The Church’s remit is to make Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, known to everyone, because we are all his children. Instead, the Christian faith has been watered down. It has failed to proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the historic Creeds. It has not stood firm on all the moral issues and it has acquiesced to women priests with the possibility of women in the Episcopate. People expect the Church to be faithful to its calling, lifting them up to God through Word and Sacrament.
How often does one hear of the Church speaking of sin and repentance, the doctrine of the four last things – death, judgement, hell and Heaven?
The Church, and that means all of us who call ourselves Christian, should be standing up for the Christian faith and not allowing it to be watered down. What is more, ordinary men and women in the street expect us to. Purity and holiness of life are prerequisites. We should all be united on the main issues.
Changes in worship
In many churches, the Book of Common Prayer has largely been discarded. This is the great jewel in the crown and the envy of other Christian bodies. Mattins, loved by so many people, exists in very few churches. Many choirs have been disbanded in favour of music groups. Surely, in large parishes there could be two main
services on a Sunday, one according to the BCP with a full choir and organ and the other a modern service with a music group.
The priest who prepared me for Confirmation took seven services on a Sunday. He was an inspiration. He had no curate and no ambition to be a bishop, just a faithful parish priest, which he certainly was.
Teaching and liturgy
‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
(1 John 1.8–9 and the BCP)
What powerful words. Next year we celebrate the 350th anniversary of the BCP. Could we not now have more services according to the BCP? After all, the ASB, followed by Common Worship, was not intended to supersede the BCP but to run alongside it. There are some churches which have a fine biblical sermon. This is extremely important, for many people are not being taught properly. However, there is scarcely any good liturgy. Both teaching and liturgy are paramount.
The question of leadership arises. Our archbishops and all our bishops should be guardians of the Word of God and faithful shepherds of the sheep. When we have some bishops who doubt the very tenets of the Christian faith, is it any wonder that the Church is in its present mess?
Orthodox doctrine and scriptural teaching will only come about if our
are wholly sound. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are also sadly missing from the agenda and theological students need to be made aware of them and to be grounded in the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
All too often, there is not much of any substance in the sermon we hear and people are credited with little intelligence; all this in a day and age when people are supposedly better educated.
A divided Church
Then there is the thorny problem of women’s ordination, which has caused many unhappy divisions. It is not that we are against women, but because of Scripture and tradition, we are unable to accept them as priests, let alone bishops. We are a divided Church and a house that is divided will not stand.
How can there be one part of the Church who believes in the revealed Word of God as contained in Holy Scripture for all time and the other part who thinks the Bible can be altered and that 2,000 years of Church history can be changed?
I have not mentioned prayer. Prayer is not just important; it is absolutely vital. The Church has been through dreadful times in the past. Our task is to pray for the conversion of England, to work hard for it and above all to remain faithful to what we know and believe to be true.