C of E traditionalists launch fight against worship in ‘takeaway, cinema or barn’
Campaign to save parish churches from closure after resources shift
Traditionalists in the Church of England have launched a campaign to defend the centuries-old parish system against plans to promote innovative church gatherings in unconventional settings.
Save the Parish is urging clergy and lay members to stand under its banner for election to the General Synod, the C of E’s legislative assembly, this autumn. It also plans parish-based efforts to fight church closures.
At the campaign’s launch this week, Father Marcus Walker, the rector of St Bartholomew the Great in central London, said parishioners were facing the “last chance to save the system that has defined Christianity for 1,000 years”.
He said: “In the last 10 to 15 years, particularly under [the archbishop of Canterbury] Justin Welby, there has been heavy skew away from traditional parishes with a relationship to a church building and local community, to a style of church set up in a cinema or barn or converted Chinese takeaway.”
He said “vast amounts” of funding had been diverted from parishes to new churches which had led, for example, to the closure of 60 parish churches in Essex. “Parishes are being denuded of the resources they need to survive, and the harsh reality of that is closures and redundancies.” The tendency is to see the parish like an inherited embarrassing knick-knack from a great-aunt you wish was in the attic
The C of E has adopted a “mixed ecology” strategy, in which traditional parishes coexist alongside “fresh expressions” of worship, aimed at drawing in new followers as church attendances continue to decline. New ventures include evangelical church “plants”, often in areas with big student populations, and “messy church” – food and activity-based worship centred around children
It has set a target to establish 10,000 new lay-led churches in the next 10 years. There are about 12,500 parishes in the C of E.
The Rev Dr Alison Milbank, the canon theologian at Southwell Minster, told the campaign launch that the C of E was at “crunch time”. “The C of E has totally capitulated to market values and managerialism … There has been a tendency to view the parish like some inherited embarrassing knick-knack from a great-aunt that you wish was in the attic.”
The Covid pandemic had been used as an opportunity to “expedite further the demise of the traditional church” with “resources being drained from the parish system”, she said
“There are hard decisions to be made during a period of secularisation and atheism, but they should be taken by those who love the C of E. Indeed, even marketing will tell you that you cannot promote a product in which you do not believe.”
The Rev Canon David Male, the C of E’s director of evangelism and discipleship, said: “It is really heartening to see people coming together with a passion and concern for the parish, which is a precious inheritance at the heart of every community in England and the core of the C of E.”
A key part of the church’s strategy was to “revitalise the parishes and churches up and down the country”, he said. “Throughout our history there have always been other forms of churches alongside and within [parishes] – from cathedrals and chapels to fresh expressions and church plants, all of these come from and are part of the parishes. We need them all.”
… we have a small favour to ask.
Unlike many others, Guardian journalism is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality. This way, everyone can keep track of global events, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action.
View on theguardian.comMore On This Story
Church of England accused of stifling debate on race and gender
C of E rejects call to appoint racial justice officers in every diocese
York Minster faces deficit of £2.3m after Covid closures in 2020
C of E investigates possible slave trade origins of £9.2bn fund
C of E bishop backs prosecution of those who defy ‘gay conversion’ ban
Archbishop of Canterbury apologises to abused participants in Christian camps
Tokyo Olympics: Jason Kenny becomes most successful British Olympian; Lauren Price wins boxing gold
Bosses battle over rights and wrongs of ‘no jab, no job’
We’re on the brink of catastrophe, Tory climate chief warns
‘Apocalyptic’ scenes hit as Athens besieged by fire
- About us
- Contact us
- Complaints and corrections
- Work for us
- Privacy settings
- Terms & conditions