Friday, January 16, 2009

What's Wrong with the Church of England? God Shaped Misson revisited

Following on from yesterday, in God Shaped Mission, Alan Smith has a useful section outlining the various diagnoses of the ills of the CofE, and what should be done to put them right. He identifies 4 broad medical schools: (sorry this is in pseudo-note form!)

a) Truth: Communication is key to renewal, the apologetic task of showing that faith is credible and relevant, and the teaching task of equipping the saints and teaching the gospel. E.g. Alister McGrath, Proclamation Trust etc. – preaching is the answer. Also liberal apologists who try to put faith in modern terms (Jenkins, Cupitt). They share a conviction that truth is vital to renewal.

b) Spirituality: concern with peoples religious experience, or lack of it. Using courses to bring people to faith (Alpha, Emmaus) belonging before believing, retreats and spiritual exercises, charismatic renewal – experience of God vital to conversion. Spiritual renewal is key.

c) Organisation – e.g. Bob Jackson: advocates of strategic change. Also the church planting movement, and moves to reform church structures. For some the organisational problem is exclusion: women, gays, blacks, etc. Or its ecumenical division, or the need for clergy to do things differently – e.g. more pastoral work ‘a housegoing parson makes a churchgoing people’ etc. This would probably include Mission Action Planning too.

d) Culture: Mission Shaped Church argues that churches express worship and mission in cultural forms. Common Worship is an attempt to respond to cultural change. Liturgical renewal, lively music, prayer book society etc. are all dealing with cultural questions, some arguing for change and relevance, others for the preservation of a supposedly pure/ideal culture from a previous age.

Smith argues that the truth is probably in the intersection of all 4. But you might disagree....


  1. The best source on this for me has been William Abraham’s Logic of Renewal, which is slightly more orientated on theologians, but triangulates well with my new next door neighbour's wisdom.

  2. These are great posts, David - thanks.

  3. The real problem is that kids reject the stories in lessons on religion. These lessons concentrate on the Old Testament whilst most Christians believe in the New Testament and the commandments. Kids should be taught this as the Christian message: the Christian manifesto. Not stories from Genesis (they collect fossils and play with dinosaurs for goodness sake!).

    Kids are also taken in by materialism in science lessons. They can reason that if everything is dues to stuff moving from place to place there is no room for a "soul". This argument is easily dispatched, see The nature of the soul.

    Your ideas above are interesting but without the basic belief that Christianity is worthwhile and spirituality is legitimate they won't work.