Where is the love? The Church needs to go back to basics
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord George Carey's widely reported prediction that Christianity is in danger of becoming extinct in the UK within a generation is a timely warning.
The Church's reported response - that the Synod voted to set up a committee - sums up exactly where it is failing the people who need it the most.
The message of Jesus is being stifled in a melee of red tape, bureaucracy and Church in-fighting. The only way to recapture what is rapidly being lost is by going back to basics.
God is Love: Jesus gave us two fundamental commandments; love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Only we know as individuals if we truly obey the first one but it will be apparent through our actions whether or not we are following the second.
God is love. To get back on track Christianity in the UK needs to focus on Jesus. The Church is manmade and is therefore vulnerable to the errors its members will inevitably make. It is the message of Jesus that society as a whole desperately needs.
From an outsider's perspective, there are three stand-out areas where the Church is seemingly outdated and out of touch:-
Hierarchy: A hierarchy and 'class' system still prevails within the Church. Many priests will not allow members of the congregation to take communion unless they have been confirmed. This perpetuates the sense of 'them and us' and of those on the outside 'not being good enough'.
Discrimination: We are all equal in the sight of the God but the Church of England often fails to act on this principle. As an 'employer' it sadly falls short of the Equal Opportunities Act. For many it is dominated by middle class white males and until this begins to change its appeal will continue to decline.
Wealth: The Church of England possesses assets in excess of £4bn. The people who pay for the upkeep of vast graveyards and crumbling church buildings, however, are the local parishioners. These congregations often comprise working families and elderly people who struggle to make ends meet. At the same time Church leaders live in palaces. That again, seems to be an anomaly.
There are no easy answers to any of these questions, especially when the Church is intertwined with the State, yet they need to be asked.
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Where would Jesus be today?
Jesus was drawn to society's outcasts of the day; women, tax collectors, prostitutes - those who needed God's love the most yet failed to find it within the traditional religious institutions. He transcends the boundaries of gender, sexual orientation, race and social class.
Today I believe he would be among the drug addicts, the homeless and those rejected by society.
He would make it clear that there is a place at God's table for everybody – today.
Dare I say it but perhaps he would be overturning the tables as the Synod voted to set up a Committee to respond to George Carey's comments.
It's not too late
It's not too late to go back to basics. It's not too late for the Church hierarchy to show that they are in touch with the people, but time is running out to turn this 'juggernaut' around. In the 2001 census 72% of the population called themselves Christians. In 2011 that dropped dramatically to 59%. Where will it be in 2021 if the Church does not act?
God is love. Perhaps today we would all benefit from reading the Beatitudes to remind ourselves of where his heart lies.
If the Church of England fails to react decisively, George Carey's ominous prediction may well be proven right.