Bishop: C of E 'unlikely to survive and needs radical reform'

By staff writers
June 29, 2009

In the face of attempts by many in the Church of England to talk up its health, a senior figure has said that the Church is unlikely to survive for more than 30 years.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Rt Rev Paul Richardson, a suffragan bishop and assistant Bishop of Newcastle, predicted more closures of buildings as the church "battles to meet a big pension bill, pay clergy, and maintain a large bureaucracy."

In a similar critique to that which has previously come from religious groups outside the Church of England, including the thinktank Ekklesia, he said bishops were showing "little sign of understanding the situation", and "preferred to turn their heads", failing to understand contemporary culture.

He also called for senior bishops to voluntarily remove themselves from the House of Lords before they were forced out.

“Annual decline in Sunday attendance is running at around one per cent. At this rate it is hard to see the church surviving for more than 30 years though few of its leaders are prepared to face that possibility” he wrote.

“The church is being hit by a double whammy” he continued.

“On the one hand it confronts the challenge of institutional decline but on the other hand it has to face the rise of cultural and religious pluralism in Britain.

“How it responds to the second challenge will be crucial in determining whether it will be able to survive as a viable organisation and make a contribution to national life.

“At present church leaders show little signs of understanding the situation. They don't understand the culture we now live in.

“Many bishops prefer to turn their heads, to carry on as if nothing has changed, rather than face the reality that Britain is no longer a Christian nation.”

The bishop also called for a move towards disestablishment of the Church of England.

“Rather than try to cling on to their places in the House of Lords, they [the bishops] should take the initiative by withdrawing, which would show that they appreciate Christian Britain is dead.”

“The reason offered for upholding establishment is usually that it gives the church a sense of responsibility to the whole nation. In practice it often looks as if the church is really trying to keep its special privileges on false pretences.”

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