God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation

Justin Welby wants to focus on growth – and has City high-flyers on hand to help him do it. Can he take his fractious Church with him?

18 July 2015

9:00 AM

18 July 2015

9:00 AM

A new mood has taken hold of Lambeth Palace. Officials call it urgency; critics say it is panic. The Church of England, the thinking goes, is about to shrink rapidly, even vanish in some areas, unless urgent action is taken. This action, laid out in a flurry of high-level reports, amounts to the biggest institutional shake-up since the 1990s. Red tape is to be cut, processes streamlined, resources optimised. Targets have been set. The Church is ill — and business management is going to cure it.

Reformers say they are only removing obstacles that hinder the Church from growing. Opponents, appalled by the business-speak of some of the reports, object to what they see as a ruthless focus on filling pews.

Two reforms in particular have generated headlines. One is the plan to swipe £100 million from the Church’s investments to pay for more priests (target: a 50 per cent increase in trainee clergy by 2020). The other is to give business-school training to bishops and deans and, more controversially, to identify a ‘talent pool’ of future leaders — in the official language, people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’.

Provoking more anxiety, though, is the emphasis on growth in numbers. Half of the central fund distributed to help poorer dioceses is to be diverted to support thriving projects. The previous system was thought to ‘subsidise decline’. The new approach, to be brought in over ten years, is meant to ‘incentivise… Church growth and innovation and flexibility’.

To many in the Church this feels like new ground. The C of E, they say, should be focused on God, not growth. The Revd Canon Professor Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, says he has received hundreds of emails and letters from people worried by all the talk about ‘efficiency, success, targets and data’. Jesus, he says, ‘didn’t spend a lot of time going about success’.

Such unease is only likely to be heightened by the involvement of high-flying City execs. One report was written by Lord Green, ex-chairman of HSBC; another by John Spence, former chief executive of LloydsTSB Scotland. A third refers to a working session, requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, with executives at Lloyds Bank. (Success, Church officials were told, ‘requires focus, determination, organisation and adequate resourcing’.)

While bankers are among the key architects of the reforms, the fiercest critics have been academics. The idea of a ‘talent pool’ has come under particularly withering attack. The priesthood, says one theologian, is meant to be about service, not self-promotion. The idea of such a pool ‘doesn’t have a theology’.

Welby has tried to calm the backlash. The talent pool, he has argued, is about preparing people for senior posts, rather than dumping responsibility on them at the last minute. And beneath all the horrible jargon, the proposals on leadership mostly look practical. The MBA-type training for bishops and deans is sensible when you consider they run institutions with dozens of staff and turnovers of several million pounds.

John Spence, the ex-Lloyds chief who now chairs the finance committee of the Archbishops’ Council, is central to the reforms. He is regarded as formidably competent — he rose to the top at Lloyds despite going blind in his thirties. Reforming an institution, he says, requires the same kind of thinking whether it’s a charity, a university or a church. ‘Every successful organisation thinks about things in a strategic and disciplined way,’ he says. You decide on your goal, and you organise your resources to achieve it. You might think your organisation is different, he says, but ‘actually, we are all the same — we are all striving for our desired outcome’.

Spence argues that the reforms are not top-down, but merely a response to what dioceses want. ‘The dioceses have all told us they want to grow,’ he says.

For some critics, though, that goal is the heart of the problem. Linda Woodhead, sociology professor at Lancaster University, says an obsession with thriving congregations represents a narrowing of the Church of England’s vision. The vision, she says, is that of Holy Trinity Brompton, the super-successful church in west London. ‘What’s happening is the Alpha-isation of the Church,’ she says. No attention is being paid to those Anglicans who don’t go to church at all. Ignore these people, who still care about the institution and feel part of it, and ‘you can’t remain a national church’, she says.

The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, the straight-talking Bishop of Willesden, gives short shrift to such views. The C of E can no longer rely on being ‘part of the furniture’, he says. ‘If we don’t do something the Church will evaporate from the landscape… The re-evangelisation of England is what we are about.’ David Cameron Anglicans, whose faith flickers like Magic FM in the Chilterns, are not enough.

The Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, Welby’s biographer, says Church growth is the ‘golden thread’ that ties all the reforms together. Welby, he says, wants people to see that decline is ‘not inevitable’. In Africa and China churches are booming. ‘Globally, church growth is normal,’ he says. Welby, he suggests, is ‘very optimistic about turning the Church of England around’.

Yet Atherstone admits that Welby’s tendency to focus on numbers ‘makes some in the C of E nervous’. One Church observer says the reason clergy are panicky about the reforms is that they seem ‘very bottom line — if you can’t get more punters in then you’ve failed’.

Atherstone suggests Welby wants the Church to be more entrepreneurial. The change to dioceses’ funding is intended to encourage that. Instead of the old model of one vicar looking after his medieval parish, the idea is to fund projects that no one has yet tried. Welby, says Atherstone, thinks the Church is too ‘safety-conscious’, smothering start-ups in paperwork.

Critics, on the other hand, say the reforms are merely depressing the workforce. Talented young clergy are ‘in despair’, they say — head office doesn’t seem to grasp what their ministry is really about.

John Spence seems to acknowledge the problem. ‘We need to engage and consult and keep bringing people in,’ he says. But there is no doubt about the strategy. He says that, given the age profile of congregations, decline will continue. ‘We haven’t found a way to halt death,’ he says. He hopes that in a decade more younger people will be going to church and a greater number of congregations will be expanding. To achieve that, he says, ‘We need to light the fires now.’

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  • Arden Forester

    I’m not quite sure what people ‘with exceptional strategic leadership potential for Gospel, Kingdom and Church impact’ will be like but the Sacrament of Holy Order is not the same as a management trainee position. A priest has two main purposes in life. To celebrate the mass and to bring souls to Christ. The latter conforms with the Fifth Word from the Cross as Christ thirsts for souls.

    The Church of England seems today somehow to place the secular in front of the sacred in the hope that the sacred will be boosted. It’s like rewording the Lord’s Prayer to say “Thy Kingdom come…….in Heaven as it is on Earth”.

    • Dominic Stockford

      No mass in the CofE please- as the 39 Articles of the CofE point out it is a “blasphemous deceit and a dangerous heresy”

      • Ken

        A somewhat dated view…. Does anyone in the CoE ever read the 39 Articles? They are a relic of bad times.

        • pobjoy

          ‘They are a relic of bad times.’

          Were they bad because they were not democratic enough, or because they were too democratic?

          ‘Does anyone in the CoE ever read the 39 Articles?’

          Probably more than Catholics read their Catechism.

        • Chingford Man

          I have and they aren’t.

          • Grace Ironwood


        • Dominic Stockford

          The 39 Articles are the official doctrine of the CofE. Those who neither read nor hold to them shouldn’t be in the CofE.

      • teigitur

        Exactly. That’s why it will, in end, fail.

    • pobjoy

      This post is non sequitur, but it does happen to highlight a relevant problem, so it has its use.

      ‘the Sacrament of Holy Order is not the same as a management trainee position’

      The CoE does not regard orders as sacramental, so there is not the same perception of conflict in the CoE. Even the two sacraments Anglicans do recognise are not seen as effectual *means* of grace in the Vatican’s sense, but rather are *signs* of grace; which meaning does not conflict with Scripture. (The poster, as so often with Catholics, is gate-crashing in order to propagandise with gobblegook.)

      ‘A priest has two main purposes in life. To celebrate the mass and to bring souls to Christ.’

      There are two problems with that. ‘Celebrating the Mass’ separates souls from Christ (as the poster knows well). To get up early, skip breakfast and go to Mass is to announce that one is not ‘in Christ’, because Mass is designated a sacrifice to atone for sins committed since the previous Mass. Any who have a priest in the Catholic sense of sacerdos (Forester deliberately confuses pagan ‘sacerdotes’ with Christian elders, i.e presbyters) cannot have a christ. That is why the formal statement of faith of Anglicanism declare Masses to be ‘repugnant’. The salient point is that one cannot preach the gospel of assurance of redemption if one simultaneously preaches that one can never, to one’s dying moment, be sure of one’s redemption. (That’s the principal Catholic gobbledegook; one among many.)

      The other problem for the poster is that the CoE has no priests in the papalist and Orthodox sense. Yet, there are many Anglican presbyters who are very content to be thought of as sacerdotes, which is a problem for Welby. The ‘Anglo-Catholic’ distaste for evangelicalism, that is diametrically opposed to any priesthood other than that of all believers, is the very reason that they became ordained; and the likes of the so-called evangelical Gumbel, of Alpha, are very unlikely to hinder their deception. Indeed they are likely to help conceal it. So Welby and Spence have a deep, systemic problem within the officer class, if they are to finally do as a previous archbishop envisaged in his aim of the conversion of England.

      Paul warned, “Beware of the dogs.” The CoE has to present itself without those dog collars, on parade in the photo, if the UK public is to be convinced of the gospel, because nobody is taken in by those who do not practise what they preach.

      • Arden Forester

        Your reply seems to affirm the strict protestant view of Christianity. This has never permeated the Church of England totally as some would wish. The CofE accepts two sacraments generally. There is no blanket dismissal of all seven sacraments. Some adhere to them. Some vaguely accept sacraments but prefer an ad hoc belief.

        • pobjoy

          ‘Your reply’

          Note the obligatory Catholic ad hom. How things would have been easier for them, had the Blessed Armada landed!

          ‘This has never permeated the Church of England totally as some would wish.’

          Says a member of a cult whose own ‘priests’ have said that transubstantiation is a ‘medieval superstition’. Says a member of a cult whose own syncretisms around the globe boggled the minds of northern Europeans.

          All the faults of Anglicans will not make Forester’s first post intelligent (and the second is hardly an improvement). One cannot preach the gospel of assurance of redemption if one simultaneously preaches that one can never, to one’s dying moment, be sure of one’s redemption.

      • john

        Is this translated from the original Serbo-Croat?

        • pobjoy

          “Beware of the dogs”? It’s not Paul’s warning about loose canines on the streets of old Philippi, honest. It’s metaphorical use, use of the common Jewish term of abuse for Gentiles; but here Paul uses it about Jews who wanted Christians to be circumcised, so that they would become complacent hypocrites, as they were. Hypocrites later used water baptism as substitute for circumcision— even for infants! Nothing like corrupting them young!

          Though water is by no means the only means of acquiring humbug. Religious garb is another one. There are very few human wearers of ‘dog collars’ who do not succumb to the temptation to become self-righteous and intolerant of views other than their own.

          But the Bible is perhaps too ‘strict’ for some Anglicans, as it certainly is for Catholics. So maybe John Spence could introduce a more up-to-date, down-to-earth ‘scripture’ for his new strategy. Clerics could be supplied with the works of Thoreau, whose maxim,

          ‘Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes’

          seems apt enough. Though surely,

          ‘If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see,’

          must be, for these Anglicans, the last, last word.

    • rtj1211

      Part of leadership training involves the evaluation of what you and your staff are doing for its effectiveness.

      In your case, they should ask how effectively they are bringing souls to Christ. In case you haven’t realised, what worked 2000 years ago may need minor or major surgery nowadays.

      I know it might sound horrendous, but if you want to apply business principles to ‘bringing people to Christ’, then you need to measure:
      1. Initial contacts who you have a vague idea might be open to Christianity.
      2. Qualified prospects who have expressed an interest in finding out more.
      3. New converts wishing to learn more about being a Christian entails.
      4. Bible study group participants
      5. Etc etc.

      It’s called a ‘sales pipeline’ in business, an R+D funnel in pharmaceutical companies and it basically provides you with a structure for measuring how you are getting on in ‘sales’ terms. If you build databases on an ongoing basis, you will learn fairly quickly what the churn rates are between each stage. Then you can ask whether you can improve on those churn rates through better performance or whether you have reached the natural limits of the system itself. There’s no right answer, only something which is discovered through experience….

      That’s not all of it of course. Selling Christianity brilliantly isn’t much good if you are poor at delivering christian life to your established congregation also.

      You can start to address that sort of thing through ‘customer surveys’, usually on an annual basis. It doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes to fill out and nowadays most of it can be done online. You might like to ask whether services are preferred by older people and whether a more experimental approach might be tried in a fortnightly service targeting the U35s. You might ask whether Christianity is accessible and fulfilling for children nowadays, given the ways you go about it and, if not, whether radical change is necessary to make it more children-friendly. I”m not totally convinced that the issues Jesus had to face up to in the months leading up to his death in his early-to-mid 30s are really appropriate matters to challenge 8 year old minds with. It’s about the balance between ethics and the acquisition of power. Jesus could have become very rich but his principles brought him into conflict with the powers of the day. The rest is history, as they say. As 9 year olds have never worked, earned money and come across corrupt power, do you really think they should be grappling with all that??

      Then you ask whether you are using your church premises most effectively. Are you ‘sweating the assets’ by, say, hosting childcare/creches if you appropriate facilities; providing a meeting point for the over 65s; hosting various local organisations in church halls; etc etc. Facilities management is a well known business function.

      Then you have capital budgeting issues. Will the church need repairs, renovations etc? Are you organising timely appeals and if so, how well are you doing it? Do you have any congregational members who might leave a legacy to the church? If so, have you built them into your projected revenue streams going forward? Charities are very good at this sort of thing………

      What about if you are sitting on very valuable land but possess a crumbling building? How do you decide whether to realise value from selling the land and building a new church from the proceeds at a new site, or whether that would be sacreligous to the community??

      There’s probably plenty more, but it doesn’t take too much thought to see how you can apply business principles to ‘bringing souls to Christ’.

  • Dominic Stockford

    “The MBA-type training for bishops and deans is sensible when you consider they run institutions with dozens of staff and turnovers of several million pounds.”

    That is the problem, they shouldn’t be, they should be preaching the Gospel, standing up for the Gospel and getting on with supporting others who are preaching the Gospel.

    • rtj1211

      I thought folks here were contemptuous of the Labour Party for preaching socialism without attending to balancing budgets.

      Why should you suddenly think that what is terrible for the Labour Party is perfect for the CoE??

      Slightly schizophrenic attitude isn’t it??

      • Dominic Stockford

        The churches job is to preach the Gospel, the Labour parties job is to try to govern a country. Apples and pears – your argument is piffle.

        • Joseph M

          Why shouldn’t the Lord be concerned about how his servants spend the widows mite.

    • Quest for Liberty

      It is the job of Christians to envangelise, and Welby is attempting to do that to some degree by reviving a dying institution. It will be very sad to see the CofE dwindle into oblivion.

  • Chingford Man

    My church preaches Biblical Christianity and leaves the question of growth to the Holy Spirit.

    • Grace Ironwood

      Does it defer to post-christianity & the precepts of the sexual revolution on points of doctrine?

      • Chingford Man

        Absolutely not.

        • Grace Ironwood

          Good for you.
          We have a Catholic Bishop currently being sued in the anti-discrimination quango for writing a pastoral letter on Christian Marriage to the parents of Catholic Schoolchildren.

          • Quest for Liberty

            WHAT? ON WHAT GROUNDS?

          • Grace Ironwood

            Discrimination an hate speech against homosexuals. The end game here is “discrimination” rights triumph over freedom of conscience. There will be vigorous punishment of any support of natural marriage – even in the country which has a bill of rights and polity based on such freedom.

            I note that since the Supreme Court decision & the many episodes of frenzied hatred and bullying, people are starting to realise this is
            the practical corollary of gay marriage. Support for gay marriage has started to diminish.

            Tasmanian Bishop, to help you look it up.

          • Quest for Liberty

            Is that in the USA?

          • Grace Ironwood

            Hi there,
            No, Australia where we don’t even have gay marriage.
            The principle applies all over the west: strategist-activists have conceived of the issue as a zero-sum between the sexual revolution and religion.
            You in the USA have your enumerated rights in the Constitution.
            So far doesn’t seem to be doing very well to protect the founding an explicit right to belief against a newly implied “constitutional right” to gay marriage.

          • Quest for Liberty

            I live in the UK but I’ll say the US Constitution has either permitted the US government to become what it is or has been ineffective in the prevention. Rights are not based on ink inprints, but rather are natural, we are born with them (endowed by God, if you will) — for us to pretend that our rights are restricted to and are limited by shapes on paper is folly and the path to their erosion.

            The idea that rights can simply be created will bring tyranny from those who strive, believing they are holy and paying little time to consider possible ill consequences, for ‘social justice’.

  • john

    CofE is over! It exists only as pretty buildings and some ritual events. The punters have long since detected the smell of death about the institution.

    • teigitur

      Being a man-made institution, it was always doomed to failure. Soooner or later.

      • pobjoy

        Man-made institutions can last well enough, if they are evil enough.

        • teigitur

          I would not call the C of E evil..Just misguided.

          • pobjoy

            But you live in a pompous dream world, a world which ends at your own skin, and its comforts. For you, truth is matter of your own pleasures and whims, and **** everyone else. Not that you are alone, by any means. But you will be, all of you, because that is what your sort really want.

            But the poster agrees that the longevity of the Vatican is no argument for its legitimacy, and that its survival is likely to be due as much to evil influences as good ones. Though the poster knows that there has never been good inspiration behind his cult. From hard experience, he is fully aware that he is incapable of demonstrating that he bears any link with the apostolic church, which incapacity is guarantee that his outfit is man-made, if not demonic in its origin. As if its historic notoriety leaves any doubt!

            The CoE is, or at least was, intended for a condition of intelligence and education far superior to that of the Catholic posters here, and superior to the education of many of most other posters, too. The CoE is not recognisable as an apostolic church, dear reader, have no doubt about that, simply because it is a volkskirche, a national church; but at least it does not make the self-destructively criminal claims that the Vatican did, and still does. The CoE makes no claim to apostolic succession, and never did. It does not even claim that diocesan episcopacy is necessary (and the smartest move for Welby may be to democratise, or at least presbyterise the CoE). But to claim to be legitimate through what has not been proved, and cannot be proved, is to make one’s deity a nincompoop, at best, otherwise ‘the god of this world’. So the intelligence of the CoE is not stunning, but it is way beyond what honest Catholics can understand.

          • teigitur

            There is so much tosh in your post that one would lose the will to live taking it apart. Suffice to say, perhaps you should leave off the Gin until a little later in the evening

          • pobjoy

            ‘There is so much tosh in your post that one would lose the will to live taking it apart.’

            Timorous teigitur is aware that there is only *one* substantive issue for him to deal with, apostolic succession. He knows far better than to cross swords about that.

          • teigitur

            There is no issue there. The RCC has it. No other Church has it. Certainly not the one started on the nether regions of a murderous King.

          • pobjoy

            ‘The RCC has it.’

            Were that so, you would have demonstrated why it is so; and you’d have done it without another post from me, too. But it’s hogwash. *And* you are trespassing here.

            You don’t want to be told what to do, that’s why. If you conceded the truth, you would leave yourself open to the requirements of Christ, who, according to irritating Anglicans, demands your life, your soul, your all. You don’t want to be told that you are bought with a price. You want to do as you and your fat, indolent, impure, slobbish self wants to do; there is no evil that a fat cardinal has not committed, with impunity, so you have carte blanche, in the Great Evil Cult. That is, unless you are a very atypical Catholic who can spell properly, that is.

            Other Catholics, less advantaged, are so thin, aren’t they? There’s a tricky job for your nice egalitarian socialist Señor Bergoglio, eh? 🙂

            ‘Certainly not the one started on the nether regions of a murderous King.’

            Constantine was an emperor, as was Theodosius. Have some respect.

            Oh, you mean Henry. Your very own Henry, who, to his dying day, would not permit any subject to criticise Mass, Confession, Veneration of ‘Mary’, Veneration of any old bones, the whole rigmarole of papism, of which he was the unquestioned pope, unlike yours. You’d have loved him. You’d have viewed his nether regions from a position of complete submission, because he would have saved you from irritating demands for your life, your soul, your all. Henry was a clever dude, and he took no crap, even if he dispensed it by the cartload. He well knew that ‘succession’ was king-size crap, and that the Vatican’s popes were pathetic stooges of people just like him. He’d get no divine come-back on that.

            Talking of divine come-back, you do realise, don’t you, that you will suffer each one of every one of the experiences of those persecuted by your criminous cult, to date? You don’t get an easy life for nothing, y’know.

          • Grace Ironwood

            You demonstrate that sectarianism still going well, even if Anglicanism isn’t 🙂

          • pobjoy

            Try to find an atheist who does not take sides with those lovely instigators of inquisitions, against those the inquisitions burned alive.

          • Grace Ironwood

            There was indeed a fair amount of burning back and forth.
            The last around 1820 in South America, I read.

          • pobjoy

            ‘There was indeed a fair amount of burning back and forth.’

            These cannot have involved Christians, unless as victims, because Christians have ‘contributed to the ethics of our societies’.

    • amicus

      My local church is doing pretty well.

      • john

        I doubt your local church is really doing that well. But the CofE is a useful social service in a few places.

        • amicus

          Our membership has been increasing for several years.

          • john

            Ok. But I think the tide has turned and the CofE has nowhere to go but down.

        • Quest for Liberty

          There was no local church in my area, then one opened a few year and has grown to about 50 members. While that may not seem much, it seems that with more outreach, there is hope still.

          • john

            Definitely counter trend. In most areas of the UK, the CofE church has been there for centuries and congegations have fallen to about 50.

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    • Richard

      John – you are so right.
      The CoE is dead. It jumped on every PC bandwagon that passed by – and its diminishing band of followers finally gave up all hope. Death by suicide.
      Not to worry though, there will be a mosque opening up in your town soon.

      • john

        I’m hoping it will be a science centre.

      • Grace Ironwood

        Sad to say there are now post-Christian churches: they value the truth claims of say, the sociology of history more highly than scripture which gets tossed out when it conflicts with post-Christianity.

  • john

    Didn’t God send down a family member to sort religion out a few centuries ago? Didn’t work too well.

    • pobjoy

      Worked so well, the poster had to fib about it.

  • Sandra

    Jesus had a talent pool – his disciples – just look what they achieved! Of course the church needs a talent pool – just don’t expect those in it all to look like MBA graduates or investment bankers! God has a habit of choosing the unexpected to lead his work.

    • Dominic Stockford

      They acheived nothing, the Holy Spirit acheived much through them.

  • Grace Ironwood

    The best thing they could do for the church is to revert to being Christians.

    • pobjoy

      The poster is deceitfully trying to imply that papists are Christians. Not a Christian thing to do.

      • Grace Ironwood

        “the poster” — you talkin’ to me?
        I’m an atheist! Who, like many people, regard the Anglican Church as having been hollowed out by modernity. This desiccated institution will not be recovered as a living religion until it recognises its predicament.

        • pobjoy

          Ah. So there is such a thing as Christianity, and Christ. An atheist is one who does not believe that religion can be ‘living’; so the poster is not one of them.

          • Grace Ironwood

            You’re slippin’ and sliding into substituting your own opinions for commonly accepted definitions. It’s a lazy mistake. You need to make an actual argument & if possible (not in this case) adduce some evidence to support your bare assertion of belief into a convincing argument.
            Specifically your “mistake” is as follows. A-theist: non-theist (theists believe there is a god, not necessarily one of any particular religion) A dictionary can help you into a more correct understanding of the word that (presumably) describes your own belief system,
            I, as an atheist – and please don’t tell me what I believe, you seem to have a faulty understanding of what YOU believe – can recognise and distinguish living religions (eg Islam) from dead ones (the Anglicans) Nothing to do with my personal lack of belief & more to do with empiricism and reason, comparing these institutions today.
            The Anglicans that are still formally a church, are in fact post-Christian modernists, like many of us: they prefer the truth claims of historical relativism & sociology to those of scripture.
            The Anglicans are dead and will continue to decay however many zealous MBA’s they deploy.

          • pobjoy

            If atheism is the condition of there being no deity, it may not apply, because proof of atheism is impossible to provide. Ergo, the condition of believing that there is no deity is private, and public claims that there is no deity must be under suspicion of a desire for belief that there is no deity, presumably in order to relive guilty consciences, or to encourage reckless or unlawful behaviour, the condition known historically as ‘godlessness’. Ergo, a claim for atheism is almost certainly a claim for unwilling theism.

          • Grace Ironwood

            You mean atheism is a belief ?
            — I agree.

          • pobjoy

            ‘You mean atheism is a belief ?’

            A belief in Jesus as Christ. A reluctant belief of same.

            ‘– I agree.’

            That’s settled, then.

          • Grace Ironwood

            My goodness, are you a Jesuit?
            (please, don’t answer)

          • pobjoy

            ‘My goodness’

            There seems to be diminishing reason to suppose that there is any of it.

            ‘are you a Jesuit?’

            Grace cannot be one, because she ties herself in knots too easily!

          • Grace Ironwood

            Simply – there is a distinction between recognising the existence of a thing and sharing its beliefs. One can also comment on the health of a religion without believing. I believe both Shia & Sunni exist and so I can talk about them- it doesn’t mean I am a Shia and a Sunni.
            Richard Dawkins’s – happily- still feels free (just) to talk about religions without us taking it that he has joined up.

            Perhaps you are so fired up with your emotions about believers that
            you can no longer think straight ??

          • pobjoy

            ‘Simply – there is a distinction between recognising the existence of a thing and sharing its beliefs.’

            That’s not simply; it’s evasively. It’s distinguishing between ‘living’ and ‘desiccated’ that betrays faith.

          • Grace Ironwood

            Recognition and analysis of the relative health of a a belief system does not imply sharing its belief . I’m sorry- your argument doesn’t work and you are mistaken about this at a conceptual level. Repetition makes it no stronger.

          • pobjoy

            ‘Recognition and analysis of the relative health of a a belief system does not imply sharing its belief .’

            It does if the analysis is that of a supposed atheist, and it leads to the view that a faith organisation is ‘hollowed out’. Only believers can take that view, so the poster has betrayed reluctant faith by rejoicing in the apparent incipient failure of a Protestant organisation that she believes has the potential to shame her, a potential that Catholicism and Islam do not share.

            So the poster seemingly prefers the thuggery of two violent religions opposed to Christ, to democracy.


          • Grace Ironwood

            “Only believers can take that view”

            You are full of faulty syllogisms, pobjoy.

            I’m an atheist but I take no joy in the demise of the Churches in the advanced West, honestly. Atheists can most certainly have a view on Church politics.

            The most that could be said is I am a Cultural Christian and don’t have the violent adolescent hostility to Christianity & Christians that seems to characterise many atheists. I appreciate the extent to which Christianity has contributed to the ethics of our societies.

            With the demise of the Christian respect for human life we can look to Holland’s progressive Euthanasia and see the post-christian future.

          • pobjoy

            ‘You are full of faulty syllogisms, pobjoy.’

            Then would you be kind enough to point out one of them, Grace?

            ‘I’m an atheist but I take no joy in the demise of the Churches in the advanced West, honestly.’

            That is no syllogism, but has appearance of litotes. Is it to be understood that Grace in some way regrets ‘the demise of the Churches’? Even without the capitalisation of ‘churches’, it seems so. Why would an atheist, on such a subject, have a care?

            ‘I appreciate the extent to which Christianity has contributed to the ethics of our societies.’

            How can this be a reason? The constant cry of atheism is that no religious faith has established ethical or moral values. And no religion claims to have done so. Religions claim to be effectual means of satisfying ethical and moral standards that had objective reality before they existed. Religions are reactive, not causative, iow.

            If Grace is saying that Christians have been effectual in that respect, is it not reasonable to ask if Christian motivation is based on some perceived expression of reality? Else, whence comes its motivation?

  • polistra24

    If Welby paid attention to ACTUAL numbers he’d know that focusing on God is the best way to focus on Growth. That’s why evangelical churches and Islam are growing.

    Serious Christians have abandoned Anglicanism because money-changers have taken control of the temple. Bringing in more money-changers will only make it worse.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Islam are growing because people would rather live a lie than be slaughtered. Evangelical churches are not growing, some are getting smaller, and the majority are ‘holding their own’, and a few getting larger. Pentecostal and the ‘Black Majority’ churches might be growing, but they aren’t evangelical.

    • Frank

      I don’t know about the money-changers, but do agree that the COE has lost sight of its religious core (and I don’t mean the alpha course happy clappy folk). Welby looks good, but appears vacant and lost. In the old days, he would be posted to some remote South American region so that a better brain could be appointed.

    • Grace Ironwood

      It is a new belief-system derived from the sexual revolution that has taken control of the temple, not money-changers.

      The new religion will brook no dispute and has already started its own inquisition and burnings.

  • John Thomas

    “Anglicans who don’t go to church at all” … er … is there/could there be, any Christians who don’t go to church at all (Anglican or otherwise)?

    • pobjoy

      The reference is to those who consider themselves Anglicans in sympathies, but are put off attendance by the very attempts that Anglicans have made, in the past half-century, to attract membership: bishops who don’t believe in resurrection, clerics who tolerate homosexuality, if they were not actually homosexuals, ‘trendy vicars’ playing guitars, Alpha, the current idea; or should that be cult.

      Alpha attracts a sort of yuppie, one who claim to be evangelical while allowing few if any Christian principles to impinge on lifestyle. That has only a limited constituency. Among the would-be-Anglicans it’s too enthusiastic (and Christians recognise it for what it is, and go elsewhere, as they have done with the other changes).

      So the would-be-Anglican is not interested in any of those things, and would probably still be attending, had the CoE stuck with the old Prayer Book, singing from ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’, and a sermon that neither explored zany populist notions, nor got too challenging. It seems as though the CoE has deliberately driven out its old clientele, in order to bring in new, less conscientious, certainly less Christian, customers; and it has ended up without either.

    • Dominic Stockford

      I agree with your query – no true Christian could last for long without giving in to the pull to follow God’s direction and join with others in a church.

      • pobjoy

        How strong is that pull? Is a church a body that meets for 40 minutes in every 10,080 (0.4% of the time), minutes in which not one word may be said or sung that is not printed out in advance?

      • pobjoy

        Note that the above post ended at the first paragraph, and has now been altered, presumably in disingenuous and timorous response to another post.

        The reference to ‘Lord’s Day’ is pagan.

      • Dominic Stockford

        The New Testament clearly directs us to meet together on the Lord’s Day.

        Further, it makes it clear that they did so following the liturgical pattern of Judaism. Frequently in synagogues, until they were barred from them.

        Early Christian practice as laid out in the Bible is there for a reason. As an example to follow.

        • pobjoy

          ‘The New Testament clearly directs us to meet together.’

          No Christian uses that pronoun in that context.

          ‘Further, it makes it clear that they did so following the liturgical pattern of Judaism.’

          Liturgy? Where does that word occur in the Bible?

          ‘Frequently in synagogues, until they were barred from them.’

          Using the posts of others against them is a sign of demon possession.

  • pobjoy

    Catholicism is invasive by nature.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Bp Broadbent is mistaken – re-evangelising the UK will finish off the CofE.

  • Precambrian

    The role of priests is to be shepherd, not bean count. Hire administrators to do the paperwork and get on with what you are supposed to be doing (even if, increasingly, people just are not interested).

    • pobjoy

      ‘what you are supposed to be doing’

      The presbyter, or elder, is to set a good moral example; must be able to teach from the whole Bible; must ‘encourage others by sound doctrine, and refute those who oppose it’.

      How many remaining Anglicans want that? Because most who wanted it left, a long time ago.

  • Andrew Smith

    Perhaps they should focus on what message they are giving out. Then more would come / return.

  • NBeale

    Welby is extremely impressive. Watch the CofE grow under his leadership.

    • Frank

      I take it that you are being sarcastic!

  • flyingvic

    HSBC and LloydsTSB? Could the Archbishop not find banking high-flyers who represented honesty as well as success? Or is that a contradiction in terms for bankers?

    • pobjoy

      Well, quite. In an uncertain world, one can trust a banker to be untrustworthy. Though perhaps Welby did not have to search; perhaps he got a ‘phone call, or just a hint over lunch. Perhaps this is a move intended to do as much for the reputation of bankers as for the survival of the CoE. ‘God knows’, they both need it. Though the CoE does have considerable banking interests, and there are wider political concerns, also.

      So let’s wait and see. To quote the apostle, ‘Judge nothing before the time.’

  • Simon Morgan

    I sometimes put the Spectator down in disappointment – but not this week! This is a magnificent article which has set me up for the weekend wit the presumably spoof sociology professor who comes up with the magnificent line: “No attention is being paid to those Anglicans who don’t go to church at all.” Brilliant! It has had me rolling in the aisles, as I try to conceive of one good argument for maintaining the church status quo on behalf of people who never come to it.
    Then a dreadful thought hit me: how do we know these people are really Anglicans? What if we are designing a church to meet their needs (albeit in absentia) and they are really non-attending Baptists or Roman Catholics – and we never knew? All that work wasted.
    It was only when I had thought it through a bit further that I realised the flaw in my argument: there isn’t any work. The whole point is that we are busy doing nothing for the benefit of these non-attending masses, rather than doing something for the people who do however faithfully play a part in the church.
    It was Archbishop William Temple who famously said “Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members” – but I don’t think he had this in mind!

    • pobjoy

      ‘rather than doing something for the people who do however faithfully play a part in the church’

      Faithful, but dwindling, succumbing to mortality. That’s why taking £100 million out of investment seems sensible, if there’s no future for it as investment. Whether allocating such a sum to more clergy is the answer is doubtful; people have left Anglicanism precisely because a cleric is a confounded obstacle to spiritual growth, discernment and contentment.

      In the apostolic church, there was no laity, because anyone could become a leader, and stop being a leader, for one reason or another, just as one can become hon. sec. of an allotment society, and resign after a few years. It would not require £100 million to get a similar result in the CoE. The apostolic church did not have £100 million. Despite having full title, it was thrown out of the synagogues (including the one built by the Roman soldier who ‘amazed’ Jesus by his faith, the only person ever to do so). So the church met in the homes of its members.

      And it still does, arguably. Folk can meet in their front rooms, sing, open Bibles, read, learn, discuss, pray, inwardly digest, while opening the digestives and drinking tea or coffee. No busybody clerics to interfere, to arrange the chairs facing in one direction, to hog ‘the stage’. Not even £100 needed to do that. That’s the CoE’s competition.

  • Frank

    Welby really does come across as clueless, this report seems to confirm it.
    Any institution requiring guidance from Lord Green is in deep trouble.
    As for the concept of making men of religion into MBA types, this is so patently absurd that one wonders what has got into the Church (aside from the issue that Lloyds Bank is hardly at the cutting edge of anything). At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, if you need proper business management, then you hire business managers; but you leave the Bishops to look after the religious side – this, after all, is the area where the COE has come apart, as a provider of religious guidance, it doesn’t know whether it is Martha, or Arthur.

  • sir_graphus

    Evangelical churches have shown that churches can grow if the effort is put in. All those moaning are people who have presided or watched decline. Their moans are rather pathetic, to be honest. Any clergyman who moans about increasing congregation sizes ought to resign. Decline is not compulsory, though the UK church and the country has got rather used to it. Christianity is growing, worldwide, and there is no reason why it must decline in this country.

  • salt_peter

    These C of E bishops are a waste of space. This is the long predicted result of supinely allowing oddball alleged RE teaching in schools, nothing else.

    It was obvious some time ago that they should have enforced the indoctrination of children in schools into the Anglican faith with or without the consent of their parents, or eventually lose the church and their sinecures in Britain. The penny has dropped at last, but it’s probably too late to start now.

    It hasn’t been happening for so long that now even the parents of today’s children don’t understand what the church is banging on about. That is why the Lord’s Prayer must now be printed in orders of services at weddings and funerals. Only the old folk were taught it as children.

    The UK congregation is literally dying out. I would give it a decade at the most. Only where there is a faith school that can blackmail parents into pretending to be religious in order to secure places in it for their offspring are the churches well attended. But that is an indictment of state education, not approbation of faith schools.

    It’s the schoolchildren or die, C of E. There is no other way. But you’ve probably left it too late. Maybe the investment in management training will mean that your clergy may be employable once they are redundant.

    • Kaine

      I’m under 30 and know the Lord’s Prayer, a bunch of hymns, some selected verses…

      None of it has encouraged be in any way to be a believer. I thought it was nonsense in primary school.

      • pobjoy

        ‘I’m under 30 and know the Lord’s Prayer’

        You are deceived. The prayer that is given that name became redundant when Jesus died. Christians don’t use it, or any other prayer that is learned by rote, encouraging inurement.

        Maybe primary school was not so bad?

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          How about the rap version, man?

          • pobjoy

            Satan is even more desperate than I thought.

      • littleted

        As a result of your early learning, if you change your mind, you will find it simpler to return to worshipping in a church congregation in the Church that instructed you than if you had not received it.

        In England, adults who wish to start worshipping but who did not receive an induction into Anglican rites and procedures will probably be put off by the rigid C of E service structure, which evolved from from the Roman Catholics. Such people, I suspect, would prefer simpler happy-clappy rites.

        The problem for the C of E, therefore, is that their church service rituals put off the uninitiated would-be new worshipper, but if they lower the service towards happy-clappy then they will lose their existing flock and end up with empty churches even sooner than otherwise..

        As SP said, the solution is to restore the indoctrination of schoolchildren into the Anglican faith and wait for them to mature, except that they have left it rather too late.

  • Sten vs Bren

    Cut the BBC and grow the C of E?

    No, that’s ar*e about face.

    • Game Bird

      Someone has already tried to say fascists are national socialists on the other thread.
      See what I mean….

  • WTF

    More like a pact with the devil getting into bed with the banking pimps. The only growth they know is in inventing all manner of quasi legal scams to rip us off !

  • Grace Ironwood

    You mean atheism is a belief ?
    I agree.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Hey, you’re back, I was beginning to think you’d taken my advice.

      • Grace Ironwood

        Hey, you’re talking to me again. Perhaps you’ve finally recovered from last time. You really don’t have any sense in your smiley head, do you.

  • teepee

    My other half sits on a CofE PCC and despairs at the unintelligible reams the local Diocese sends to parishes. The latest wave is about some mooted financial restructuring and refers to ‘worship units’.

  • Robertjturley

    Some Different Ways of on-p-e-c-a-t-o-

  • Adam

    To anyone gloating that the Church of England is dying, please do try to remember, the vast majority of people cannot think critically and seek to belong to a powerful confident cultural force that gives them the answers to the big questions.

    Secular science and philosophy does not currently offer this (although I think it could) primarily because it is fundamentally materialistic and denies the sacred, denies reverence, and in the end even denies consciousness as a means to explain the individual perceiver/spirit.

    So where will these unthinking sheep flock off to as they seek spiritual leadership?
    That’s right, Islam, the fastest growing religion.

    I urge you all atheists especially (of which I more or less am one), don’t be fools. We (society) needs religion.

    The dominant cultures in the west, science and religion, need to come together, with science supplying the how, and religion supplying the heart, of God’s/The Universe’s creation/wonder.

  • AugustLudwig

    From Cranmer through 1992, Anglican “genius” was represented in a formulaic, two-fold structure: an enlightened, even free-thinking Intellectualism fostered at its seminaries and across its assoerted conferences, and then “revealed” in its pulpits; and a largely conservative approach to delivering an artful and elaborately contrived liturgy/spectacle. The result was a “Communion” worldwide characterised by its unique “breadth and depth,” not to mention long-respected-if-discreet role as a “Pillar of State”.

    Inclusivism is at odds with this formula, and as an unbending rubric at every chapter, verse and line it has undermined and discouraged what little is left of the “Anglican Genius” and its traditions. Anglicanism is now about musical programmes and LibDemLab chattering classes.

    Discussions of and strategies to expand its base in China and Africa are de facto colonialism, as neither of these two spheres are fertile fields for recovering the Church’s squandered Intellectual Capital.

    Social times have changed dramatically since 1992–to wit the arrival of Consultancies and the Big Four, not to mention Global Security firms–and that Old Anglican Magic will unlikely recover. The Catholics in the “breadth and depth” are better served by the reviving Roman Communion of Francis.

    • AugustLudwig

      Free thinkers have moved on and our children have forgotten their (feminiseded) catechisms. The Church still appeals to daughters thinking to marriage and their mothers to our funerals. Sad on both counts.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    It’s amazing how many gullible Muppets still buy into that violent religious superstition. A comforting myth for the weak-minded that can’t handle mortality. When you draw your last breath it’s “Game Over”. No glorious after life where you meet up with your friends and relatives. Now that really is a vision of Hell.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

  • Cornelius

    When Jesus said to Peter, you are rock and upon this rock I will built my church…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will be with you till the end of time. He wasn’t referring to the “by law established” CofE which has certainly come to the end of its run, but to the true universal church of which there is only one.