In the face of declining congregations, the Church of England must adopt a new progressive outlook if it is to survive, warns David John Keighley
The ringing in the ears of the Church of England is not the sound of church bells tolling for Evensong, but its own death knell. The pandemic has hastened the need for drastic change, and renewal is essential if anything of the Church is to be left for the next generation.
Faced with devastating bureaucracy, mismanagement, forced clerical redundancies, decline in congregations, a plunge in its finances, decades of failed initiatives, and an undistinguished leadership, there is little to be hopeful about.
If this continues then the Church will run out of congregations by 2067, ending a run of 533 years as the Ecclesia Anglicana. The Church should be reinvigorated with a new theology, a new progressive liturgy, and an emphasis on acceptance, universal love, and provision for investing in community projects. If it does not change, it will fade into obscurity and die.
A renewed theology
My new book of progressive Christian poems, Poems, Piety, and Psyche: Progressive Poems for Rebellious Christians is my contribution to a renewed theology for the changing face of tomorrow’s Church. A belief system that is unbelievable to a scientifically-educated population — based on ancient, unintelligible creeds and out-dated concepts — can no longer remain the foundation of Christianity. My poems challenge this out-dated, literal dogmatic position in order to disclose truths still valid today. Traditional faith is dying. Traditional supernatural theism is dead.
Poems, Piety, and Psyche reclaims the original gospel message and takes readers on a challenging journey to the heart of what it is to be truly Christian, always remembering that the gospels were written as theology and not, as usually assumed, history. Only by taking aboard a progressive theology can the Church hope to recover its relevance to today’s searchers of faith.
As a retired vicar, I have experienced 40 years of coal-face ministry. During this time, this once great institution has trod a path of increasing irrelevance. This leads me to draw an inevitable conclusion for the Church’s future. It must sell the majority of surplus churches and centralise inspiring parish worship around one remaining building, using the income for community-care projects and for housing the homeless, based on the Christian theology of love and Christ’s example. It must live up to its mantra: “The church is the people, not the building”. Perhaps 25% of our churches could be maintained for worship. The remainder must go.
If it can rally the strength for renewal and embrace a progressive Christianity, the Church may still have a chance to recapture its historic place at the heart of British life.
‘Poems, Piety, and Psyche: Progressive Poems for Rebellious Christians’ by The Reverend David John Keighley (Resource Publications) is out now on Amazon, priced £15 in paperback and £7.69 as an eBook.