Thursday, 30 August 2012

The way we were

Going through an old CD rom of photos, I found this one, from a leaflet put out, if I recall correctly, in cooperation with the Sunday Express no less, in the early 1960s.

For those of you who don't recognize him, it's Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher, who succeeded William Temple, the man who inspired the report Towards the Conversion of England. Under Fisher's leadership, the Church of England went on to revise the Canons of 1604.

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  1. So what happened to this fine plan of his?

  2. Obviously, what the C of E needs is more Canon Law revision. Why didn't we think of it sooner?

  3. Geoffrey Fisher died in 1972 and was buried in St Andrews, Trent, Dorset, where he used to preach occasionally in retirement.

    The outfit he is wearing in this picture - presumably the same one as he wore at the coronation in 1953 - is in a glass case in St Andrews. I stood next to it when I married there in 1989. Like knowing royalty, isn't it?

    The apparent failure of "Towards the Conversion of England" is simply further evidence of the failure of a "top down" approach to church growth. One reason for the growth of the church in the USA is precisely because it is not "top down". Episcopalianism suffers from many of the same faults as socialism, wasting resources and stifling enterprise. It and Protestantism simply don't mix, certainly not in the modern age.

    Would that Rowan Williams was not only the 104th, but also the last Archbishop of Canterbury. Regrettably, we will get No 105 soon. And he too will be, at best, ineffective and irrelevant when it comes to the souls of the people of England.

  4. David, would this not lead to all CofE churches becoming independent entities, thus meaning that those who are in favour of the various changes that the Liberal wing might seek to bring in are able to go ahead without having to get clearance from anyone in authority.
    Yes, "top-down" church doesn't always work, but it does mean that it is harder for dodgy teaching (of whatever description) to take hold.

    1. Youthpasta, may I be so bold as to rewrite your comment:

      Would this not lead to all CofE churches becoming independent entities, thus meaning that those who are in favour of the various restrictions that the Evangelical wing might seek to maintain are able to go ahead without having to get clearance from anyone in authority.
      Yes, "top-down" church doesn't always work, but it does mean that it is harder for evangelicalism(of whatever description) to take hold.

    2. Does you rewrite suggest a particular leaning as regards evangelicalism?

    3. Youthpasta, if I must be pigeon-holed, then I would think of myself as an an evangelical Christian of the Keswick variety. I do not support any denomination - only individual churches / fellowships working together.

  5. David, I don't disagree with most of what you say, but the non-episcopal churches are not growing at the same rate as the C of E is not growing - at least in the UK. In America, episcopal arrogance is driving the entire Episcopal church out of business faster than ever before.

    Like them or loathe them, Bishops are a fact of life, and some of them recognise the problem, even if the word 'conversion' is rarely spoken. If they regarded their task as 'Towards the Conversion of England' and acted and spoke accordingly, we might all get behind them a bit more, but it seems unlikely to happen.

    1. Richard, can I refer you to
      where you will read that the C of E is, together with the Methodists, the fastest declining church in the country. Compare to, for example, FIEC churches that are actually growing, or Baptist churches that are declining at a substantially slower rate than the Anglican church.

      Your comment on the American Episcopalian church proves my point. It is a lesson for Anglicans to avoid, while the success of American congregational churches is a lesson to be learned.

      Bishops do not have to be a fact of life, any more than hereditary peers do. If evangelical Anglicans put more effort into stripping the power of the bishops and their henchmen, and less into trying to stop female bishops, the evangelical Anglican church - in whatever organisational form - would benefit.

      The current structure is just an accident of history, a 17th century compromise between the forces of Catholicism and Calvinism. It has no eternal significance, any more than, say, the Department of Education.

  6. Actually under Fisher in the 1950's the C of E experienced moderate growth and something of an up turn in ordinations as well as a significant number of new churches built esp in the growing suburban areas..just consider how many churches in outer London were built at that time.I suspect Fisher's energy and drive in leading the C of E in the very difficult situation of post war reconstruction has been underestimated.He stayed too long..he was the last of the headmaster bishops ( perhaps revision of canon law was for him like rewriting the school rules...aimed at running things in a sensible and business like manner).He laid some of the foundations for future ecumenism...but not a bad archbishop I judge. One feels ( as Hensley Henson did) that William Temple for all his gifts would not have proved as good an Archbishop post war if he hadnt died in his early 60's.
    Perry Butler

  7. David,

    Having watched a number of Bishops perform recently, I have no more respect for most of them than you do. And I am an Anglican. It is actually quite easy for local congregations to ignore the authority of their local bishop if they really want to - the trouble is that most wardens and PCCS don't want to take the Bishop on. And clergy certainly don't, with a few notable exceptions.

  8. SeekTruthFromFacts15 September 2012 at 06:54

    So what were the beliefs of the C of E in the 1960s?

    Maybe the new ABC could be selected on how much of this document he wants to bin.