Cole Moreton: Is God still an Englishman?

When you find a book with an intriguing title on your bookshelf, and you have no memory of how it got there, there’s only one solution: read it.

If you still think of England, or even Britain, as a Christian country, think again. This country may have a long history as a predominantly Christian country, but “the times, they are a’changing”. Walk into most churches in the country, whether in a city centre or a tiny hamlet, and you only have to count the pew-capacity of each church to realise that, in bygone times, many more people attended church than the handful that do today. In fact, if it weren’t for the huge numbers of Christian immigrants coming in from Eastern Europe and Africa, the decline in numbers amongst the indigenous population would have synods and church boards scrambling in search of solutions.

Is-God-Still-an-EnglishmanCole Moreton’s assessment of the state of play runs parallel to a description of his own brushes with the world of faith, moving from a high octane conversion during the Billy Graham rallies in the 1980s, through a more sedate commitment as a Church Times reporter in the 1990s, to the eventual abandonment of his faith during a particularly challenging period in his life. During the flow of his own faith narrative, he looks especially keenly at the narrative of the Anglican Church, the established church of England, with all the associated anachronisms and contradictions it poses in a predominantly non-Christian environment. Will it survive? Apparently not, according to Moreton.

Much more than just a decline in numbers attending and supporting their local churches, the demise of the church is also threatened by internal disintegration caused by issues such as gay marriage and gay bishops, women priests and bishops, and a monarchy that pretends to represent a majority religious view amongst the country’s citizens. According to Moreton, if the Church can’t move with the times and disconnect itself from antiquated beliefs and expectations, it will degenerate into a minority cult……..and may even disappear.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on March 26, 2016, in Book reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The population in and around many of hamlets used to be significantly greater in years past: all those agricultural labourers and their families who disappeared with mechanisation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is sad, but there is little need for the hundreds of historic churches across Norfolk, Suffolk, etc.

    My church was packed on Sunday morning. Admittedly it was Easter Sunday, and also partly because for peculiar historical reasons it is a parish church and a cathedral, and it was televised on BBC1, but it is always very busy at Christmas and Easter. “Normal” Sundays are not so busy, but I would guesstimate several hundred people most weeks. Small beer, perhaps, in a city of over 50,000 people.

    Cities are larger than ever, and it is certainly no longer the case that most people attend church every Sunday (one might say, religiously), but there are lots of well-attended “new” churches too – often charismatic and evangelical, and many with unreconstructed attitudes to sexuality and other social issues – not to mention mosques and synagogues and temples and gurdwaras and so on. Perhaps that all points in the direction of disestablishment – but not while QEII is in post.

    • Of course, attendance in past ages was always governed and controlled by the feudal mentality of our ruling classes. The peasants attended as part of their duty to their masters. Now that 95% of the rural population has nothing to do with the land, nor is governed by feudalism, routine practices like church attendance are bound to change.

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