What’s happening to the Church of England and how does the situation compare with the Catholic Church? There was a recent pithy letter to the Times about Bishop Michael Curry’s “power of love” sermon at the Royal Wedding. It was from Trevor Beeson, dean emeritus of Winchester Cathedral and a former canon of Westminster Abbey (as well as a longstanding obituarist for the Telegraph).
He called the address “misjudged”, explaining: “A wedding sermon should be addressed primarily to the bride and bridegroom. It certainly should not seek to harangue the world at large. It should illuminate the significance of marriage, mention some of its joys and sorrows … indicate the religious resources available … All of which can be achieved in five to seven minutes. This will not bring the preacher world fame but it may well contribute something important to a marriage service, whether in a royal chapel or a village church.”
The letter was picked up by the Mail Online and sparked nearly 1,000 comments, about 90 per cent of them “likes”. Archbishop Justin Welby wouldn’t have been a “like”, mind you. He thought Bishop Curry’s sermon was “fantastic … raw God, and that’s the business.”
You’d expect Welby to approve, of course, because he belongs to the Evangelical wing of the Church of England, which some commentators believe throws its weight around too much. Like the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy: in his 2016 book, The Future Shapes of Anglicanism, Percy argues that the Cof E is being systematically taken over by Evangelicals who mix trendy “management theory” and “secular sorcery with statistics and Evangelical up-speak”.
Today’s Evangelical leaders also use church funds, so critics say, to bankroll the “planting” of new congregations, as well as to fast-track zealous young trainees in their own image.
All this risks turning Anglicanism into a narrow suburban sect – instead of what it used to be, a broad church that generously welcomed all-comers, even if their faith might waver like the vicar’s comb-over in a high wind.
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