Last year Andrew Brown and Linda Woodhead let rip with a devastating critique of the Church of England in their That was the Church that was: How the Church of England lost the English people. They did not mention Methodism but I have witnessed its drastic ‘decline and fall’ since I was ordained in the 1960’s. In many places it is now beyond the point of no return and Methodist churches are closing every month across the country.
This decline of the impact of Christian faith on our nation – the National Trust dropping the name ‘Easter’ from their annual egg hunts (albeit with some protests from on high) being the latest writing on the wall – is crystal clear for all to see. Last Sunday morning, as Sue and I listened to a sermon which would have been more appropriate in Victorian times, all quotations from Scripture and the hymnal, calling us to repent and be saved, I again understood why ‘the end (for the church) is nigh’.
It seems to me that the massive importance and relevance of the Christian message for our day and age is being suffocated by the culture of a still all-pervasive Christendom. I believe that too many Christians, who have grasped what faith is all about, are being treated like children by a lot of clergy. Their ability to express their convictions in a human and meaningful manner is being negated by a church which gets in the way because it has lost touch with social reality. ‘The liberation of the laity’ is no slogan but an urgent imperative.