Church of England


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I belong to the Church of England because that’s where I live.


Church is like your family:  you don’t choose it, you’re (re-)born into it.  Sometimes it embarrasses you, sometimes you almost despair of it – but it’s where you belong, and the process of compromise and of freely-given loyalty to something that’s less than perfect is part of the journey towards spiritual maturity.

Actually, there’s a lot that I really appreciate about our national church.  It’s so quintessentially English, for better and for worse:  self-deprecating, bending over backwards to be fair even to those who wish it ill, instinctively suspicious of too much explicit enthusiasm.


“The Church is like a swimming-pool – most of the noise comes from the shallow end”

But it’s been becoming more raucous recently – more polarized, less ready to listen.  It’s in danger of losing its traditional Benedictine emphasis on provisionality:  that while truth may be absolute, our apprehension of that truth is only ever partial, and so we can always learn from one another – and especially from those with whom we disagree.

A depressing example of this unholy clamour was last year’s Evangelical opposition to our new Archbishop because of his refusal to be more negative about homosexuality.  I find that the most thoughtful analysis of this phenomenon is provided not by an Anglican, but by a Baptist, Roy Clements, probably because he’s both Evangelical and gay.  His analysis of the recent debacle concerning the non-appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading is particularly helpful.  Or for a suitably sardonic comment on it all, you might try the Wibsite.

(By the way, changing the subject, have you noticed how much like a teddy-bear the Archbishop of Canterbury looks?)


“Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom, but the church came instead”

Away from such tedious, and sex-besotted, stuff (such a window into people’s neuroses, that!), a good way into understanding the nature of the Church is through its poetry.  The seventeenth century was a very important time for the Church of England, as it sought to establish its own particular identity.  Theologians such as Hooker and Jewel were writing ... and so were the poets.  George Herbert is well-known of course, but have you come across any of  Thomas Traherne’s poetry yet?  ... [to be continued ... Cowper, Keble, Rossetti, Eliot, Thomas ...]

Ordained Ministry

My current post is as Director of Ordinands – helping select men and women for ordination as deacons and priests (but not Bishops:  that’s someone else’s job).  Till just a few years ago women were not allowed to be ordained:   to see some of the reasons for this stood on their head, read Why Men should not be Ordained”.


The Church of England doesn’t have a ‘Confession of Faith’, a statement of beliefs which defines its position over against other sorts of churches.  (The nearest it gets is the Thirty-Nine Articles, but these are too much a product of their sixteenth-century context to be an appropriate summary of the church’s postition today.)  Instead, it points to its worship as expressive of its beliefs:  after all, orthodoxy literally means right worship.   So the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (actually a light revision of that of 1549) is normative of Anglican doctrine.

“The Duchess ...  was one of those people who regard the Church of England with patronising affection, as if it were something that had grown up in their kitchen garden”

In reality the 1662 book is too archaic for exclusive use today, though a significant number of services still use it and it even has a society devoted to its propagation.  After all, like the language of Shakespeare it has a timelessness which appeals across the centuries.  More often though, church congregations use material from a contemporary set of resources known as Common Worship.

There’s also a growing move towards using more informal, flexible liturgies, like those of Iona or Taiz.  And of so-called alternative worship’ – a much more provisional, post-modern, use of silence, meditative music, poetry and art:  a good example of this is Fresh Worship, based at St Mary’s Ealing.


Finally, here are some specifically Church of England (Anglican) links:


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page revised July 2003