Mike Pohlman Christian Blog and Commentary

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Church Matters

  • Mike Pohlman's Blog
  • 2008 Dec 08

In a recent article in The Times of London religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill notes how British officials have concluded that the secularization thesis is a myth: "They have accepted that the decline of religious belief predicted by secularists and many church leaders at the end of the 20th century has not happened. Religion has become more significant than ever in recent history."

According to the story a prominent British think-tank, The Institute for Public Policy Research, has published a collection of essays by various faith leaders arguing for the social significance of religion for Great Britain. So far so good, right? Gledhill highlights the remarks of the Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu. As you read the following excerpt notice what he doesn’t say:

Dr Sentamu argues that the Church of England’s place in modern Britain is not one of privilege but of “service born of duty and care”. He says: “There is little doubt in my mind that a place exists for an established Church serving our nation. From church schools to funerals, from interfaith work to state occasions, from speaking out for the marginalised to ministering to the sick, the Church plays a vital daily role in the operation of our nation.”

Sadly, what you don’t hear from Dr. Sentamu is the need for a theological worldview to be proclaimed from the church. There is no call for a renewal in the preaching of the word of God, the significance of the sacraments or an emphasis on discipleship. In fairness he does argue that one of the functions of the Church of England is “proclaiming the Gospel afresh in a way that is comprehensible and relevant to people today.” But with this it appears that the Archbishop’s “fresh Gospel proclamation” is merely heralding the Church of England as a social institution that operates much like a hospital.

As one commenter notes, the church is not merely a hospital, but the body of Christ locally. Indeed, the church is far more than a social services agency operating for the good of a nation’s physical needs or to help the English people "orientate themselves." To quote another fine Brit, Charles Bridges: “The Church is the mirror, that reflects the whole effulgence of the Divine character” (The Christian Ministry, 1844).

It's not clear that the Church of England's policy initiatives reflect this lofty goal. And, ironically, they may end up actually promoting the secularization of the church.