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Non-churchgoing Anglicans and their voice in C of E governance

03 May 2013


From the Revd Dr Philip Goggin

Sir, - While there is certainly a case to be made for having regard to the position of non-churchgoing Anglicans (Comment, 26 April), it is incompatible with any coherent view of church to suppose that those without an involvement in it could be key players.

It would be one (very important) thing to say that the values of "dignity, decency, kindness, modesty, and care for others" could be a starting-point in growing faith and church membership, but there is something faintly ridiculous in supposing that holding such values could constitute being an Anglican.

Yes, we reach out to every soul in England, wherever he or she might be on the journey of faith and church membership. Yes, we acknowledge that many, probably most, nominal Anglicans have some form of Christian belief system, and, yes, we try to build on that. Yes, we could probably present the gospel in ways that were less offputting for doubters.

Further, we could argue that we should celebrate the diversity of affiliations to the Church which people could have: for example, attending a parent-and-toddler group where a worship experience is provided; participating in the life of a church school or a Christian organisation; or occasional attendance at a range of church services or church events.

But if we discard the idea of participatory membership of the Body, the Church disappears.

St Peter's Vicarage
Middlewich Road
Minshull Vernon
Crewe CW1 4RD


From the Revd Andrew Symes

Sir, - Professor Linda Woodhead argues that the majority non-churchgoing Anglicans should have more of a say in the governance of the Church of England than those who really believe the Christian message.

Her observation that "the attitudes of Godfearers [her term for Anglicans who take God and scripture seriously] align more closely with conservative Baptists and . . . Muslims than with other Anglicans" betrays unnecessary prejudice, and a desire to exclude orthodox Christians from the Church of England mainstream.

According to her somewhat small sample, the vast majority of self-identified C of E members "take their ultimate authority from their own reason, intuition, and judgement" rather than God or the Bible, and don't go to church; and yet this is celebrated as having genuine integrity and a spirituality in tune with the culture. Is this really authentic Anglicanism?

Professor Woodhead gives us an idyllic vision of an English Reichskirche, a religious body that is indistinguishable from the prevailing culture, and from which the confessional element has been marginalised and excluded. What connection does this vision have with the Church of Jesus Christ?

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Northampton NN5 7AB

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