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Churchgoers think less denominationally now

by
12 June 2015

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From the Dean of Chelmsford

Sir, - In the context of the statistical evidence for decline in the number of people self-identifying as Anglican (News, 5 June), it may be worth making the obvious point that many parish priests and all deans are leading communities that are increasingly post-denominational.

Even in traditional Essex, a significant proportion of our cathedral congregations would tick "other Christian" rather than "Anglican"; and the range of denominational backgrounds represented here on a typical Sunday morning is an important aspect of our ministry.

This was even more the case when I was a vicar in Harrogate, where we had everything from Ukrainian Orthodox to Pentecostals worshipping as part of the same Anglican community.

I would suggest that we see a version of the same story in the fact that even in growing churches the number of confirmations continues to decline - precisely because confirmation suggests an ownership of a specific denominational identity which is simply not part of the deal for most people. I would suggest that even most people of my generation, and certainly those of my children's, find denominational identity increasingly irrelevant.

There are challenges here, certainly. But, if my 27 years of ordained ministry so far is anything to go by, that will simply accelerate. It constitutes a real opportunity for Anglican identity not to become a bunker in which we can lick our wounds, nor a blandly inclusive brand, but a genuine vision of church without boundaries, confident about crossing red lines. And that's a vision worth sharing.

 

NICHOLAS HENSHALL
Cathedral Office, New Street
Chelmsford CM1 1TY

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