A Call to Persevere
Church of England Continuing Annual Assembly 2015
by Bishop Edward J Malcolm
As I looked through my report from the meeting last year, I realized that I could be writing the same things again, since they all apply. We suffer from the lack of able people to undertake the various duties, without which we remain small, relatively little-known, and rather ineffectual. We discussed last year the benefit of appointing a Press and Advertizing Officer, and we agreed that this would be a profitable step, if someone could be found to take on the task. We have not found such a person. The truth is that each of the clergy is sufficiently busy with their existing ministry, or, in the case of Philip Lievesley, with study and work, to be able to add to duties. Looking around at those who make up our congregations, and those who attend, so faithfully, this annual gathering, we have to confess that youth is not on our side.
On the matter of youth, our form of worship is so far removed from anything with which most have any connection as to appear utterly alien to them. If younger folk do attend a service or two, they do not remain; those who have a real interest in worship look for something more contemporary, and those who are merely curious just give up.
The congregation at St Silas has completed another year without a minister. Mr George Hall, who is in his very late 80s, can manage one service a week, and that is all. There is no prospect at the moment of appointing a minister, or even of gaining the services of a retired clergyman or anything of the sort.
When we turn from our own cares and concerns, to consider the wider Church in this land, the situation becomes depressing. The Church of England is busy appointing bishops left and right, but the only people who need apply for the vacancies are women. The evangelical (his term) Archbishop of Canterbury invites young people to join him at Lambeth Palace to follow the rule of St Benedict, and to engage in mystical exercises. There has now been an announcement that all the clergy are to fast monthly and to contemplate the serious problem of climate change. The Church of Scotland has voted to allow homosexual clergy to be appointed to livings if those congregations will have them, which is a recipe for anarchy, since this now risks pitting local congregations against the body of the Church. Nonconformity is weak, and those who have remained, as we have, traditional in doctrine and worship suffer the same effect in an ageing and weakening congregation, while those who have embraced more contemporary forms of worship have coupled this, in far too many cases, with an acceptance either of the New Calvinism, or of New Covenant Theology. If you wish to know more about the latter, read The Gospel Magazine.
In the political arena, there are now calls to abandon religious worship in schools, and faith schools are going to come under pressure to ‘teach about homosexuality’. You can be certain that this will not mean teaching that it is sinful, but teaching that it is normal and acceptable. Elsewhere, we are reaping the poisonous harvest of sexual liberation and easy access to pornography with an eye-watering increase in cases of child sexual abuse, and yet none will admit that the cultural revolution of the 1960s was a disaster for our society
Religion in our land is in a very poor condition. It is unsupported by the State, which has a duty to uphold all that is good and beneficial. It is hardly upheld by the Church, which is more concerned with gaining the approval of the the leader-writers in the centre-left newspapers than in fulfilling its great commission.
What does the future hold? Of course, we cannot say. We can, however, say this. ‘Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.’ In obedience to God’s Word, in the light and peace of the gospel, we are to serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to the glory of God, and for the benefit of the world at large. That is, we are to so live, and to so witness, that Christ may be set forth. The Church may act as if it has forgotten Christ; let us not. Let us live for Christ, that he may be glorified in us. And let us leave the rest to the good providence of our Father in heaven, who shall supply all our needs.