Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Giving cogent reasons to young people why Christian faith is relevant to them

Earlier this week, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey warned that Christianity might be going extinct in the UK, maybe even in one generation’s time. When we look at the amount of people visiting churches this would not be a surprise.
English: former Archbishop of Canterbury Georg...
English: former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also when we do look at the lifestyle and when we hear youngsters speaking we may wonder where their heart is and in how far they are still connected with the Creator of this world.

The Archbishop may be convinced that the Church is failing to attract young people to its fold and therefore should look for what reason there has come such a distance between the people and the 'church'.
 “We have to give cogent reasons to young people why the Christian faith is relevant to them.”
Bishop Carey said. His statement was echoed by another Anglican authority, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who also underlined the scale of the crisis, telling members of the Church of England’s General Synod.

We would not regret an impassioned plea for Church to adopt a new missionary stance, so it would be better if those clerks looked not so much to have their constant internal debates going on. Instead of  “rearranging furniture when the house is on fire” they would better come out in the open and take care that everybody gat assembled.

They must “evangelise or fossilise”.  It is high time many more Christians would understand we shall have to face a “re-evangelisation of England”, on a par with the ministry of the northern saints such as Cuthbert, Hilda and Aidan who spread Christianity in Anglo-Saxon times.

The former Archbishop Lord Carey his warning came as he addressed the Shropshire Light Conference at Holy Trinity Church in Shrewsbury at the weekend discussing how the church could be “re-imagined”. According to him the church is still doing much important work, but it faces an existential challenge.
“In many parts of Britain churches are struggling, some priests are diffident and lack confidence; a feeling of defeat is around.
“The burden seems heavy and joy in ministry has been replaced by a feeling of heaviness.”
He said that the reaction from the public was not so much hostile as dismissive.

“The viewpoint could be expressed in a variety of non -verbal ways: the shrug of indifference, the rolled eyes of embarrassment, the yawn of boredom.  
Do those priests stand still why so many people become bored? Why so many do not feel that they can be or are no part of the church?

It is not only the Church of England or the West European continental  countries their churches like the Roman Catholic Church that face the empty churches because those institutions have been too busy reorganising the structures, arguing over words and phrases and have lost the spirit of evangelising. Such failings mean that the Church may be in danger of losing its “nationwide presence”.

Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Cen...
Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower. Seen from south. Image assembled from 4 photos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Years ago perhaps many people could find a church as a place where great things happened. There were many social activities going on in the parishes, which drew a crowd.  With all the comfort in the houses the church buildings did not much effort to make it comfortable for its visitors.
 “To sit in a cold church looking at the back of other peoples’ heads is surely not the best place to meet exciting people and to hear prophetic words.”
The church leaders of the Church of England are aware that
 “It is still the case that people are essentially looking for spiritual fulfilment.”
So perhaps they can start at working on this. Trying to give spiritual guidance and spiritual fulfilment to the people who are still looking for many answers in their life.
 “So many churches have no ministry to young people and that means they have no interest in the future.
“As I have repeated many times in the past we are one generation away from extinction.
“We have to give cogent reasons to young people why the Christian faith is relevant to them.” 
According to Cristina Odone, journalist, novelist and broadcaster specialising in the relationship between society, families and faith, the claim of George Carey that Britain's precious Judaeo-Christian legacy is being diluted and that Christianity is one generation away from extinction is not so. She can see why he despairs for the Christians because plenty of things have been going wrong.

She writes:
 "First and foremost, our enemies are organised as never before. Secularists have made a concerted effort to erase Christianity from public life here and across the West. They have silenced prayers before meetings, the ringing of church bells, and even the girl scouts who once pledged to serve God."
But does she really believes that the ringing of bells at times when people are sleeping or doing something different will bring them to God? would it not more annoi them and get them the feeling that something is being pushed in their throat?

Odone has written in her ebook, No God Zone, that the secularists have successfully enshrined their bias against religion in laws across Europe.
"The Observatory on Intolerance against Christians in Europe has reported that EU member states have enacted 41 laws that discriminate against Christians. The effect of such legislation is huge: some professions, such as doctors, therapists and even pharmacists, are now closed to Christians, who would otherwise have to go against their conscience on issues such as abortion, euthanasia or the morning after pill."
She does find that the forces of atheism are ranged against the believers and, as George Carey points out, too many Christian clergy cannot stand up to the challenge. They are too ready to dilute their ethos – look at what has been happening with faith schools, both Anglican and Catholic. 

But before the English give up on the faith of their forefathers Odone finds that they do have to consider three new factors.
" Pope Francis, Justin Welby and the backlash effect. The extraordinary impact of Francis has been felt not only among his immediate audience – Italians, who are now retuning to Mass – but, incredibly, among the intelligentsia that is traditionally so sceptical of Christian values. Jonathan Freedland, who is neither a Christian nor a conservative, went so far as to predict that in college dorms around the globe, students will replace their posters of Che Guevara with ones of Francis. Justin Welby's impact has been more subtle, but he too has shown Christianity in a new light: inclusive, compassionate, and above all truthful. No wasting time and effort on false gods like money, celebrity, status.
Both men have struck a chord. Christians – and many non-Christians – have grown weary of the relentless pursuit of shallow goals. We have grown weary of being mocked for holding dear our heritage and its immortal values: charity, honesty, humility, and love. "Backlash" sounds too violent for a Christian response, but that is what I believe is taking root. I see it in the effort to block porn on the internet, the generous reaction to the Philippines' disaster, the distaste for bloated bankers and for OTT, twerking celebrities.

John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford and Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education. “We don’t need to attract them to church” he declared, “they’re already there, if we embrace our church schools fully.” He  echoed the former Archbishop Rowan Williams’ declaration that “A church school is a church.” Despite being publicly-funded, state schools are seen by the church as the primary method of recruiting the next generation of Anglicans.

The Church of England considers having her evangelism in the discipline of ‘catechesis, as one of the ‘Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation’. Catechesis, described by the Church as “teaching and learning faith”, is more akin to religious instruction than religious education. According to the paper, “Catechesis of adults and children and young people is absolutely critical to the growth of the church.” The Church say it is a discipline exercised in the pulpit, in pastoral encounters, and, you guessed it, in schools.

They seem to trust that all the work can be delivered in the schools by that catechism or religion class. Though their paper asks how the place of catechesis in Church of England schools be strengthened and how they can create a task force which will “support Archbishops in taking forward the call to evangelism.”

A second Synod motion, concerning church schools, already seems to shed some light on how this will be achieved. The motion affirmed “the crucial importance of the Church of England’s engagement with schools for its contribution to the common good and to its spiritual and numerical growth.”

The motion invited dioceses to draw up plans for promoting the widest possible use of a “new online resource” for teaching Christianity, not only in Church schools, but also in non-Church schools.

Known as ‘The Christianity Project’, the resources have been developed to ensure that every child has a “life enhancing encounter with the Christian faith and the person of Jesus Christ.” The Church insist that “all children, of all faiths and none, should be offered the opportunity for a serious engagement with the Christian faith.”

According to the Church, “There is no expectation of commitment but learning about and engaging with the faith is a necessary pre-requisite for commitment especially for children and young people whose only experience of church is through the school.”

The Church of England’s clear intention here is to ramp up the evangelisation, not only in Church schools, but also in non-faith schools. They realise that the indoctrination of children, however subtle in its execution, is absolutely critical to its survival.

This results in our state education system being used by the Church to manipulate children and young people, in order to meet its own needs. For our legislators to allow this is both morally objectionable and intellectually irresponsible.

State education has become a playground for all manner of religions and denominations – and despite being one of the least religious countries in Europe, huge swathes of the English education system being under religious influence – and in the case of the Church of England, being used to prop them up.

Comments by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, recently indicate that he intends to be as accommodating as he can in helping the Church in its ambitions to expand its influence in education. He said in parliament recently:
 “We praise and cherish the role of the Church of England in making sure children have an outstanding education. I welcome the [Chadwick report on church schools of the future] and look forward to working with Bishop John Pritchard to extend the role of the Church in school provision.”
We do not believe the religious education as such should come from the shools. Most work of evangelisation has to be done in the household; In the family should there be the living faith, giving the flame of the fire from one person to the other. Next should come the parish or the church community where there should be elders enlightening people and getting as many as possible involved so that they really can feel they are part of a living paris, and forming a thriving spiritual community.

It may be overly optimistic to read a lot into these developments Odone presents, but she truly thinks these are the first shoots of a Christian Spring.
We only can hope for the best and see how the new pope may bring a fresh spirit in the Catholic church, forcing others to take a new move as well.


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