Lord Carey of Clifton – who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002 – told a congregation in Shrewsbury that the Church of England is just ‘one generation from extinction.’
In an impassioned warning levelled at the Church, he said that it needed to take urgent action to attract younger worshippers – otherwise it could die out within the next 25 years.
Lord Carey insisted that churches "can grow, must grow and should grow." But he said "to sit in a cold church, looking at the back of people’s heads, is perhaps not considered the most exciting place to meet new people and hear prophetic words."
His comments were echoed by the Archbishop of York – the Most Reverend John Sentamu – who said on Monday that more needs to be done to attract new churchgoers….
Archbishop Sentamu was speaking as the Church of England’s governing body voted to set up a task group to ‘re-evangelise’ the country.
Both his and Lord Carey’s comments come as a crisis looms over the Church’s attendance figures.
Although in March the Church of England announced that weekly attendance figures had overall stabilised, the latest census figures have shown a decline of more than 10 percent in the number of people who call themselves Christian over the past decade. That’s just over 33 million people.
Reverend Lynda Rose, the director of the human rights group Voice for Justice UK, says that the Church of England message is confused.
“In so many ways there does seem confusion, there seems a tiredness. People often seem to be putting out different gospels, it’s quite extraordinary, whereas in fact we have the Bible that’s our handbook if you like… We need to be revitalised somehow and come together with a much clearer understanding of what it is we believe.”
Reverend Peter Ould, an Anglican priest and blogger, explains that the Church is attempting to deal with this crisis.
“There are some churches that are literally dying and they tend to be the churches where people just turn up on Sunday, sit there for 60 minutes, go home and nothing else happens for the rest of the week. But at the same time as those churches there are plenty of churches up and down the country…where it’s not just about turning up on Sunday. It’s about being a part of a vibrant, lively, missional community that is growing in its relationship with Jesus and is growing in its understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century world.”
Reverend Ould says that some churches are already engaging in new ways to attract younger worshippers.
The Church of England’s legislative body – the General Synod – is meeting this week for one of its twice yearly conclaves.
It’s due to debate the introduction of women bishops into the Church – another part of its programme to modernise. But a move that has seen a rift open up between modernisers and a largely conservative lay membership.
(Voice of Russia)