(Economist) C of E–London supplies England with wealth, culture””and, increasingly, Christians

Since the late 1960s overall church attendance in Britain has dropped steadily, along with adherence to the Christian faith. The proportion of people calling themselves Anglican fell from 40% in 1983 to 20% in 2012. But in pockets, mostly in London and the south-east, churches are thriving. Much of the energy has come from large African Pentecostal churches and from an influx of Roman Catholic immigrants from Eastern Europe. But there is growth in the Church of England, too. Most of this comes from “church plants”, based on a model imported from America in which a group of people move from a thriving, often evangelical, church to an ailing one, and turn it around.

Several big London churches, such as Holy Trinity Brompton (where the popular Alpha course started) and St Helen’s Bishopsgate, have been planting churches in the capital for decades. More recently Holy Trinity Brompton has started to reach farther afield. It was behind the plant to St Peter’s and has also sent people from its London congregation to Norwich and Bournemouth. Some members of the St Peter’s congregation have in turn set up another plant in Hastings.

Most church planters explain that they felt called by God to move. But more mundane things drive them, too. Being part of a team under an entrepreneurial leader is exciting; their friends may also be relocating.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Young Adults

15 comments on “(Economist) C of E–London supplies England with wealth, culture””and, increasingly, Christians

  1. Jim the Puritan says:

    Holy Trinity Brompton is also planting churches in the U.S.

  2. MichaelA says:

    The Co-Mission churches have also been “planting churches for decades”, but we wouldn’t want to mention them, would we?

    Same for others which are not in step with the CofE hierarchy (thank God) such as Jesmond PC in Newcastle and Christ Church Central in Sheffield.

    In the end, Holy Trinity Brompton will succeed in church planting if it stays faithful to orthodox Christianity. But if it gets wooed away by the spirit of this world, it will fail.

  3. Tory says:

    HTB has planted approximately 40 churches, now even crossing the liturgical divide to plant Anglo-Catholic churches. Non-Orthodox churches cannot reproduce. This is the work of obedient servant leaders in sync with the Triune God. The evangelistic force of this movement, now even greater with the collaboration of +Chartres and ++Welby, has not yet reached its tipping point.

    I look forward to the time when ACNA and GAFCON become an evangelistic threat in the post-Christian West. But that will necessitate an emerging humility and orthodoxy to become likewise obedient to the Triune God. It can happen.

  4. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Well, Tory, I do hope you are right about things.

    Particularly on the charismatic front, I have watched a number of apparently prophetic and apostolic ministries implode following considerable hubris and think of:
    1. The ‘commissioning’ of Todd Bentley by many charismatic leaders who really should have known better, which was followed by the collapse of the ‘Lakeland Revival’ not long afterwards in scandal and disgrace.
    2. The recent wave of people over here racing off to Wales to witness a revival at a church run by a pair of ex-cons with some questions being asked about their financial arrangements and apparent ‘healings’.
    3. The relative short lived nature of many of the newer church movements. The most recent example being the collapse of Driscoll’s Mars Hill.

    I always thought John Stott’s reaction to any attempt to praise him was instructive. He recognised the dangers and always insisted on redirecting that approbation towards God and shied away from taking any credit personally at all. A truly humble man and a model for all of us.

    I don’t think you have anything to worry about with humility in GAFCON – most of them live with the threat of violence and persecution daily and they have no opportunity to develop anything other than humility and complete reliance on the ‘triune God’. As for ACNA, well you are in it, so presumably can attest to the humility of the province in which you serve.

    I do pray for HTB, and hope they have not paid too much of a price for the acceptance they now appear to have, in what had previously been a more liberal church hierachy than they were used to. The mantra I hear from them these days is don’t worry about defending doctrine, God is bigger than that, just get on with preaching the good news.

    We could all do with a dose of humility and recommitment to honour and be faithful only to God and obedient to his Word.

  5. Tory says:

    #4, I want to be reassuring. My friends at HTB are certainly fallible, have and will make mistakes in their attempt to re-evangelize England. But I have never met a group of Christians more singularly focused on winning people to Christ and transforming society, from its most basic cell of social life: marriage and family.

    This past Friday I was in London with Nicky and Sila Lee, the leaders in HTB’s work of rebuilding marriage and the family (work that even the Roman Catholic Church is adopting in increasing numbers). I know no couple who are being used of God to counter what Mary Ebherstadt has identified as the key factor in the “West’s Loss of God.” This is quiet, behind-the-scene work but ever bit as transformational as Alpha and creates the context necessary for evangelism and church planting. Churches full of unhealthy leaders and marriages are never an evangelistic force. This has been something we have observed in both TEC and ACNA/GAFCON and has caused Elizabeth and I to redouble our efforts on this front, starting with our own marriage. The future of our churches truly pass through the marriages of our leaders – for better or worse. We are deeply grateful for all who have taught us these truths, especially JPII.

    I know that we will not always agree on strategy – even certain theological emphases – nevertheless, I don’t know of any who are more devoted to honoring the person of Jesus and fulfilling the Great Commission than my friends at HTB. This past Sunday during our Rector’s Forum Aipha-USA director, Sam Wogulmuth, spoke on some of this work and it’s emerging influence, way beyond Anglicanism. It should be up on our website later this week, if you’d like more context for my words.

    I am indeed hopeful for ACNA. We are a young denomination that has not yet learned how to evangelize an increasingly post Christian culture. But I believe our desire is to do so. And that belief powers me.

  6. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #5 Tory
    Well, that is encouraging, as far as it goes, including the emphasis on marriage and relationships.

    A few years ago I had confidence in HTB, and in its biblical stand and teaching under Charles Marnham, Sandy Millar, Nicky Lee and indeed at that time, Nicky Gumbel. However more recently, while I certainly recognise that HTB maintains a stand for marriage and the importance of relationships, I have detected a certain fluidity when it comes to the relationships it includes, and the teaching on marriage it stands up for. Not just my concern, but also that of others I talk to. Where is HTB these days in a post-Vicky Beeching world? I wish I was as confident of HTB and its current leadership as I used to be. My view of them, although stil recognising the remarkable work of Alpha has moved from confident to what I can only describe as wary.

    But I continue to pray for them.

    As for ACNA, it is early days, and remarkable that this new group has stayed together given its history and diverse components, and some of the leadership and relationship problems it has inherited from the components it is composed of. Nevertheless, these things take time to sort out, and I think sometimes our expectations of immediacy and instant action are unrealistic. Consider the time for the CofE to reestablish itself in the Tudor and post Cromwellian Stuart period.

    I find it remarkable having been told how unstable Anglicanism is with its mix of churchmanships and theologies that ACNA has not only decided that it wants to reflect that, but has with those supposedly incompatible strands has managed to recreate it and keep it together. Unlike others, I do not expect it to be anything other than a work in progress for some considerable time, and pray that it avoids the temptation to try to ‘sort things out’ on issues like women’s ordination once and for all, which will probably be the start of its division, much as it has come close to doing in my church.

    The great strength of ACNA is in my view its commitment to church growth, planting and evangelism, and I suspect it has much to teach the CofE at this time when we are belatedly turning our total focus from bishops, half-heartedly to other matters.

  7. MichaelA says:

    Tory Baucum’s vitriolic attack on ACNA and Gafcon is extraordinary. I am not sure what provoked it – neither the article nor any earlier post (including mine) referred to either of those organisations. He purports to defend HTB, which is peculiar since nobody attacked it – quite the opposite. But it is clear that he holds no mandate from HTB to defend it, and since there was nothing that he needed to defend, his real motives must be otherwise.

    The Article relates to the Church of England. ACNA is in North America, a long way away. Gafcon has some relevance to England, but only indirectly, and again, neither the article nor any post referred to either.

    Yet Rev Baucum feels the need to tell us that ACNA and Gafcon lack humility, orthodoxy and obedience to the Triune God! He then follows that up by alleging that both are “full of unhealthy leaders and marriages”, and are comparable to TEC, whereas Holy Trinity Brompton is not.

    Any of those propositions could be true, about any church. The fact that he needed to make them, however, says a great deal about Revd Baucum and his dislike of the orthodox.

    I strongly doubt that anyone at HTB would endorse Tory Baucum’s attack. And I am quite sure that they would have no disagreement with my original point: HTB, like any church, will be effective only so long as it remains orthodox.

    Tory Baucum is on his own on this one, as on so much else. 1 John 2:19 appears apposite.

  8. MichaelA says:

    Further to my last, Tory’s posts are misleading in a more subtle sense – he assumes (without saying) that there is some sort of duality and dichotomy between Holy Trinity Brompton and “ACNA/Gafcon”. Leaving aside the fact that Tory has no authority to speak on behalf of HTB, the very nature of his comparison doesn’t make sense, on a number of levels:

    1. To start with, a comparison between HTB and ACNA just has no basis – how do you compare a congregation in England with a denomination in North America?

    2. But neither does a comparison with “Gafcon” work – Gafcon is an organisation devoted to promoting orthodoxy. It has a membership organisation in Britain called FCA-UK, to which individuals drawn from a wide range of churches (including HTB) belong. On what basis can you compare a group of individuals in different churches with a congregation like HTB?

    3. And finally, in the context of “church planting”, Tory’s comparison misses the point at a more fundamental level: Many Anglican churches in England have been involved in church planting over the past 20 years, and most of them cannot be classified as either “HTB” or “Gafcon”. That was the point of my post at #2.

  9. Tory says:

    #7-8, no attacks – real or implied – at all in my comments. Even though we both made comparisons, I regret you misunderstood the intent of mine. Let me be more clear. Several ACNA leaders have confessed to me that ACNA congregation’s growth, when it happens, is usually transfer growth. This is the opposite of HTB, and it’s global association of church plants, which grows by conversion growth. We – ACNA – are still in the learning stages of how to be an evangelistic church in a post Christian context and I believe that HTB’s humility and radical orthodoxy is the pathway forward. Of course, I could be wrong in that analysis and I am open to how you do it.

    At Truro, we had to repent of decade long moral leadership failures. Then we had to return to a radical embrace of the mission of The triune God before we saw the unconverted come to faith. This is known by several key leaders (both bishops and archbishops)of GAFCON and ACNA, with whom I’ve discussed this history. This is not news – the Washington Post and the New York Times have covered various and partial aspects of this story.

    HTB and Don Renzo Bonetti – via our friend’s the Lees – have taught us how to evangelize and recover from the pain and destructiveness of this compromised history. And I still contend their example is the way forward (yes, even for ACNA and GAFCON) if we are to engage, let alone evangelize, a post Christian culture.

    I hope this helps.

  10. MichaelA says:

    Hi Tory,

    I appreciate that you probably wish to resile from your comments earlier, but you did make attacks on other Christians, not implied, but direct. You wrote in plain words that “ACNA/Gafcon” (as you put it) lacked humility, orthodoxy and obedience to the true God. You continued in a second post that they are full of unhealthy leaders and marriages.

    Your words, not mine. The content of your attacks speaks volumes for your bona fides as a Christian leader.

    By contrast, I didn’t make attacks on other Christians nor did I make a comparison between churches, so it is in fact you who misread my post. I pointed out that the media article had left out many churches which have engaged in church planting, which is correct. I also pointed out that HTB is like every other church – whether it succeeds or fails in the end will depend on its faithfulness to doctrine. That is basic Christian teaching and there was no need for you to take umbrage at it.
    [blockquote] “Several ACNA leaders have confessed to me that ACNA congregation’s growth, when it happens, is usually transfer growth. This is the opposite of HTB” [/blockquote]

    Here we go again – sweeping and entirely unsupported assertions. I am sorry, but I see no reason to accept any of your assertions without corroboration. So no, it is not a case of ACNA showing one sort of growth and HTB another. Mind you, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if both groups contain both transfer growth and conversions, but since you can demonstrate no greater knowledge than mine, there seems little point discussing it.

    In any case, attempts to compare HTB and ACNA are meaningless as I have pointed out above.

    “At Truro, we had to repent of decade long moral leadership failures…”

    We are going a long way off topic if you now want to defend your record at Truro, particularly in comparison to your predecessors. The article is about church growth in London Diocese – I pointed out that its not just about HTB (something I doubt the HTB leadership itself would have any problem in acknowledging) and you have used this to launch an unjustified attack on ACNA.

  11. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    #9 Tory
    [blockquote]At Truro, we had to repent of decade long moral leadership failures.[/blockquote]
    Who can you mean? [Bishop] John Howe? [Bishop] Martyn Minns?

    Have I missed something?

  12. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    I can’t see anyone else listed since 1967. How odd.

  13. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Sorry, that is 1976.

  14. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Or is it even further back?

  15. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Ah, I see