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(LR) Pastors of Larger Churches More Likely to Regularly Counsel and Disciple Members

Meetings often fill the calendars of office workers, but pastors say their days are often full of meetings as well.

A survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked 1,000 Protestant pastors if they regularly have any of six types of meetings. Virtually every pastor (99%) says they regularly have at least one of those work-related meetings.

“Churches are people, and church ministry is people ministry,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It is not surprising that pastors participate in many meetings, but the nature of those meetings varies.”

Nine in 10 pastors (90%) say they regularly meet to counsel church members.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Adult Education, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Please pray for the Clergy Conference of the Diocese of South Carolina which Starts Today


The clergy of our Diocese will gather from October 21-23 at Camp St. Christopher for the annual Clergy Conference. The guest speaker will be The Rev. Dr. John Yates, retired Rector of The Falls Church Anglican. Please keep our clergy and this conference in your prayers.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(CT) The Most Diverse Movement in History: Christianity has been a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement since its inception

It is a common misconception that Christianity first came to Africa via white missionaries in the colonial era. In the New Testament, we meet a highly educated African man who became a follower of Jesus centuries before Christianity penetrated Britain or America. In Acts 8, God directs the apostle Philip to the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch. The man was “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure” (Acts 8:27, ESV). Philip hears the Ethiopian reading from the Book of Isaiah and explains that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. The Ethiopian immediately embraces Christ and asks to be baptized (Acts 8:26–40).

We don’t know how people responded when the Ethiopian eunuch took the gospel home. But we do know that in the fourth century, two slave brothers precipitated the Christianization of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which led to the founding of the second officially Christian state in the world. We also know that Christianity took root in Egypt in the first century and spread by the second century to Tunisia, the Sudan, and other parts of Africa.

Furthermore, Africa spawned several of the early church fathers, including one of the most influential theologians in Christian history: the fourth-century scholar Augustine of Hippo. Likewise, until they were all but decimated by persecution, Iraq was home to one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. And returning to Sengmei’s homeland, far from only being reached in the colonial era, the church in India claims a lineage going back to the first century. While this is impossible to verify, leading scholar Robert Eric Frykenberg concludes, “It seems certain that there were well-established communities of Christians in South India no later than the third and fourth centuries, and perhaps much earlier.” Thus, Christianity likely took root in India centuries before the Christianization of Britain.

Many of us associate Christianity with white, Western imperialism. There are reasons for this—some quite ugly, regrettable reasons. But most of the world’s Christians are neither white nor Western, and Christianity is getting less white and less Western by the day.

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Posted in Church History

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frank Colquhoun

Almighty God, who art the author of all spiritual gifts: Bestow upon thy Church in this our day the grace of knowledge, to apprehend the fullness of divine truth, and of utterance to declare that truth to others; that the testimony of Christ may be confirmed among us, and in everything we may be enriched in him, even thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

To thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in thee I trust,
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Yea, let none that wait for thee be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know thy ways, O Lord;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
for thou art the God of my salvation;
for thee I wait all the day long.

–Psalm 25:1-4

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior–Hong Kong’s Spiritual Battle: With parishioners split over politics, pastors try to keep churches together.

Hong Kong’s more than one million Christians are divided between the “blue” pro-government camp and the “yellow” opposition. Both sides vent their fears and frustrations to church leaders, who are trying to keep their congregations together.

Most young churchgoers support the pro-democracy protests, several pastors told me. They believe Christians have a moral obligation to oppose injustice, Pastor Mike Ng said, but they’re struggling to discern whether civil disobedience and defensive violence are justifiable. “We cannot give them very insightful or comprehensive answers,” the pastor admitted. “Even for myself, I cannot be satisfied.”

It makes sense that many Christians would be sympathetic to the protesters, given the Chinese Communist Party’s history. Mao Zedong wanted to eradicate religion. Christians got some respite from Deng Xiaoping, who ruled from 1978-92 and allowed religious practice, albeit under heavy control. But a new crackdown began when Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. The government has imprisoned pastors, torn down churches, and in some cases replaced images of Jesus with portraits of Mr. Xi.

Yet many older churchgoers oppose the protests and remain loyal to Beijing, according to several pastors. Some think “the Bible teaches us to be obedient,” even to imperfect governments, Mr. Chan said. Others grew up poor in the mainland and take pride in China’s prosperity and growing prominence, which they attribute to the Communist Party.

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Posted in Asia, China, Religion & Culture

(Chicago Tribune) Nearly 6,000 Chicagoans to get letters this holiday season saying their unpaid medical debt is forgiven. Learn about the group behind the gifts

For Chicagoans struggling to make ends meet, the daily act of checking the mail can be anxiety-inducing. Aside from birthday cards and holiday letters, there isn’t often much good news, but there never seems to be any shortage of bills or debt collection attempts.

Soon, when bright yellow envelopes appear in thousands of mailboxes around Cook County with the words “RIP Medical Debt” on each one, recipients might assume it’s yet another bill. In reality, those envelopes contain the opposite, a potentially life-changing gift.

A network of area churches this summer banded together to take on the debt collection system that profits “on the backs of poor people”; to help restore bad credit marred by medical debt; and to inspire joy, said the organizers, the Rev. Otis Moss III and the Rev. Traci Blackmon. As a result, Moss said they’ve wiped out more than $5.3 million in medical debt, and they soon plan to send letters to nearly 6,000 Cook County residents with a no-strings-attached message: “May you have a beautiful, wonderful holiday. Your debt has been forgiven. Enjoy Thanksgiving.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Henry Martyn

Send out Thy light and Thy truth, that I may live near to Thee, my God. Let me feel Thy love, that I may be – as it were – already in heaven, that I may do all my work as the angels do theirs; and let me be ready for every work, be ready to go out or go in, to stay or depart, just as Thou shalt appoint. Lord, let me have no will of my own, or consider my true happiness as depending in the smallest degree on anything that can befall me outwardly, but as consisting altogether in conformity to Thy will.

–Frederick B. Macnutt, The prayer manual for private devotions or public use on divers occasions: Compiled from all sources ancient, medieval, and modern (A.R. Mowbray, 1951)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.

–Psalm 148:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(BBC) British Parliament votes to delay Brexit

Boris Johnson has said he will press on “undaunted” with his Brexit strategy despite MPs backing the principle of a further delay to the process.

The PM vowed to introduce legislation needed to implement his “excellent” agreement in Parliament next week.

But he will have to ask the EU for an extension beyond 31 October after MPs backed a motion designed to rule out a no-deal exit by 322 votes to 306.

The EU said it was up to the UK to “inform it of the next steps”.

Ministers have signalled a vote on the PM’s revised Brexit agreement could now take place on Monday, depending on what the Speaker decides.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

Jay Behan consecrated a new bishop in Christchurch New Zealand

Jay Behan has been consecrated as the first Bishop of the Diocese of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand this morning in Christchurch.

Bishops from across the Tasman and around the world took part in the service.

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates Council presided, and former Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen preached.

The event was live-streamed, and a recording may be seen via the ConfessingAnglicansNZ Facebook page (a Facebook account is not needed). Audio starts about 12 minutes into the recording, just as the service proper begins.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Australia / NZ, GAFCON

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Henry Martyn

O God of the nations, who didst give to thy faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us, we beseech thee, a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to thee who gavest them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Bobby Richardson

–“Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.

–1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Music for a Friday Afternoon, Tom Wright’s Prayer to the Trinity put to Music

Lyrics:

Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth:
Set up your kingdom in our midst.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God:
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

[O] Holy Spirit, breath of the living God:
[will you] Renew me and all the world (Tom Wright)

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

(10th Presbyterian Church) Phil Ryken–C. S. Lewis, Apostle to the Skeptics

It is surprising to learn, therefore, that Lewis himself thought that his gifts for evangelism were rather limited. During World War II, he was asked to speak to pilots from the Royal Air Force. His early talks were such a complete failure that he began to ask RAF chaplains for help. Lewis would present intellectual arguments for the truth of Christianity, and then the chaplain would invite the men to put their faith in Jesus Christ.

One of the chaplains remembers Lewis saying to him: “Haddon, I wish I could do the heart stuff. I can’t. I wish I could. I wish I could press home to these boys just how much they need Christ… . Haddon, you do the heart stuff and I’ll do the head stuff” (Bishop A. W. Goodwin-Hudson, Audio Interview, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, IL).

That is a sensible approach to evangelism. Lewis recognized that evangelism is a team sport. He knew that he couldn’t do it all, but he was willing to do as much as he could, and then let others do the rest. Afterwards, he liked to quote Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

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Posted in Apologetics, Church History

Friday food for Thought from Thomas Merton

Posted in Books, Church History, Theology

(EF) Mark Arnold–Some thoughts on disability, sin, God and ‘Heaven’

Jesus bore the scars of his crucifixion on his post-resurrection body. Interestingly, although he bore those marks, he was still able to amble along the road to Emmaus the same day as his resurrection; a seven-mile walk just three days after his body was hung on the cross… (Luke 24:13-35).

Is it possible that the evidence of disability is retained, but any associated negative consequence of disability and/or pain is removed? Is that what Revelation 24:4 refers to when it talks about “There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain”?

Maybe Heaven itself will be a far more accessible and inclusive place too, a place free of the ableism of our current Earth? A few days later Thomas was able to put his hand into the wound in Jesus side, “Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” See John 20:24-29, esp. v27.

Again, this passage suggests that the evidence of disability remains in the resurrected body, but perhaps not any negative consequences or pain.

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Posted in Anthropology, Eschatology, Health & Medicine, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(UnHerd in 2018) Losing their religion: the priests who turned from God

Over the course of less than two decades, [Richard] Holloway moved from doubts over the uses to which religion can be put to a complete rejection of its divine origins. That path is one that many others have made and many more doubtless fear making. But what makes Holloway different is not merely that he made this journey whilst himself being a member of the clergy or that he wrote about it whilst doing so. What is different and significant about Holloway is that while he became disenchanted with traditional religion and while he became surer of its man-made nature he nevertheless saw that there remained something in religion, and the Christian story in particular, that deserved and needed to be saved.

In his 2012 memoir, Leaving Alexandria, he described with frankness not only the fundamentalism that had pushed him away from the church, but those few hopes he had still had left for it. His religion is now, he says, “pared away to almost nothing” 7, and he asks what he is left believing. ‘Was religion a lie? Not necessarily, but it was a mistake. Lies are just lies, but mistakes can be corrected and lessons can be learned from them. “The mistake’” he says,”‘was to think religion was more than human.”

Though he concludes that religion was a work of the human imagination he reiterates that that itself is not nothing. If it could be appreciated as other works of the human imagination are appreciated – so long as people did not fall over again into thinking it was more than that – if it could be appreciated like Shakespeare, and Proust, Elgar, Tolstoy, Gaugin or Nietzsche (to use Holloway’s list) and seen to have no more authority than them, then the uses of religion might still be for the good.

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Posted in Atheism, Books, England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church

(Church Times) Enquirers’ courses are attended mainly by churchgoers, statistics suggest

One third of Church of England churches run enquiry and “Christian basics” courses and two-thirds of these report that their courses are attended mainly by people who already go to church, new statistics suggest.

The figures have been collated for the first time at Church House, Westminster, in the Statistics for Mission 2018 report, published by the C of E’s Research and Statistics department.

Of the 13,003 churches that responded to this question, 34 per cent reported that they ran such courses (4400 churches). Of this group, 28 per cent ran courses that they had designed themselves; 28 per cent ran Alpha; 17 per cent ran the Pilgrim course; nine per cent ran Christianity Explored; and 30 per cent ran other courses, including Lent and confirmation classes.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) said that they were mainly attended by people who already attended church regularly. Ten per cent said that they were mainly attended by people who did not already attend regularly, and 19 per cent that they had equal numbers of church-goers and non-church-goers.

The Experiences of Ministry survey of 2011, completed by 2916 members of the clergy, found “an important association between the running of nurture courses and both forms of growth [spiritual and numerical]; growth is stronger when nurture courses are more frequently run.” Research by Dr Stephen Hunt published in 2001 found that 77 per cent of Alpha attendees were already churchgoers, although his sample size was small.

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Posted in Adult Education, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT) At a School for Suicide Bombers’ Children, Dancing, Drawing and Deradicalization

Ais likes to dance. She knows the words to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Her dimples are disarming.

Her parents didn’t want their daughter to dance. They didn’t want her to sing. They wanted her to die with them for their cause.

Last year, when she was 7, Ais squeezed onto a motorcycle with her mother and brother. They carried a packet that Ais refers to as coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. Her father and other brother climbed onto a different bike with another parcel. They sped toward a police station in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, a place of mixed faith.

The parcels were bombs, and they were set off at the gate to the police station. Catapulted off the motorcycle by the force of the explosion, Ais rose from the pavement like a ghost, her pale head-to-toe garment fluttering in the chaos. Every other member of her family died. No bystanders were killed. The Islamic State, halfway across the world, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ais, who is being identified by her nickname (pronounced ah-iss) to protect her privacy, is now part of a deradicalization program for children run by the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. In a leafy compound in the capital, Jakarta, she bops to Taylor Swift, reads the Quran and plays games of trust.

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Posted in Children, Education, Indonesia, Terrorism

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Luke

Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Daily Prayer

Almighty God, grant unto us who know that we are weak, and who trust in thee because we know that thou art strong, the very present help of thy power, today and always; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Daily Prayer, Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs, eds. (London: Penguin Books 1959 edition of the 1941 original)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved….Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore

Psalm 16:7-8;11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(RNS) National Association of Evangelicals names new president, diverse leadership

Scholar and minister Walter Kim, an expert on the theology of race, has been chosen as the next president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Kim is a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has served on the board of the group, an umbrella organization of 40 evangelical Christian denominations, since 2013.

“As a proven pastor, scholar and thought leader, Walter brings an incredible combination of skills to lead the National Association of Evangelicals into the next decade,” said Roy Taylor, chair of NAE’s board of directors, in a Thursday (Oct. 17) announcement of Kim’s election.

“His ability to think critically and engage charitably has garnered respect and enthusiasm among our leaders as we consider the future of the NAE and evangelicalism in America and throughout the world.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Religion & Culture

(PRC) In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology

(WSJ) The New Parental Obsession: Checking Kids’ Grades Online

Teachers report mixed feelings about online grade books. Sean Riley, a high-school teacher in Seattle, said students and parents can become so focused on the metrics that they lose sight of the bigger picture. “It starts to turn learning into a series of tasks to be completed instead of a process of exercises to learn more,” he said.

Obsessive grade-checking is also symptomatic of the desire, peculiar to a generation that has grown up with everything just a swipe away, to receive instant gratification. Mr. Riley said this can lead to anxiety and disappointment in some students.

The upside is when students use the information to advocate for themselves.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Children, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Christian Today) Church of England’s digital reach grows as service attendance continues to fall

Record numbers of people are seeking Christian contemplation and reflection through the Church of England’s apps and social media platforms, but service attendance continues to struggle, new figures have revealed.

Apps that allow users to pray the ancient ‘Daily Office’ of morning, evening and night prayer were used 4.2 million times on Apple devices alone in the last 12 months, up by 446,000 on the year before.

In addition to the apps, millions more are engaging with prayers, reflections and other posts from the Church of England through social media.

According to figures in its 2019 digital report, the Church of England now has an average monthly reach on social media of 3.6 million.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Saint Philip’s, Charleston) Gloria Avent–Jesus is Always Calling

I share Dr. Moore’s love for books and movies which tell inspiring true stories of faith. They always contain the element of struggle and hardship overcome by courage and great effort. Each story is unique, with the common denominator being the individual’s relationship with God. Some of my favorites titles are Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Diebler Rose, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, and Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. All are stories of people who leave their own countries, like Gladys Aylward did, to go to another country to spread the gospel.

But what about another kind of calling, one in which one’s mission field is right where they are? How do we recognize that call? Jesus says to us, “Follow me.” How do we know where he is leading?

In Gladys Aylward’s story and many other missionary stories, there is usually a strong desire to do something. In Catherine Marshall’s classic autobiography, Beyond Ourselves, there were dramatic changes to her life’s circumstances that caused her to fervently seek the Lord out of a strong need for guidance (she went on to be a celebrated Christian writer, and her books have played an important role in discipling me). For many of us, we may feel a sense of dissatisfaction with our lives, a longing for something more (also one of Catherine Marshall’s book titles).

In any case, out of love, Jesus calls each of us with the voice of his Holy Spirit, to let us know that the Father has written a compelling story for our lives. As we learn to quiet our thoughts, ask for the Spirit’s leading, and listen for His voice, our unique stories truly begin to be written.

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Posted in Church History, Missions, Parish Ministry

(CEN) Peter Brierley–Anglican evangelicals in focus

On their Census form clergy were invited to tick different boxes. Many Anglican Evangelicals, 49 per cent, ticked both “Broad” and “Evangelical” in 1990, but such had dropped to 29 per cent by 2010 and are likely to be only 12 per cent by 2030 if present trends continue. Also in 1990, a third of all Anglican Evangelicals, 35 per cent, ticked “Charismatic” as well as “Evangelical.” Anglican Charismatic Evangelicals have remained about the same proportion since (39 per cent in 2010 and 31 per cent probably in 2030), perhaps partly because the meaning of “charismatic” has changed, some formerly Charismatic churches now simply calling themselves Evangelical.

The third group of Evangelicals, outside the Broad and Charismatic, are called “Mainstream” Evangelical in the early reports, simply to save confusion with the other two groups (ministers simply ticking the one word “Evangelical” on the Census form). The word was used before the Mainstream Anglican group came into being, although as it happens probably many of the churches in the two groups would be the same. Many would now prefer the word “Conservative” to “Mainstream”, which may or may not fit theological definitions!

It is, however, this group which is growing among the Anglicans. The Mainstream Evangelical Anglicans were only16 per cent of all Evangelical Anglicans in 1990, but had doubled in proportion to 33 per cent by 2010, and they could be almost three-fifths, 58 per cent, of the total by 2030. It is the Mainstream Evangelicals which are also growing in most of the other denominations, especially the Baptists, Independent ch urches and the Pentecostals.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture