The Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and religious leader of the Church of England. (PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/HANS MUSIL)

Will Church of England Turn to Pentecostal Preachers to Boost Membership?

The Church of England may be turning to other traditions for revitalization amid plummeting numbers, in hopes that "fresh" preaching styles will reinvigorate and reverse their declining membership.

While the cathedrals and church buildings The Church of England owns are impressive, "these days that's not enough to fill the pews," the Associated Press reported Thursday.

A proposal that was likely to be approved Friday at a synod meeting would allow local bishops to decide who can preach sermons in Anglican churches without previous approval from the Archbishop of Canterbury and York, which is the case at present.

"The Church of England thinks it can make itself more attractive by resorting to style," said Gavin Ashenden, who is a former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.

"It's the end of the snobbishness that the Church of England has confined itself with," he said, expressing concern that the Church might suffer a "demographic meltdown."

The average age of a Church of England parishioner is 68.

Yet many were moved by the enthusiastic preaching style of Anglican Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, made famous by his sermon on the power of love at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle earlier this year.

Sharon Osbourne, a music manager and a host of the "X-factor" opined recently that "churches are empty because the services are boring," arguing they need "more of the emotion we saw from the Bishop [Curry], who was animated and fabulous."

Many ministers from independent churches that the Church recognizes already preach in Church of England parishes yet the new rules might yield even more, including some from primarily black congregations.

"At grassroots level there are already many vibrant examples of churches working together. It can only be a good thing to have that happening more intentionally," according to Chris Cartwright, the General Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal Church.

Such togetherness may result in an uncomfortable clash of both style and substance, a "culture shock" or sorts, AP noted.

Charles Teddy Adupong, who leads a London district of the Church of Pentecost-UK and pastors a majority black congregation, also welcomes the amendment from the Church of England synod.

"There is too much separation between the independent churches and the Church of England. I hope this will fix that," he said.

"I don't expect the Church of England to start jumping and clapping during their sermons anytime soon. But my congregation would understand a Church of England sermon."

Liberal Anglicans are not likely to appreciate the stricter biblical emphasis and literalist approach to Scripture within Pentecostalism, nor the socially conservative views — opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage — that Pentecostal churches espouse and promote.

Some recent figures, however, show that the church attendance has somewhat stabilized in the past decade.

The Telegraph reported in May 2017 that in the British Social Attitudes Survey and the European Social Survey, the proportion of people who say they have no religion grew to a high of 50.6 per cent in 2009 but has remained static or lower ever since. The proportion of persons with no religion was 48.6 per cent in 2015.

And the proportion who say they are Church of England worshipers rose slightly from 16.3 percent in 2009 to 17.1 percent in 2015, though far below the 40 percent who identified themselves as such in 1983. The long-term trend is indisputably one of decline.

Rev. Canon Sandra Millar, head of Life Events at the Church of England, told the Christian Post in an interview in March that "there's no doubt" there has been a decline in "regular Sunday worship."

"I know that there are situations where we have some very small communities, where it is hard to sustain a regular congregation, but there are also many, many churches that are trying to find new ways of encouraging people to think about church in a new way," Millar said.

This article was originally posted here. 


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