Church of England seeks revival in newer Christian faiths
The Church of England owns some of the most impressive houses of worship in the world, with towering facades and spires that have drawn in the faithful for close to 500 years. But these days, that’s not enough to fill the pews.
Looking to reverse dwindling membership, Church leaders are launching a new outreach to other Christian congregations, in a move that could bring some Holy Rolling, New World preaching styles to its venerable halls of stone and sacrament.
A proposal that was headed for approval Friday would devolve some authority and allow local bishops to decide who from outside the Church of England can come perform sermons at its churches, without prior approval of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as is currently the case.
That means it’s likely that more expressive, evangelical preaching styles including gospel could be making their way to the pulpit, such as that of Bishop Michael Curry, whose passionate sermon about the power of love stirred up the royal wedding.
“The Church of England thinks it can make itself more attractive by resorting to style, said Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.
The C of E, England’s state church, was founded after a schism with the papacy in the 16th century, and its traditions are at the heart of what came to be known outside Britain as Anglicanism, or the Episcopalian Church, one of the world’s largest Protestant Christian followings.
But membership in the English heartland has been shrinking over the years, as Britain’s population ages, and the average Church of England member today is 68 years old, despite successive attempts by Church leaders to boost appeal. Ashenden fears the Church could suffer a “demographic meltdown.”
While membership in traditional churches has been consistently falling in the West, the growth of the newer ones has clearly bucked the trend, raising eyebrows across the faiths.
Experts believe the changes alone won’t be enough to revive Church of England support to past levels, but it could help stem losses.