DCSIMG

GP Taylor: No hope, no love, no grace... why I have lost faith in the sinking Church of England

IT was one of those quiet summer Sunday mornings when I knew the priest in a distant parish would be away and he would have a stand in for the holiday. I sneaked in to this famous citadel of Pre-Raphaelite beauty and, like most Anglicans, sat as far from the front as possible.

The choir sang the opening of the Eucharist, the Gospel was read – Jesus walked on the water and the priest started to preach. Then followed a 20-minute thesis on why the Bible had it wrong. Jesus couldn't possibly walk on water – that would defy nature – perhaps the Greek interpretation really meant he was just paddling in the waves – or possibly body surfing.

I fought back the urge to swear (in Latin) or throw the books at him. Instead, I walked out – I had enough and couldn't listen to anymore.

As I left, I wondered what this was doing to the faithful people in the pews.

To me it showed how the Church of England had sunk into a liberal pit that was no earthly use and offered no hope, no love and no grace. It was going through the motions of faith and was largely irrelevant to the people it once thought it served.

In all my years as a Christian and as a priest, I never thought I would ever contemplate leaving the good old C of E and becoming a Catholic. My former Bishop told me that it was the best boat to fish from. "Think of it, Graham," he said in his neat office. "All those people – baptisms, weddings, funerals. People in need, people in joy and a chance to share the love of God with them."

They were powerful words and helped me through my time as a priest in Whitby and beyond as I held the hands of parents who had lost their children and those who wanted some kind of hope and future. "Preach Grace, love and everlasting life and the people will come to you," the Bishop said as he waved me off to my new parish. He was right, they did. But how things have changed.

The Church I once loved has, on the whole, become the spiritual arm of New Labour. What the rank and file believes is truly not the same as the leadership. Bishops charged by God to fight against erroneous teachings appear to embrace them gleefully.

Many spend more time preaching about climate change or dressing up as druidic bards than preaching a gospel of salvation that would cure the ills of this society overnight if properly embraced.

Others seem to openly seek to disgrace the arguments of the Bible and spread unnecessary doubts.

They champion worldly causes and try to have these beliefs adopted by the Church.

At their peril, they discard the foundations of the faith and try to replace them with beliefs more acceptable to our derelict society.

Weak and sometimes faithless leaders in bishoprics and parishes are slowly emptying churches while being financially supported by those churches that are doing well.

Interestingly, these churches appear to be those where worship is relevant and the message to the world is strong and clear. The liberals hate the message but are very willing to keep taking the shillings that are paid in quotas from these financially stable parishes.

Stupidly, the Archbishop of Canterbury has tried to paper over the cracks and keep the Church together. He should have had the courage to allow the Church to become disestablished and split. The evangelicals, traditionalists and Anglo Catholics could go one way and the Liberals the other.

As the wise Gamaliel of scripture said: "If it is of God then it will flourish."

What attracts me about the Roman Catholic Church is their sense of identity and purpose. My children have all gone at some point in their lives to a Catholic school.

There, I have seen a rounded education that teaches good citizenship and responsibility as well as faith. Interestingly, these schools are favoured by other faith groups and one local school boasts that 17 languages are spoken by children there. Now that is truly multi-cultural and yet amazingly beneficial to everyone.

I am also keenly drawn to the reverence in Catholic worship and their desire to pray. They have not lost their sense of awe and majesty and faith is something that is encouraged to be part of everyday life.

The leadership of the Catholic Church doesn't seem to be afraid to stand up for important moral issues. A secular Press often ridicules these beliefs, but the Catholics have the courage not to back down.

In this rising and damaging age of secularism, this country needs a strong moral compass to be a guide through some very troubled waters. The politicians are not the answer as we have seen with their morally bankrupt attitude to expenses.

I, for one, see a need for the Church to again be prophetic to the nation and not be afraid to stand up for what it believes. Heartbreakingly, I am no longer sure the Church of England can do this.

Like so many other Anglicans, I am at that place where I feel I must desert a sinking ship. The iceberg of secularism has struck and even the dance band is now singing the Magnificat.

GP Taylor, from Scarborough. is an ordained Anglican priest, writer and broadcaster. His latest book is entitled Rosie. Note to Self.

 
 
 

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