The church must start talking about what really matters to families nowadays

It seems incredible to me that in the year 2011 the Anglican Church is still having meetings to discuss whether or not women should be allowed to be bishops.

The Lichfield Diocesan Synod met at the weekend to debate and vote on this motion.

In fairness, three quarters of church leaders in Staffordshire said they supported the idea.

Presumably the rest were concerned about who was going to do the washing up.

Joking apart, I do understand the need for considered debate when a faith organisation is seeking to overhaul long-established hierarchical systems.

There will always be those who oppose such changes as they strike at the very core of their beliefs.

Thus, I respect the position of people like The Reverend Prebendary Paul Lockett, of St. Mary and St. Chad’s in Longton who spoke for the minority at the Synod when he said that he “can’t acknowledge a woman bishop”.

Or, as The Reverend Stephen Pratt, of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Chell, put it: “Jesus didn’t appoint female apostles… Jesus did not make women as leaders of his church”.

In answer to that I would say that 2,000 years ago there were an awful lot of things women weren’t allowed to do which they are today.

Back then women simply didn’t hold positions of authority in any walk of life – a situation which mortal men of the time were more than happy to perpetuate.

You see, I’d like to think that if Jesus were alive today he would use whatever means necessary to get his message across to people.

Maybe he’d be a rock star, win X-Factor, or have his own TV channel and website.

I don’t think the battle of the sexes would even be on his radar because he’d recognise that civilised society has moved on a wee bit.

Indeed, I think that most impartial observers would agree that the Holy Bible – which tells the story of Jesus’s life – is full of inconsistencies and contradictions and is very much rooted in the time it was written. That is not a criticism – more a statement of fact from a lapsed Methodist who views the Good Book as a guide rather than a rulebook.

I can already hear the nay-sayers shouting that the Bible isn’t a menu from which you can choose the bits you fancy.

However, there are things in the Bible which I can’t, in all good conscience, agree with. To be frank, to me the debate over the ordination of women bishops going on within the Church of England is much ado about nothing.

I suspect most people – even those who attend church – don’t feel strongly either way.

Why? Because it doesn’t really affect them. It is an issue which the shepherds may be debating but I’m pretty sure it is of little consequence to their flocks.

I’ll tell you what the Anglican church should be debating and it’s not whether or not women should be allowed to smash through the ‘stained glass ceiling’.

It is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the officers on the RMS Titanic discussing who should sit at the Captain’s table for supper as the stern of the ship is rising out of the water minutes before it sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic.

Surely the real debate should be centred on how the Church of England – indeed the Christian church in the UK – makes itself more relevant to families in 2011.

They should be holding crisis meetings about the falling attendances and the half-empty Sunday services.

They should be asking themselves why such a small percentage of the population in this country actually bothers to attend church.

They should be asking why so few young people and children are sat in the pews.

Last week a friend of mine, a local Christian leader, invited me to attend one of a number of local churches which he assures me are vibrant and thriving and bear no resemblance to the gloomy picture I’ve just painted.

I may yet take him up on the offer but I know that for every church he suggests I could find another 10 which are either mothballed, half-empty or only used every other week because the congregation is so small that it moves around.

Just one look at the photograph taken by The Sentinel’s photographer at the Lichfield Diocesan Synod speaks volumes.

It may as well have been taken in a church because no-one in the audience is under the age of 30.

The fact is, and it genuinely grieves me to say this, the church is becoming increasingly removed from modern society and pointless debates over its internal workings serve only to underline its impotence.


One thought on “The church must start talking about what really matters to families nowadays

  1. Tony brindley says:

    Martin, as a lapsed Methodist you might be able to answer one of the questions that you pose in this article. Why do you no longer attend a church on a regular basis? Could it be that like many other people you prefer the call of the exitement and entertainment of the world and will not put aside a few hours to give praise and worship to the one true living God?
    Personally I believe that many churches have not moved with the times and the old fashioned hymns and lengthy sermons have driven many people from the churches and prevented young ones from attending.
    I sometimes visit a church in Sandyford called ‘The Beacon’ where the congregation shine a light for the Potteries with their modern hymns and friendly atmosphere.
    Try to get there one Sunday to see how the church operates and what an attraction it is for new people to become members.

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