Posts Tagged ‘Church of England’

Waxing and Waning

Monday, July 29th, 2019

In both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, there has been much concern about decline in membership. The Episcopal Church has lost half its members since the 1950’s, despite a growing U.S. population. A recent survey in England indicated only 1% of persons aged 16-24 attend church.

But church attendance waxes and wanes through the ages. I have been reading in the journal, Anglican and Episcopal History about a period in Maryland before the American Revolution when atheism was rampant and even churchgoers doubted that God could in any way intervene in his creation. Needless to say, there was little discussion of “spirituality” and other topics that are so popular in the church today.

One could point to other signs of hope in our contemporary church. The newer, younger clergy, for example, are much more committed to traditional Christian beliefs and a personal God than the generation of the 1960’s.

It doesn’t pay to be too pessimistic. —J. Douglas Ousley


Leadership in the Church of England

Monday, May 20th, 2019

I’m just back from a week in London and, as usual, I had many conversations with church people there.

And also, as usual, I heard many comments on the present Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Both leaders are relatively new in their positions. Both had secular careers before being ordained later in life. Both have Evangelical backgrounds.

And it must also be said that neither the Archbishop nor the Bishop come off in person as particularly attractive or exciting. Bureaucratic might be more accurate.

They don’t seem to have come up with stimulating new programs that would be likely to inspire the church. Nor have they impressed the high-powered businesspeople in the ancient City of London, where Incarnation’s sister parish is located.

While this is regrettable, the church will have both leaders in place for some years to come. All the more reason to pray that other, Spirit-filled persons will also be raised up to share the governance of our mother Church. —J. Douglas Ousley


Christians in the Arena

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Christians worldwide reacted in horror to the news of the bombing of Sri Lankan churches on Easter Sunday. More than 250 persons were killed and hundreds more were maimed or injured.

A prominent Wall Street Journal columnist, Gerald Baker, chided the Anglican Archbishop of York for not being more forthright in his expression of solidarity with the Sri Lankan Christians. Baker was concerned that Archbishop John Sentamu emphasized that he was against all forms of anti-religious violence. For Baker, this seemed to undermine the support the Archbishop should have expressed for the recently martyred.

This is a very tricky issue. Christians are “people of the Book ” but so are Jews and Muslims Especially given the secularization of Western culture, we Christians shouldn’t find ourselves blaming all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Faithful people have to stick together.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of Easter Sunday was all Christian. May the Sri Lankans be uplifted by the prayers and witness of all their fellow Christians–and by observant Muslims as well. —J. Douglas Ousley


Our Lady of Paris

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

When I served as canon pastor of the American Cathedral in Paris, I was invited to worship on several memorable occasions at what will now be known as the “old” Notre Dame Cathedral.

One evening, I was included in a group of French priests who had gathered to hear Pope John Paul II. On two occasions, I participated in joint Anglican-Roman Catholic baptisms of the children of French-American couples. The baptisms took place at the high altar; I’ll never forget the extraordinary view looking outwards down the length of the immense cathedral.

The French Roman Catholic Church of that era was particularly welcoming to Anglicans. If you were in France and there was no Anglican chapel near by, you could receive communion in the local Catholic church. The same “eucharistic courtesy” was extended to French Catholics visiting England.

Parisian Catholics are now extending openness is to all the people of France, and the French are responding in kind–and with amazing financial generosity. Let us hope that the spiritual generosity also abides, especially between French Catholics and Anglicans. —J. Douglas Ousley


Second Largest Church in the World

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

I had lunch yesterday with the Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is located on Amsterdam Avenue near Columbia University. Known as “St. John the Unfinished” because parts of it have never been completed according to the original divine, it is reputed to be second in size only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Maintaining such a huge edifice (and many accompanying buildings, including a school) is a task I can’t even imagine.

Yet cathedrals have in general fared better than the local parish church. In the Church of England, attendance at cathedrals has been growing while regular congregations are declining. People seem to enjoy the relative anonymity of the large buildings and the stately, even mystical worship–often accompanied by excellent music. St. John the Divine on large festivals greets crowds of 3,000 people.

I like to think that Incarnation shares some of the attractions of cathedrals. It is larger than many, seating 800 persons. We have a fine choir and formal liturgy. People can be pretty anonymous unless they want to be part of the parish family. All the better to welcome strangers in Christ’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley


Showing Up

Monday, August 6th, 2018

A recent article in the Church Times of London noted that many recent marketing schemes for the Church of England have failed. The author, Richard Nicholl suggested that instead of trying to attract new members with gimmicky campaigns, they should learn from companies like Facebook and Amazon–which never need to advertise.

First, like these companies, the church needs to show that “everyone else is in on it.” That means, says Nicholl, that those who are already members have to show up “every week, preferably without fail…It is existential. Just as ‘everyone else’ is on Facebook, ‘everyone else’ should be at church. We have an obligation to the Church and to one another…” The least we can do is show up.

Second, the Church “must, above all, be somewhere that people feel obliged to go, but do not resent attending.” As Nicholl sees it, this is not the same thing as being a place people want to go. Churches are so diverse that people will always find them a bit difficult. But if the liturgy is regular and familiar and there are other attractive programs, we will be able to participate regularly and faithfully–as Nicholl says, to “do what you know in your heart that you have to do.” —J. Douglas Ousley


Talking the Talk

Monday, May 21st, 2018

American Episcopalians could be pleased with the reception given to the sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last Saturday.

I have been surprised at how few of the Episcopalian laypeople I have talked to knew of Bishop Curry or were aware that he is the Presiding Bishop of the whole Episcopal Church. Even fewer knew that he preached in the pulpit of the Church of the Incarnation last December 6, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Church Pension Fund.

To those familiar with the free-wheeling preaching style of African-American clergy, the sermon wasn’t surprising. But in the formal atmosphere of the royal chapel of St. George’s Windsor, Bishop Curry’s energetic oratory came as a bit of a shock. It could not have been more different than the cerebral reflections I heard the previous Saturday from the new Bishop of London, during her installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalians could also be proud of the precise Anglican liturgy, immaculately executed with lovely music. All in all, it was more than an elaborate ceremony; the wedding, even to the skeptic, was clearly a compelling act of worship. —J. Douglas Ousley


In the Olde Country

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Yesterday, I returned from a brief trip to London. Among other things, I was there to represent the Diocese of New York at the Installation of the new bishop of our link Diocese of London on May 12.

The Rt. Rev. Susan Mullally was placed on her episcopal throne with pomp and efficiency by notables of the Church of England and the City of London. Contrasting this events with installations of past bishops of New York, I have two comments.

  1. The Church of England still has a significant following as the Established Church. The Lord Mayor of London was present for the service and hosted a reception afterwards. (He even entered and exited by his own door in the north wall of St. Paul’s Cathedral.) The church was packed and seats were available by ticket only. There was a lottery for the limited number available to the city at large. Seating has never been a problem in the Diocese of New York, and it is decades since a major of New York was present at an installation.
  2. Second, Bishop Mullally is the first female in her post, following 132 male Bishops of London. Some conservative Evangelical and Angl0-Catholic parishes apparently declined to berepresented at the service. Whether dissident parties who reject any ordination of women will eventually be reconciled with their new diocesan remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley

Money and Religion

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Last night, I attended the annual dinner of the Church Club of New York, a social organization run by city Episcopalians.

The guest speaker was the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev. John Hall. Among other things, he mentioned an enormous building project in the upper gallery of the Abbey. It is in process now and will cost over thirty-two million pounds (over forty million dollars).

This is an extreme example of the vast expenses incurred by any ecclesiastical body that has to maintain a historic building. Many such buildings in the UK–like the Abbey and St. Paul’s–have American supporters or “friends” to help underwrite the work.

While Incarnation’s building needs at the moment (about three hundred thousand dollars) are much smaller, our base of support is also smaller. In other words, we need all the friends we can get. —J. Douglas Ousley


Socialism Reconsidered

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

I have always been struck by a major difference between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United Sates: the way clergy are paid. In England, all clergy receive basically the same salary or “stipend;” there are minor increases over the base for bishops and for clergy in London.

This wage is not high–equalling around $40,000 a year. A clergy family of four would qualify for public assistance, though they do receive housing in most cases.

Despite the low stipends, I have heard many English clergy claim their system is morally superior to the American scheme, whereby clergy in affluent parishes can make much higher salaries than those in poor areas. But a recent book by Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford claims that the Church of England would be rejuvenated by the American system, which would reward initiative and encourage church growth.

This is not to deny the moral value of the egalitarian formula. But, practically speaking, giving all clergy a substandard wage buys equality without fairness–and it does little to recruit new young clergy, which the Church of England desperately needs. At a time of increasingly left-of-center politics in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, the “capitalist” proposal by the very prominent liberal, Dean Percy is intriguing. —J. Douglas Ousley