Saith The Economist: The Church of England is (all together now) not dead yet

There was a time in my youth when no party was complete without someone reciting lines from the 1975 film comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

For my generation, that movie's catchphrase “Bring out your dead!” is the verbal equivalent of Proust’s madeleine, evoking powerful memories of things past. I once even heard Lord Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, obliquely refer to that classic line in a press conference.

The “Bring out your dead!” movie scene begins with John Cleese carrying over his shoulder an old man dressed in a nightshirt. He starts to place the old man into a cart carrying victims of the plague. Eric Idle is the driver.

All together now.

Cleese: Here's one.
Idle: Ninepence.
Old Man: I'm not dead!
Idle: What?
Cleese: Nothing!  Here's your ninepence.
Old Man: I'm not dead!
Idle: 'Ere! 'E says 'e's not dead!
Cleese: Yes he is.
Old Man: I'm not!
Idle: 'E isn't?
Cleese: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
Old Man: I'm getting better!
Cleese: No you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.
Idle: I can't take 'im like that! It's against regulations!
Old Man: I don't want to go on the cart.
Cleese: Oh, don't be such a baby.
Idle: I can't take 'im.
Old Man: I feel fine!
Cleese: Well, do us a favor...
Idle: I can't!
Cleese: Can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
Idle: No, gotta get to Robinson's. They lost nine today.
Cleese: Well, when's your next round?
Idle: Thursday.
Old Man: I think I'll go for a walk.
Cleese: You're not fooling anyone, you know. (To Idle) Look, isn't there something you can do? (They both look around)  
Old Man: I feel happy! I feel happy!  
(Idle deals the old man a swift blow to the head with a wooden mallet. The old man goes limp.)  
Cleese: (Throwing the old man onto the cart) Ah. Thanks very much.
Idle: Not at all. See you on Thursday!
Man: Right! All right.

The Church of England, like the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is not dead yet. Granted, it is not at all well. A steady decline of a hundred years or so is not an indicator of health, but a report last week in The Economist shows some signs of life.

The article in the Jan. 17 print edition entitled “London supplies England with wealth, culture -- and, increasingly, Christians” reports on the church-planting movement within the Church of England. Unlike many press accounts of the CoE, which predict its imminent demise, the editorial line of The Economist article favors its subject matter.

There is nothing in this story about women bishops, homosexuality, liberal politics, naughty vicars or any of the usual fodder for CoE articles. In some ways I am surprised by this piece, as it could have been printed in a religious newspaper or magazine. The assumptions and attitudes it displays value the church and its mission. Overall this is a very nicely done story, yet I wonder if The Economist could have pushed a bit harder. Were they too respectful?

The article reports on St. Peter’s Church in Brighton and its vicar and his wife, Steve and Jodi Luke, and the remarkable growth the church has experienced.

Since the couple moved to St Peter’s in 2009 along with 30 other Christians, the congregation has swelled from 15 to almost 1,000 people.

The article recounts the decline of organized religion in Britain, but states:

Continue reading "The Church of England is (all together now) not dead yet " by George Conger.

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