Daniel French

Could an underground church now emerge in Britain?

A sign announcing the closure of a church in Wales in the wake of the pandemic (Getty images)

Coronavirus and the fallout from it could have been a chance for the Church of England to talk about the grand vision of Christian hope and mortality. The Bible warns us of plagues and pestilence. It tells us that we live in a broken world. It makes it clear this pandemic is far from unprecedented. Yet it also has a message of good news. Instead, too many of the Church’s senior figures have ditched this vision, choosing rather to scare us or play politics when it comes to coronavirus.

This missed opportunity, sadly predictable, uncovers a deeper Anglican crisis than push button issues like gay bishops, transgender liturgies, or declining congregations. Ultimately it stems from a lack of confidence among bishops and theologians when it comes to the supernatural. This is little surprise given how dominant secular progressive theology is in the Church. But the result is depressing: at a time when so many were reevaluating their lives – and realising how easily the things they took for granted might not always be there – too many senior figures in the Church were absent.

Since the 1960s, liberals have been eager to demythologise Christianity to death. The supernatural – the resurrection, for example – has been swapped for a progressive mélange of critical theory, wokeism and management science. Yet just like the utopian dreams of Blairism, this supposed theological revolution came to little, manifesting itself in dwindling church attendance. 

As numbers of worshippers have fallen, the paperwork for many vicars has mounted: SWOT analysis, mission statements, task force reports, policies, are all being pumped out by an army of supernumeraries within the CofE. The zenith has been Covid-19, where the Church House website went into overdrive with volumes of pithy directives that would be the envy of any government quango.

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