Ever since I began working in the Anglican Church I have heard various versions of a constant refrain about the fate of the institution within which I work played in the media and regularly issuing from pontificating pundits.

Over and over for the past three decades I have heard predictions of the eventual extinction of Anglicanism in the western world.

The most recent dire prognostication comes from England where a NatCen British Social Attitudes Survey was released last Sunday showing that,

The number of people in the UK who describe their beliefs as being Church of England or Anglican dropped from 21 per cent to 17 per cent between 2012 and 2014- a loss of around 1.7 million followers.


No less a person than the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey has warned that,

unless urgent action is taken, the organisation is just “one generation away from extinction.”

And Peter Brierley, a former Government statistician who advises religious groups, said of the new figures

“It is very serious for the Church of England and they know it.”

“The problem is that it has a lot of elderly members, but when they die off there aren’t enough younger people to replace them.”

The problem in Britain is apparently unique to Anglicans who Naomi Jones, Head of Social Attitudes at NatCen Social Research, points out are the only Christian denomination in Britain to continue its statistical decline.

I used to scoff at the Henny Penny’s whose strident voices declared so regularly that Anglicans should be placed on the endangered species list.

Sadly, I have become a less sanguine of late about the future of the Anglican church in the highly developed commercialized world in which we are struggling to sustain our communities of life and worship.

I am sobered by the profound disconnect between the church and the world. We Anglicans seem unwilling to take seriously the people in our culture who, while seeking ways to practice their spirituality, have little appetite for the petty debates, concerns, rules, regulations, and customs about which we obsess in our little Anglican club.

Unless we begin to listen carefully to the culture outside the church, we my indeed be doomed to go the way of the Hadley Lake stickleback and the Banff longnose dace.

We may be reluctant to really listen to people outside the church because we fear the changes that caring spiritually for people who did not grow up accustomed to our styles of leadership and patterns of worship might require.

We may be content to preserve our slightly eccentric culturally anarchic worship and our outmoded patterns of organizational governance until the last Anglican departs the pew. We may clutch to our ways of doing church. But this seems a little less than the dramatic vision for the church Paul expressed when he called the Corinthians to be a force for God’s work of reconciliation in the world as

ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Our concern for self-preservation may be one of the dominant factors tending toward the ultimate demise of Anglicanism in the western world. The seriousness of the challenge we face calls for a bold vision of what it means to be Christian community in a context that no longer takes any interest in the small special-interest group known as the Anglican Church.

If Anglicanism is to survive, we may need to heed the call issued 31 March 2015 in a sermon preached by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Lowson at Lincoln Cathedral in which he said,

we are called to an external journey -­‐ often a life of sacrifice: of costly self-giving and the leaving behind of everything familiar and comfortable. As Jesus says to the fishermen, Andrew and Peter, “Put down your nets and comes follow me.” And as soon as they came to land they left everything and followed him.

We Anglicans need to be willing to ask ourselves what Jesus may be calling us to leave behind if, instead of empty churches, we desire to pass on to future generations communities of vibrant living witness to the reconciling power of Christ at work in the world.