… oh wait a minute, that was twenty-five years ago… or was it forty-three years ago?

In October 1995, I wrote an article in our Anglican Diocesan paper titled, “No time for our funeral.” At the time, we were being inundated with frantic news of the immanent demise of the Anglican Church. In that article, I reported that

Recently I came across a letter in which the author wrote, ‘From time to time one hears gloomy prognostications concerning the future of the Church.’

I then went on to point out that,

These words were written in July 1977 by my father in a final letter to his parish before he retired. At the time he found encouragement by looking back over the turbulent history of the Christian church – ‘If the threat of the Arian heresy, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Wars of Religion, triumphalism, erastianism, and hypocrisy, have failed to destroy it, how can we doubt its survival in the turmoil of the present age?’

I do not want to live with my head in the sand. These are no doubt challenging times in the life of any faith community in the western world. But, in a few months I will pass the fortieth anniversary of my ordination in the Anglican Church. And, the reality of my ordained ministry, is that for all those forty years, I have operated under an institutional death sentence. We have apparently lived in the church for at least the last half century on the edge of extinction. And yet, here we are.

This Sunday in the community in which I serve we will gather to sing, pray, hear God’s word, and share the gifts of God for the people of God. We will care for one another. We will be challenged to go out into the world and live as instruments of reconciliation. We will renew our commitment to be “the light of the world.”

At the end of my article in the Diocesan Post twenty five years ago, I suggested that

Rather than fretting over the state of the church, perhaps we could look at our own individual lives and our own faith communities and ask,

  • Are we growing in faithfulness?
  • Are we learning year by year to be more loving?
  • Are we deepening our ability to care for one, for all the world and for God’s creation?
  • Are we modelling relationships of welcome, acceptance and mutual respect so that the world may see in us the way to healing and reconciliation?

I stand by these questions today. These are the kinds of questions the church needed to ask in 1977 and 1995 and needs to continue asking in 2020. If we are seeking in the church to live a positive answer to these questions, then the future of the church is not our concern.

If, in our communities we are growing in faithfulness, learning to be more loving, deepening our care for all creation, and modelling relationships of reconciliation, there is nothing more about which we need to worry. The statisticians can throw around all the gloomy numbers they like, but we are in God’s hands. We are guided by love and we live in trust and hope. In the end,

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 29)

The institutional expression of that faith may shift and change over the years. But there is nothing to fear.