The camp liturgical dance, which has led the Anglican church through a decade of conflict, scandal and humiliation, finally appears to be over. Andrew Brown gives two cheers for the arrival of George Carey's "Jesus plc"by Andrew Brown / January 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
When people no longer believe in God, this makes difficulties for the churches. But these are small compared to the difficulties which arise when no one believes in the church. Once upon a time there was no special need to believe in the Church of England, any more than it is necessary to believe in the English language: the Church of England was the natural and reasonable form of Christianity, just as English was the natural and reasonable language.
This cultural theory had a theological counterpart in the belief that the Church of England alone held to the uncorrupted doctrines which had once been shared by all Christendom before the schism between Rome and Constantinople. It embodied what CS Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” Against this proposition, generations of Roman Catholics have laboured mightily: at first by doubting the Christianity; later by stressing the mereness of the Church of England. The sheer weight of contempt piled on the Church of England has now reached a point where, when an archbishop announces that marriage is superior to cohabitation, his thoughts become front page news.
External factors alone cannot account for this sad condition. As Christian denominations go, the Church of England is no worse off than most. Roman Catholicism has lost nearly as many members, and stands to lose many more. But those that remain are loyal. You have to know a Catholic well before he will criticise the Pope. Anglicans, on the other hand, almost define themselves by their brand of hostility; and you will no more meet a member of the Church of England without a grumble about it than you will meet an Englishman without an accent.
Along with this disloyalty goes a pervasive quality of camp. It is not primarily sexual. Homosexuality and hypocrisy about homosexuality form an important compounding factor but the bad faith and humbug goes wider than that. The gap between institutional pretension and privately acknowledged reality cannot be bridged.
There is the problem of numbers: most measurements suggest that about 2.1 per cent of the population regularly attend the services of the Church of England; a slightly larger number are practising Roman Catholics. Some overwhelming majority of the population-between 70 and 90 per cent depending on who is measuring-claims to believe in God, but whether this means anything more than that they read their horoscopes is open to doubt.
There is the problem…