B S

        (Investigator 5, 1989 March)

Homosexuality, women's ordination, and Thatcherism are dividing the Anglican Church in Britain. From 1975-1987 2000 of 16,000 church buildings were closed down.

One casualty in December 1987 was George Bennet – Oxford dean, theologian, church historian, and leader of the conservatives – who was found dead in his Toyota with a hose running from the exhaust.

The introduction to Crockford’s Clerical Directory (the Handbook of the Church of England) which comes out every two years is usually non-controversial. But in 1987 the Crockford introduction attacked the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, then 66. The Primate, it was alleged, feared making decisions, gave low priority to firm principles, had helped his supporters into top positions, and followed current social trends in place of Church traditions.

Bennett was accused of being the author and this is said to have provoked his suicide. The accusations against Runcie grew into an avalanche. A survey revealed that almost 50% of Anglican churchgoers felt the Church had taken too liberal a course. Cases of churchmen bitterly deriding the Church multiplied.

Between 1950 and 1980 registered Church membership dropped from 17.5% of the population to 7.4% When Runcie came to power in 1980 he described this as "devastating". But worse was to follow!

In 1980 2 million Anglicans out of a nominal 27 million still attended church services in Britain. But in 1987 attendance was down to 1¼ million! The Anglican Church, whose Head is Queen Elizabeth II, had clearly entered a crisis.

"The Hierarchy has lost contact with the laity," said Reverend Peter Mullen. The people wanted traditional worship and not sermons about Liberation Theology and the evils of Mrs Thatcher, explained Mullen.

Runcie had been promoting anti Apartheidism, criticism of Thatcher capitalism, acceptance of homosexuality, ordination of women, and tolerance of churchmen who deny the virgin birth. Runcie's policies were also approved in the General Synod (a sort of Church parliament).

After Bennet's death, however, the traditionalists gained new impetus. They feared that the Church was becoming like Sodum and Gomorrah and that its end would follow. Newspapers were calling the Church an "irrelevant institution".

Graham Leonard, 67, Bishop of London, led a minority group of clerics and laity with the slogan: "Back to Biblical morality!" The group wants the removal of homosexual priests and are opposing the 1991 goal of women priests.

An Anglican vicar told the London Telegraph: "There are more homosexuals in the Church than in most other occupations."

An Adelaide student of Church History stated:
"Christianity is strong when it follows the Bible. Christians must, as the Bible in Ephesians says, 'Put on the armour of God'. That includes having the faith to accept Biblical ethics.

"The anti Bible stance of Britain's Anglican leaders threatens the Church by removing its foundation. The cults are winning the day as a desperate Anglican laity seeks spiritual guidance. The Jehovah’s Witnesses alone are getting a quarter of a million to their meetings in Britain."

Runcie's likely successor is the Archbishop of York, John Habgood, 61, a Liberal and, say some, "worse than Runcie."