(Investigator 5, 1989 March)
women's ordination, and Thatcherism are dividing the Anglican Church in
Britain. From 1975-1987 2000 of 16,000 church buildings were closed
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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."
Adelaide student of Church History stated:
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.
successor is the Archbishop of York, John Habgood, 61,
a Liberal and, say some, "worse than Runcie."
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."