THE Church of England could disappear within a generation or two. Even if it survives it is in danger of becoming a minority sect.
Who holds such subversive views? None other than the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, who is highly regarded within the Church as one of its most effective communicators with the world at large. Bishop McCulloch has expressed his anxieties in a new publication from Christian Research; the burden of what he has to say is that although a huge majority of the UK population identified themselves as Christians in the 2001 Census, most churches fail to reach out and engage with them. There speaks the frustrated communicator and it is interesting to see the reasons he gives for that failure. It is not an inability or unwillingness to articulate the Church's message. The problem in Bishop McCulloch's eyes is rather different - “Far too many of us are being forced into managing an institution rather than engaging with souls. It is almost as if the Devil is in this. It distracts people from what they are meant to be doing.” This is an increasingly familiar complaint in British society today; it is heard, for instance, from school teachers and doctors who are so occupied with meeting targets and submitting reports that they have less and less time for what they are employed to do. In the case of the Church of England, Bishop McCulloch's complaints are of the debate over sexuality, 25 years of Church legislation and increasing red tape caused by secular regulations - all getting in the way of the true mission of evangelism. And, he says, when an institution gets into this situation, “It has lost its heart”.