Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” [Isaiah 6:8]
Err.... not quite. A Church in Wales Press Release tells us that postcards will be handed around churches across Wales next Sunday as "part of a major drive to help find more vicars". June 5 has been designated Ministry and Calling Sunday when people will be invited to "think about whether they, or anyone else they know, should consider a career in the Church in Wales [my emphasis] and write a postcard responding to the call". A 'career'! That says much about the downfall of the Anglican church. No sacred ministry, just another job in the work place, obsessed with equality of opportunity and the political correctness of secularism rather than faith, mystery and otherness.
You can read an interesting Blog item 'The shrinking Church of England' here. Elsewhere in the WhyChurch Blog there are some useful graphs including the one copied below which shows the UK at the bottom of the pile for churchgoing way back in 2002:
The Church in Wales highlights the problem they face in Wales when the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, says “We are facing a growing need to find more ministers, with nearly a third of our clergy (166) currently serving due to retire in the next five years." This problem is illustrated in the following 2005 chart which shows ageing congregations with declining attendances:
Traditionally vocations were found among congregations but no longer. As a BBC web site puts it, "many of those attending [church] are of the older generations, with statistics showing that few 15 to 30 year olds go to church." Some see this as a result of the church becoming feminised. As more girls and women occupy chancels and sanctuaries, boys and young men have taken to football and other pursuits. Ordination lists frequently include candidates, predominately female, in the upper age brackets. The traditional pool of youngsters has dried up and no longer provides the vocations needed. Instead procedures are put in place to recruit mainly women for a career as social workers in vestments.
The ordination of women has not halted the decline. Many worshippers have ceased churchgoing because of it while others have looked elsewhere in the universal church to worship according to conscience, something the Church of England Synod and Church in Wales stubbornly refuse to recognise. In Wales clergy are urged to "poke, tweet and blog" while an 'independent group' examines aspects of the Church – its leadership, structures and use of resources - giving the impression that the administrators have been called in.
The Church in Wales may be already doomed as a separate entity but what of the Church of England? Is it too late to stop the decline? The ordination of women has to be seen in the context of the wider church and moves towards unity in East and West with the Anglican church being left behind. I do not share the view that women should be allowed to be bishops because they have been allowed to become priests. Two wrongs do not make a right. Figures published in the Telegraph last October suggested a hardening against reforms and liberal bishops. As the issue of women bishops is debated around the country churchgoers would do well to look to Wales to see what has become of the church there under the leadership of His Darkness and, barring a miracle, its demise.