To supplement the article I posted yesterday, I found another article today from the London Times. Its sort of a different slant. Let me know what you think...
Is Protestant England on its last legs?
by Ruth Gledhill
Anyone would think that with the demise of the Pope has come another death, that of our national church. Read Ruth Gledhill's comments and send us your views - using the e-mail form at the bottom of this page
In case you hadn't noticed, with the demise of the Pope has come another death, that of Protestant England.
Oh, so you hadn't realised? Your church is still standing, your services continuing on their weekly round, your vicar still paid his or her stipend. Well, maybe we shouldn't inquire too closely into that last one.
But I can't be the only Anglican to have become profoundly irritated by pundits who've interpreted the response to the death of the last Pope and election of a new one as a sign that our own church is on its last puff of smoke. To paraphrase the old obituary joke: "So the Church of England is dead? I didn't realise it was still alive."
What really got me was a writer in my own newspaper, who concluded not only that the Church of England had effectively become "just a weak version of Rome's strong spiritual medicine". He had the cheek to conclude that the same fate had befallen journalists of the Protestant persuasion.
He cited the reverence of the press to the RC church. "One can instantly think of a large handful of Catholic columnists," he wrote. "Can you name a single one who is noticeably Anglican?"
Well yes, Theo Hobson, actually I can. Me.
OK, so I am not technically a columnist, unless you count At Your Service, a weekly service review. But I have been writing about religion for The Times for 15 years. And I did write lots of comment on the Pope, much of it highly critical. And if I failed to point out my membership of our national church in each one, that was more due to journalistic etiquette than any sense of belonging to a doomed institution that is about to snuff it.
But there is a far more important point to be made here than my slighted desire to be recognised by my peers. For a few days after the death of Pope John Paul II, it was as if our world had been translated to a parallel universe, with the BBC transubstantiated into Vatican Radio. One can't help admiring the fortune of the Beeb, having the chance to fit all its required religious affairs programming for the year into the space of a few short days. More significantly, what all this showed was nothing like the death of our national church, less still of the Protestant heritage to which it belongs. Quite the reverse.
The homage paid by Protestants, from Rowan Williams downwards, to the late Pope and the advent of his successor illustrates the welcome death of an insidious anti-Catholicism that for centuries has poisoned ecumenism and nourished sectarianism, with all its attendant evils. Further, it displays a newly confident and adult Protestantism, a form of Christianity that can properly admire, respect and even love the mother Church that gave it birth, having finally come through the adolescent period of hate-driven rebellion that drove the initial separation.
It shows the extent to which our church has become a thriving, risk-taking and questioning body that is too busy with its business of saving souls to be overly worried by the new Pope's assertion, in his previous incarnation as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that it is not, in fact, a "proper" church.
It shows a church that is prepared to look, as we shall see in the new document on Mary due to be published next Monday (16th) by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, at reclaiming some of the religious symbolism it jettisoned at the Reformation.
It shows a tradition that is ready, not to be subsumed once more by the Church it rejected 400 years ago, but to work alongside her, as a child might work alongside its parent, or even the Son beside his Father.
In a world so desperately in need of the Holy Spirit, the recent elevation of all things Catholic on to the front pages of our newspapers is something to be celebrated, not bewailed.
This column also appears in this week's Church of England Newspaperwww.churchnewspaper.com