Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Failure of Christianity in England

The director of the pastoral ministry office of one of the dioceses sent an e-mail recently to all priests, informing them of the trends in society which can be expected to change how we are likely to live our lives in the future, and to help plan for this changing future. Reference was also made to a paper by a Protestant missionary, now in England, who has worked for many years on this topic. Protestants, the director says, have been working in this area for some time, and we have a lot to learn from them.

The speed of change is accelerating, he says, and spreading throughout the world, noting the period of 'singularity' (a time when a technological entity with greater than human intelligence is created) that many see approaching .  Consequently, we are told we have to prepare for this eventuality with study and by making the message of Jesus known within this new environment.

We are not attempting to predict the future, he says,  but to see the different possibilities that the future holds.  We have to prepare for this new future, he maintains, and mentions a few of the developments that can be expected to loom large in the coming years: an aging population, merging and  multiculturalism, climate change, the spread of education and literacy, the growth of digital communication, the bankruptcy of some countries, environmental concerns, new energy sources, strengthening of women's role in society, the disappearance of the traditional family, globalization, the bloc economy, and political influence shifting to the East, social networking becoming increasingly more important, among many other developments that may significantly alter our lives.

The  paper by the Protestant missionary presents the results of a study of Christianity in England, and  hopes that its findings will help the Church in Korea. He mentions how the Koreans have admired the English, their culture and Christianity, and that many go to England to study. However, he says that the Christianity in England  is not what Koreans think it is.  Christianity is very much on the decline in England, but there is still much that can be learned from English Christianity, including the reasons for its decline in England.  

The paper goes through the history of Christianity in England, from its beginning with Catholicism, and the Wycliffe period  that preceded the Reformation, which was not, he says, a religious reformation in England, but a political movement. Anglicanism was used as a political force to establish the kingship and the government. But he says you could see the decline of religion in England early on. You had the moral positions that were contrary to biblical morality gradually put in place. Today, he believes there would be very few in England living the Christian life. Though many say they are Christian, humanism and the satisfaction of human needs, he feels, is the predominant ethos within the country.

From the beginning, Christianity in England was divided into those who wanted to reconcile with Rome, the conservatives, and those who  wanted to go along with the reformers on the continent, the liberals, There were also those who wanted to return to the time of the middle ages, but eliminating the abuses and corruption of those times and building a truly National English Church. These divisions, however, helped to break down the unity of the Church, and  the message received from Jesus.

He gives us a number of  facts that he feels precipitated the decline of Christianity, citing first the external reasons for the decline: not seeing and preparing for the changes in society, the Church being used by the government to further their own ends, and the spread of humanistic and secularist ideas. The groups that have stayed close to the Scriptures, he says, have fared much better.

The Internal reasons for the decline of Christianity would be worldly attitudes, pragmatism and rationalism, the loss of desire for the saving of souls and for evangelization. He warns of the same thing happening in Korea if we don't prepare for the changes. He warns about the desire to work for a utopia in this world, and forgetting what the command of Jesus was to his apostles.

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