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3 Bumps

CoE starting a paganized church

In response to the people running away in droves, the Church of England has decided to start a "more pagan" church with Christian themes (as if Christmas and Easter weren't pagan enough).  Is there any way this won't blow up in their face, either by insulting pagans or infuriating their old school my way or the highway older members?


Should Christians Be More Like Pagans?

On the Summer Solstice over 20,000 individuals went to Stonehenge to revel and watch the sun rise (alas it was too cloudy this year to actually see the sun, though that didn’t seem to dim the celebrations). While in the past these massive throngs of travelers, tourists, and true-believers were seen as a charming (or annoying depending on your views) facet of British life, recent demographic upheavals regarding religion in the island nation have some re-evaluating what these crowds represent.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

“A new analysis of the 2011 census shows that a decade of mass immigration helped mask the scale of decline in Christian affiliation among the British-born population – while driving a dramatic increase in Islam, particularly among the young. It suggests that only a minority of people will describe themselves as Christians within the next decade, for first time.”

So I was not completely shocked to hear that the Anglican Church in England is working to create a “pagan church” in the name of reaching out the kind of folks who like to gather at megaliths for festivals.

“The church is training ministers to create “a pagan church where Christianity [is] very much in the centre” to attract spiritual believers. Ministers are being trained to create new forms of Anglicanism suitable for people of alternative beliefs as part of a Church of England drive to retain congregation numbers. Reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a researcher and adviser in new religious movements told the BBC: ‘I would be looking to formulate an exploration of the Christian faith that would be at home in their culture.’

No doubt certain corners are already hunting “Episcopagans,” but I think this is more like the churches that hold “goth” services. It’s the same Christian theological center, but with trappings designed to make this growing demographic comfortable. Further, I don’t think this is really about Pagans at all. It’s about the millions of people with “no religion,” the folks who take an increasingly individualistic view of religion, and have no trouble attending a Pagan event on week, and (maybe) going to a Christian church the next.

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2011 Britain Census data.

“Compared with the 2001 Census the most significant trends were an increase in the population reporting no religion – from 14.8 per cent  of the population in 2001 to 25.1 per cent  in 2011, a drop in the population reporting to be Christian – from 71.7 per cent  in 2001 to 59.3 per cent  in 2011, and an increase in all other main religions. The number of Muslims increased the most from 3.0 per cent  in 2001 to 4.8 per cent  in 2011.”

Who knows, maybe a strategy embracing a more Pagan-friendly form of Christianity would win some new converts, but I think most people’s alienation comes from something deeper than aesthetics. On Thursday I spent four hours speaking to evangelical Christians who were studying to become clergy and full-time missionaries within their faith. At one point a young woman asked me what theological common ground modern Pagans and evangelical Christians shared. It was a question that stopped me short, and I had to finally admit that there was no theological common ground of note between us. That indeed, Christianity was in part formed in opposition to the then-dominant paganisms of the ancient world. Exclusivity, rigid monotheism, creator-steward dynamics, an infallible central text as ultimate authority, there are things are simply aren’t embraced by the bulk of the modern Pagan movement. I eventually said that instead of searching for theological common ground, we should focus on things that jointly concern us as human beings (human rights, the environment) and work on relationships instead of bridge-building through belief.

I suppose a “pagan” Christianity could emerge within festival culture like the Jesus People did within the 1960s hippie movement, but it’s not something that can be constructed from the top down. Training Pagan-friendly ministers might be nice for certain interfaith interactions, but I can’t see it convincing anyone to reclaim an Anglican Christian identity. What really needs to happen is more authentic relationships across faith lines, not training in how to conform to perceived subcultural norms. A relevant Christianity is one that re-focuses on its core radical message of love and embracing those outcast by society, not one that knows how to drum at Stonehenge during the solstice.

What do you think? Should Christians be more like Pagans, at least aesthetically? Would it matter to you?


Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 9:27 PM on Jun. 22, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (4)
  • I'm all for embracing the core radical message of love, an how or what people choose to worship, if anything, doesn't bother me one way or the other. But I'm not sure how the Anglican Church will fare with this because to the old school any reform will be too much, and those who want reform will never get enough. All you get from straddling the fence is busted balls ...

    Answer by Ballad at 10:25 PM on Jun. 22, 2013

  • what exactly is the CoE planning on doing to become paganized? i mean...isnt the term "pagan" kinda used for "not monotheistic"? this just doesnt make sense. is the CoE ignorant enough to think if they hold church outside and focus more on the spiritual aspects instead of literal rules, that will draw ppl in?

    Answer by okmanders at 11:08 PM on Jun. 22, 2013

  • I think adopting anything for the sake of gaining or holding onto followers is wrong.
    I think education and understanding of each other is great.

    Answer by Dardenella at 2:33 PM on Jun. 23, 2013

  • Pagan is not Christian.

    Answer by morebee7 at 1:05 AM on Jul. 23, 2013

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