Reports that the CofE diocese of Bradford, may disappear altogether because so few Christians are worshipping there have been dismissed by the diocese. Despite the denials it is evident that the diocese, like many others, is in big trouble with plummeting attendance at worship. This in a diocese which covers the city of Bradford, the western quarter of North Yorkshire and parts of East Lancashire, South-East Cumbria and Leeds.
It is possible to see this as a result of shifting demographic patterns. One official said: ‘Some areas with a high concentration of Muslim migrants have experienced “white flight” and the Church is struggling to maintain a foothold.’ Some reckon that in this geographical area Christians are outnumbered two to one by Muslims.
It has been predicted by statisticians that within a decade there will be more Muslims in Britain’s mosques on Fridays than Anglicans in church on Sundays. In the face of this a CofE spokesmen lamely points out that Anglicans increasingly worship at other times of the week. Anyone who imagines that the churches of Bradford are filled with worshippers on Tuesday evenings had better lay off the communion wine.
If Muslims are going to outnumber Christians in Bradford or any other part of the UK it is nonsensical to blame the Muslims. If you have a notional diocese with a population of say 1,000,000 and there is an influx of 100,000 Muslims from Pakistan and flight of 100,000 indigenous Brits that leaves 900,000 non-Muslims. Even if the population were 2:1 that would still leave 333,000 non-Muslims to work with. Anyway, is it so wrong to share the gospel of Jesus with Muslims?
Bradford city alone has a population of roughly 300,000. Surely this is enough of a mission field for any church.
I doubt if the good people of Bradford diocese, or any other, have been swept away by neo-Darwinian theory, big bang theory or any other theory. Neither have they rejected the gospel. The crumbling of church membership throughout the UK is due overwhelmingly to a profound loss of spiritual purpose and moral nerve within the neo-Protestant hierarchy of the established churches.
There are millions in the UK today who have never actually heard the gospel. The general understanding of the message of the gospel is mediated through a filter of ecological grandstanding, trendy political posturing and social work priorities. Why should anyone be a Christian if it doesn’t have anything to offer they can’t already get through Greenpeace, the Lib Dems or the local council?
But then, just occasionally one gets a pleasant surprise. Sunday can have its tensions when a minister goes on holiday. You enter a strange church with an unknown minister not knowing what you are going to get. This Sunday we worshipped at Liddesdale CofS in Newcastleton in the Borders. The church was small, well kept, light and attractive. Being a holiday weekend half filled, but the hymns were well sung by a congregation with a wide age spread. The prayers were that rarity, I didn’t lose track, instead they focused what I was thinking and led me closer to God. The preaching was biblical, well structured, dealt with real life situations and didn’t dodge the difficult bits in the passage.
Reformation begins at the bottom, not at the top.