We should expect better, but sometimes you just have to despair.
A link to a BBC website this morning led me to the following quote by the Editor of the Church of England Newspaper (sic):
Editor of the Church of England Newspaper, Colin Blakely, said dioceses across the country were facing serious problems that were partly due to declining church attendance. He said: “With such a massive drop in the number of people going [and] the number of people who are giving to the church – that’s going to affect all sorts of things.” Three dioceses had already been merged in the north of England because of declining revenues, he said.
This little organ really should change its name as it is not the ‘Newspaper of the Church of England’. That aside, and allowing for the possibility that the editor has been either misunderstood or misinterpreted, what he says is decontextualised nonsense and the last bit a downright lie.
First, projections to 2057 assume nothing happens between now and then – that you can draw a straight line from now until then. Just take a moment to reflect on that.
Second, that numbers affect money, and that this “affects all sorts of things” is such a bland truism that it beggars belief it was even said.
Third, and most seriously, three dioceses in the north of England have not been merged and finance is not the driving factor in proposals to merge three dioceses. In fact, finance rarely comes into it. It is about a pile of other stuff – like better support of clergy and parishes, more flexibility of development of clergy, etc. – and not about money. None of the three dioceses has financial alarm bells ringing.
So, my question is: is the quoted editor going to demand a retraction?
This lazy reportage, in which disconnected factors are linked together, owes everything to the inability of some journalists to avoid squeezing everything into a single assumed narrative: that church is defined by ‘emptying pews’ and everything we do is aimed at stopping people leaving or saving money.
It’s enough to make you weep.