The Church of England has issued a new course aimed at providing a basic resource for catechesis – that is, nurturing people in Christian faith. Hardly controversial, one might think. The course was launched a few days ago and it provoked some media interest.
I haven't read what the Times seems to have published this evening (but gleaned from what is being said on Twitter), but it would appear that in a phone interview I gave this afternoon I said that there is no point trying to convert anyone anymore because the people of England have gone too far away from the faith.
Well, how interesting. Compare what the Times seems to be saying with what I actually said.
The new resource is called Pilgrim. It starts from an assumption that people know little, rather than that they already know a lot about Christian faith. This is clearly a strong point and one I illustrated from when I ran 'Open to Question' courses in my parish in Leicestershire in the 1990s. We need to assume little knowledge these days, use language that is appropriate to this changed situation, and enable all people – including those who have been Christians for a while but are not confident – to enagage in such a course without fear of being embarrassed.
Many such courses work on the same basis – that it is better to be as inclusive as possible and speak a language everyone can understand.
OK so far?
I then went on to say that religious illiteracy is an issue – that one cannot any longer (even in preaching) allude to a biblical story without telling it. Academics complain that students of art, literature and history have so little basic understanding of (or familiarity with) biblical stories or language that they simply cannot begin to understand … er … art, history or literature.
So, how does this get translated into the Church of England giving up on evangelism – when the whole point of such courses as Pilgrim is to evangelise and catechise?
How does an observation about the challenge of religious or biblical illiteracy become a surrender instead of a creative challenge – which Pilgrim takes up with creative imagination?
I will read the piece tomorrow and see how (apart from Twitter) I have been reported. If the Twittersphere is right, I will respond with a piece on media literacy.