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Lo-fact journalism

Lo-fact journalism

Lose weighty thoughts now. Ask me how.

The publication of the Hurd report into the proper role of the Archbishop of Canterbury shows that the Church of England has finally faced up to the fact of its declining importance and solvency after a decade of vigorous public denial. The generalised collapse of Christian practice in this country has been illustrated by two other pieces of news: the Archbishop of Westminster saying that Christianity in Britain might be "vanquished" and the announcement that fewer than half of the children born in the last thirty years have been baptised. About the only place where Christianity appears to matter is Northern Ireland, where, for all the talk of polite talk of "nationalists" and "unionists" the people throwing the rocks still call themselves Catholics or Protestants. And no one in Englad would like a return to that level of religious commitment.

So what is an Archbishop to do? Lord Hurdís answer is that he should get three more people to help with his job. The Archbishop of York is to take over more of the boring bits in England. There is to be a Bishop at Lambeth to keep his eye on the Church in general, and another bishop to keep an eye on the foreign parts of the Anglican Communion, from which Dr Carey derives his belief that to be Archbishop of Canterbury makes him a world spiritual Leader, and not just a comic gargoyle on the British constitution.

There are far more Anglicans in Africa and Asia than in Europe or America, so in those parts of the world Dr Carey feels as if he is being taken sseriously, as he manifestly is not here. And in the developing world, the church is growing along with a growing population. The trouble is that the Anglican Communion is in the throes of a noisy and messy break-up.

These new Christians despise, when they do not loathe, many of the characteristic features of the Church of England and of the Anglican church of America, which pays for the whole show. The Southerners hate the northern churchesí relative tolerance of homosexuality. One African bishop attempted to exorcise the secretary general of the Lesbian Gay Christinan Movement at the last meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.

The conservatives have started to send missionary bishops into the enemy territory and to ordain priests there who are not recognised by the rest of the church. This is the formal definition of schism. Even women priests are not recognised by a passionate minority of churchgoers; and when women bishops are finally made in this country, as they will be in the next ten years, the church will split once more and shrink still further.

Everyone knows this, as they also know that the financial crisis will get steadily worse. So it looks crazy for an organisation in such a mess to respond by hiring more chiefs to manage fewer Indians.. Actually, it makes a kind of sense. The only way that the Anglicans can get through the next twenty years is with a huge amount of mutual charity and goodwill. The hope is that by taking away some of the burdens of his office, they will free up the Archbishop to show these qualities, and to manage decline gracefully.

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