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Does Being Conservative On Gay Sex Help Church Growth?

Does Being Conservative On Gay Sex Help Church Growth?

By Harry Farley
http://www.christiantoday.com/
February 28, 2017

Anglicans must listen more carefully to the rapidly growing conservative provinces like Nigeria and South America, according to the head of major project assessing the state of the Church around the world.

New research shows a rapid growth in the global Anglican Communion over the last 50 years despite dire decline in the Church of England and The Episcopal Church in the USA. The extensive data, laid out in Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion, highlights the shift from a predominantly white Western denomination to now where Anglicans are now predominantly from the global south.

Church attendance has fallen year on year for the last decade in the Church of England with other parts of the Communion growing rapidly.

David Goodhew, editor of the research, said the shift must be reflected in the Church's theology and practice.

'One doesn't just do theology by weight of numbers but it would be simply unjust to ignore the fact that the bulk of the Anglican Communion is now outside the Western world and also to ignore the gifts there,' he said in an interview with Christian Today.

'Those of us who are white Westerners who have historically had the power in the Communion should be very careful before we start ordering others around or indeed talking over others,' he added.

'We should be thinking very hard when we feel something strongly that there may be quite a bit of our culture in there. It isn't just we're right and they are wrong.'

Tensions across the worldwide Communion have ramped up over the issue of sexuality in particular with the deeply entrenched conservative provinces appalled the American's endorsement of gay marriage. GAFCON, a conservative grouping of mainly African leaders, have called for alternative leadership other than the Archbishop of Canterbury -- currently seen as the first among equals among all Anglican figures.

Goodhew warned the Church as a whole needs to think very carefully about how to forward with deep rifts already firmly in place on both sides.

'People use this word 'inclusive' a lot,' he said. 'If I'm honest I'm slightly suspicious of it because it can be a weapon.

'People define what they want inclusion to mean and then exclude everyone else on the basis of supposedly being inclusive.

'I believe a gospel inclusion includes taking very seriously what the whole Communion is saying and that includes particularly the Communion outside the West.'

The issue of growth is a heated one with conservatives citing their larger congregations and growing attendance figures compared to the rapidly declining Church in America.

But Goodhew is reluctant to reduce the issue of growth to one of conservative versus liberal theology.

'Churches that grow are churches that intend to grow -- they want to grow. Perhaps that sounds too simplistic. But that means they have a theological reason why they are trying to grow. That is where the tradition has an impact. It is the churches that is drawing on their tradition -- whether that is their understanding of the Bible, their understanding of Church tradition, their understanding of the Holy Spirit -- that is pushing them to try and engage with their community and that is what is leading them to growth.

'Churches that are repeating what they have always done and aren't entirely sure why are rather less likely to grow.'

'At the moment in terms of tradition, it would only be honest to say that the growth we are seeing most is in the evangelical charismatic wings of the church.

'But not only that. If you look at Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Melanesia you are seeing thriving Anglo Catholic provinces. So it can happen there. It is just happening so widely in the Catholic provinces.'

END

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