An Open Letter (Unsolicited Advice) to the Bishops of England and Wales

by | Dec 1, 2023

You who first read this letter will not be the intended target, but perhaps you know clergymen who should read this – even if you think they might disagree.

Your Graces, I address you as laymen and evangelists who care for the Church in England and Wales, not just the Church of England and Wales! We see the Church – and by it I mean the body – and its institutions suffering from a number of malaise – which are slowly killing the Church body in these islands. So, I offer to you this unwarranted, unsolicited advice – both in terms of a diagnosis and advice to begin to remedy the problems we face. Should any other Church leaders of any kind stumble across this open letter, you may find in it advice that you should wish to adopt, but the letter is primarily aimed at the Churches that have Bishops and a Catholic structure. This letter is addressed to all the Bishops working in England and Wales, regardless of denomination. If you are a Bishop – this letter is addressed to you! You may have received this from a well-meaning member of your laity – and I pray you consider its arguments upon their merits to see if they ring true to you in prayer and reflection.

I submit, for your consideration, key issues the body of Christ faces in the islands, as follows: 1) A collapse of families within the Church in England and Wales 2) Poor and ineffective evangelism 3) An inability to transmit and advance the faith onto the next generation, which is then subsequently lost 4) A lack of Christian unity 5) Islamisation 6) Heretical clergy teaching false doctrines and un-Christian values 7) A lack of a political vision – resulting in the Church borrowing from and leaning on other political ideologies. 8) A distraction to bricks and mortar over the life of the Church; the people and the community 9) A shortage of the presence of men.

I submit that these are the most pressing concerns of the day – far more important than any other issue you might think is the main issue! These concerns each hold within them a pastoral dynamic, though they are not all directly pastoral.

I want to address them, your Graces, imagining if I may – what you can do about them from your holy office, as successors to the Apostles and shepherds of the sheep of Christ. My suggestions are radical but the time for gradual changes and adaptions would take too long; the rot has gone too far for mere tinkering around the edges. If we care and love the Church – as we all surely do – then we must act with ambition toward a reformation of our Church life, rhythm, and structures, to meet the challenges of the day. One thing is clear, our current structural and rhythmic patterns of life in the Catholic churches are not working and are, in fact, counterproductive. It is foolish to see the current collapse of the Church and think that continuing to do that which is not working is somehow an appropriate response. Though the radical may seem outside of imagination, please bear with me as nothing that will be suggested in any way undermines the nature of the Church; it merely acknowledges that the habits, patterns, and structures of the Church life of yesteryear are not suited to the present.

To begin with, your Graces, if won over to these theses and suggested strategy whole or in part, you need to bring your Diocese on the journey. You should begin, at your first convenience, an annual Bishop’s conference to which you invite and seek to gain the whole attendance of all clergy and laity within your Diocese, in which you lay out the vision and show how it will play out over time, as determined. Engage and enthuse the people of GOD as a whole to participate in this ‘Holy Campaign of Renewal’. Each subsequent year, report again on the progress and fruits of the work that is being done in the Parish. The conference should be interactive and the primary means by which you recruit both paid and voluntary work – to make the strategy come to fruition.

I will now offer a strategic outline to tackle each of the concerns mentioned above. However, your Graces, please note that one common theme amid the following solution is the need for consolidation and unity; you will see this thread for yourselves as we progress. I acknowledge, that for some, it may be a stretch to think of unity outside of their particular branch of the Church. If that is too far for you to go, then I would encourage you to read that ‘unity’ within those (whomever they are) streams of the faith you can; orthodox with orthodox and so on.

1) & 3) The family is the hub of the Christian life – the heart of every Parish sociologically speaking are the families that inhabit; and yet we see increasingly an absence of families in Churches; and so your Graces; should fund in your Dioceses competent family workers, whose role it is the following in the broad stroke: a) to support directly the living and creation of a family spirituality to be lived at home for Christian families – and to support directly families to transmit the faith in the home. b) to work with the children of the Diocese to input directly to children c) to create family events for families within the Diocese to connect and know one another; and to which they invite -non-Christiann families to attend. d) to purposefully work to facilitate match-making within the community; amongst young single adults; to create new families. Additionally; the Diocese should invest heavily in family counseling and support services – to help CHRISTIAN families that are suffering distress and strain. The youth of the Diocese should be pooled together, at a Diocesan level in which Christian children feel and are part of a large youth movement; with the necessary resources and buildings to run such a 5/7 day a week youth movement. This should be aimed squarely to cater to the needs of Christian youth – and the non-Christiann friends they might invite.

2) Evangelism is badly done in most parishes; if at all your graces; partly, because many of you РI humbly suggest; can only imagine evangelism being done one way Рstreet preachers, preaching badly. Your Graces, if this is how you imagine it Рthen I suggest the fault is on you Рfor a lack of imagination. I propose that the Evangelists be employed in each Diocese with the following characteristics: emotional intelligence, highly educated, with a broad base of life experiences; and an understanding of culture and contextualised mission work; and how to build networks and movements; and event coordination; along with a proven ability to connect with people. To be allowed the licensee to do direct evangelism as they see fit; so long as they adopt a wide variety of methods. The aim should be to directly seek to engage none Christians; and to seek out and find the genuinely sincere and seeking; such a worker, would be targeted on the following: those brought to Baptism, evidence of spiritual growth in others, and an increasing capacity for evangelism amongst the laity across the parish. Additionally, your Graces, apologetics must be a central aspect of the formation of any discipleship programme being run by the Diocese. The evangelist(s) Рshould be accomplished apologists; and should be networked to the whole people of GOD; so that anyone who needs his/her help can reach them. Our evangelism must avoid the clich̩ of service provider, service user dynamic; the church should not take the position of NGO Рbut remain a distinct community within society; with our sense of identity re-enforced by constantly relearning and applying our values, and beliefs, and embodying them and living them out through traditions, customs, and disciplines of which you Рyour grace are the chief gardener!

8) I want to try and impress upon your Graces, the point that you might value buildings more than staff! However, it is pointless for the Church to hold onto buildings, sparsely populated, in which the congregations’s entire communal life is spent trying to pay the bills of the buildings – and are unable to do anything else. Yet these buildings, which many of your congregations are resources to you – are badly used! Sell the temples of the Church your graces; where those Temples can not be maintained; or deconsecrate them; and turn them into business; and have your congregations consolidate, or form house churches; the money from these sales; and/or from these businesses could then be used to pay the wages of the staff. The right strategical staff your graces; are more important to Church life and growth – than the buildings your Graces. Only congregations that can support themselves; should be left open; all others should be dealt with in this way. The workers that you employ, from these sales and businesses, can then be funded to help build your church up in your diocese. Depending on the building your grace, the Church congregation, could use the money from the business – based in the building to fund it; in such a way that allows it to still be used for congregational life. What needs to stop, however, is the enslavement to bricks and mortar both of congregations and the vision of Bishops like yourself. Your Graces employ many staff in your Diocese – that – serve no real function of Church growth; they are merely ornamental, curators and administrators of paper empires. These staff should be let go of; and the funds that paid them; should directed to staff directed to grow.

5), 7) & 9) These points your Graces, whilst being distinct are interwoven, and as such; I will write about them altogether, whilst also addressing them distinctly as required in this section. The church lacks me, and it lacks men because it lacks a strong masculine spirituality and a place for masculine energy. Your Graces must create a space for a spirituality; that bares responsibility, sets challenges, has rivals, and seeks to compete with opponents; these are the ingredients of a spirituality that speaks to men; men are drawn to brotherhoods in common causes. Consider your graces; where men go apart from Church, sports theatres, drinking halls, and what religions are drawing them in – Islam! Your graces; we should point our Church life to compete and combat both Secular Humanism and Islam; framed in the language not of insipid ‘community relations’ but rather of competition and battle; as opponents and enemies. To this end the Diocese should encourage men to embrace three things, personal responsibility for the victory of the Church in all spheres; group solidarity amongst the men as brothers, and as brothers, to the wider people of GOD in the Diocese and further afield; and physical strength and fitness. Christian men should be encouraged to study the faith, learn martial sports, like boxing, and organise in brotherhoods to tackle the challenges faced by the congregation. The Bishop should lead in creating fraternities to meet the challenges of the Diocese by the brotherhoods he forms for the purpose. Islam is a principal challenge to the Church: socially, politically, economically, and culturally; as well as spirituality. Therefore you Grace should work – to establish a Christian economy within your diocese, strong cultural expressions of Christianity that are public and outward-facing, encourage the church to campaign politically on matters of concern to the Church – like solidarity with persecuted Christians, amongst others, and practice a strong form of evangelism – by the men, who in time will look the part because of their martial training. Furthermore, your Graces, should understand the importance of social consolidation; to all of this; should funding be available from the sale of Church property – that is not thriving; then building increasing accommodation within the Diocese; and moving the people of GOD into the same geographical area to one another – will help solidify the Christian presence, and help in the impact-fulness of this renewed community. Strenuous effort should be made to recruit and employ believing Christians into any institution such as Church schools, or charities, of which the Church is a stakeholder. The more the people of GOD invest themselves in that identity, the more they are committed to it, your Graces! One of the reasons why Christians are so ineffective is that they are too spread out your graces. You should seek your graces, to make the Church the chief stakeholder in the whole of society; and its economic, political, and cultural life; and you have the resolve to defend that position! Men will come when you inspire them to fight for something, and invite them to join in common toil and struggle; Islamisation; is the chief threat to the Church followed; by Liberal Secular Humanism; and this masculine energy – needs to be directed by a clearly worked out political ideology, that is not borrowing from the left or the right of politics; but is a politics of identity; Christian identity, identifying with the people of GOD in all matters, to their betterment – over and above other communities! ‘Do good to all men – but especially those in the house of faith.’

6) This brings us to the problem of heretical, or weak and incompetent clergy! Too many parish clergy are lacklustre, un-inspirational bores who are either grifting off the Church whilst barely feeding the people spiritual milk, or grifting off the Church whilst pushing ideological ends, rooted less in Christianity than they are in the precepts of secular humanism, or socialism or some cases – environmentalism or communism. These clergy have to go! They must be identified and replaced even if the number of active clergy falls initially and you have to place multiple congregations under the few faithful clergy that remain. The diaconate needs to be renewed as the ‘servers’ of the church, to facilitate the life of the community in multiple ways; far above and beyond the window dressing it currently plays to the liturgical life of the church. Your Graces – must assess – the effectiveness of the clergy; and whether their actions – are bringing people to Christ; or bringing the servants of Christ to be the servants of nature, a god of civil religion, or the god of public service! Those who have lost sight of the centrality of Christ in the life of the Church – must be corrected – and if they demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to put Christ and his Church centrally – should be removed from office. Fewer, but faithful clergy, guiding the people of GOD is better than a compromised Church. This principle also applies to any institution or infrastructure – that is a concern of your grace, laity staff, should also be removed if they are not faithful Christians; it is better to shrink the institutions of the Church – and build again from a strong core – than to try and limp forward (when in fact this compromised position is poisoning the Church).

If, by chance, you are the unlucky clergyman – faithful to GOD in a diocese that is governed by a heretical Bishop, then I would encourage you to embody as much of this programme as you can. This is only an outline sketch – a skeletal outline to those concerned enough to care. However, to those clergy who would seek to go through this in more detail as part of a consultation – free – I would be happy to talk out these ideas in more detail and help you talk through them. You can contact me through this website. One thing is certain – the catholic liturgical churches are dying – they can not simply keep going on in the same way, and I believe the reason they are dying is that they keep focusing their energy on questions that are not productive to their triumph, growth, and strength.