As the church’s governing body prepares for another round of debates over same-sex relationships and the decision to host raves in cathedrals causes consternation, Tim Dieppe suggests that radical repentance is the only way to stop the rot


Source: Canterbury Cathedral Instagram

The most recent data released by the Church of England suggests the terminal decline is continuing. 

This month’s Statistics for Mission report states that all-age average weekly attendance was 654,000 people in 2022. While this was an eight per cent increase on 2021, it was a drop of 23 per cent on pre-Covid figures (2019).

Some 641 churches have closed since 2000. And Church of England attendance has more than halved since 1987.

Rave in the nave

In what looks like a desperate attempt to attract people, Canterbury Cathedral recently hosted a 90s-themed silent disco. Over a dozen more ‘rave in the nave’ events are planned at other cathedrals across England.

Those who fail to uphold biblical sexual ethics should be removed from ministry

But the events have not been a PR success for the Church, with many expressing shock and dismay that a sacred space should be used in this way. Christians laboured and gave sacrificially for years to build awe-inspiring places dedicated to the worship of God. Yet today, the Church thinks an alcohol-fuelled rave is the only way to get people into the building.

Have these cathedrals have lost confidence in the gospel?

Learning the lessons

One might hope that the CofE would do some serious self-examination in the light of the steady decline. What about seeking to learn from thriving churches, asking them to also lead failing ones, or preaching the same confident gospel message that people are obviously attracted to? What about faithfully guarding the biblical doctrines of the 39 Articles, which all priests swear to uphold?

Even the rejection of the Archbishop of Canterbury by the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) last year, which represents 75 per cent of Anglicans worldwide, failed to cause any repentance or reconsideration of the path the CofE is going down.

There is a battle going on for the soul of the Church 

Instead, the Church persists in debating whether to update its sexual ethics in order to better conform to society. And in so doing, it puts more and more people off bothering with Church at all.

The CofE’s General Synod meets again from tomorrow. There is just one item on the agenda that relates to evangelism, then it is back to debating Living in Love and Faith, this time a motion which reads: “we commit to exploring the process for clergy and lay ministers to enter same-sex civil marriages.”

Great. Let’s enable more immorality among the clergy. That will help!

A clear remedy

There is only one remedy to stem the tide. Repentance. It’s that simple. But it requires humility. This means turning back to the true gospel message of the Bible and the doctrines encapsulated in the 39 Articles. It means that those who fail to uphold biblical marriage and sexual ethics should be removed from ministry.

There is no room for compromise when it comes to sin. The nature of sin is core to the gospel. Sin requires forgiveness and repentance. Sin is what we are saved from. Why is the Church even considering blessing same-sex immorality?

The CofE needs your prayers. There is a battle going on for the soul of the Church of England, and it matters. The Established Church has a disproportionate cultural influence. Some faithful ministers have already left, taking their churches outside the CofE. Others are committed to staying until forced out.

In this moment, as we pray for repentance in the CofE, the words of Jesus in the letter to the church in Thyatira seem appropriate: “I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:20).