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Lord Carey Supports the Save the Parish Campaign

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has thrown his support behind the Save the Parish campaign.  In an op-ed piece in the Telegraph he set forth a clear argument for increasing support for the traditional means of the Church of England carrying out its mandate across the country.

He wrote:  

“As one travels across our beautiful countryside, our churches stand as proud sentinels of our past. With their lofty steeples and sturdy turreted towers, the parish churches of England are faithful witnesses of the congregations and communities that have tilled the land and lived and died under their shadows.

“The parish system of England predates the English monarchy, the Norman conquest, and the Reformation. It was already there in rudimentary form in the 7th Century when the Pope sent Theodore of Tarsus to organise the English church and develop the parish system.

“The parish is a clear expression of the Church serving the people of our land down the centuries. It provided an early form of welfare state and of local government. It proclaims: “Whoever you are, you have a right to seek the help and support of the parish in which you reside. You may be baptised, married or be buried here”.

While pointing out that the problems facing the Church today are not unique to this time period, he does believe, “This crisis of confidence was exacerbated by lockdown.  And in March 2020, clergy were told that they should not even go to their churches alone to pray”.

Addressing the idea of closing churches, Carey said, 

“It is said that we have too many churches and that many congregations are too small to be viable. If we were a business we would have closed these unproductive buildings long ago. But we are a church and we never abandon any area, because our motivation and theology is that people are spiritual and we must be there for them.

“If you close some, here and there, at what point do you find that you have reduced the church to the point that it is no longer the church of the nation”?

Acknowledging that many churches need assistance to stop decline, Cary believes that some of the problem comes from a lack of more thorough ministry formation and preparation for clergy.

He wrote,

“We need to see more resources go into strengthening the local churches and empowering ministry there. As a former principal of one of our larger theological colleges, I regret that we don’t insist on residential training for our clergy and many of our lay leaders. Online and distance learning courses are not as effective as learning in a community where people pray together. Well-trained clergy honed in worship and deep learning will not let the church down”

Perhaps Carey’s most controversial point in the op-ed addresses the matter of church finance.  

“The objection will be that the Church of England doesn’t have the money. I find that ironic. When I became Archbishop of Canterbury I discovered that the Church Commissioners had lost £800 million in poor and speculative investments. Since then they have made all that money back and many millions more. We are a rich church, blessed by the past with the most amazing buildings. It is there that we need to focus our attention and pray and work for growth. Dr Alison Milbank, Canon of Southwell Minster, argued recently that the Church of England now has a tendency to “view the parish like some “inherited, embarrassing knick-knack from a great-aunt that you wish were in the attic”.

In his concluding point, Carey opined:

“We must reject that valuation of the parish system, and regard it instead as the fundamental unit of ministry and mission. It is the best way to grow and thrive even in a society which is thoroughly secularised and fragmented”.