The Anglican Church in United Kingdom has been more active than ever in the community even though church attendance has been dropping, and Op-Ed for Christianity Today by Hannah Rich asserts. In the article, Rich contrasts the growth in charitable work the church has been doing with the increased secularization and declining church membership both currently happening in England.
"Paradoxical though it may seem, both these pictures are recognizable reflections of the national church in Britain in 2020." The "pictures" are of the church helping more than ever, yet the society is becoming increasingly secular.
According to Rich, the Anglican church's membership has declined "from 66 percent to 38 percent over 25 years, with Anglicanism accounting for the sharpest decline in affiliation." However, "the church’s capacity to address this challenging landscape and growing need has been unwavering."
Rich goes on to cite a report from the National Churches Trust that found that 89 percent of Anglican churches are currently still providing some level of support to those displaced by the Coronavirus and Coronavirus measures. She also cited another report touting the Anglican Church is valued at about 16.4 billion dollars despite the attendance drops over time.
According to the National Churches Trust report, "Churches have set up a wide range of new community support services and forms of worship during the COVID-19 lockdown. The top five new activities are: making contact with isolated or vulnerable people, online worship, telephone befriending, shopping and/or delivery of shopping or essential supplies and online support groups."
These are impressive outreaches, for sure, but, considering the secularization of the society has also been increasing at the same time, Rich proposes evangelism be paired with social outreach to help further the gospel. She states, "These activities are good in their own right and are a response to the biblical call to love our neighbors, regardless of the activities’ evangelistic outcome. However, thinking of social action as entirely distinct from our evangelism might also underplay the ways in which people discover faith."
Ultimately, for Rich, this is the ultimate end of social outreach. "The loving outreach of social action is as powerful in growing the church as the evangelistic sense of outreach, as we see evidenced in the Church of England," she concludes.
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John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Daily Fodder, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.