Two items in the Church Times, a British newspaper that focuses on the Church of England, recently caught my attention.
The first was an article by Madeline Davies, Covenant: ‘We’ll turn our key if you turn yours’, posted May 23, 2014. The article describes the current stalemate in progress toward the reunion of the Church of England and the British Methodists.
The second article was by Paul Wilkinson, Green light for Leicester burial for Richard III, also posted on May 23. The Church of England's Leicester cathedral has successfully defeated a legal challenge by a handful of Richard's descendants who wanted to bury his remains in York, the seat of his power. The Leicester cathedral will now spend £1 million on his re-interment.
Both stories illustrate reasons why organized religion is losing ground to the spiritual but not religious. British Methodists split from the Church of England in the decades following John Wesley's death in 1791. They now number just over a quarter of million, too small a group to wield much influence in Great Britain. Meanwhile, the Church of England is experiencing struggles similar to those of its American cousin, the Episcopal Church: declining attendance, maldistributed church buildings and parishes, and grossly inadequate finances. The issues that keep the Anglicans and Methodists apart are unimportant to virtually all outsiders, e.g., issues of ecclesial organization that effect how church people wield power. In the face of growing secularism, Christian unity—especially unity that honors diversity—offers a stronger, more attractive witness than stubbornly insisting on having one's own way over issues about which few people care.
Concomitantly, spending £1 million to rebury a long-dead king—regardless of his historical importance—seems irrelevant to the mission of bringing God's love to a broken, hurting world. Let the United Kingdom pay to rebury Richard, if there is the political will to do so. Let the Church spend its money to feed the hungry, both spiritually and physically. When the Church shifts its focus away from its core mission, then the skeptics shout about our hypocrisy and the interested but unaffiliated find spiritual but not religious more appealing.