That Was the Church, That Was
Authors Andrew Brown & Linda Woodhead
Publisher Bloomsbury £12.99
ISBN 9781472951984 2017
‘England has changed too much…the national church has changed too little’. A racy style, up-to-date research and intelligent analysis combine to confront us with a new reality: since the 1980s the Church of England has lost its loyal fringe, consolidating its shift from a ‘societal’ institution to a ‘congregational’ one. Self-inflicted damage from divisive internal debates about the ministry of women and sexuality issues, along with failures in episcopal and synodical leadership continue, making the once-credible national church seem ‘weird’ to outsiders. The adjectives ‘merciless’, ‘ferocious’ and ‘devastating’ have been used by earlier reviewers of the book, perhaps responding to some mischief in the earliest chapters. Then there is a renewed seriousness, with insights as painful to grasp as they are important to absorb. Is there a ‘blame game’? The authors concede that ‘the pace and scale of changes [in society] would have damaged the church whatever it had done’.