Church Growth in Britain 5: analysis

Goodhew offers both an introduction and conclusion to the book, which are valuable. In the introduction, he identifies the classical secularisation thesis as a ‘dominant narrative’ assumed by much of the academy, and by essentially all of the media. He suggests that the book serves to ‘subvert’ that narrative. This might be ambitious: the secularisation thesis is a macro theory, concerned with what happens in general on a whole-society scale; particular accounts of growth cannot, by themselves, subvert the narrative, only a large-scale sociological change could do that. That said, the book is of great importance in drilling below the headline statistics. There is a bad old joke to the effect that a statistician can lie with his head in the...

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Church Growth in Britain 4: The Nations

Three final chapters look at Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, offering some helpful different perspectives on church growth. Ken Roxburgh notes that the recent narrative of decline in Scotland is even more catastrophic than in the UK in general, before looking at five congregations in Edinburgh that have nonetheless grown to some extent. The case-studies are deliberately denominationally diverse: an ecumenical congregation; ‘Ps & Gs’ (St Paul’s & St George’s Episcopal Church, to non-locals); St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral; Morningside Baptist Church; and Destiny new church. Ken notes that the growth generally – although not exclusively – happens within the evangelical and charismatic wing of Scottish...

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US release of Trinity book

IVP have announced the US edition of my Trinity book here, complete with a new title (The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity) and cover. Neither title was mine; the US version, with its echo of Schweitzer, is not something I would have dared to choose myself, but the fact that an editor – someone who I know, and whose theological insight I respect greatly – suggested it encouraged me to think that the book is being understood in the way I hoped it might be. Anyway, it should be available in November for any interested American...

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Church Growth in Britain 3: New Churches

Six chapters of the book focus on new churches, three looking specifically at Black Majority Churches, and three more widely. Hugh Osgood gives an excellent overview of the growth of BMCs; Richard Burgess offers an account of one denomination, The Redeemed Christian Church of God; and Amy Duffuor offers an account of a single congregation, Freedom Centre International in Peckham. All three chapters are interesting and valuable in charting the changing experiences of BMCs, and their intentional moves to keep the next generation and to adapt to changing cultural locations of their worshippers. George Lings (who was my vicar for the few months of my life I spent worshipping in an Anglican parish) offers a chapter on ‘Fresh Expressions and Church Planting in...

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Church growth in Britain 2: Mainstream churches

The section on mainstream churches contains chapters on the London diocese (of the Church of England) (by John Wolffe and Bob Jackson); Catholicism in London’s East End (Alana Harris); Baptist growth in England (Ian Randall); growth in (Anglican) cathedral congregations (Lynda Barley); and reverse mission (Rebecca Catto). For me, the study of London Anglicanism is the single most interesting chapter in the book. By giving a comparison with Southwark (the diocese that covers the Anglican parishes of the London urban area south of the river Thames, roughly), where a steady decline has only very recently stabilised, the authors are able to demonstrate that London’s growth is not an inevitable result of demographic changes in the capital. The simple story of...

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