There used to be a saying that went: “As goes England, so goes America.”
But I can hear people who love and pray for the United States saying, “Oh, no! Please, Lord, may that never be the case.”
In England today, public Christianity is relegated to a ceremonial festivity alongside royal weddings and other royal celebrations. If you visit a church in the denomination I once belonged to—the Anglican Church (also known as the Church of England)—there’s a good chance you’ll be able to count the worshipers on one hand.
As attendance at Anglican churches has plummeted, however, the number of Mosques has grown at an alarming rate—to say nothing of Islamic influence in culture, whether perpetuated through fear or choice.
In the December 11, 2012 issue of The Telegraph, it was reported that the number of Christians in England and Wales has fallen by four million since 2001. At the same time, the number of nonbelievers has almost doubled—one in four now self-profess as a nonbeliever.
Meanwhile, the number of nonbelievers in the United States has also grown, although not in such a drastic fashion. If the trend continues, however, one in every six Americans will soon claim no faith.
There are many factors contributing to the situation in the UK, but it is clear that the root of England’s secularization lies with the Church of England’s leadership.
For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury recently made a statement symptomatic of the Church’s illness after its General Synod barely voted down the ordination of women bishops. He complained that the Synod’s action—which was carried by only six votes—was “willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities” of society as a whole.
In essence, Archbishop Williams believes the church needs to accommodate cultural trends, not biblical fidelity. Meaning, as the culture has moved into a secular orbit, the church should imitate it, not transform it.
But one must ask, what’s the need for a church, faith, or belief when the populace can see no distinction and no added value? A church that closely mirrors society is irrelevant and unhelpful.
It’s amazing that a church that wants to adhere to secular belief and practice still holds to the custom of wearing “funny clothes.” I suppose that gives them a sense of distinction without requiring any theological substance.
So if this is the way England is “going,” can the United States be far behind?
Some states in America, such as California and Washington, actually lead the UK in their drive for secularization. When Washington residents recently celebrated the dawn of legal marijuana as if they were celebrating the New Year, it seemed clear that parts of the US had already crossed into the secular Rubicon.
If I see a silver lining in England, it comes from my observation of African and Asian Christians infusing once-dying churches with new life. On September 29 of this year, 70,000 believers gathered in Wembley Stadium to pray for the UK. I had the joy of participating by satellite. The event was lead by a very thoughtful and dedicated Christian immigrant from Nigeria, Dr. Jonathan Oloyede.
Also, during my regular preaching at Kensington Temple—where five services are held every Sunday—I have witnessed how African and Asian believers have brought such joy and life to an old church.
Could modern-day immigrants—who are the products of past glorious missionary movements from England and the US—be used by God to bring an awakening to both sides of the Atlantic?
May it be so.