Is Frank Skinner right?

Those of you sad enough to read the Church Times will know that Frank Skinner is due to publically meet and debate faith with the Archbishop of Canterbury (see here). 

It doesn’t seem to match his public image, but Frank Skinner is a committed, practicing Roman Catholic.  This led to me searching google to discover more about Frank Skinner and his faith.  I’ve often found Frank Skinner funny, but still find it a shock to discover he was so committed about his faith.  One article in particular made me think.

In this article (here), written by Skinner in the times, he argues that we should rejoice in falling church numbers.  He actually mounts a good argument.  He argues, firstly, that, as it’s no longer fashionable, or a social nicety, to go to church, the only people going are those who actually believe and that this is a good thing.  As he puts it:

“Most adults you see in church nowadays are there because they want to be there. That’s not decline, it’s progress. The wheat has been separated from the chaff. We get quality, not quantity, in the churches and the chaff can enjoy a nice lie-in.”

He also argues that the indications that some small persecution is happening to Christians (e.g. nurses being sacked for offering to pray for people etc) is a good thing as “we’ll have Brownie points coming out of our ears .”  He argues this from Matt 5:11.  While I don’t think I’d word it like him, it certainly shows, like many other passages, that we shouldn’t be surprised, or even scared, by persecution!

However, I also think of a friend of mind, who is now a curate in a rural parish.  As in many rural parishes, the social convention of going to church, regardless of faith, is still alive and strong.  He strongly feels this is a good thing, as church itself is outreach. Each week people who don’t know Jesus turn up and willingly listen to him tell them about him.  He sees this as a great opportunity.  Surely this is a good thing.  Even Frank Skinner, after confidently singing the virtues of getting rid of the chaff and giving them a nice lie-in, jokes “That’s just as well, because there’ll be little opportunity for slumber when they’ve got a demon’s pitchfork up their arse.” 

Likewise, while I agree we should not be scared of persecution and that it may well be good for the church, it you believe, like I do, that the church is a force for good in this country, then shouldn’t it’s declining power cause us to worry?  Many see a moral decline in our country, can it be argued this has gone side-by-side with the decline of the church?

Frank Skinner makes some good points, but I’m not sure I agree.  And so I ask you, “Is Frank Skinner right?”  Should we rejoice in declining church numbers?

About David

I'm the curate at St. Anne's Church, in the parish of Shevington, Standish Lower Ground and Crooke. I'm married to Carole and have two beautiful daughters called Sarah and Anabel
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2 Responses to Is Frank Skinner right?

  1. Paul Clarke says:

    Hi David,

    As somebody who has just started working in a rural parish as curate I am wrestling with this problem as well. I would have agreed with Skinner whole heartedly whilst at college but now I am not so sure. I think in truth things are not as black and white as the image he presents. There are still people here in rural England who go to church as a social convention but I would make two points; firstly that it still goes on in urban churches and secondly I would no longer be so quick to call them unbelievers. The truth is, if you discuss their own faith with them there is usually some lurking beneath the surface. They may be at an early stage of the journey, and stagnated there at times, but they have at least begun.

    I find the persecution issue interesting. Apart from a few articles in the press (that seem to take far to much delight in the situation!) I do not see any persecution. What I see is pretty much complete indifference towards the church, the kind of apathy that should be much more worrying than a few cases of people getting sacked for displaying crosses etc. I do not think that people see the church as some kind of moral compass anymore – perhaps its declining power is due to this?

    Thats my penny’s worth anyway! 🙂

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