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?