Margaret Thatcher is widely vilified for saying “there is no such thing as society”. Here’s that quotation in context: http://briandeer.com/social/thatcher-society.htm
In a sense (and I don’t say this very often) Margaret Thatcher was quite right. There is no such thing as “society” sitting out there with unlimited resources just waiting to swoop in and provide for our needs.
Society is a collaborative effort of the individuals, families, businesses, clubs, and other organisations – formal or informal – which surround us all.
In order for the few to be able to take, the many have to give.
In exactly the same way, there is no such thing as the Church of England. What there _is_ is a collection of individuals, congregations, PCCs, parishes, fresh expressions, clubs, charities, boards of this or that, and other organisations – formal or informal – all strung together by a filigree hierarchy of deaneries, dioceses and a very few ‘central’ institutions.
There is no ‘Church of England’ out there ready to swoop in and provide funds for collapsing church fabric, or more clergy, or easy answers for declining attendance.
Even in dioceses which have historic investments, the large bulk of the money which the ‘Church of England’ (in the shape of its dioceses and central institutions) has to spend comes from … the Church of England, in the shape of its parishes.
For people to say – as I frequently hear – “the diocese doesn’t give us enough clergy/money/support” is to get the equation totally the wrong way round. The dioceses have nothing to give except what they receive. The dioceses receive (almost) nothing except from the parishes. I find myself both depressed and angered by complaints, at PCCs and in other forums, about the levels of contributions which the dioceses ask for, especially when these complaints are coupled with moans about how little support the parishes receive from “the church”.
So I will say it again: there is no such thing as the Church of England. There is no “them” – there’s only us!
The sooner every parish, PCC, congregation and individual worshipper firmly grasps this fact, and takes responsibility for themselves rather than blaming “the church” the sooner the situation will be fixed, even if the fix might involve some very uncomfortable decisions about what can and can’t be maintained in its current form.
Once we have all got our heads round that, the (non-existent) Church of England will be off the back foot, and able to get on with it’s real job of proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom!