The second most senior member in the Church of England - the mainstay of the world's 77-million member Anglican Communion, declared his nation can no longer be considered Christian, during a publicly broadcasted interview.
The Archbishop of York Dr David Hope, who is leaving his post to serve as a parish priest in next year, said he feels the British are less committee to the church and “secularist” tendencies were on the increase.
Asked whether he believed Britain was Christian, he replied: “I think I really want to question that. Large numbers of people describe themselves as believing in God. Large numbers still would say that they are Christian. How they then express that Christianity has changed enormously.”
Hope’s comment is similar to that of Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the USA. Edgar, in an earlier interview with the Christian Post was asked a similar question about the US as a “Christian nation.”
“The U.S. has never been Christian,” said Edgar, during the April interview. “It's made up of people who have a variety of religious traditions and for a long time, the Christian faith has been a majority faith.
“We are a nation that isn't Christian but is a pluralistic nation, and is one of a few examples on Planet Earth where a variety of faith traditions can live in harmony with each other. And we need to respect that,” Edgar said.
Hope, who gave up his position as archbishop, is expected to start his new position as the parish priest in Ilkley, near Bradford, in February.
"Deep down it is a response to what I believe to be the call of God to be a parish priest," he said of his newfound calling.
“The fact that I have become bishop and archbishop came as a little bit a surprise really I suppose. God has these little surprises up his sleeve. I have always felt I would like to finish my ministry as I began it, as a parish priest,” he said.
"I think I shall be quite glad to go into something downsized, into something a little bit less large," he added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hope, one of the more traditional leaders in the Church of England, said he was concerned of the schism within the worldwide communion, over the ordination of a gay bishop in the United States.
In related news, the Church of England’s head, the Archbishop of Canterbury, last week cancelled what was to be the first congress of bishops to be held outside of Great Britain since the regular meetings began in the 19th century. The bishops planned initially to hold the10-yearly congress in 2008 at Cape Town, South Africa, however, they changed plans, in part because of the continuing rupture between the conservative African churches and the liberal North American churches.
According to the Times in London, “it is understood that there was concern about holding the conference in Africa, where the opposition to the ordination of a gay bishop in America has been the strongest.” Another reason to change the venue from Africa to London is because of the high cost of holding such a massive conference in South Africa.
“The African churches are unhappy that the meeting would have been forced to rely heavily on financial support from the Americans, who support gay bishops,” Times reported.