Church of England Envisions 'Christianity-Centered Pagan Church'

As part of its drive to retain congregation numbers, the Church of England is training its clergy to create a "pagan church" where Christianity will be "very much in the center," a British newspaper reports.

The mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion is seeking to create new forms of Anglicanism with which people of alternative beliefs should feel comfortable, according to The Telegraph.

"I would be looking to formulate an exploration of the Christian faith that would be at home in their culture," the daily quotes the Rev. Steve Hollinghurst, who is advising the denomination in its new endeavor, as telling the BBC.

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What the church is looking at is "almost to create a pagan church where Christianity was very much in the centre," he adds.

The job of training the clergy to "break new ground" has been given to the Church Mission Society with the hope that many spiritual people will embrace Christianity.

"Nowadays people, they want to feel something; they want to have some sense of experience," Andrea Campenale, who works with the CMS, was quoted as saying. "We live in reflective England where there's much more of a focus on ourselves. I think that is something we can bring in dialogue with the Christian society."

Hollinghurst works at the research unit of the Church Army, an evangelistic organization founded in the Church of England and now operating in many parts of the Anglican Communion.

On the organization's website, Hollinghurst describes himself as "Researcher in Evangelism to Post-Christian Culture."

"Needless to say that's a bit of a conversation stopper when asked 'so what do you do?' down the pub so I tend to put it more simply by saying my job is to find out how Christians can communicate their faith effectively with people who don't have a church background," he explains. "I find that most of the people I speak to who aren't Christians see the point! Indeed they often offer their own suggestions as to how Christianity can improve its flagging image."

Britain is no longer a Christian country, "yet spirituality is very much on the agenda for many," he goes on to say. "My own spiritual journey began in my teens with an exploration of all kinds of faiths and alternative spiritualities before choosing Christianity as my path. Since then I have always been interested in the spiritual quest of others and how Christianity might connect with their quest as it has done with mine."

If God became human in Jesus not only to relate to humans but also to transform creation so it can fulfill its calling, "then Christianity ought to be relevant to all people," he adds. "But how can that connection be made when for many it seems to be a tired old religion, a relic of a passing age? Needless to say I enjoy a good challenge!"

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