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Two days ago I heard a fascinating story on NPR about the decline of Christianity in Great Britain. Listen to or read the article here. The following are some highlights of the story.:

Church attendance is slipping rapidly as Britain has become one of the most secular countries in Europe. The English church has always seemed to swing between the two extremes: from the piousness of Puritanism to the dissolute courts of the Restoration; from the high tide of Victorian evangelicalism to the deep and broad secularism of the 20th century and beyond.

Some lay the blame for the modern departure from God at the feet of one man, who lived for 40 years not far from the Canterbury Road.

It is 150 years exactly since Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection. His former home, Down House, in the tiny village of Downe, is now open to the general public.

When On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, it sparked an exodus from the established church that has continued to this day. Many people in Britain still say they are Christians, and of course, under that sometimes frosty exterior, the British people are generally among the warmest, most hospitable people on Earth.


For people who do still believe, though, there doesn’t seem to be the same conflict that exists in the United States between the idea of evolution and the idea of God. There are no culture wars in Britain — it’s all so jolly moderate now.


Michael Nazir-Ali, the 106th bishop of Rochester, is also the first Asian bishop in the history of the Church of England. He was born in Pakistan, but moved to Britain for theological studies.

Nazir-Ali is one of the new intellectual evangelicals who have tried to shake up the Church of England. He is also ruffling feathers by saying the country needs to get back to its Christian roots.

“I think modern Britain has had an identity crisis, and we have now reached a stage where we need recovery, and it must be recovery rather than simply the forging of a brand new identity,” says Nazir Ali, who announced last month that he would leave his post later this year. “All of Britain’s cultural, literary, political, legal life is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Nazir-Ali has earned himself death threats by being very critical of Islam in a way that few white bishops would dare. But he says his comments have also earned him thousands of letters of support. He sees the irony that he and the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York John Sentamu are perhaps the two most outspoken supporters of Christian Britain.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
(Michael Nazir-Ali, the 106th bishop of Rochester)


“If you come to our church or come to our house or even when we are praying in the night, we pray for Britain to be evangelized back, to go back to their first love,” [Nigerian Christian Adunla Ogunlade] says. “British people brought Christianity to my country. Then why should they lose it?”

I wonder if the United States will come to a point when the creation/evolution controversy will be over. I hope and pray so.

Also, how interesting that a Pakistani and a Nigerian are struggling to bring Christianity BACK into England. I hope and pray that God uses them and others to do just that.


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