Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Use church schools to evangelise, says Anglican bishop

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 The Rt revd John, Pritchard,
Bishop of Oxford
The chairman of Church of England's board of education has announced that Anglican schools must do more to pass on the "Christian story" to their pupils. Addressing the Church's General Synod in York, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, spoke of the need to counter “creeping scepticism about religion”, and in a report to the Synod revealed plans to alter the Church of England school curriculum to place “faith and spiritual development” at its heart
“If we miss the importance of this report the Christian story will continue to slide out of cultural memory. But if we seize the moment, we could be embedding that story in the life of the nation in a way we haven’t been able to do for decades. I’d put it as strongly as that.”
The Bishop went on to emphasise the fact that the Church of England's school network provides it with the opportunity to preach Christianity to large numbers of children on a daily basis:
“Church schools are under suspicion or attack in many corners of society . . . the pressure is on and our response must not be defensive but confidently on the front foot. Nationally we have a million parishioners in our schools every day. And these children have a whole hinterland of families. What an opportunity – are we up for it?”

Do we train our clergy for that opportunity or do we see engagement with schools as optional? The clergy ought to have a camp bed in there.”
In some ways, the news is hardly surprising – religion uses religious schools to evangelise shock horror! – but for those atheist or agnostic parents who send their parents to a Church of England school because they don't really have a choice, an evangelisation push is unlikely to be a welcome development. Church of England schools are often seen as offering a fairly mild religious education but, if the Bishop of Oxford has his way, that could be about to change. And if does, the Church may find that more people start to question why it has control of large numbers of publicly-funded schools.
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