The former Archbishop of Canterbury says Christianity could be just one “generation away from extinction” if the church does not reach out to young people.
“We ought to be ashamed of ourselves,” Lord Carey told a Christian conference last weekend. “So many churches have no ministry to young people and that means they have no interest in the future.”
Carey, 78, said the church must be “re-imagined.”
“In many parts of Britain churches are struggling, some priests are diffident and lack confidence; a feeling of defeat is around,” Carey said. “The burden seems heavy and joy in ministry has been replaced by a feeling of heaviness.”
“The viewpoint could be expressed in a variety of non-verbal ways — the shrug of indifference, the rolled eyes of embarrassment, the yawn of boredom,” Carey added. “So many people do not see the average church as a place where great things happen.”
The Church of England is making incremental, progressive changes. The Church of England’s national assembly, the General Synod, voted strongly in favor of allowing women to serve as bishops on Wednesday. The assembly voted 378 to eight in favor of the change.
The General Synod recently reported that if the number of churchgoers drops any lower it will lose its standing as a “national institution.” Church attendance is down 50 percent since 1970.
“As I have repeated many times in the past we are one generation away from extinction,” Carey said. “We have to give cogent reasons to young people why the Christian faith is relevant to them.”
The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, issued a similar warning, stating that the Church of England must “evangelize or fossilize.” Sentamu believes the clergy should be focused on converting new members.
“Compared with evangelism everything else is like rearranging furniture when the house is on fire,” Sentamu said. “Tragically too often that is what we are doing — reorganizing the structures, arguing over words and phrases, while the people of England are left floundering amid meaningless anxiety and despair.”