What should we do with the church buildings of England?
I think that, on the whole, our church buildings fall into four categories.
1. Beautiful buildings and/or places of special spiritual worth which contribute significantly to the mission of the church (evangelistic and social).
2. Beautiful buildings which cost their congregations and, often, the wider church a lot of money to maintain and which do not contribute enough to the mission of the church to warrant the expense of keeping them open.
3. Plain and ugly buildings with no "special" spiritual worth which contribute significantly to the mission of the church.
4. Plain and ugly buildings which cost their congregations and, often, the wider church a lot of money to maintain and which do not contribute enough to the mission of the church to warrant the expense of keeping them open.
I think the churches that fall into category four should be closed down and sold as soon as possible. Their congregations should rent worship and social space (if they can afford to) when needed and in places in their parishes that would be most advantageous to the mission of the church. Alternatively, the congregations could meet in the homes of their members and outdoors when the weather is clement.
I think churches in category two should should be given to the Churches Conservation Trust or English Heritage or the local council or whoever is happy to take them off our hands. Their congregations should follow my instructions above.
We should keep churches in category one. To get rid of them on a point of ideology whilst losing the missionary benefit of them would be bad stewardship.
The congregations of churches in the third category have to decide for themselves what they want to do. If they think keeping the church building is more advantageous to the mission of the church than getting rid of it and moving into a more adaptable style of church community then that's what they should do. But they would need help coming to their decision as people can get attached to even the most ugly of buildings for selfish and nostalgic reasons.