Nope, Champing will not save the church

Among the weird and wonderful stories showing up in the so called main stream news this week was this one about champing. “What on earth is that?” I hear you ask.  Well, apparently it’s a new craze, based on the idea of glamping where historic churches (CH amping … get it?)  are opened ip for people to camp out in.

The primary aim is to raise some funds to conserve historic church buildings and if that’s the aim then fair enough. I like history, I love historic buildings and I am happy to see people doing what they can to conserve them, whether cathedrals, castles, stately homes or even little cottages.

However, the article quotes the Rev Canon Timothy Goode from the Churches Conservation Trust as saying:

“Champing comes absolutely out of that very Anglican understanding of serving the needs of the whole community and being there for all people,” 

The Telegraph explains:

Reverend Canon Timothy Goode, who is on the CCT’s Board of Trustees, said that book clubs, yoga and fitness groups were all popular activities now held in churches in order to provide community cohesion, and champing is just an extension of that.”

It’s part of an ethos which says that it doesn’t matter if people are actually attending or joining a church, participating in worship, listening to sermons, responding to the Gospel, getting baptised, serving with their gifts.  So long as the church in some way is able to do some social good, then its in some way fulfilling God’s mission.

Of course, it’s absolute idolatrous nonsense isn’t it?  It’s idolatrous because it sets up community as something that can be offered instead of and without the Gospel. The whole point of having a community from a Christian perspective is that people are meant to gather together, around something.  We believe that the “something” is the Gospel. We gather around the Cross, we gather around God’s Word, in fact we gather around Christ himself.

If we do not offer Christ first, then any community we seek to create will be empty, hollowed out at the centre and such a community will either fail and break apart of it will put something else at the middle, an ideology, a personality, a set of rules.  Ultimately those things will cause harm. The centre will be poisonous.  We will have chosen the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil over the Tree of Life. Our community will have a culture of death.

It is grievous and disappointing but sadly not surprising to hear senior figures from within the Church of England making the kind of vacuous comments we see here.  The Church of England must of course make a choice.  Is it really there to save buildings? If so, then get on with that but don’t pretend in the slightest that you have other objectives such as creating community. Or alternatively, if it is serious about building communities, then it must seek to place Christ at the heart of those communities.  That may involve giving up on the historic buildings.

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