The church is at a crossroads in the UK, with internal fighting besetting it on the one hand, but, on the other, with an opportunity to be a moral guide in a country dogged by political and financial scandals.
This was the topic of debate for four panellists — Catholic theologian, Dr Anna Rowlands; Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Rev. Canon Samuel Wells; former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris; and author Sarah Dunant.
They were taking part in a Theos and BBC Radio 4 debate, chaired by John Humphrys, entitled ‘Christianity at the crossroads’.
According to a report from religious think-tank Theos, Mr Wells began by comparing the church to the Old Testament figures of David and Goliath.
Historically, the church had become like the large and sluggish Goliath, but now had the opportunity to adopt the role of the smaller, nimbler and more hopeful David. In response, Mr Parris said the church was on a trend of long-term decline.
In the light of this, three particular topics were debated: celibacy, woman bishops and moral authority. Mr Parris said we do not need a moral authority, nor did he believe in any sort of ‘moral absolute’.
However, Mr Rowlands responded by recasting ‘the idea of Christ’ into the framework of human dignity. To love someone as Christ is not to obliterate their personhood, but to acknowledge it in the strongest terms.