EVANGELICALS ARE POISED TO take over the Church of England.
That's the bottom line in British religion researcher Peter Brierley's annual Religious Trends handbook, published by Christian Research. His latest studies indicate already that more than half of the COE's ordinands studying for the ministry attend evangelical colleges. (Oxford theologian and ministerial educator Alister McGrath places the figure at closer to 70 percent. He also says the majority of theological schools are now in the hands of evangelicals.) Evangelicals have the most thriving and growing parishes, and they account for 40 percent of the church's income, according to Mr. Brierley's surveys.
Mr. Brierley says surveys in 1998 showed evangelicals accounted for about 35 percent of churchgoers, and trends suggest that proportion will rise to more than 50 percent by 2010. Affecting the figures: Less than 10 percent of the COE's 26 million members are in church on any given Sunday other than Christmas and Easter.
One source of growth: The grass-roots evangelical Alpha study/ outreach program has reached into many dioceses and parishes. It has awakened many in once-empty pews to biblical basics, with large numbers professing faith in Christ as a result.
With the evangelical upsurge has come clout. For example, evangelicals were credited with derailing the recent selection of openly homosexual Jeffrey John as a bishop.
Another sign of life: More than 2,300 clergy, students, and lay leaders, with a sprinkling of bishops, flocked last month to the five-day National Evangelical Anglican Congress in Blackpool, England, a once-every-15-years event. They warily applauded liberal Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams but gave standing ovations to evangelical stalwarts John Stott and Michael Green. (Missing was the other aging member of the trio who laid much of the theological foundation for the evangelical renaissance, J.I. Packer, who sent greetings from Vancouver.)