Anglican Myth 5: St Luke's is leaving the Church of England
The vicar boldly declares, “St Luke’s is leaving the Church of England”.
She has good reason for saying so - the vicar has explained that recent decisions by the House of Bishops means they have “walked away” from the thriving St Luke’s, and so St Luke’s are walking away from the far from thriving Church of England.
But the vicar is wrong. “St Luke’s” is most certainly not leaving the Church of England because “St Luke’s” cannot leave the Church of England.
“St Luke’s” is a parish- it has an incumbent, an important building, a diocesan bishop and a registered charity - the PCC.
If every single one of the vicar, her wardens, the members of the PCC and all the congregation left, “St Luke’s” itself would be alive, if not well, in the Church of England.
Assuming they could be found, there would be a new vicar, new wardens and new members of the PCC and there may, or may not be, a new congregation. “St Luke’s” would continue as before.
A new “St Luke’s” might exist, with the old vicar, her previous leaders and congregation and all their thriving ministries might carry on in a fashion all but indistinguishable (save for location) from before.
In that way there might be two “St Lukes” but the first one, despite the many changes, would not have left the Church of England and “St Luke’s 2.0,” would never have been in the Church of England.
Of course, this is all theoretical. In reality, at least a rump of the congregation would probably remain at St Luke's, even if the entire leadership and greater proportion of folk had left. Likewise, the new church would be constituted as a new charitable entity, either independently, or as part of another Anglican jurisdiction with a new bishop. The new church probably wouldn’t even want to be branded “St Luke’s”, in order to show “visible differentiation” and their bright new future ahead. As all this happens, the degree of continuity and discontinuity would be readily apparent.
In some ways this is all strikingly simple and yet it is important, because it provides the answer to several “FAQ’s”.
Can a militant PCC use its funds to help plant the new church or buy a house to replace the vicarage if that is lost?
Can the new church retain the building?
Can the new church take the new sound system with them?
“St Luke’s” might have significant net assets, in addition to the building, and it might have continued to accept healthy donations from its congregation which has kept the financial position stable year by year. Having to leave the assets and current account behind would be a substantial sacrifice. But it is what would have to happen, because they are not assets of the building, the members of the PCC or the congregation but of the enduring and future entity which is “St Luke’s”.
And St Luke's, probably in every sense, is indeed going nowhere.