Cast off the hair shirt and outdated creeds, it's time to worship success

After a week in which old beliefs were being challenged, our (temporary ) theological correspondent, Roy Hattersley, discovers a discussion paper prepared by the New Anglicans within the Church of England
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In conformity with traditions of biblical scholarship, passages which may have originated in other texts are in italics.

"If we are serious about bringing New Anglicanism up to date, we should be seeking contemporary solutions to contemporary problems and if that means dropping the epithet Christianity, so be it. These days, the notions associated in the public mind with Christianity have been no more beneficial in their results than Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation or Worship of the Holy Mushroom. Indeed those modern beliefs are a great deal more relevant to the lives of today's young people. By calling ourselves Christians we are accepting, at least by implication, values - for example, faith, hope and charity - which do not resonate in today's society. If we go on scratching virtuously under our ideological hair shirts, we are doomed to be a permanent religious minority. Religions die if they fail to renew themselves. That is why we have formulated a radical new creed. If we had continued to argue against covetousness we would have completely rejected the emotion which sustains the entire advertising industry - a vital sector of the economy which we cannot afford to alienate. Now we must move on. In a world where there are more shareholders than trade union members it is simple madness to go on comparing rich men entering into the kingdom of heaven with camels getting through eyes of needles. Our society is regularly reinvigorated by credit-financed consumer booms. We cannot risk driving the money lenders out of the temple.

I cannot recall a more debilitating argument this century than the one about what constitutes a Christian. For whatever definition we choose, we automatically alienate those people who do not believe in Christianity. If we return to the days when we were supposed to believe in something, we automatically reduce our appeal to atheists and agnostics. We will not fill the churches without them. Is belief more important than success?

I have no interest in generating further academic debate. Indeed, I am not qualified to do so. And it only reduces our street credibility when people argue that words carry meaning and, if we reject a word, we reject an idea. Ideas are an encumbrance that we no longer need. All that is necessary for success is the disciplined decision to describe all that we do as "New". We already have (after suitable revision) a Testament. We must add a few symbolic gestures to emphasise that we are the church of the 21st century. For example, the words "Ancient and..." must be removed from the title of our hymn books.

I know these fundamentalists who still hold back the Church Triumphant. I was one. So, I realise that "Old Christians" will disapprove. But I do not care a damn. I do not believe in damnation any more than I believe in anything else."

Our correspondent writes: It has been suggested that the sentiments which the memorandum expresses are endorsed by the Head of the Church. A more likely explanation is that they were the work of a comparatively junior member of the hierarchy desperate for promotion.

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