What is the future of Christianity in Britain, Mr Moore?’ I was asked as I rushed down the stairs to catch a train. I wished I had the gift of concision of the late William Douglas-Home, who, when asked in an exam paper ‘What is the future of coal?’, wrote ‘Smoke’. I had just been addressing a meeting of the Friends of the Ordinariate, the body set up by Pope Benedict to enable Anglicans to be in communion with the Catholic Church without abandoning the liturgical and spiritual traditions of their Anglicanism. It tries to bring reality to Jesus’ own statement: ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’
One of the least-noticed changes in recent times is that the ecumenical movement, having originally been advanced by liberals, is now, in essence, evangelical. As was borne out by last week’s visit of Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to the new Pope Francis in Rome, the two men share a religion which is missionary and Biblical. (And both of them follow Ignatian spiritual discipline.) It does not mean that the differences about orders etc are unimportant — hence, indeed, the existence of the Ordinariate — but it does mean that the chalice is half-full rather than half-empty.
So I suppose my esprit d’escalier answer to the questioner I short-changed is: ‘The future of Christianity in Britain is that it will be Christian first, denominational second.’ Much misery has been caused by the fact that, for almost 500 years, it was the other way round.