I am hoping that having titled this post, I will be able to remember what I wanted to say for long enough to finish it. The thought has been floating around my mind for a while, but it keeps flitting out of reach when I sit down at a computer, leaving me thinking to myself, "Now what was it I wanted to write about?"
There are quite a few C of E schools around - in fact, I am the governor of one. But one of the things that really rattles my cage is the admissions issue. Typically, church schools expect regular attendance at one of their approved churches. This may be a local Church of England church, or it may be a Churches Together church. Typically, "regular attendance" is considered to be once a month.
However, typically, it doesn't matter what involvement you might have with a "non-approved" church; if you are committed to a "non-approved" church, you might just as well be a complete pagan for all the good it will do you in terms of school admission. So the facts that: I am a deacon and church treasurer at one church; I'm helping with youth work and lay preaching at another church; and our family would aim to be present not only at both Sunday morning and evening services but also midweek meetings - none of these facts count for anything in terms of admission to these foundation schools.
OK. Well, that comes across as absurd to most of the population, who are frankly shocked that "committed Christians" should effectively be discriminated against in this way. But it at least has some logic - because this sounds as though the effect ought to be to steer people towards the "approved" churches. Doesn't say much for Christian unity, or the universal church, but at least it encourages churchgoing.
However, what is happening - and people in the "approved" churches must be aware of this - is that a fair proportion of people do what they have to, to secure a place for their children at these schools. So if they are expected to be there once a month, they will go once a month. They will go and speak to the minister and get him/her to write a letter on their behalf to confirm their regular attendance - and having secured the place, they stop going. Their contribution to the life of the church is negligible. In other words, the sort of "practising Christian" that this produces bears absolutely no resemblance to the Biblical model of Christianity.
Now, surely the diocesan authorities must be aware that people are manipulating the system to get their children into schools. And yet they are prepared to allow it to continue. Is it because it is preventing the total collapse in size of many basically dead congregations, I wonder?!
More seriously, many of the Churches Together churches are no longer preaching the gospel. So people are being put under social pressure to attend churches where they won't hear the gospel - in some cases, people choose to attend these churches over gospel-proclaiming churches simply because of the fact that it will allow them to get their children into a faith school. Do leaders of these churches understand that the blood of these members of the congregation is on their head??!