Hells bells! The turn-of-the-millennium UK church-attendance figures confirmed what many believed all along: that the church is still in decline, or as George Carey so dramatically put it in 1998, is "bleeding to death". Although many Britons would claim to be "C of E", it seems the allegiance stretches only as far as "hatches, matches and despatches"--being baptised, married and buried in Anglican ceremonies. But why? Furlong has set about trying to fathom this out, and "to make sense of the Church I belong to" along the way. The result is a beautifully engaging consideration of the Church's history, from its break with Rome to the present day. It provides a thorough-going, objective history, as well as a vivid snapshot of the present and a passionate glance towards the future. En route, Furlong has visited many different churches and canvassed a wide range of opinion. And although she has stumbled upon much dead wood, she is heartened by the green shoots--the tireless belief and work of church-goers across the country, who help to shape and inform parish (and national) life. Her eagerness to see these grow is entirely infectious, and her call for a typically English "via media" convincing. In the wake of the call by the Church of England for "root-and-branch reform", this is a serious, informative and intelligent study. Yet it is a fascinating personal quest, too. It must surely prove to be a crucial offering in the ongoing debate. Here endeth a quite unmissable lesson. --Brian Draper
"'Clear, comprehensive and searching. Asks some hard questions but allows a variety of voices to be heard. A good and necessary book.' Evening Standard. 'A reflective and engaging book, in which Furlong's loyalty to the institution does not prevent her from pointing out painful truths about its current plight.' Sunday Telegraph. 'A devastating analysis of a church in theological, spiritual and organisational palsy - written by a supporter.' Guardian. 'A controversial and important book.' The Tablet."
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