[T]he Church of England is under pressure from three modern phenomena that go under the catch-all names of secularization, privatization and pluralization.

So writes Paul Avis in his book, The Anglican Understanding of the Church: An Introduction (p. 4).

What are these phenomena?

  • Secularization ‘points to the evident fact that religious beliefs and religious authorities no longer figure prominently in many public institutions … or in most expressions of cultural life’ (p. 5).
  • Privatization ‘refers to the way that religious beliefs, practices and values … are regarded as a private matter’ (p. 5).
  • Pluralization can be seen in the way that, today, ‘Anglicans in England are one faith community among others’ (p. 6).

As an example of secularization and privatization, Avis points to Pentecost, which happens to fall today (did you know?).

Everyone in England knows when Easter is, because Easter Monday is a public holiday. It used to be the same with Pentecost, otherwise known as Whitsun. Whit Monday – the day after Pentecost – used to be a public holiday. But, at the end of the 1960s, it was replaced as a bank holiday by the last Monday in May. Avis explains the consequences of this (pp. 5-6):

The outcome is that Pentecost has become a second-class festival for the Church, which then has to work all the harder to make it meaningful. This example illustrates how practising Christians are increasingly not assisted by public institutions to observe their faith (this is an aspect of secularization), but are compelled to observe it in their own time and for their own motives (this is the essence of privatization).

In response to these challenges, we need to ‘grasp the challenge of mission and evangelization with both hands’ (p. 7), in the power of the Spirit, which is what Pentecost is all about.