Why do people leave the Church?

Why do people leave the Church?

I first met Michael Goulder when I was working as a Hospital Chaplain in Birmingham. He was a wonderful and inspiring teacher – I was aware that he had left the Church but unsure quite of the reasons.

I was glad to come across his memoirs and in it he sums up his decision:

I was content to see the Anglican faith as true until I came to think that was no basis for such belief. My old providentialist creed became progressively more implausible, and the alternative offered by my friend John Hick was not a real option for me, because his faith was based on a personal (and therefore subjective) experience of God, such as I had never had. It was painful to me to leave the Church, to which I have consecrated myself, and whose saints had been my heroes: Cranmer, Ronald Hall, Alaric Rose, Ernest Martin, Austin Farrer, Kate Lea (Clare’s tutor at LMH), and others. As we walked through Highbury Park soon after I had made the move, we came across a tree which had a large branch broken off; it seemed a symbol of my own condition, torn from the tree which had given it life. I have never lost my admiration for Jesus of my affection for the Church. With all its weaknesses, the Church of England is an association of good people, bound together by a noble ideal. Because of its weakness it is not tempted to strive for power over its members, as the Catholic Church is, and also the evangelical strand within the C. of E. The Anglican Church has an honourable tradition of honesty and liberalism, and I have always belonged to it at heart. It is only the intellectual problems which forced me to leave it, and I have never regretted that decision. As time has passed so has the sense of desolation, and I have felt comfortable, in the knowledge that I have done what I felt to be right.

Five Stones and a Sling,

Memoirs of a Biblical Scholar

Michael Goulder, Sheffield Phoenix Press  2009

It is a fascinating read from the pen of a skilled scholar.

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