Church of England Recruits Simpsons to Teach Theology, Boost Attendance

Jun 26, 2007 10:58 AM EDT
Springfield Vt residents shoot a scene with Marge Simpson and Lisa Simpson props in Springfield Vt Tuesday June 19 2007  <br/> Photo AP Toby Talbot
Springfield, Vt. residents shoot a scene with Marge Simpson and Lisa Simpson props in Springfield, Vt., Tuesday, June 19, 2007. (Photo: AP / Toby Talbot)

LONDON – The Church of England is getting help from the Simpsons to provide a more relevant way of teaching children about theology and to give a boost to dwindling congregations.

Mixing it Up with the “Simpsons”, a book to be released by the Church of England’s publishing company, will be sent to youth advisers in every diocese across the country next week, the Sunday Telegraph reported, with the hope of showing how Christianity is relevant to life today through issues tackled in the popular U.S. TV cartoon series. Clergy will be urged to show episodes of “The Simpsons” that focus on Christian themes such as love and punishment.

The book’s author, Owen Smith, is a youth worker in the Kent Diocese of Rochester and insists the cartoon series is filled with biblical references. He looks to illustrate this in the book with quote comparisons.

Smith told the Sunday Telegraph: “’The Simpsons’ is hugely moral, with many episodes dealing with issues and dilemmas faced by young people. The willingness of the show's writers to deal with questions of both morality and spirituality makes the program an ideal tool.”

Mixing it Up with the “Simpsons” has been made specifically to help keep youth interested in church, as the number of under-16s attending worship in the Church of England on Sundays has decreased by 12 percent over the five-year period between 2000 and 2005.

The initiative has received backing from the Church, with Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams speaking of his adoration of the show.

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The Church of England head said that the cartoon was “generally on the side of the angels and on the side of sense,” and also explained that beneath the dysfunctional image of the animated family lay an example of “remarkable strength and remarkable mutual commitment.”

“For all that Homer is a slob and Bart is a brat and Lisa is a pain in the neck, you know there's real affection and loyalty,” Williams said.

According to Church House Publishing, the official publisher of the Church of England, Mixing it up with The Simpsons is split into two parts each with six sessions; the first part is for those who are newer to church and the second part is for young people who have been coming to church for a little longer.

Each session is divided into six parts and includes photocopiable material:

• Beforehand (to help leaders prepare the session)

• Opening Activity (introducing the session’s theme and getting the young people thinking about the issue)

• Focus on Simpsons (exploring the issue with an episode, with questions for discussion)

• Bible Focus (a Bible verse or passage dealing with the Christian perspective on the session’s theme.)

• Prayer Response (prayer activity and response)

• Extras and Inserts (optional activities linked to the theme)

Contributor Daniel Blake in London added to this report.