Sunday, 11 March 2012

Policy Framework for Missional Communities

This policy is under development. Comments from those with expertise and theological insights would be welcome...

Ordained Pioneer Ministry, Fresh Expressions & Missional Communities

In Policy Paper 1, we committed ourselves to a mixed economy of expressions of Church. Alongside the inherited model of parish church and chaplaincy, we are committed to Church Planting (see Policy Paper 2) and to the development of Fresh Expressions. One manifestation of Fresh Expressions is the Missional Community. As part of the Church of England’s strategy for producing leaders for these new forms of Church, a training route has been developed within the Church of England which trains priests as Ordained Pioneer Ministers. The aim of this paper is to set out the policy framework within which the Diocese of London understands these new manifestations of church and ministry, and how we will seek to develop them.

Fresh Expressions are defined as “a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.” We commend the web page of Fresh Expressions at  where there are useful resources, stories and ideas. The Diocese of London has not sought to badge or define fresh expressions. Parishes and others are free to develop their own innovative approaches to mission and discipling, and some fresh expressions are being funded through the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund

A helpful forthcoming paper from the Faith & Order Commission: Fresh Expressions and the Church: Mission and Communion provides a framework for evaluating the ecclesiological questions that arise from the burgeoning of fresh expressions within the Church of England.

Ordained Pioneer Ministers are usually identified and sponsored as such as part of the selection process for ordination training. Candidates are required inter alia to have:

·         a realistic and informed vocation to plant fresh expressions of church within contemporary culture

·         a clear vision of the place of their envisaged ministry within the wider church's response to God's mission to the world

·         demonstrable maturity and robustness to face the demands of pioneering mission and ministry

·         a demonstrable track record of innovation and initiative

·         the capacity to evangelise beyond the culture of the Church

Despite sponsoring candidates to train for OPM, the Diocese of London has not hitherto provided many places where those trained for this work can easily be deployed. We will need to explore how opportunities and funds can be released to develop this ministry – and that will depend partly on our strategy for missional communities.

Missional Communities are defined as communities constituted by a specific missional purpose in relation to a network or a place. These will normally be communities without buildings, defined by relationship, meeting inter alia in homes, cafes and pubs; designed to be places where those who would be highly unlikely to join institutional church might find faith and be discipled. Missional Communities will normally operate under a Bishop’s Mission Order, and may inhabit a number of localities.

The exploration of missional communities is at an early stage in the Diocese of London. There are key questions about ecclesiology, sacramental life, word and prayer, and discipleship which will need to be worked out as we develop missional communities. One practitioner has set out the process of developing such communities as a six stage process:

1.       Prayerful listening for God's lead to whom and where a group are being sent

2.       Loving service amongst that community

3.       Building relationships amongst the host community and seeking to hear, see and respond to what God is already doing in them and modelling discipleship

4.       Exploring discipleship

5.       Church forming

6.       Doing it all over again!

In order to develop missional communities, we will need to address issues of

·         strategic location (where might missional communities develop?)

·         leadership (usually by an OPM);

·         resources (should finance and housing be made available for the OPM, and from what source?)

·         oversight, accountability and relationship to the Bishop(s);

·         relationship to inherited Church in the localities in which missional communities are situated. 

More specifically, this will require us to ask questions similar to those set out in the Church Planting Policy in Strategy Paper 2, including:

1.       What is your strategy? Please produce a written statement.

2.       What is your desired location or network for the missional community?

3.       Has there been adequate investment in prayer in relation to the initiative?

4.       Where does your strategy fit within the London Challenge?

5.       What are the objectives of this particular missional community?

6.       Who will be involved? (Leadership, lay members of the community, etc.)

7.       When will you be ready to go? Timescale, critical path analysis

8.       How are you proposing to fund and resource the missional community?

9.       What preliminary consultation is needed with existing Church of England parishes and structures? Bishop; Archdeacon; Deanery; parishes; Area Council.

10.    What legalities will be required?

o   Bishop’s Mission Order

o   Licences and Lay Commissions

o   Charitable status

11.    What support do you need from the Diocese to help you achieve your objectives?  (These may not be deliverable, but we want expectations to be clear on both sides.)

In developing the missional community policy, we wish to operate in partnership with other agencies that also see the priority of this form of ministry as a way of reaching the non-churched in our society. We intend to explore working with:
[under negotiation]

We will aim for synergies with these and other agencies, which are likely to include:

1.       Sources of expertise on the development of such communities, drawing on experience in other parts of the world

2.       Exploration of funding proposals to enable housing for missional communities

3.       Enabling short-term involvement from those who wish to explore life in community (for example, developing the existing Lee Abbey vision in a number of London locations)

4.       Intentional discipleship training in situ (including a facility for the training of OPMs)

5.       Exploration of whether missional communities in London might be constituted into an Order of Mission

[Discussions with partner organisations are just beginning, and this paper will be refined during the process as decisions are taken about partnerships]