Sunday, 17 November 2013

Twenty quick hits to change the CofE

Resourcing Mission & Growth – making it happen

  1. The Church of England cannot bear too much reality... but now may just be the time when we can see some major changes. There are quite a few people around who are asking “what church-wide action is needed to support planning for mission and growth within dioceses (and help remove obstacles to growth)?” The fruits of that discussion could yet evaporate unless we are prepared to seize the initiative and create a new climate within the Church of England to make change happen.
The CofE has adopted three quinquennial themes (see GS 1815)

(i)      To take forward the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church of England – including the growth of its capacity to serve the whole community of this country;

(ii)    To re-shape or reimagine the Church's ministry for the century coming, so as to make sure that there is a growing and sustainable Christian witness in every local community; and

(iii)  To focus our resources where there is both greatest need and greatest opportunity.

2.       The House of Bishops Standing Committee helpfully focussed on the task of the NCIs of the Church of England in

·         contributing as the national Church to the common good;

·         facilitating the growth of the Church;

·         re-imagining the Church’s ministry.

3.       What energises me as a Bishop is the urgent task of the re-evangelisation of England, joining in the mission of God and proclaiming his Kingdom in the public square, and shaping a Church that is fit for purpose in order to achieve all that. Whichever way you cut it, we’re not in business to manage decline, preside over a dying church, or allow what has been entrusted to us to atrophy.

4.       My concern is that we are still considering centralised solutions to the problems facing us, whereas it is pellucidly clear that we are no longer living in an era where a command and control approach will work. Whether via the Darlow formula for allocations, the Sheffield formula for clergy numbers, or the Hind Report on theological education, our ability to generate new capacity for mission from the centre has signally failed. Indeed, arguably most of the work that has produced major cultural change and significant growth in the Church of England has come from the edges of the NCIs (Fresh Expressions, projects funded by the Lambeth Group), or from entrepreneurial activity by others (Alpha, the growth of St Mellitus College, the influence of Walsingham, Messy Church). The conclusion that we might wish to draw is that the role of the NCIs in facilitating the quinquennium goals needs to be rethought.

5.       The findings of the research from the Archbishops’ Task Group summarised in Resourcing the Church’s Mission and Growth [hereafter cited as RMG] highlighted major concerns from the Dioceses that, unless we are prepared to make some major financial, legal, structural and resource changes, we will not be fitted for the challenges of the next 20 years. The proposals set out in this paper suggest a way to tackle some of those challenges.

a.       We need to build on the work of the Spending Review Task Force. I understand that there are proposals for a Financing the Future Task Force with the remit to deliver a redistribution of the Church of England’s funds in order to deliver the goals.

b.       We need a Mission Task Force which draws on the expertise of church planters and innovators from across the church traditions. We will need to build on the model pioneered by HTB to plant and graft new churches into Dioceses across the country (ensuring that this is not a partisan and “one flavour” form of re-evangelisation). Other expertise will need to be harnessed from those skilled in revitalising the rural church to share experience and resources across dioceses. (RMG, paras 5 – 14) The paper on Intentional Evangelism (GS 1917) is a start. But you don't evangelise from the centre. It's local church where this stuff happens. This initiative could fall flat on its face unless it listens to and harnesses the practitioners.

c.        We need a Ministry Task Force. This would have two main foci:

·         to dismantle the existing bureaucracy and regulation that surrounds the work of Ministry Division, paring it down to what is required to produce a professional process of discernment, selection and training, allowing a diversity of training pathways to develop without regulation, and liberating the financial framework to bring more money into the training system, setting free training providers to serve the Church in a new era

·         to enable dioceses to generate more vocations, to encourage partnerships between dioceses in order to address the imbalance between north and south, and to encourage new forms of ordained and lay ministry (RMG, paras 15 – 25)

d.       We need a Regulatory Task Force. The genius of the Church of England, expressed in its character as a church by law established is that it has always insisted that the framework of legality serves the mission of the church. It is now becoming evident that this legal framework is becoming a straitjacket, imposing defensive bureaucracy and inhibiting the possibility of change (see RMG, paras 45 – 50). This group would have the remit of bringing forward the necessary changes in legislation to free up the Church of England and enable a new way of working.

6.       None of these task forces must become committee-bound; that will not achieve the climate for change that we need. Rather, these need to be groups which provide drivers to make things happen:

They must

·         Adhere to the quinquennial themes

·         Be driven by the need to resource dioceses and parishes to embark on a sea change in culture

·         Seek solutions, not problems

·         Be regulation-lite, promoting speed, simplicity and trust

7.       This proposal will only succeed if it has the full backing of the Archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners – and is underpinned by prayer and dependence upon God in Christ in the power of the Spirit.

8.       As a flavour of what might be required to change the Church of England for a new season of mission and growth, here are 20 things that might be done (in no particular order!)

·         A rolling week of 24/7 prayer for the re-evangelisation of England successively in every cathedral, touring the country for a year

·         Establishment of recognised new or existing communities of prayer in every diocese to be the driving force for that re-evangelisation

·         Major simplification of the appellate procedure under the Pastoral Measure (RMG para 48)

·         Simplification of the procedure for making BMOs to establish a single tier consultation and to give them an immediately more permanent locus, with 5 year reviews becoming discretionary

·         The capacity simply to mothball buildings that are no longer fit for purpose either structurally or because there is no viable worshipping community

·         A quick legal procedure to allow parish churches to relocate their main centre to schools, community halls and shopping malls

·         Enabling a fast-track process for deanery and parish boundary changes to provide for better ministry in the context of new housing developments, anomalies caused by new roads and the shifting shape of communities and local authority boundaries

·         Vigorous encouragement of church planting, both clergy and lay-led, including new missional communities – recognising that many of those leading such initiatives will need to be self-supporting or part time

·         Work with mission agencies and others with planting expertise, including co-operation with non-Anglican denominations and movements, to identify new opportunities for planting

·         Revision of the S29 Common Tenure Regulations to allow for interim and temporary posts, the termination of posts without the necessity of pastoral reorganisation, and the reintroduction of fixed term appointments

·         A mission opportunities fund to enable underperforming clergy to move out of ministry

·         Abolition of Vote 1 and a new regime whereby ordinands, backed by the diocese, raise their own support from friends, churches, and their sending and receiving dioceses

·         New partnerships between dioceses to train ordinands and place them, with net exporting dioceses entering into training agreements with importing dioceses

·         Ordaining candidates over 60 on the hoof as priests deployed locally, with training provided in the Diocese or local course/college

·         Commitment to process all ordinands to a yes or no within 9 months

·         Abolition of the IME 4 – 7 preoccupation with tick box assessments and pursuit of further academic attainment in order to allow curates to flourish in the parish and be trained for their priestly oversight as incumbents

·         Investment in clergy in service training (using existing service providers and agencies rather than inventing costly new schemes)

·         Identification of those dioceses which are most in need of new funding, based on an assessment of their actual financial position (including reserves and historic resources) and their proposals for growth

·         Serious negotiation with dioceses seeking new Church Commissioners funding about ways in which those dioceses can reduce their overheads and administrative costs through economies of scale and a reduction in the infrastructure of their boards and committees as a pre-condition of receiving funding

·         A public commitment and covenant by the House of Bishops to work together to deliver change, mission and growth
There's plenty more to pray and to do where that lot came from. Have we the bottle to take up the challenge?


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Women Bishops - where are we now?

Women Bishops – where are we now? A personal view on GS 1886


The reasons why people voted against in November were varied.

·         There were those who voted against in principle because they opposed women bishops.

·         There were those voted against because, although opposed, they recognised that the Church of England was going to have women bishops, and they believed that provision for opponents could be improved.

·         There were those (particularly evangelicals) who were in favour of women bishops but voted against the legislation in order to secure better provision for those opposed.

There are, of course, overlaps and nuances in the positions outlined above. What I think opponents failed to recognise was that the Synod’s inability to progress the legislation in November 2012 was a game-changer. The legislative provision that was on the table in November was the most generous that opponents were likely to get, and the high-risk strategy of voting it down means that whatever is enacted in the future will have far fewer provisions built into it. The sheer incredulity that most Bishops met in the parishes, in Parliament, in the media and in civic life that we had failed to deliver the legislation was pretty universal. I found myself constantly having to apologise for the CofE. But the effect of voting down the legislation that was on the table has now given us far less room for manoeuvre. In particular:

1.       I cannot see Synod or Parliament now allowing us to pass legislation where there is overt discrimination against women priests and bishops on the face of a Measure (or even an Act of Synod).

2.       There is a groundswell of opinion that Resolutions A & B and the existing Act of Synod are no longer tenable or credible. (Conversations with parish reps to explain that they need to discuss whether or not to debate the resolutions during a vacancy leave them open-mouthed that the CofE still contemplates excluding women candidates!)

3.       Unless those of us who want to secure provision for those opposed can move swiftly to ensure that the non-statutory provision is as generous as possible, there is a danger that there will be almost nothing left for those parishes and clergy. I have recently been redrafting the London Plan (which is predicated on the existing legislation) with a view to working out how it will operate in a post-legislative climate. I’ve included at the end of this paper a flavour of what the working out of the London Plan looks like in the way in which we work between the Bishops in London. (Appendix A). It’s this sort of thing that we will need to be part of the arrangements.

I would hope that members of Synod can:

1.       Embrace the totality of the vision set out in para 12 of the Report:
    • Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;     
    • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter; 
    • Since it will continue to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God; 
    • Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and 
    • Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England. 
 2.       Recognise that Option 4 is a non-starter (para 20 and paras 110 – 120)

3.       Recognise that the 1993 framework is no longer fit for purpose, and that Option 3 will not therefore commend itself to the wider Church or nation (paras 96 – 109). A new mechanism will be needed for parishes to request extended oversight.

4.       Recognise that an Act of Synod in this context has become a toxic, totemic and divisive mechanism, which makes Option 2 pretty tenuous. (Paras 89 – 95) It’s also provision by force of law, which on my reckoning won’t play with the Church or Parliament.

5.       Get behind Option 1 (paras 79 – 88). If we can embrace this together now, we have some real chance of getting something that is coherent and workable.  The more opponents attempt to block the legislation, the more likelihood that provision will be whittled down to nothing.

Of the four options in the HoB paper, only Option 1 has any chance of success. I would urge opponents to adopt realpolitik on this matter. It really is no good any more to argue for provision enshrined in law. The game is up.


Appendix A

Working Arrangements with the Bishop of Fulham

The order of issues in this list relates to the order (though not the numbering) in which they appear in the appendix to the London Plan

1.        Petitioning process for parishes seeking extended episcopal oversight.

Where a parish seeks extended oversight, a consultation process will take place

Stage 1            PCC indicates to Bishop of London that it wishes to consult on petitioning for extended oversight (copying the Area Bishop and Archdeacon)

Stage 2            Archdeacon and representative of Bishop of Fulham attend a PCC meeting to explain the process, hear from the PCC their reasons, and respond to questions and points of concern (this meeting would occur within 4 weeks of the Stage 1 notification to the Bishop of London)

Stage 3            PCC meet (on a separate occasion to the Stage 2 meeting) in order to vote on petitioning

Stage 4            If passed, then the Bishop of London would be formally petitioned. The Archdeacon would also submit to the Bishop a report based on the Stage 2 meeting.

Stage 5            After consultation with the Area Bishop, the Bishop of London would decide whether to accept the petition or require further consultation

2.        Sponsorship of ordinands by Bishop of Fulham

Discernment process will take place using Area Directors of Ordinands and existing Area systems, but the Bishop of Fulham will appoint his own examining chaplain to be in involved in processing candidates from parishes for which he is responsible.

3.        Placing ordinands in title posts

Subject to suitable training incumbents being available, ordinands sponsored by the Bishop of Fulham can be placed in “Fulham” parishes, subject to funding being available. They will be counted within the relevant Area Bishop’s allocation.

4.        Licensed Lay Ministers and Commissioned Ministers

Candidates will be agreed by the Bishop of Fulham for training, licensing and commissioning, working with the relevant Area Wardens of LLMs and CMs. Commissioning paperwork and entry on database to be done through the Areas.

5.        Permissions to Officiate

The Bishop of Fulham will not process PTOs. PTOs will be processed by the Area Bishop of the Area in which the priest is working (or by the Bishop of London where the PTO applicant is in a national post). The Bishop of Fulham may be asked to sign PTOs where this would be pastorally appropriate.

6.        Collations, Institutions and Licensings in parishes under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham

These will be carried out by Bishop of Fulham with the relevant Archdeacon

7.        Authorisation of lay permissions in parishes under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham

To be processed by the Bishop of Fulham, with a list of those issued to be sent to the Area Bishop for safeguarding and database purposes (Safeguarding checks as normal)

8.        Authorisation of admission of children to HC before confirmation, by the Bishop of Fulham in relation to those parishes under his oversight, subject to Diocesan Regulations

9.        Confirmation returns to be kept by Bishop of Fulham for confirmations he carries out.

10.     Blue files of clergy serving in parishes under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham – to be kept at Old Deanery and available for consultation by Bishop of Fulham and relevant Area Bishop (the Chichester review made it clear that we should not have two separate clergy files)

11.     MDR – to be run in Areas. Episcopal Review to be carried out by Bishop of Fulham

12.     Appointment to parishes under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham – Bishop of Fulham (and Patron) to run whole process with Archdeacon and Area Dean. Area Bishops to meet candidates before they are appointed.

13.     CDM process for clergy under the oversight of the Bishop of Fulham  - to be referred to the Bishop of London for his determination on process


Saturday, 2 February 2013

W(h)ither the Church of England? Mission in the post-Christian context

Picnicking around the signpost – post Christian? Secular? The exceptional case?

Alan Gilbert, The Making of Post-Christian Britain (1980) 
“A post-Christian society is not one from which Christianity has departed, but one in which it has become marginal. It is a society where to be irreligious is to be normal, where to think and act in secular terms is to be conventional, where neither status nor respectability depends upon the practice or profession of religious faith.”

Accommodation v Resistance

Grace Davie, Religion in Britain since 1945 (1994): Mismatch between indices of religious belief and statistics of religious membership or religious practices. Believing without belonging – sacred persists but not necessarily in traditional forms.

Rowan Williams’ distinction between programmatic secularism and procedural secularism in Faith in the Public Square (2012)

Complexities of pluralism

  1. Religious pluralism – no religion can legitimately make ultimate truth claims
  2. Political pluralism – State as mediator of diversity; or State that takes a more passive role
  3. A case can be made (cf. Rowan Williams) for political pluralism that pays due attention to “interactive variety” and “argumentative democracy” in the public realm…
  4. What sort of pluralism? USA model; French model; a new UK version?
Mission in a context which is

  • paradoxically secular and full of faith
  • publicly disavowing Christendom and procedurally secularist
  • in London, affected greatly by the World City context and the multicultural context
  • Probably post Christendom; probably not post Christian…

Straws in the wind – the difficulties of bearing testimony

  • The loss of the grammar of the Christian faith
  • A strong ethos of condescending tolerance
  • An aggressive atheist/secularist agenda
  • Fearfulness on the part of the ordinary Christian to bear explicit witness to the faith
  • Presumptions in the public realm which may not amount to “persecution” but do eventuate in marginalisation of the Christian faith
  • Interference on sound – our own capacity to appear bigoted, irrelevant and marginal

Letting a thousand flowers bloom – multiplicity of church models to fit the new context

  • Mission as more centrifugal and less centripetal
  • Mission as holistic and multi-facetted – therefore an end to sterile definitional arguments?
  • Mixed economy church as prevailing paradigm – both/and of inherited/traditional and emerging/adaptive

“Mission shaped church can be seen as a hypothesis – that God will use new contextual churches to help the church be more relevant and available, as it takes shape within all the settings of life” Michael Moynagh, Church for every context (2012)

  • Parish and network
  • Cross-generational and targeted generational
  • Niche church
  • Anonymity – Cathedrals and other places to be “me”
  • Mother tongue congregations
  • Plants
  • Missional communities
  • Ambient and new monastic
  • Multiples and midweeks
  • Community-based engagement
  • Virtual Church?

Tentative conclusions about what will happen to church

  • Demographic change – older, multicultural, diverse
  • Ecclesiology lite – what is the irreducible minimum of Anglican polity?
  • Formality and hierarchy will have less traction
  • The shape of priesthood and “leadership” will need to be faced
  • We shall need a flexible and light touch understanding of Diocese and episcopacy
  • Entrepreneurial oversight and an end to defensive bureaucracy
  • Planting out from London to other parts of the UK
  • Re-evangelisation?
What sort of priests?

  • Priests! (cf the Ordinal)
  • Inspirational animateurs
  • Energetic multi-taskers
  • Appropriately vulnerable and emotionally intelligent; power aware
  • Missional – with the capacity to grow a parish
  • Priests for parishes; not chaplains to congregations
  • Human and friendly