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?

 

31 comments:

  1. Wow, a radical theology. I'd agree with much of it, but it does sound much like a business plan for downsizing rather than one for enlargement.

    The focus on growth, is something I'm a little concerned about. If we concentrate on getting more into the pews surely we're missing that fact that very few of the Unchurched or Never Churched won't go within a mile of a Church building. I was once in that position myself and I thoroughly understand the reasons behind it.

    1st. A perception of an authoritarian structure, which is divided within and has views that are meaningless when the public face of the church is about argumentative synods and really hurtful feuds between different factions (they don't recognise 'traditions' who seem hell bent on maintaining the structure and organisation in the absence of love, and a total lack of respect for the dignity of individuals, whether in gender terms of sexuality.

    2nd. The organisation of the church is completely obscure to most people, it took me a good three years after joining the church to actually understand it's structure, and than I'm not sure that I've grasped it thoroughly enough to feel confident enough to influence what goes on. I don't really trust some diocesan bishops, synods or even deanery synods. In the diocese that I'm leaving the Bishop seems to dictate to Diocesan synod and they just roll over compliantly. I can see the attempt to build trust in the workings of the proposed legislation going to General Synod this week - but why such secrecy surrounding the workings of the committee involved. In the same way, the ongoing secrecy over how the Church can move forward with a gentle touch on human sexuality is the other issue where trust is absent and the long awaited Pilling Report seems unlikely to address the inequalities and discrimination that many Gay Clergy and Laity face in the Church.

    3rd. I feel that the plan omits any mention of God, The Holy Spirit or Jesus or the Gospel which if this is about mission, should surely feature prominently in it. I'm quite happy to live with the two greatest commandments as the ethical basis for my faith and views - and I'm pretty sure many others also do the same. Isn't it time that the Church works on that basis, rather than it's 'Established' 'Regulatory focused' basis and trust in the Holy Spirit as little bit more?



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  2. Thanks, Pete for gathering some good ideas that certainly resonate with me — I fear a tendency to disappear up our own exhaust pipes with IME1-7, and inflexibility over the terms of jobs we can offer doesn't help. Since 90%+ of the ministry of the Church of England is delivered by lay people where they live and work, it would be nice to see ministry division acknowledging the fact. It still all seems to be about Vicars. All I'd add is that I think we urgently need to note Linda Woodhead's latest YouGov data — being on the moral trilling edge in society costs us considerably for no benefit — along with the other points Ernie makes above. I'd also have to point out that the ratio of electors to those notionally represented in the house of laity of GS is actually considerably lower than in the pre-1832 House of Commons. That could be fixed cheaply and deasily by the ERS, if there were the will to do it...

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  3. Oops, that's the moral *trailing* edge. It doesn't make budgies bounce with health.

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  4. This is a great discussion starter but your points 9, 11 and 13 all make the environment for pioneers less secure and reliant on them funding themselves somehow. We should be diverting resources from moribund parish clergy to pioneers so that they have some security and financial backing to allow them to get on with mission rather than worrying about where their next paycheque is coming from or whether their contract will be renewed. The balance of security needs to be shifted toward the new and innovative not away from it.

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  5. Only in one sense did Fresh Expressions start on the edge of the NCIs. From the start it was an ecumenical initiative (with the Methodists) and now includes the majority of UK Protestant denominations. It was part-funded by the independent Lambeth Partners for the first two phases, and the Church Commissioners also provided some funding. Now though Anglican funding amounts to around 20% of the total budget.

    So I wonder, Pete, if you are missing an ecumenical trick here? Certainly on the ground new forms of church which are working well are often ecumenical and Fresh Expressions Area Strategy Teams up and down the country are ecumenical by definition. The FE team is small, the budget tight - but we do sense the crest of a wave. Like every wave though, you have to work hard to stay on it.

    It would be good too to find out how the group being set up in Church House, led by a Bishop, to encourage Anglican fresh expressions could fit in to the sort of strategy you are proposing.

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  6. " our ability to generate new capacity for mission from the centre has signally failed" - indeed. I actually think that the most important thing is for the centre to consciously and actively 'let go' - and that means not having plans and targets or even ambitions - to do nothing except pursue being faithful. Pipe dreams of course.

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  7. I disagree with the cynicism of UKViewer. This is FANTASTIC Pete. Thank you. Yes, and yes again. I'm not up on all the legal wranglings of the Church of England but I have worked as both a missioner and vicar in parishes/deaneries/diocese where boundaries needed adjusting, we needed to ordain some over 60s to local ministry, where some under performing ministers needed moving out of ministry, where there is a desperate need for pioneering work but no mechanism to make this official, where curates are overburdened and disheartened by tick boxes, and so on.

    The current vicar-centric (I agree Alan) model of ministry is a dinosaur and we desperately need to decentralise. A radical overhaul is required.

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  8. Given the current state of the church of England someone asked me what I would do. Well, okay then. Here's Gav's strategy for re-organistion for effective mission and ministry the Church of England (and particularly the Diocese of Exeter). These strategic things need to be done simultaneously:

    1. GROW A PAROCHIAL SELF-SUPPORTING ORDAINED LEADER FOR EACH EXISTING CONGREGATION

    Grow local self-supporting ordained leaders to lead the existing local congregations. One vicar cannot lead multiple congregations into growth. The Church of England needs to get over itself with the concept of 'ordination to the wider church'. Er... no. God calls people from local communities to serve in leadership in those local communities. We need to invest heavily in growing local ministers such that every existing congregation (even multiple congregations within one parish) has an ordained leader.

    1a) To implement this we need to allocate a current self-supporting, ordained curate or reader to each existing congregation. And if there isn't anyone we need to actively find/grow them! This becomes 'their' congregation to lead into growth, mission and ministry.

    1b) We need to re-designate/move licensed Readers to becoming i) Deacons or ii) Priests and do away with Readers full-stop. Readers are called to lead churches. Let's let them lead.

    1c) We need to put the local resources back into the hands of the local parishes - e.g. rectories, etc. to allow parishes to administer their resources more wisely than the central provision currently provided by the dioceses.

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    1. In reply to point 10, this is all very well in a church with the skills and inclination to manage resources like rectories. For many, though, even the existing demands of having to manage parish funds and buildings is too much. It can be very difficult to find people to serve as treasurers and churchwardens because of this. The fact that PCCs and their officers change on a regular basis, and are voluntary can mean also that they don't feel the same responsibility about what they are doing as a paid employee of the Diocese might, and that new members have to start from scratch in terms of learning what their responsibilities are. This is not good news for clergy living in parish houses, who are likely to find themselves at odds with their PCC over repairs and improvements, or having to live in inadequate accommodation because the PCC have not grasped what is necessary from a house that is not only a home but also a place to work from and see people in.

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    2. A radical reshaping of the model of ministry not only needs us to re-define the nature of stipendiary ministry but that of the local church. We need to adopt every-member ministry. Yes, you are right, in the current vicar-centric inherited model this might not work but very the point is that the vicar-centric model needs to change. btw: Why burden parishes or diocese with rectories? Why do vicars need a house any more special than anyone else that works from home? Why not sell the rectory, invest the money and rent?

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    4. I am vicar of a village church with a congregation that is a mixture of very busy and driven commuters to London and those who've lived here all their lives, most of whom are fairly elderly and don't have the skills or experience to manage the form-filling and assorted other red tape that running a parish involves. You can talk about every member ministry as much as you like, but the members have to be able and willing to do that ministry, and in increasing numbers of parishes - especially rural and inner city - there just aren't those people. They either don't have time or they don't have the basic skills (computer literacy etc) and can't or don't want to acquire them. I spend a lot of my time trying to encourage others to take on and develop ministries - practical, pastoral, liturgical... - but much of the work ends up on my desk. I am not being "vicar-centric" - it's just that the work needs to be done, and if there is no one to do it, I must. At the moment I have only one churchwarden, and every area of our church life is stretched because we can't get the volunteers. We aren't a dwindling church - we have healthy congregations with a good mix of ages - but there is less and less "slack" in their lives to volunteer.
      Rectories: vicars don't work from home, they live in the office...It's not just about carving out a bit of desk space as many home-workers need, but about having room to hold meetings, one to one private conversations, house all the office equipment, files etc, store resources, and be easily found and accessed by people who aren't members of the regular congregation, but just want a word with the vicar... A "normal" house wouldn't be big enough. In addition renting would be horribly expensive here in the South East - a real and continuing waste of money.
      If I didn't have a vicarage and lived in a rented house of my own choosing (probably not in the village, because we couldn't afford it) the church would need to provide some sort of office space in the church (medieval, no loo, isolated, lousy heating, mouldy vestry...) and I am very sure that would be far more expensive.
      Your vision of parish ministry seems to me to be rooted very much in the middle class, suburban model of a well-appointed church with office, administrative assistants, plenty of able people willing and keen to take on responsibility etc... Most of those in ministry don't have that luxury, and I don't see that we are likely to have an influx of those sort of resources any time soon.

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    5. I hear you Anne. And with all due respect - and I fully appreciate the very real problems you describe having been a vicar of two semi-rural parishes - it sounds like the model of church is dysfunctional. Why?

      If the members of a church are "unwilling or unable to undertake the ministry of the church" (i.e. they are the church and it is their ministry) then there is a massive underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

      I want to highlight that last sentence and have it made bold and surrounded by flashing lights!

      Secondly, Anne - it is not your job to do the ministry and mission of the church. And don't get me wrong, for those of us that are caring, hard-working, dedicated and committed to this thing called the Church of England, we have become complicit with a vicar-centric (i.e. vicar does it all) mentality. This needs to stop because it is hurting vicars such as yourself and it's hurting the local church. How many vicars do we know that suffer with stress and burn-out; who are washed out and worn-out?

      I also want to say that regarding the rectory - yes! - precisely why we need to adopt a different model of ministry. You have an inherited church building that is cold with a mouldy vestry (that, to be fair - although probably architecturally beautiful - doesn't sound fit for purpose). You also have an inherited 'vicar' model that says that your home is your office. Are you happy with that because it doesn't sound that you are? Is that what vicars are called to do by God, really? I don't believe it is.

      My vision says that this sucks big time and it's time to address these issues and make a change. There has to be a much better way and a different model. We just need to be brave enough as a whole church to make the change required - and this is why a radical overhaul is needed - not just tweaking around the edges.

      The current model of ministry and mission in the Church of England is outdated and flawed and is simply not working across swathes of deaneries. I'm not pinning the blame on vicars (I was one) but on the model of church and its ministry. I want to see the local church thrive but it has serious baggage in terms of its inherited model, resources and systems. I don't want the ship to sink but unless we do something (Mutley?) things are not going to get any better. xx

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    6. I think you may have misunderstood me, Gavin. I love my job here, and after 20 years of ordained ministry and nearly 8 in this parish I am not in the least washed out or worn out, nor is there anything dysfunctional about my church - it is full of wonderful people who are doing the best they can. I am just being realistic about what the "job" of running a parish church is and how it is possible to do it.
      Whether a church is "fit for purpose" rather depends on what one thinks that purpose is. Our village church has been here for 800 years, and in many ways embodies in stone the collective memory of the village. That matters - it speaks of an incarnate God. we wouldn’t want to walk away from it or pull it down and start again, It is open every day, and people of all ages drop in to explore, or for private prayer, or just to be still. It is never going to be realistic to convert it into an “office” space, though, and I wouldn’t want it to be. I have no problem with the vicarage being my office, so long as it is big enough to be possible for that to happen efficiently, and in a location where people know where to find it. In this sort of parish at least, the traditional model actually does work quite well. Of course there are stresses and strains involved in "living over the shop", but there are stresses and strains in living elsewhere and having to commute to work as well. Selling vicarages and expecting vicars to live in homes they have rented or bought themselves won't work in this sort of setting, and doing so will kill off the most precious aspects of ministry in this sort of community - that sense that we are there with and for the people we serve.

      As far as every-member ministry goes, of course it would make my life easier if there were more people who wanted to lead and take responsibility but again, we need to face reality and do what we can, and what we are called to do with those we have. What I have had to recognise is that my job of "equipping the saints for the work of ministry" is not necessarily about persuading people to sign up for ministries but rather to help them find the strength and inspiration they need to go about their daily lives and jobs in ways that speak of Christ. If they need to come to church on Sunday simply to sit and absorb some nourishment, then that is what they need, and in the long run it will not do them or the Church any favours to push them into ministry they feel they neither have the time or calling to do.

      In a sense I think the "every-member ministry" model has become a part of the problem rather than the solution. It has encouraged us to think we should be hives of activity, with groups and activities for every age and disposition - rather than allowing ourselves simply to be together as a whole community, doing the core business of worship and learning together, and loving and being available for those who come across the threshold or are encountered in the community. It has often also distanced the clergy from the role for which they were ordained, and the things which make the job so satisfying - the actual contact with those coming for occasional offices or wanting to learn and grow in their discipleship. The research for the weddings project revealed the importance to couples of getting to know the priest who would be marrying them - delegating the admin and preparation to lay people was counter-productive.

      Of course we need different solutions in different situations, but we are in danger of fretting about like Martha, launching initiatives and re-visioning things all over the place, and forgetting that this is God's church and not ours.

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    7. That's great Anne. Sounds like the current model is working well for you. It's good to hear about trad parishes bucking the trend despite the financial crisis, falling attendance across the wider church and other serious problems the wider church is currently facing. :)

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  9. 2. GROW NON-PAROCHIAL SELF-SUPPORTING ORDAINED LEADERS

    We need to grow self-supporting ordained leaders to local cross-parish/network pioneer/emerging and fresh expressions of church. Again, not grow pioneers to the wider church then allocate them miles from where they are called to live and have their ministry. There are people who feel called to this ministry and there is currently no place for them.

    2a) We need a process that identifies people being called to the diaconate or priesthood then enable them to train for locally authorised self-supporing ministry. When trained we need to authorise them to lead a congregation (parochial or otherwise).

    3. GROW LOCAL ORDAINED BISHOPS

    Alongside growing leaders, we need to allocate local episcopal oversight. The idea of having a Diocesan Bishop and a couple of Suffragans is again not a strategy for growth. Some existing local vicars need to look after one congregation as they are not gifted to oversee multiple churches (note: Perhaps I'm being too gentle Pete - let's move them out of ministry?). And yet some need to be freed from oversight of a single congregation and be given episcopal oversight over a cluster of local parishes and cross-parish fresh expressions. These would be the paid posts - stipendiary.

    3a) Identify local 'bishops' from the existing pool of (1) and (2) - those clearly gifted to local episcopal oversight, with a good track record, experience and with gifts and skills to resource and gather the cluster of congregations. And importantly those who can provide quality pastoral oversight for the leaders of congregations. (The current idea that a suffragan bishop can provide adequate pastoral oversight for every church leader in their bishopric is misplaced). The system is currently failing.

    3b) Replace Deaneries and Area/Rural Deans with the clusters and local bishops. Deaneries have no authority and exist because we know we need local clusters! Call these clusters deaneries if it helps.

    3c) The local cluster bishops need to be versed in such things as APEST typologies, church planting, FX, to help local church leaders grow teams, etc. The local cluster bishops would also be able to draw on each others diverse range of skills.

    4. RE-IMAGINE THE DIOCESAN STRUCTURE

    4a) The local bishops would be trained, equipped and networked in smaller regions - each with a single regional bishop. This would provide mutual accountability and support. Call these new regions dioceses if it helps.

    4b) The current diocesan structure (which is an unwieldily blob) would be disbanded. The current centralised administration would be disbanded and de-centralised. For example, the cluster bishops in a region would assume some responsibility each - e.g. overseeing the church schools in their area, etc.

    4c) Disband the Common Fund. Each church/congregation in a given cluster and region would commit as much or as little financial support as they were able to support their cluster bishop/regional bishop.

    So there you have it - the bear bones of what I would do!

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  10. Note: I don't think that any parish in a new system (poor or rich) should be required to pay a vicar unless they want to. The idea that we need to pay less vicars and more pioneers from a central pot is flawed. Why? Because we need many, many more congregations of all shapes and sizes- therefore we need many more ordained leaders - and there is not enough money in the centralised pot and there never will be.

    Congregations need to share the typical parochial ministry and each congregation would have oversight from their Self-supporting Ordained Minister).

    Note that the self-supporting minister can be supported in a range of ways - job, congregation, stewardship, neighbouring wealthy parish, benefactor, friends, etc. We do not need to be prescriptive or constrictive as to how all ministers will be paid - it just won't be centrally.

    However, each parish and FX would support (as much as they could) their cluster bishop and because this cluster bishop was shared, they would have less common fund commitment, not more.

    In fact, poorer parishes would be better off. Part of the problem at the moment is poorer parishes are under the illusion that they are being supported by richer parishes and although this appears to be true, the reality is that many dioceses (such as Exeter) are in financial dire-straits running with a huge deficit. This is unsustainable and something needs to be done!

    Oh, and if you're wondering if I've put my money where my mouth is. Yes I have. I am doing my best to follow the Spirit's lead and I am now an extra-parochial self-supporting ordained pioneer minister. In other words, I don't have a job title within the system and I don't fit the current model. But hey, God is flippin' big, awesome and faithful. :) Here endeth the lesson. ;)

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  11. From where I sit, deeply involved in the Diocese although always feeling like an observer looking in as a non-Anglican, I am very well aware of the current deficiencies in models of oversight and - particularly in regard to rural congregations - a failure to utilise non-Anglicans "on the roll". Despite having regularly taken Anglican services abroad before returning to the U.K. with rather a lot of assorted experience, I sense that I am "not wanted on voyage" other than in fairly invisible functions. For example, despite the Covenant, how many Methodist L.Ps. are actually utilised? I'm not speaking as a Methodist!

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  12. I like a lot of where this is going, but I think that the biggest issue facing the CofE lies in the area of it's leadership. And sadly it is often the case that it can come across as being middle-class or higher, due to the nature of being part of the Establishment.

    The process for becoming a priest, for example, is an academic path. People have to be academically oriented in order to progress, which means that the pool is reduced even further than just sifting through those who are Christian and have a calling to ministry.
    What should be done is training operating on different levels, so that some can go the academic route and others through more of an apprenticeship route (no, curacy doesn't count as you have to do the academic route in order to get there!) of some basic theological training alongside simply doing the job with a trained priest who has done training in how to train an apprentice.
    Remove the necessity for academic training on the scale that it currently is and the idea of making ordinands pay for their own training either becomes affordable (apprenticeship training would either mean the church or the apprentice covering the costs, but either way they should be less than covering 3 years at theological college and the apprentice would be employed by the church and so able to cover the costs from their pay) or means that with a variety of ways to do the training the budget would be able to go further than it currently does.

    The other BIG problem is the way that people become bishops. And not just suffragan/area bishops, but diocesan. Much of the time it appears that it's not about leading a church that is spreading the Gospel, but about finding someone to manage a bureaucracy! Yes, there are some fantastic bishops out there, but not enough are standing up and saying "Let's convert the nation", which is the whole point of a national church, isn't it?!
    I don't want to hear bishops saying "Let's not offend anyone" or "We need more meetings of the finance committee", I want them to say that Jesus is the ONLY way to God (John 14:6) and that this nation needs to be saved! If we are to have any change that comes from the top, this is the most fundamental thing that has to happen. Because if not then we are going to continue to "manage decline" as people either lose heart and switch churches or lose faith and leave the Church all together!
    And if the bishops do all declare Jesus as the only way to the Father, then maybe a few more priests might start saying it as well!!!

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    1. I hear you youthpastablog about the academic approach to ordained ministry. I'd like to see bishops affirmed in their primary gifting (prophet, evangelist, etc.) rather than the presumption that they are apostolic based on role. However, I don't know many priests that do not affirm Jesus as The Way (and I know a lot of priests). :)

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  14. "Spiritual growth doesn’t happen apart from engagement in God’s word."–Mike Emlet

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  15. I am a Canadian Anglican laity, who has for the past four years read so many comments. One of the gifts of being here in Canada is the vast needs of laity to stimulate, support and involve parish ministry by actions. I would certainly like to share the ideas of PIoneer Mission Ministry similar to the pre-colonial plan where a BCP and Bible were the tools of sharing and speaking the Anglican faith. We have leaders in most parishes however you are correct to state the Clergy are inhibiting the path, yet laity is the trail making guide to be considered. I hope some of you will read my comments and send me a reply RON M WEEKS, Pioneer Mission Lead, Victoria, BC

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    1. Ron - I was thinking about this. We had the articles of religion in the BCP and it seems to me that perhaps we need a new set of articles, relevant for our mission and ministry today - sort of like underpinning values that say, "This is what we're about." :)

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  16. It seems to me that the church has not yet solved the problems that modern knowledge and philosophy pose for faith - it's invented several clever ways of avoiding those problems, and I wonder whether it has become less capable of mission as a consequence of that avoidance - because mission will involve a challenge to itself that it doesn't want to face. I think that mission ought to involve presenting christianity with all of it's problems included, and showing that christian discipleship is still viable despite those problems. My experience of being at the receiving end of 'at arms length' naive mission is that the level of pretence involved might make me want to steer clear if I wasn't already a christian.

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  17. pellucidly? It's no wonder that the Anglican church doesn’t communicate :-)

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  18. 'pellucidly' (a rather ironic use of a rather obscure word?); NCIs; IME 4 – 7; appellate procedure under the Pastoral Measure (RMG para 48); BMOs; Vote 1; even 'quinquennial themes' - I've served as lay-chair of my parish's PCC, led church youth work, run house groups, led services, been involved in 'professional' Christian ministry and worship at an inner-city parish church that's doing incredible work with asylum seekers and our vulnerable community - you've unfortunately lost me with language that's inward looking and technical. I'm sorry about that, as I'm deeply concerned about where the church (not just the Anglican one) is headed. I realise that all organisations need language to describe what they do (I was a school governor too, and was constantly trying to unpack the language they used), but if this is a public blog, written to try to reach those of us working alongside the professional staff of the church, and give us inspiration and direction about what's possible, I wonder if looking at the language that we all use might be helpful?

    I hope this doesn't come across in the wrong way - I'm convinced that change and sustainable growth are only going to come (as I think you're saying) from a host of small (profound) acts in established and new Christian communities, almost certainly largely led by non-professionals - our language perhaps just needs to reflect who might actually be inspired by the opportunities this creates.

    Peace

    Richard

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  19. Posted before refreshing page comments! About four days worth it turns out... So apologies for any duplication there...

    R

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  20. Do get hold of a copy of 'Persistently preaching Christ' by Mary Davis, published by Christian Focus... the the Anglican Church at it's best: faithful, fruitful, and growing !

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  21. Hello, simple lay person here. Really interesting read and timely, of course. Some of this sounds like it might deliver some results and it makes me glad to read the result of experience and reflection in whichever order they inform the various statements.
    I have spent most of my working life as a middle layer cog in a hugely respected international organisation. It has been reorganised and reorganised and reorganised often in a knee-jerk response to the prevailing cultural mood. Top down stuff. It works on one level because it produces immediate perceivable results but it does little to ensure long term life, draws less and less on experience, ensures that new work may lack depth in many areas. It doesn't really invest meaningfully in the creative lifeblood of the family. I am concerned that there is something similar going on in the desire to 'sort out' structures for the Church of England - of course, they do need sorting out but that has been true forever.
    Perhaps I'm looking for a more upfront acknowledgement of the movement and inspiration of the Spirit in and among the family of the church. It seems to me that the job of leadership is about enabling, supporting and finding structures that allow surprising, radical, grassroots movements to progress and flourish. We might spend some time considering where does vision come from? Who identifies it, endorses, resources it? How can we develop structures that are sufficiently flexible to encourage and release the potential of people in a way that surprises them, surprises their wider communities and allows the community of faith to enable people to hear the gospel gladly?
    I have lots of ideas about that but I'm not up to writing a blog never mind filling a book. And who needs another book?!!!

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