“Church” really doesn’t need to explain itself. The Church is the people of God, called into being by Jesus Christ, shaped by the Spirit and showing forth the love of the Father. We are the Church of England in London because we stand in continuity with the Church throughout the ages, tracing our origins in scripture, seeking to be true to the inheritance of faith in tradition, and proclaiming that faith afresh in each generation.
This paper seeks, therefore, not so much to explain, as to set down the policy parameters for the ways in which we seek to “do” church in C21 London. It is taken as read that the manifestations of church which we seek to build and develop are in continuity with the reformed catholic heritage of the Church of England, based in the faith “revealed in the holy scriptures, and set forth in the catholic creeds, to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness.” These are communities of the baptised where word and sacrament are faithfully proclaimed and celebrated, under the leadership of their Bishop and in communion one with another.
1. Parish Churches remain at the core of our understanding of how we serve our city. London is a series of small villages and neighbourhoods, and the concept of “parish” still has real traction, even though people may commute across parish boundaries to attend their church of choice. We will seek to sustain parish church presence, though all churches will be subject to evaluation under our Mission and Ministry Health & Viability criteria. We will continue to put in place measures to support and grow parish churches. We will also develop the distinctive and “eccentric” ministry of central London and City churches.
2. Overlaying the parish system, and complementary to it, will be other forms of church. These include
· Network churches – churches which serve people who are not necessarily locality-based, and whose relationships are more network than neighbourhood. Such churches will usually cross parochial boundaries, and are likely to operate under a Bishop’s Mission Order. Local protocols will be put in place to define their relationship with the local parish (es).
· International & Ethnic Congregations For many of London’s ethnic and nationality based groupings, English may be a second language, and they may wish to worship in the style and culture of their mother tongue and ethnic group. We will work with such groups and enable those who wish to give Anglican expression to their worship and mission to be incorporated into our parochial structures. Policy Paper 6 addresses these issues in more depth.
· Youth congregations It will sometimes be appropriate to set up a separate youth congregation in order to evangelise and disciple young people within their own cultural milieu. Normally such congregations will be attached to a parish or network church.
3. We will continue to pursue a vigorous policy of Church Planting (partnering with a variety of planters) wherever mission opportunity arises, and wherever possibilities can be created. A separate policy paper (Policy Paper 2) sets out the Diocese of London’s policy on church planting.
4. We will experiment with other forms of church. The Church of England has written extensively about Fresh Expressions (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.”) In a majority of contexts, a parish that is missional will already be experimenting with what might be categorised as “fresh expressions” – Messy Church, After School clubs, Café Church, Pub Church, etc. For examples see http://www.sharetheguide.org/section1 Sometimes a Fresh Expression will emerge outside of an existing parochial context, in which case we will consider how best to resource it, give it legal and charitable status and ensure that it is fully a part of the Church of England.
5. Other new ecclesial communities include
· The London Internet Church http://www.londoninternetchurch.org.uk/
· Ambient expressions of church – alternative forms of church worship and networks typically suited to a generation and culture for whom inherited church patterns of worship don’t work. Formative in their DNA will be the exploration of new forms of liturgical and other worship expression; a desire for artistic expression; a sense of shared community; evangelism among their peers; and a deep commitment to justice and peace issues.
6. Community Ministry has been a formative and inspiring adjunct to our parish ministry in many urban and estate locations.
Mostly it will complement existing patterns of parish life, but sometimes new ecclesial communities will emerge though community ministry initiatives. As well as more traditional forms of community ministry, we are glad to partner with Eden Greater London, XLP, and other similar initiatives.
7. New areas of housing and major development will be places where we look to build Christian community, either via a plant (from the parish church or elsewhere), or via promoting grass-roots growth of a Christian community in situ. We will also work with planters and mission agencies in these areas where they can also add value and resources.
8. Our Schools offer huge potential for developing new or parallel worshipping communities alongside the parish church. We will work with the LDBS and Governing Bodies to explore the development of churches based in some of our schools. (This may also be the key to resourcing new churches in new developments – see (7) above).
9. We will continue to support and develop Chaplaincy in HE, schools, prisons, the Armed Forces and other significant institutions and workplaces. This work will be overseen by the Bishops and the Chaplaincy Steering Group.
10. Another significant development is that of Missional Communities, 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 operate under a Bishop’s Mission Order, and may inhabit a number of localities.
Alongside these ten different classifications of what it means to be church, we have a wider concern for the re-evangelisation of London and of England.
· We will therefore partner with Holy Trinity Brompton and other planting churches to encourage wider re-evangelisation of England through planting beyond London
· We will build alliances with Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic and international churches to develop new forms of church in pockets of major ethnic and national concentration.
· We will work across the spectrum to encourage and train catholic, middle of the road and evangelical parishes towards more outward focus and exploration of planting. (See the training strategy in Policy Paper 4).
The Staffing and Deployment implications of this strategy are addressed in Policy Paper 3.
This paper is issued by the London College of Bishops as part of a series of Policy Papers on Mission and Ministry issues.