Resourcing Mission & Growth – making it happen
- 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.
(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:
· 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?