Monday, January 12, 2015

Green Shoots? Archbishops introduce CofE to the smell of coffee

The background to the Green report is now a bit clearer, thanks to a paper by the 2 CofE Archbishops just published, in advance of next months General Synod:

(task) groups were asked to explore specific aspects of the institutional life of the Church of England, where on the face of it, there appeared to be scope for significant change.
The work of these four groups - on the discernment and nurture of those called to posts of wide responsibility, on resourcing ministerial education, on the future deployment of our resources more generally and on simplification - is now being published. It will be the main focus for the February meeting of the General Synod.
I.e. the Green report is one of several exploring how the CofE can be reformed. 
It gets better...
Renewing and reforming aspects of our institutional life is a necessary but far from sufficient response to the challenges facing the Church of England. The recommendations of these four groups have to be seen in a much wider context, as a means not an end. They will be considered at the Synod in the light of a paper that explores what it means for all Christians, lay and ordained, to be a community of missionary disciples.
Rub your eyes people, the CofE is a community of missionary disciples. That's the words of our two Archbishops. 
And they are refreshingly realistic about the direction of the good ship Titanic, sorry, Church of England:
The urgency of the challenge facing us is not in doubt. Attendance at Church of England services has declined at an average of 1% per annum over recent decades and, in addition, the age profile of our membership has become significantly older than that of the population. Finances have been relatively stable, thanks to increased individual giving. This situation cannot, however, be expected to continue unless the decline in membership is reversed.
The age profile of our clergy has also been increasing. Around 40% of parish clergy are due to retire over the next decade or so. And while ordination rates have held up well over recent years they continue to be well below what would be needed to maintain current clergy numbers and meet diocesan ambitions.
You saw it here first folks. And here. In that latter post, just 3 years ago I wrote:
"I don't know what it will take to provoke the necessary sense of crisis, the deepening of conviction that we need to tackle this issue, so that the CofE overcomes its sniffiness about 'bums on pews' and recognises that there's a reason the New Testament talks about the number of people being saved on a regular basis. It's because each of those people matters to God, and each of those people is someone we're called to reach with the gospel. The CofE is largely failing in that task, and until we have reckoned with that, we call into question our claim to be called a church at all. Are we actually doing the task our Master has set us?"
and if I was blogging now, based on this paper, I wouldn't need to write it. Hallelujah.
There's also a warning shot about church buildings and how clergy are allocated:
The burden of church buildings weighs heavily and reorganisation at parish level is complicated by current procedures. The Sheffield formula allocation of priests is no longer generally observed, while the distribution of funds has no emphasis on growth, has no relationship to deprivation and involves no mutual accountability. There is no central investment in reaching out into the digital and social media world. If the Church of England is to return to growth, there is a compelling need to realign resources and work carefully to ensure that scarce funds are used to best effect.
which in the best traditions of failing to get the point, becomes the headline in the Telegraph report on the Archbishops' paper. 
Here's another interesting one, given how much is not done in this area simply because people are intimidated by the quantity of paperwork and the length of the legal process:
The Simplification report identifies specific legislative changes which are needed to remove hindrances to mission in relation to pastoral reorganisation and clergy deployment, to streamline processes and to tackle redundant paperwork. The recommendations take account of a widespread consultation process.
and here's where it's all going.... these reports provide a basis for developing and delivering a major programme of renewal and reform within the Church of England as a matter of urgency. What's most encouraging is that the reports on systems and structures are being looked at in the wider context of mission and discipleship, not as an end in themselves. 
No zombie General Synods, now that we not longer have to talk about women bishops, here at last is the CofE getting to grips with reality, and with itself. Hang on to your cassocks folks, it's going to be quite a ride. 

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