Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Setting God's People Free
Updated Tuesday evening
Setting God’s People Free (GS 2056) is a report from the Archbishops’ Council to be debated at General Synod on the morning of Thursday 16 February. There is a brief summary on the Renewal & Reform pages of the Church of England website. The report aims to generate more active engagement by lay churchpeople.
There was a press release when the report was published, which we reported here.
To this can now be added these press reports
Hattie Williams Church Times New report calls for shift in attitude towards laity
Harry Farley Christian Today Clergy V Laity ‘Power Struggle’ Is Blocking Church Growth, Synod Told
and these comments/reviews
Jonathan Clatworthy Modern Church Setting God’s people free to do what they are told (follow the link at the end for the full report)
David Keen Opinionated Vicar ‘Setting God’s People Free’ - ministry on the other 6 days of the week, and who does it
Will Briggs Journeyman Review: Setting God’s People Free – A Report from the Archbishops’ Council.
Two from the CofE’s Renewal and Reform Facebook page
Andrew Nunn Why we should value the true treasures of the Church
Paul Cartwright ‘I Come to do Your will’
[The Andrew Nunn piece was included in our most recent Opinion roundup]
and an audio recording of an interview with Canon Mark Russell (who will be proposing the motion at Synod on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council): Why change is needed for Church growth
Posted by Peter Owen on
Tuesday, 7 February 2017 at 11:47am GMT
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Church of England
| General Synod
So, the Lay Leadership Task Group proposes appointing.... an Episcopal Champion.
I am quite amazed that in everything I have read about this report no one has mentioned the highly influential book from the late 1960s "God's Frozen People: A Book for, and About Ordinary Christians [Mark Gibbs and T. Ralph Morton]". Many of us have at least since then been seeking to encourage a view of the Church which is one in which ordained and lay members seek to live out the vocation to which God has called us.
Thank you to Modern Church (article linked above) for helping me to identify why I found the GS report on the laity unsatisfactory and lacking. Although I suppose that by calling it 'Setting God's People Free' the authors nailed their colours to the mast. I understand 'God's People' to mean all people, not only those identifying as Christian, and the purpose of evangelising to enable all people to be aware of God's love for all. By the way, I wish 'mission' was still used in a wider sense, as defined by the Five Marks of Mission, rather than the narrower sense of telling people about Jesus, as it seems to be at the moment.
Interesting response from Modern Church.
It may be that, with its model of authority flowing downwards from the most high God, Christianity's irredeemably authoritarian. May be. Doesn't mean that it should be taken as given. Alternative models (with focus on congregationalism and freedom of conscience) must be explored.
As ever, though, freedom won't be given: it must be taken.
Yes, I too think that Modern Church has got it right, especially the point about providing theological resources to Christians to draw their own conclusions. I too thought of 'God's Frozen People'. I was taught 'A' level History and Religious Knowledge by Mark Gibbs in the late 1950s. He taught me how to think. He also produced a lively newsletter called "Christian Comment'. In the current Calvinistic turn of the CofE, independent thinking is frowned on. It is not as though the theological resources of the current College of Bishops is at all impressive
Too often, 'Christian' commentators like to highlight the seeming disparity between believers' behaviour and non-believers' behaviour as if there are two categories of people. There is one category of people: those loved by God. I don't always agree with James Byron but, well done James: "As ever, though, freedom won't be given: it must be taken." And we should take, no strings attached.
This Working Group report focuses on Lay ‘Leadership’. It was established by the Archbishops’ Council and reports back to it. The report refers briefly to the existence of a Lay ‘Ministries’ Working Group that is looking at ‘lay ecclesial ministry, within the church’ and will report separately. This second Working Group was (and it is was, because significant members of the group are no longer around) to report to the Ministry Council.
Did these two Working Groups discuss and agree how their reports relate?
Was the distinction between lay ‘ministry’, lay ‘leadership’ and lay ‘ecclesia’l ministry actually agreed anywhere – and on what basis?
Would it not be more helpful if they reported together?
There is much helpful material here and I recognise the scale of the challenge. But the effect of an arbitrary distinction – a re-labeling exercise - is that this report by-passes much established approaches to lay ministry and mot notably its 7-8,000 Readers. The word ‘Reader’ actually occurs only three times in this report and each time, in a negative context.
To label this ministry as ‘ecclesial’ and to not consider it 'leadership' is puzzling and certainly suggests the Working Party thinks it is part of the ‘problem’. Readers were in fact the Fresh Expressions of their day and have long shared the convictions that drive this report. There were no Readers on the Working Group as far as I can discern.