Comments: Church of England Task Groups: pre-pre-Synod papers

Credit where it's due - unlike the Green report, this paper is almost entirely free of management-speak.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Monday, 12 January 2015 at 7:37pm GMT

As to the Telegraph piece, what is also needed (as a matter of urgency) is a national plan for the preservation of a very high proportion of the current stock of church buildings with perhaps only a residuum of Christian worship, as it is already far too late in a great many places to expect anything but extinction - and rather sooner than many suppose.

We need a national plan because the current arrangements, which allow schemes to proceed on an ad hoc basis allow for a snip here and a snip there, so that the progressive unpicking of the fabric of the 'national' church goes relatively unnoticed.

It is unlikely that we can depend upon the state. An appeal for public money might have been attempted as late as the 1950s or 1960s (probably without success), but it is almost impossible to expect anything much of government now, at a time when there is a de facto 'loi de separation' in public policymaking, and when national and local finances are already very straightened.

It is also unlikely that we can depend upon existing structures like the CCT or FFC (Ivor Bulmer Thomas did not expect more than about 40 vestings when he pushed for the establishment of the Redundant Churches Fund - yet the CCT now has about 340 - a diocese in its own right).

The impact of the parish share (i.e., wage bill/pension scheme) upon parishes needs to be considered further, especially in the context of the increasing pension burden being placed upon the dioceses. Is it not time for much of that burden (assumed in 1998 when we still had positive real interest rates) to be passed back to the Commissioners, so that the dioceses can breathe a little?

Posted by J Drever at Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 12:05am GMT

I totally agree with J Drever's comments. In my town we have 5 churches within a 2-3 mile radius. Non with a congregation of more than 40 on a normal Sunday, all with a high proportion of elderly parishoners, struggling to pay their parish share. Logically it would make sense to close at least 3 to ensure that the other would have a future. But how do you choose? We all love our own churches, we have our different traditions. The larger church more central is newer and more accessable, the older ones on the edge are historic and listed - and maybe cost more to run. Difficult decisions ahead but they will have to be made.

Posted by Henry Dee at Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 10:32am GMT

Yes, it is free of management-speak, but it is full of membership-speak. Both archbishops belong to that mind-set which believes the answer to decline is found in greater commitment and clearer distinctions between who belongs and who is an outsider. This is not the Anglican character - and the C of E is the national church, not a membership organisation. There are some proposals here which will compound the emerging congregationalism of the C of E, and risks our distinctive identity of being the place where everyone belongs unless they consciously choose to opt-out. The decimation of the Free Churches is enough of a warning in this respect. We must retain our 'porous walls' and give people space to belong at their own pace. I thought this was the rationale behind the new Pilgrim course? Obviously, that's now deemed to be 'not delivering' and something else is being produced (at what cost?). Much of it makes sense in its own terms; but the tone is aggressively urgent. I wasn't sure if I was reading about renewal and reform in the Church of God or a press release from Tesco's and Morrison's after a bad profit warning.

Posted by Michael Chancellor at Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 10:59am GMT

J Drever, I agree 100% that a "national plan for the preservation of ... the current stock of church buildings" is urgent. But, who should be the owner of this plan - the church or the state?

I say firmly that we have 10000 listed buildings that we cannot afford to maintain, that the state makes the rules that says listed buildings must be maintained, that it is totally unfair that the responsibility and burden of maintaining those 10000 listed buildings should fall on the 2% of our adult population who regularly worship. Therefore the plan must be owned and managed by the state rather than by the church.

Some will point out that the burden of these 10000 listed buildings is a burden that the church should be willing to bear on behalf of the nation. They will point to "Bear one another's burdens" and to "Take up your cross." I can only say that I disagree with this interpretation of the scriptures. In any case it's a serious theological debate that needs to happen.

Posted by Jamie Wood at Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 3:03pm GMT

The buildings issue will be picked up in two ways. (1) The Bishop of Worcester, with his new charge of the Church Buildings Council, will be asked to oversee a piece of work to address those issues. (2) The Simplification Group is bringing forward some amendments to the Mission & Pastoral Measure to enable a better framework for redundancy and using some buildings on a less regular basis.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Tuesday, 13 January 2015 at 8:51pm GMT

J Drever suggests returning much of pension costs to the Church Commissioners. A bit of mental arithmetic suggests that current contributions into the Pension Fund are around £80M per annum. Even were the commissioners to take some of the strain by depleting capital, the bulk of the money would need to come from other costs being swapped from Commissioners to dioceses. My guess is that wealthier dioceses and those large parishes who pay for additional clergy off the diocesan balance sheet would benefit, poorer ones would lose out. Feels a bit regressive, that.

Posted by David Walker at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 7:28am GMT

Thank you to Bishop Pete for reminding us that the exciting outcomes of this can only in fact be quite boringly synodical and churchy.
Also for letting us know they have already been determined before the Synod debate. We do know we are only a costly talking shop really, but it's decent to be told so directly now and again.

Posted by Neil Patterson at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 8:33am GMT

I agree that these issues are a matter of urgency. And I am really glad that the Archbishops and Bishops are taking a lead on this. But "Urgent" does not need to have associated with it the sense of "Anxiety" that the Green Report and some of these other issues are exhibiting. We are in the Christmas to Candlemas cycle of the Church's year in which we celebrate God's Incarnation. God inhabits and embraces the whole creation. The world is shot through with God's grace. Yes we need to work to help make that reality manifest in our world and society for this generation, but we do so knowing that we have a faithful, loving and compassionate God. A bit more Johanine theology would not go amiss in the CofE's deliberation of these reports.

Posted by Paul Richardson at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 10:59am GMT

This is what I have put on the discussion board re discipleship:

There is a great deal here which is really good, not least the use of scripture in an intelligent and apposite way rather than merely shoving a Biblical quote in here and there as if that proved something. So in making some more negative comments now I hope that will be seen in the light of my generally positive view of the tone etc. of this.

1. Revising the catechism as the denouement of this great urging of discipleship is rather an anticlimax! We had a revised catechism a few years back and, at best, this work is a footnote to perhaps more urgent concerns.
2. The report seems to say that what is important is the discipleship of all believers rather than the ministry of all believers. This is a line pushed by Paul Avis I think and looks OK but is not actually what the NT says, where every member ministry is pretty clear. Certainly all believers are to live out their status and calling as disciples - to be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus. But there is still the NT emphasis on every member ministry. Thus exercising ministry is part of everyone's discipleship.
3. Rather than having revising the catechism as the great move forward, why not seek to invest in training for lay ministry and especially why not focus (at least in part) on Reader ministry here? This is the great opportunity to enable 10,000 people to become catechists and teach the faith in church and in the public square, workplace etc. This is what Reader ministry is supposed to be anyway (in part at least). We have those 10,000 initially trained and ready (most of them) - we could invest in further training and in promoting Readers as catechists. Why invest something new when we could begin by building on what we have?

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 11:39am GMT

The collapse of Christianity is stunning. There does need to be some radical look at how the good news of Jesus Christ can once again grip the hearts, minds and lives of people who meet Him.
Leadership is clearly a significant part of the way forward, but looking at some of those elected to office by Synod and those who are employed as the public face of the CofE one might take a view such a church just doesn't deserve to survive.
The duplicity and essential dishonesty at its heart (particularly amongst its bishops and academics) needs to be extinguished without trace, absolutely without trace.

Is there a leadership course that can do this? I wonder.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 2:04pm GMT

Totally agree with Michael Chancellor and Paul Richardson. These reports all lack a theological understanding that can be found to inform and drive their recommendations. They all remain committed to a centralisation of the CofE rather than an empowerment of local expression; Conformity to corporatist targets and goals rather then facilitating the freedom for Grace and the Spirit to flow throughout the Church and out into the wider community.

Posted by Martin Hislop at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 4:58pm GMT

"39.We have a clear vision as the Church of England to contribute to the common good of our society" Paper 2

In what way does the contemptible act of exempting itself from large swathes of equality legislation contribute to this 'clear vision'.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 5:15pm GMT

A catechism might help the catechists to sing from the same hymn sheet

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 14 January 2015 at 10:03pm GMT

I am most grateful to David Walker for his remarks (and I wonder if he is an ex officio commissioner...).

I suggested that the Commissioners might resume some of the burden of supporting clergy pensions because: (i) the Commissioners appear to have been very successful in most years since 1998, save where the alleged excessive emphasis upon equities that exposed them in 2007-8; (ii) the successful performance of the Commissioners contrasts painfully with that of most dioceses since 1998 (I keep hearing anecdotal evidence in many of the parishes I have visited of certain dioceses being 'on the brink', even in relatively affluent parts of the country); (iii) the burden was transferred to the dioceses in 1998 almost as an understandable response to the travails experienced by the Commissioners in the early 1990s, which saga is now well behind us; (iv) market conditions were radically different in the 1990s when pension funds could at least compound adequately but now face the challenge of permanently nugatory interest rates; and (v) the burden falling upon the dioceses increases with every passing year, and may magnify greatly if c. 40% of clergy retire in relatively short order and then live for an even greater length of time than the actuaries ever anticipated.

Also, I was under the impression that the Commissioners had the power to draw down capital under the 1997 Measure, renewed periodically by Synod.

Unfortunately, I did not appreciate that, if the Commissioners were to resume part of the post-1998 liability then it would have a 'regressive' effect. This was surprising. If so (and I am not sure - dolt that I am - that I understand why and why funds would need to be 'swapped out') then it would be useful if many people at the deanery/parish level had the position explained to them, as many people tell me that their church can easily 'tick over', even with low numbers, but for the share system (I appreciate that they might be deluded/misinformed).

The main concern is that there is a collapse in giving when the current generation of regular attendees dies off (and they will be dead, or nearly so, within the decade). There might then have to be a fire sale of almost everything as the organisation goes into meltdown in order to meet the liabilities it has to its annuitants.

We might therefore have to confront the grotesque paradox that very large numbers of [ancient] churches might close so that the clergy who have served them might live.

Please do correct me if I am wrong!

Posted by J Drever at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 1:33am GMT

Re: Discipleship.
I was really impressed by the Methodists prayer/covenant.For what it's worth, this is the Baptismal Covenant in TEC. It's renewed several times per year and calls everyone to be disciples. Some conservatives say that this is what is "wrong" with TEC. The Anglican Communion adopted the Five Marks of Mission, and I thought we were supposed to take them seriously, and I didn't see them in the long article, maybe I missed it.

The Baptismal Covenant

Starts with the Apostle's Creed and goes on:
Celebrant: Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God's help.
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God's help.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 3:09am GMT

There was consternation amongst some diocesan staff when I suggested that CofE schools should promote an Anglican ethos, not just a Christian ethos. Can you imagine a Catholic school that did not teach a Catholic ethos? I see some correspondents have poured scorn on the notion of a catechism. I see nothing wrong with that in the BCP, suitably updated.

Posted by Fr William at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 8:45am GMT

Laurence,

"In what way does the contemptible act of exempting itself from large swathes of equality legislation contribute to this 'clear vision'."

That'll be the one where we are countercultural and not following mere secular values, and if only the rest of the world recognised that we are right, society would be a better place and the common good would be served.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 9:35am GMT

I think its rather wonderful that the CofE is issuing all these various reports - and see it as an opportunity to try and understand and engage in their (HQs?) thinking on a no. of weighty issues

For those who are time poor I've tried to summarise in a non-partisan way the various reports - I hope people find these useful

http://bit.ly/1A5p2zW Talent management
http://bit.ly/1CfbYat Renewal & Reform Programme
http://bit.ly/1yg90mU Developing Discipleship
http://bit.ly/1KMYkRX Simplification


Posted by useful in parts at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 12:20pm GMT

Am I alone in not really understanding what the Simplification report is all about (having read the Executive Summary and Summary of Key Recommendations)?

Is it necessary to read the lot to work out what the practical implications will be?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 12:29pm GMT

Well, the stuff about rebranding Church schools back in 2012, where the Church was allegedly going to make lots of money selling its expertise to other players in the educational free market, doesn't seem to have worked very well.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9150817/Church-of-England-schools-to-be-rebranded.html

At some point it may finally dawn on those presiding over this sorry state of affairs that human beings searching for God are unlikely to start with an organisation which is apparently obsessed with free market ideology, apart from when it's being obsessed with policing sexuality...

Posted by Stevie Gamble at Thursday, 15 January 2015 at 2:04pm GMT

Well this has been a busy week hasn't it?

I've just finished the summary of the last report - the Commissioners funding report.

So for those who are time poor here are some links to my summaries of the various reports. I've tried hard to summarise in a non-partisan way I hope people find useful.

http://bit.ly/1A5p2zW Talent management
http://bit.ly/1CfbYat Renewal & Reform Programme
http://bit.ly/1yg90mU Developing Discipleship
http://bit.ly/1KMYkRX Simplification
http://bit.ly/1IO8IH8 Resourcing Ministerial Education
http://bit.ly/1BJ81wI Resourcing the future
http://bit.ly/1yylk2d Church Commissioners' funds & inter-generational equity

And if you want to compare & contrast with Dioceses Strategy ... http://bit.ly/1tczcgA

Posted by useful in parts at Sunday, 18 January 2015 at 1:14pm GMT
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