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Book commends ‘old mission values’ for future of parishes

by
07 December 2006

by Bill Bowder

BRITISH missionaries once brought Anglican Christianity to the scattered corners of the Empire. Now their values could save the Church of England from splitting, says a new review of the future of English parish life.

BRITISH missionaries once brought Anglican Christianity to the scattered corners of the Empire. Now their values could save the Church of England from splitting, says a new review of the future of English parish life.

In a reverse of history, lessons learned when Victorian missionaries and their successors held together the Anglican Communion could now provide the “common values” for the 21st-century Church of England, suggests the Revd Steven Croft, the Archbishops’ Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions, who is the editor of the new book The Future of the Parish System.

The volume of 13 essays includes chapters by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Graham Cray, who chaired the working party that produced the report Mission-shaped Church.

Mr Croft writes in the book: “Capturing and distilling the values of Anglicanism in the 19th century for the Communion might serve us well in articulating and transmitting common values for the Church of England in the 21st century.”

The Church was formerly united around the Book of Common Prayer, but is now using a range of liturgies in parishes: “Even 20 years ago, it was possible to identify a common similarity in patterns and styles of worship,” writes Mr Croft. If the erosion continues, what will hold the Church together, he asks.

The various groups and traditions could have less and less in common, and might finally pull apart. But unity could come from a combination of mission with the “common values” of the Communion.

For the Church of England, those will be the fourfold commitment to: scripture; baptism and eucharist; listening to the whole Christian tradition; and the ministry of the laity, as well as that of deacons, priests, and bishops. These, combined with the five “marks of mission” — evangelism, baptism, service of humanity, justice, and environmental sustainability — could be a “set of core values”. Traditional parish churches, as well as fresh expressions of Church, could grow around these.

Bishop Cray writes in the book that many parishes have become foreign to large parts of their communities: “The lessons learned in other parts of the world, where Christianity has no long history, need now to be applied to Britain.”

In his chapter, Dr Williams agrees that there is a need for change: “When the parochial church turns into a way of giving a mild religious gloss to a culture or a local set of loyalties that are never exposed to criticism, we need new and radical ‘ways of being Church’,” he writes. The Church was not “just another kind of human solidarity” competing for allegiance.

Nevertheless, Grace Davie, Professor of the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter, writes in the book that churches that made attendance worthwhile are flourishing.

Extract,

The Future of the Parish System (Church House Publishing, £12.99; 0-7151-4034-5).

The Future of the Parish System (Church House Publishing, £12.99; 0-7151-4034-5).

New Mission Orders could let bishops override incumbents

by Bill Bowder

NEW POWERS enabling bishops to override parishes and clergy are under discussion by the House of Bishops. They would ignore the ancient right of incuments to be responsible for the “cure of souls” in a parish. The powers aim to subsume everything else under the pressing need to reconvert England.

The powers, known as Bishop’s Mission Orders, were agreed in principle by the General Synod earlier this year in the Draft Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure, but bishops have been fine-tuning the way they might apply them.

A code of practice was under discussion at a House of Bishops’ meeting last month, and final agreement for the co-ordinated use of the new powers is expected in the New Year. The code has to be endorsed by the General Synod, but, once in force, the proposed legislation says that “any leader, any Visitor, and any pastoral committee shall be under a duty to have regard to it.”

The powers could mean that bishops could set up joint projects with other faiths, whether or not the local clergy or even the parishioners agreed. Bishops must consult with the incumbent, but are under no obligation to be restrained by this consultation.

Under a Bishop’s Mission Order, a bishop could set up a wholly independent system of funding, staffing, and even accommodation, if he thinks it will help mission. The new “alternative” system would be under the authority of a Visitor, who could be a lay person. The diocesan pastoral committee would need to agree to any such order, and the bishop would be obliged to consult widely.

The new missions are intended to be temporary, and should revert to the parish after five or ten years — unless the bishop felt that leaving the mission in parish hands would not work; in which case it would continue indefinitely.

An essay by a former Canterbury and Oxford diocesan registrar, John Rees, in The Future of the Parish System (details above) says that it is a significant change, “which may yet prove highly controversial when it goes to the General Synod for detailed legislative approval”. Bishop’s Mission Orders “could contain provisions which would override the ‘exclusive cure of souls’ enjoyed by Anglican clergy as incumbents or priests in charge for generations”. They could be fully working in four years, Mr Rees says.

New Mission Orders could let bishops override incumbents

by Bill Bowder

NEW POWERS enabling bishops to override parishes and clergy are under discussion by the House of Bishops. They would ignore the ancient right of incuments to be responsible for the “cure of souls” in a parish. The powers aim to subsume everything else under the pressing need to reconvert England.

The powers, known as Bishop’s Mission Orders, were agreed in principle by the General Synod earlier this year in the Draft Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure, but bishops have been fine-tuning the way they might apply them.

A code of practice was under discussion at a House of Bishops’ meeting last month, and final agreement for the co-ordinated use of the new powers is expected in the New Year. The code has to be endorsed by the General Synod, but, once in force, the proposed legislation says that “any leader, any Visitor, and any pastoral committee shall be under a duty to have regard to it.”

The powers could mean that bishops could set up joint projects with other faiths, whether or not the local clergy or even the parishioners agreed. Bishops must consult with the incumbent, but are under no obligation to be restrained by this consultation.

Under a Bishop’s Mission Order, a bishop could set up a wholly independent system of funding, staffing, and even accommodation, if he thinks it will help mission. The new “alternative” system would be under the authority of a Visitor, who could be a lay person. The diocesan pastoral committee would need to agree to any such order, and the bishop would be obliged to consult widely.

The new missions are intended to be temporary, and should revert to the parish after five or ten years — unless the bishop felt that leaving the mission in parish hands would not work; in which case it would continue indefinitely.

An essay by a former Canterbury and Oxford diocesan registrar, John Rees, in The Future of the Parish System (details above) says that it is a significant change, “which may yet prove highly controversial when it goes to the General Synod for detailed legislative approval”. Bishop’s Mission Orders “could contain provisions which would override the ‘exclusive cure of souls’ enjoyed by Anglican clergy as incumbents or priests in charge for generations”. They could be fully working in four years, Mr Rees says.

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