THE General Synod endorsed Fresh
Expressions (church-plants or new congregations that have been
created in response to the changing culture) as "authentic
manifestations of Anglican ecclesiology", after a debate on
"Fresh Expressions and traditional
churches are part of one and the same Church engaged together in a
common mission," the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt
Revd Alan Smith, said at the start of a debate on a report from the
Mission and Public Affairs Council, Fresh Expressions and
Church Growth, to which was appended the report of an
Anglican-Methodist working party, Fresh Expressions in the
Mission of the Church.
The Bishop said that the report
recommended a "health checklist" to help both traditional churches
and Fresh Expressions to look at their lives as Christian
communities. The motion, he said, "asks you to affirm that what is
going on under the banner of Fresh Expressions can be considered to
be an authentic manifestation of Anglican ecclesiology".
The report, he said, concluded that
"Fresh Expressions, as part of a mixed-economy Church, have a
legitimate place in the mission strategy of the Church of England
and the Methodist Church; and the teaching of the C of E and the
Methodist Church concerning the nature of the Church itself
provides the necessary theological and ecclesiastical framework for
the development of fresh expressions."
The Revd Dr Roger
Walton (Methodist Church) said that the report made "a
considerable theological contribution to the discourse around Fresh
Expressions". The Methodist Conference, held in Plymouth the
previous week, had made constitutional reform to support
sacramental ministry in Fresh Expressions
Hannah Page (Church
of England Youth Council) said that "young people want to be a part
of a community and belong to something that's bigger than
themselves. We need to make sure that Fresh Expressions is not
taking them away from the Church, but keeps them in it."
The Bishop of
Blackburn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, reported that the
Blackburn diocese, where weekday family-orientated Fresh
Expressions have been adopted in a number of places, has
experienced a 20-per-cent rise in attendance at weekday services
such as Messy Church or Friday Praise.
Last year's data also showed that the
largest increase was in the under-12s group. Many of these new
congregations were lay-led, but not without the involvement of a
parish priest, and usually with help from the diocesan children's
Could the Methodist Church and the
Church of England look at creating a dedicated senior position to
cover the full mixed-economy approaches, focusing on growth and new
(Chichester) said that some of the "most remarkable conversations"
that she had had on Sunday mornings were not in church, but at her
rugby club. Although she could point people in the direction of
Alpha or Christianity Explored, however, she was "unable" to point
them to a community "where we fellowship in the name of Christ,
grow, and are nurtured".
The Dean of
Portsmouth, the Very Revd David Brindley (Deans), moved
the amendment. He suggested that the best Fresh Expression to come
out of the Church in the past 200 years was the Mothers' Union, a
"socially innovative" organisation that had brought education,
welfare, and health care to millions of women around the world. Its
effectiveness was, at least partly, due to its blending faith and
The report was "good as far as it
goes", but its ecclesiology was "distinctly conservative". It was
"very churchy", which was a "real danger".
Canon Pete Spiers
(Liverpool) cited a report from the Sheffield Centre: "Fresh
Expressions are growing faster than we could have imagined. For
every one Christian who began a Fresh Expression, another four have
Samuel Follett (St
Albans) highlighted the work of Re:generation, a network church
that developed from Romford Methodist Church, which was now
"filling that gap in our age profiles - 18- to 35-year-olds". The
report, he said, stated that many Fresh Expressions had taken
calculated risks to use young people and their gifts in a way in
which they would not be used in a traditional church.
The Revd Stephen
Coles (London) said that Fresh Expressions tended to be
targeted at particular groups. "How can we encourage Fresh
Expressions and traditional churches to grow together in the next
phase, so people are worshipping with people who might be very
different from themselves?"
The Bishop of
Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, who was team leader of Fresh
Expressions from 2004 to 2009, said that the theological critique
of Fresh Expressions should be welcomed. It was "part of this
movement's coming of age and being the best it can be in the life
of the Church", but "we still have a long way to go."
Kay Dyer (Coventry)
said that her "rather conservative" church had been "so inspired by
Fresh Expressions" that the laity "are moving closer and closer to
those around who are planting Fresh Expressions".
The Archbishop of
Canterbury said that the criticisms were "not fair". Fresh
Expressions had sometimes suffered from a "hangover of the '90s",
and it was seen as a blend of affinity groups and middle-class
Evangelical groups. "The reality is so much richer than that," he
Dr Elaine Storkey
(Ely) praised the "wonderful" report, but supported the amendment.
She went on to list chapters of the Acts of the Apostles which
referred to social action: justice, ethnicity, financial support
for those in need, and slavery. By making this "little addition",
the response would be made "perfect".
The amendment was carried.
The Bishop of Sodor &
Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, speaking as a member of
the Liturgical Commission, assured Synod members that the
Commission had already begun to address some of the recommendations
in the report. "There are not five marks of mission," he
emphasised, "there are five of the marks of mission."
Hawkins (Lichfield) said that it was important "not to
confuse the issue of young people in our churches with what we are
doing with Fresh Expressions".
The Revd Dr Philip
Plyming (Guildford) said: "I don't think I'd previously
read a General Synod report out loud to anybody, but I did this to
my wife last Saturday. . . I did it because I was very encouraged
by what I read."
The Synod carried the motion nem. con.
That this Synod, recognising Fresh
Expressions as authentic manifestations of Anglican
(a) express gratitude to the Fresh
Expressions team for its leadership, inspiration and effectiveness
as catalyst to over 1000 fresh expressions within the Church of
England, and many more ecumenically;
(b) affirm the mixed economy of
church as an enduring model for ministry and mission into the
(c) affirm that radical social
action and comment are essential elements of the biblical witness
and Christian tradition, and therefore of any
(d) call upon the Archbishops'
Council and House of Bishops to ensure that the report Fresh
Expressions in the Mission of the Church and its
recommendations are incorporated into the programme to "re-imagine
ministry" and are reflected in the future work of the Ministry
Division, the Mission and Public Affairs Council, and other
National Church Institutions; and
(e) request the Archbishops'
Council to report to the Synod before July 2014 on how the Fresh
Expressions team's legacy is to be secured within the life of the