WHERE a good parish priest is present, churches grow, the
Archbishop of Canterbury suggested last week.
In an interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4
on New Year's Eve, Archbishop Welby suggested that he was
"extremely hopeful" about the future of the Church of England,
despite falling numbers, partly because of "signs of growth in many
He said: "Of course there are churches that are doing better,
and churches that are struggling more, depending on area and on
leadership. But the reality is that where you have a good vicar,
you will find growing churches."
The Archbishop was invited to contribute to the Thought for
the Day slot by the chief executive of Barclays, Antony
Jenkins, the guest editor of the programme for the day. In a
subsequent interview with the presenter Sarah Montague, the
Archbishop said: "We are falling in numbers and there is a change
in attitude towards the Christian faith in the country - that is
unquestionable. We need to be quite realistic about that."
He also suggested: "We sometimes give the impression at the
national level that we are obsessed with a small number of
He agreed with Ms Montague that the Church must be "very clear
about its intention of growing its numbers. It doesn't happen
accidentally. All the research we've got is that if we don't
actually set out to grow the number of people and draw people to
the reality of the love of God, in Jesus Christ, it doesn't happen.
It's not a collateral benefit to existing."
He spoke about the growth in Fresh Expressions, which had "drawn
the equivalent of two entire dioceses in new numbers".
Ms Montague also asked Archbishop Welby about the C of E's
investment in Wonga, the banks' commitment to reform, and his
admiration for Pope Francis.
The Archbishop's link between growth and a "good vicar" provoked
consternation among some clerics, however. "All good, but as a
regular vicar left me feeling that the church is shrinking because
the vicars aren't good enough," wrote the Vicar of Great Missenden
with Ballinger and Little Hampden, Canon Rosie Harper, on Twitter,
echoing several other clerics on the site.
"As the Diocesan Missioner in Devon, I would want to bear
witness to the fact that some of the most imaginative, talented,
and courageous vicars I meet are serving in rural multi-parish
benefices, which are on the whole declining," wrote Canon Anna
Norman-Walker on her blog.
"However, I do agree that where an excellent vicar has the
realistic task of leading a single parish church into growth, then
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