THE only motion to be debated by the whole Synod came on the
final morning of the meeting, and was brought by the diocese of
Aberdeen & Orkney. Motion 13 proposed "That, recognising that
our current annual statistical return does not measure the life and
activity of our dioceses, Synod calls on the College of Bishops to
devise a return which better reflects current patterns of support
Professor David Atkinson (Aberdeen &
Orkney) said that the figures collected by the Church tended to
show a steady downward progression, but these did not take into
account Fresh Expressions, and many other manifestations of Church.
"This is not the picture we have of practice, and so there is an
imbalance between the numbers we collect and what we are
experiencing," he said.
A new return would have three categories. First, an act of
worship "would be recognisable as a church service, but might take
place in a secular venue - a home or a church building. On these
occasions, communion may be shared." Second, an evangelistic event
or gathering would be one "where there is a clear invitation to an
event where an aspect of the gospel is heard or discussed, and
prayer is offered".
The third category would be training, "which includes worship
and prayer as part of the format".
Such statistics would inform how the Church did its training,
Professor Atkinson suggested.
Diocesan statistics on the current system of recording give
total membership figures for 2012 as 34,916; communicant numbers as
24,650; and total attendance as 14,126. Speakers in the debate
emphasised that these in no way illustrated what was happening on
the ground. "We are not just a Sunday church any more - we are
developing a diversity of ways of meeting. Growth is in these new
patterns, and we need a new way of recording them," the Primus
The Revd Malcolm Round (Edinburgh) said that
Sunday attendance was one of the true pictures. His church had 25
house groups, and multiple meetings every week. The figures in such
churches could be massive, and the logistics would have to be
thought through in those with big multi-services.
The Very Revd Richard Kilgour (Aberdeen &
Orkney) said that the issue led into allocation of quota, "into a
new, bold ethos of a whole-church view of things, wherever we can
identify stakeholders in the life of the Church as a whole. . .
This may be a really good opportunity for new thinking on who the
stakeholders are who contribute to the stewardship which makes us
who we are as the SEC."
The Revd Simon Mackenzie (Argyll & The
Isles) said: "I can't record everything I do," and wondered if it
might "become a form of boasting if we're not careful".
The retiring convener of the Communications Board, the
Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, wondered how preaching online
and broadcasting of worship could be recorded, and pleaded: "Don't
increase the burden on local churches."
Matthew Pemble (Edinburgh) advised the Synod to
think about what the statistics would be used for, before it
decides on what is to be collected.