THE Archbishops' Council on Tuesday published a significant
report on the development of discipleship in the Church of England.
It is one of four reports being unveiled this week as part of the
Archbishops' call on Monday for a major programme of renewal and
In the report,
Developing Discipleship, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr
Steven Croft, calls for a revised catechism for the C of E, a new
theological conversation on discipleship and ministry, and the
exploration by dioceses, parishes, and Fresh Expressions of "Ten
marks of a diocese committed to developing disciples".
The Ten Marks, appended to the report, include supporting "a
lifelong journey of discipleship and growth in Christian maturity",
and the affirmation of discipleship in daily life. It says that
innovation and experiment in mission, ministry, and discipleship
should be encouraged; and that dioceses should have specific
policies and plans to promote discipleship development.
The report says that the C of E's current catechism is "an
important but neglected document". It was written "primarily as a
resource for children growing up into the faith in a predominantly
Christian society rather than as a resource for children and adults
aiming to live out their discipleship in a complex and changing
It calls for the development of a revision of the catechism over
the next five years, to "help the whole Church explore and live out
our common discipleship".
The Ministry Council has already begun work on "a new
theological conversation", by drawing together theologians,
bishops, and educators - to "prepare the ground for a larger
conversation" by the College of Bishops in September 2015, ahead of
the development of fresh theological resources for the next
quinquennium of the General Synod.
"There is no well-developed source for the theology of
discipleship to which the contemporary Church of England can
readily look to inform its teaching," the Revd Canon Jeremy
Worthen, secretary for ecumenical relations and theology, is quoted
as saying in the report.
"This does not mean, of course, that there has been no writing
on this subject by Anglicans and others," Dr Croft said. "There are
some excellent and recent studies, particularly at a popular level.
However, the thinking they represent has not been fully absorbed
into the lifeblood and culture of our Church and our understanding
of discipleship and ministry."
This "lack of a coherent and concisely stated common
understanding of discipleship", he said, had a "number of
consequences for the life of parishes, dioceses, and the Church of
England as a whole", including a "lopsided" theological
understanding of ministry. And, "most seriously, the witness and
mission of the whole Church is impoverished, as Christians are
neither encouraged nor sustained in the living out of their
Christian faith and daily life".
The report says that discipleship movements have sprung up in
the Church throughout history, and particularly at key points,
including the Roman Empire's acceptance of Christianity, the
monastic movement, the Reformation, the development of Richard
Baker's catechesis, and the Wesleyan movement.
"As the Church of England in 2015, we face the challenge of
calling one another afresh to follow Christ in the face of a
global, secularised, materialistic culture, often experienced as a
desert for the soul," Dr Croft says.
"We need to draw on the deep wisdom of the past but also to
apply ourselves afresh to an authentic and Anglican understanding
of discipleship for the 21st century."
The report will be discussed by the General Synod in February,
and in more detail at its meeting in July. An online forum has been
created on the Church of England website for people's responses to