A TRANCHE of new reports was issued this week with the aim of
turning around the Church of England's slow decline.
The week began with the issuing of a preparatory statement by
the two Archbishops, in which they emphasise the urgency of the
task, the Church's numerical decline, and the ageing of its
congregations and clergy, and called for a "major programme of
renewal and reform". This reform includes an overhaul of funding,
to seek to ensure that it reflects "a bias to the poor and a
commitment to spiritual and numerical growth".
The first of the reports, Developing Discipleship, was
published on Tuesday. Introduced by the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr
Steven Croft, its purpose is to set the reforms in the context of a
deepening commitment to Christian living by both the clergy and the
On Wednesday there followed Simplification, a report by
a task group chaired by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent. It looks at examples of church legislation that is
deemed to be a hindrance to mission and growth.
On Thursday (after the Church Times went to press),
Resourcing Ministerial Education was published, based on
work by a task group chaired by Bishop Croft. This was expected to
affirm the need for a significant increase in clergy recruitment
and, consequently, extra finance to pay for training.
Resourcing the Future completes the set today.
This report, by a task group led by John Spence, finance chair of
the Archbishops' Council, looks at a redistribution of central
funds to make sure that they go to the most deprived communities,
and that they are used for projects that promote growth.
These four reports complement Managing Talent, the
report of Prebendary the Lord Green's task group on the selection
and training of bishops, deans, and senior leaders, released in
December to a critical reception (News, 12
Also today, the Church Commissioners are
released Intergenerational Equity, their response to
a request to dip into capital reserves to provide transitional
funding for the changes proposed in the other reports.
Finally, there is a report on the work of the National Church
Institutions. This is not expected to be published in full for the
Mr Spence, in an interview for this paper, said on Tuesday that
the reports were the result of extensive consultation. "It's
important not to view them as a central initiative, a central
strategy, but rather a co-ordinated response to what the research
and the Church of England has told us.
"What we did is that we took all the evidence and the anecdotal
evidence and research of the past five years, and we then embarked
on a series of conversations at diocesan level right across the
country. And the great thing that came out of it was a unanimity
about the recognition that the spiritual and numerical growth of
the Church is absolutely vital."
The reports are available on the Church of England website,
together with dedicated forums for individual responses.
They will be discussed in the General Synod when it meets in
February, and then in more detail when the Synod meets in York in