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Plans unveiled day after day for C of E’s new reformation

16 January 2015

illustrations brent clark

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 laity.

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 December).

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 present.

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 July.


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