THERE was a presentation about the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report, followed by questions and answers, on Saturday evening.
Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) said that the work of the Archbishops’ Council had fallen into two categories: Reform and Renewal, and everything else. He showed a slide of illustrations showing the "everything else".
His checklist was: first, presence in every community; second, tending relationships; third, growth, and how to allocate resources so that local bodies could increase their capacity to grow further.
He then addressed Reform and Renewal. There was a need to "discern how the Spirit is moving amongst us". There had been an offer made to every diocese for a visit from a member of the Council. The programme of Reform and Renewal was already being amended in response to this feedback.
There needed to be widespread support for the release of funds by the Church Commissioners and support beyond the Synod.
The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) welcomed the focus on numerical growth, but some clergy, he said, found it unrealistic. Professor David Voas had said that there was a need for revival to reverse a net decline in numbers. Was net growth in numbers meant, and was the Council presuming on revival and the Holy Spirit?
The Revd Christopher Hobbs (London) said that conferences and courses had resulted in £224,000 losses, twice the amount lost last year. He also noted £100,000 more of grants were receivable. What were these? Also, the Council’s ministerial-training trust fund was restricted. Why was this restricted, and where did money come from?
Canon Cotton said that growth was clearly a continuing priority. But in diocesan discussion it also became clear that growth happened in different ways, and it was important to be aware of what was measured and where to concentrate.
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said that it was "important to be thinking in terms of net growth, and pray and see what God will do, but be open to God as to the outcome of these endeavours".
Gavin Oldham (Oxford) talked about lay leadership. He asked if there was any information on when there might be "online, interactive modular training for laity to become more empowered at a local level without having to commit a huge amount of time".
The Archdeacon of Lincoln, the Ven. Timothy Barker (Lincoln), asked how C of E central services were enhancing efficiency and effectiveness, and how these could benefit the dioceses.
Dr Croft said that online lay leadership was a possibility within the next five years. By the end of this year, a new project of work on lay leadership and ministry would be under way.
Mary Chapman (Archbishops’ Council) said that, with regard to legislation coming forward, a huge range was monitored, from Sunday trading to changes in tax which might affect giving. Services provided centrally were a practical administrative vehicle.
Canon Martin Wood (Chelmsford) asked what might be done to mitigate not having enough clergy.
Dr Croft said that they were currently addressing that through the Vocations Working Group. He said that the number of ordinands sponsored by dioceses was uneven, and that the majority of vocations came from a small number of parishes and churches.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) asked: if there was not a sufficient response in terms of the number of ordained ministers coming forward, was forward planning going to make use of the gifts and talents of lay members of the Church?
Canon David Banting (Chelmsford) asked who was responsible for providing resources and finances for new sees or resurrected sees.
Dr Croft said that it would be "entirely wrong" to say that the Church would use the gifts of laity only if there were not enough clergy. The responsibility for providing resources for see houses lay with the dioceses.