A PRESENTATION about the group work and debates on Wednesday was
given on Tuesday afternoon.
The finance director, John Spence (Archbishops'
Council),said that he was aware that the Synod members might feel
that they were dealing with remote, closed minds, and settled
papers. Some decisions had already been made; but that would not
preclude engagement with the Synod.
He said that the task groups had begun with research, which had
led members of staff to project that between 2007 and 2057 church
attendance would fall from 1.2 million to something like 200,000 to
300,000. "In less than ten years, we could see a threat to the
presence of church in communities across rural England."
Mr Spence said that he had visited every diocese in 2014. "The
dioceses told us they expected the numbers of clergy to be
maintained around current levels. And they expected to need more
lay leaders than they had in the past."
The discipleship report had already begun separately, and the
Green report on leadership had come about from a discussion in the
House of Bishops. Resourcing the Future had followed the
research in the dioceses, and the simplification task group had
been sparked by the dioceses' complaining about things that were
getting in the way of growth. Another group had been launched to
"optimise" the national church institutions.
"Finally, out of all this comes an application to the Church
Commissioners for the potential of a significant but one-off piece
of funding," he said. "It will become clear that if we are to have
an impact in the short and medium term we will not be able to do it
from within the pockets that are currently available to us."
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said
that research showed that dioceses aspired to have similar numbers
of stipendiaries in 2012 ten years later. But the reality was,
according to the best projections, that there would be a gap of at
least 1700 between aspiration and reality. Retirement was stripping
numbers, and the Church was already struggling to find sufficient
ministers to lead churches in some of most deprived areas. There
was an ambition to grow vocations by 50 per cent per annum every
year from 2020 onwards. This would not be enough to bridge that
gap, but enough to make a radical difference.
The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway,
speaking about the Green report, said that he wished that the
communication had been better. It had been written to gain access
to funding for a step change in support of future leaders to engage
with the opportunities of context.
Diocesan bishops were identifying people who would benefit from
being in a learning community. It was essential that the Church did
not abdicate responsibility for those it called into positions of
authority. It was determined to serve a more diverse group of
people in ministry.
The shorthand of "MBA" had been used for a course at Cambridge
which was "entirely customised". Deans were running a heritage
business, seeking to turn visitors into pilgrims, and were facing
the same pressures as leaders of small and medium-sized
enterprises. The courses were "rooted in the spirituality and
theology of the Church", and he had had "no truck with those who
wanted to tell us what vision and values should be. . . We believe
being spiritual and strategic go together."
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), said that the simplification
group's work was to enable the evangelisation of England. He
criticised measures that catered for the absolute worst-case
scenarios. "Good legislation enables mission and is simply put
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas
Whittam Smith, said: "We know what the crisis is that confronts us.
It's an existential crisis. There's a doomsday machine at work
which means our membership falls as young people fail to replace
members who come to the end of their lives." He said that funding
the big push that the task groups sought would mean "breaking the
famous inter-generational rule", which was to ensure that the
Commissioners' successors always had the same amount of funds to
distribute. "But if it is a crisis, I'm afraid it's a rule we have
to consider breaking."
Dr Croft said that his report on discipleship recommended: a new
theological conversation; the commendation of the Ten Marks of a
diocese that is Developing Disciples; and a revision of the
Catechism. He believed and hoped that all three were "significant
A question-and-answer session followed.
Tim Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) asked
why the Green report was not to be debated in the Synod.
Bishop Conway said that the fact that it was being discussed in
the Synod was a change in itself. Until this, the preferment list
and development of the clergy had been entirely in the hands of the
bishops. Also, the money being proposed was not money from the
Synod. "Of course, people have a right to be engaged, but that is
why this is not a thing to be voting on in General Synod, since
this is the particular responsibility of bishops with
Vasantha Gnanadoss (Southwark) argued that
poorer churches were doing "very important work in the community".
Would this be taken into consideration when organising funding?
The Revd Charles Razzall (Chester) asked how
strong a bias to poor there would be.
Mr Spence said that half of funds would be linked to
deprivation; the other for growth, subject to bidding.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) said many of the
ideas were not new. "How are we going to ensure that we actually
take on board this programme? It needs a spiritual revolution and
the work of the Holy Spirit."
Canon Pete Spiers (Liverpool) asked whether lay
members might be able to celebrate holy communion.
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), asked members who wanted to argue
for this particular change again to "give it a rest".
Apology. During Synod Questions, after several critical
questions about the Green report's not being debated, Canon
Jane Charman (Salisbury) asked about the appointments
process for the task groups, noting that 80 per cent of the
membership was male. She referred to guidelines and Standing
Orders. The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the
Archbishops had appointed the members, and the balance "in most
contexts isn't good enough. . . I apologise for the failure."