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Growth framework is 'not an OFSTED', says Bishop Bayes

22 May 2015

DAVE JONES PHOTOGRAPHY

All in the book: the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, at the conference on Saturday

All in the book: the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, at the conference on Saturday

CHURCH growth is worth having, and is part of a bigger picture with social responsibility, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, said at the Bishop's Growth Conference for the diocese, on Saturday.

The Bishop, a former national mission and evangelism adviser for the C of E, said that he fully owned the Growth Planning Framework (GPF) introduced by his predecessor, Bishop James Jones, from which Saturday's conference had sprung.

He welcomed the national programme: "It's good to be able to say that Reform and Renewal is there, because it backs up where we are going as a diocese. But most of the people here are parish people who really just want to know how things could work where they are."

The reallocation of national resources to initiatives for growth and areas of deprivation had excited Liverpool, the Bishop said. "It is a very needy area. We won't get substantially more resource from the allocation, but the idea that simply we should look at growing the Church and helping the poor is something that plays directly into our agenda here."

The emphasis on discipleship in Liverpool also fitted well with the national agenda, the Bishop said. "In the past, the Church has not seemed unsympathetic, just a little bit distant. The reception of the Reform and Renewal stuff has meant we are able to say we are part of something bigger, which is all heading in the same direction together."

Numerical growth must not be emphasised as though it were the only thing, Bishop Bayes said. Liverpool's slogan was: "We want a bigger church so that we can make a bigger difference."

Every church in the diocese now had the latest copy of the GPF - a simple checklist of areas of church life such as worship, outreach, evangelism, and social action - against which each can reflect on where they are, and how they might want to change and adapt. It is "definitely not an OFSTED exercise", the Bishop said. "The image of a learning community is more than anything what we are trying to get across."

The language around growth in Liverpool was one of "confident urgency, but not anxiety", he reflected. "I've seen too many churches paralysed by fear, or floundering about looking for quick answers. The other mistake is to be complacent, and in Liverpool . . . it is impossible to be complacent.

"What we need is an urgency that is rooted in God, that doesn't think that numbers on the ground will determine whether we get into heaven."

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