‘Wonderful, radical things’ happening

Reform and renewal

Geoff Crawford/Stefano Cagni

Need for vocations: the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft

Need for vocations: the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft

A SERIES of presentations was given on Tuesday afternoon, when the people leading different aspects of the Reform and Renewal programme outlined the changes being proposed in their area.

The first to speak was John Spence, who chairs the Finance Committee. He began by screening the Church of England’s Just Pray advertisement, which he later described as an example of the changing ways the C of E needed to communicate, using digital media.

“The refusal of the cinema chains to show the advertisement that you have just seen” showed that it would not be easy to restore Christ to the centre of the country’s life.

He spoke of the C of E’s demographics: attendances had shrunk year by year, while the population of the country had grown. “Our age profile is now 20 years older than the population as a whole; and you are eight times more likely to go to church as an 81-year-old than you are as an 18-year-old. Those demographics tell us it will not be easy.”

But he was not despondent. Many good things were happening in evangelism and discipleship, and to increase the C of E’s “engagement in the wider parts of every part of British, English, life”.

“It won’t be easy, but I believe with every ounce of my body that this is our time. You may not understand just what wonderful things have been happening, or how radical they are.”

He said that the Darlow formula, which was used to calculate the distribution of national support to dioceses, would be replaced. It was “opaque, and penalised success”, he said. The new methodology would allocate 50 per cent of funds to communities that were deprived; and the other half to “investments for growth”.

The change had been agreed, and the Board of Finance was waiting for the Church Commissioners to complete an actuarial review early next year before knowing how much would be available for distribution. He said that this would be boosted by a “transition fund” to “maximise the impact of that as quickly as we can”.

The fund had been created through the decision last year to break the “intergenerational equity rule” so that Church Commissioners could use future funding for present spending. This would enable “full funding [for the new way of supporting dioceses] to be available from 1 January 2017”.

This would enable grants of between £300,000 and £1 million to be made available. Further discussions would be taking place with the Church Commissioners and Archbishops’ Council on the conditions for the scheme, and he hoped to issue guidelines to dioceses about how they apply for, and use, the funding, after the Archbishops’ Council’s meeting on 1 December.

The “culture of the operations in Church House, and at other parts of the centre” was being changed “so that we can ensure that everything is aligned to understanding our key role: not leadership, but the enabling and facilitating of parish and diocesan structures.

He also promised “radically different proposals” in the Archbishops’ Council budget, which would come to the Synod in July next year.

Responding to questions, he told the Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (Durham) that it was not only dioceses who could apply for funds. “We would love to see collaborations with rural parishes across two or three dioceses,” he said. “Clearly, we would seek a diocesan view, but the final choices will always lie with a peer-review group. The last thing we want is for this place [Church House] to become a grant-approving head office.”

The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, then gave a presentation on discipleship and vocational training. The Reform and Renewal process was “rooted in growing a new and richer culture of discipleship in every parish and every diocese”, he said.

He said that the House of Bishops had developed the Pilgrim course “as a new resource for catechesis” during the last Synod. “We now want to develop a new catechism to be used with Pilgrim — in effect, the catechism the material is already teaching.”

On the question of vocations, Dr Croft said it was absolutely essential to grow vocations to ordained ministry “by as much as 50 per cent by 2020, and to see that increase sustained over a ten-year period”.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, then gave a presentation on the programme for reforming the discernment, development, and support of senior leaders, on behalf of the Development and Appointments Group (DAG).

He observed that it was “not a state secret to say that not everyone was content with the process that was in place to create the preferment list. . . We have made mistakes, and have not always brought everyone with us.”

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), gave a presentation on the simplification programme. There had been a “massive” response to consultation with parishes so far, with the message that “we need change in order to do things better.”

Matthew Frost (Archbishops’ Council) spoke for the first time as chairman of the new working group on lay leadership. Its purpose was “to increase the effectiveness and confidence of lay people in leading where they are called to serve”.

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