DETAILS of a "major programme of renewal and reform" of the
Church of England have been released by the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York.
They include a push to more candidates for ministerial training,
and an overhaul of funding, with the aim of ensuring that it
reflects "a bias to the poor and a commitment to spiritual and
The urgency of the challenges facing the Church is emphasised
twice in the note. It is possible that the Commissioners will
consider drawing on capital reserves to fund the reforms.
Currently, all funds from the Commissioners derive from the
interest generated on investments.
The plans have been developed by four task groups. They were
commissioned by the Archbishops a year ago to explore four areas of
the Church's life: "the discernment and nurture of those called to
posts of wider responsibility"; resourcing ministerial education;
the deployment of resources; and simplification.
The groups are chaired by Prebendary the Lord Green; the Bishop
of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft; John Spence; and the Bishop of
Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent. The Green report was
published last month amid widespread criticism (News, 12
December). The remaining reports are to be released over the
course of this week, before discussion by the General Synod next
The note from the Archbishops, published on Monday, speaks of
the "urgency" of the challenges that the Church faces. These
include diminishing congregations - attendance has declined by, on
average, one per cent a year over recent decades - with an age
profile "significantly" higher than that of the general population,
and ordination rates "well below" those needed to replace the 40
per cent of the parish clergy who are due to retire in the next ten
The current reliance on an increase in individual giving to keep
financially afloat is not sustainable, it warns. "The burden of
church buildings weighs heavily and reorganisation at parish level
is complicated by current procedures."
The Sheffield formula, introduced after the 1974 Sheffield
report to determine targets for the number of stipendiary priests
in each diocese, and taking into account congregation size,
population, area, and number of church buildings, is "no longer
The distribution of funds under the Darlow formula (used since
2001 to allocate national funding to dioceses with the fewest
resources to assist with their stipends bill) has "no focus on
growth, has no relationship to deprivation and involves no mutual
The task groups' reports will be published in full in the coming
days, but recommendations will include a commitment to "a
significant and sustained increase in the numbers of those coming
forward for full-time ministry" and new investment in lay
Funds allocated nationally will have "a bias to the poor and a
commitment to spiritual and numerical growth". The Darlow formula
will be replaced with one based on population, income, and
deprivation levels, and there will be a new funding stream
available for growth initiatives.
The simplication report is to remove "hindrances to mission in
relation to pastoral reorganisation and clergy deployment".
The note states that, were current funding limitations to remain
in place, it would take a "long period" before the impact of the
reforms were seen. The Church Commissioners, however, have produced
a report that "opens up the issues around whether, for a period,
they might be prepared to modify the way in which they currently
seek to ensure inter-generational equity when determining what
level of funding to make available from their permanent
The four Task Group reports and the report from the
Commissioners will be discussed at the Synod "in the light of a
paper that explores what it means for all Christians, lay and
ordained, to be a community of missionary disciples".
As well as a presentation on the first evening, there will be
group work and debates on four motions by the Ministry Council (on
discipleship), the Archbishops' Council (on resourcing the future
and resourcing ministerial education), the Church Commissioners (on
inter-generational equity), and one on simplification.
The Archbishops' note states that the motions will focus on
"vision, principles and next steps. Further development is still
needed on some of the proposals and consultation required on many
of the detailed outworkings before the relevant bodies, which on
matters involving legislation includes the Synod itself, can reach
conclusions." It expresses a hope that Synod members might "be
prepared to resist the temptation to overload the motions with a
large number of amendments on points of detail".
The reports, the note says, have been prepared "in the light of
the supportive discussions at the Archbishops' Council, the House
of Bishops, and the Board of Governors of the Church
In the wake of criticism of the Green report, the Archbishop of
Canterbury promised that there would be "opportunities for people
to engage with and comment on the proposals" (News,
19 December). But he warned that "We can't simply go on as we
are if we are to flourish and grow as the Church of England. Our
call is not to manage decline."