Key reports in 2018: everything you need to know

by
21 December 2018

Too many long documents to read in 2018? Tim Wyatt provides a digest

DCLG

The Faith Minister, Lord Bourne (centre), at Southwark Cathedral in November, on one of his visits to all 42 Church of England cathedrals

The Faith Minister, Lord Bourne (centre), at Southwark Cathedral in November, on one of his visits to all 42 Church of England cathedrals

Cathedrals and their communities

Lord Bourne, 29 December 2017

What did it say?

Anglican cathedrals in England are “in very safe hands” and “continue to play a crucial role” at the heart of local communities, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, the faith minister, said in a report. He had visited all 42 of them. The document praised the “vibrancy and creativity” of cathedral Chapters, and highlighted, in particular, how they acted as hubs for community life and interfaith engagement. Despite noting the financial strains that cathedrals operate under, Lord Bourne did not offer up any new government money.

How was it received?

Overshadowed by the imminent report by the Cathedrals Working Group, Lord Bourne’s findings provoked little comment. A Church Times leader assessed the report as the cathedrals’ “getting their defence in first”. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, who chairs the Association of English Cathedrals, said that it was a “really helpful endorsement of all that our English cathedrals are trying to be and do”. The National Secular Society likened the report to a “school’s pupil’s ‘What I did on my school holidays’ homework assignment; [it] tells us nothing that we didn’t already know”.

What happens next?

Lord Bourne produced no recommendations except to encourage cathedrals to consider removing entrance fees (only eight currently charge), and to continue to pool ideas.

ISTOCKPeterborough Cathedral, where a cashflow crisis prompted the setting up of the Cathedrals Working Group, which reported back in January

 

Not As Difficult As You Think: Mission with young adults

Church Army, 17 January

What did it say?

Attracting young adults to church is not as tricky as many assume. Commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council in response to statistics which suggested that only 0.5 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds attend church, the report looked at 11 case studies of churches, youth groups, charities, and chaplaincies. It concluded that successful outreach to this age group did not have to be “rocket science”.

 

Report of the Cathedrals Working Group

18 January

What did it say?

Serious governance mistakes have been made at cathedrals, and legislative change is needed to fix the problems with regulating them. The 1999 Cathedrals Measure is not effective, and Chapters do not have enough scrutiny. Non-executive members, two-thirds of whom should be lay, should be appointed to the Chapter to outnumber the dean and residentiary canons. Cathedrals should also be regulated by the Charity Commis­sion. There has also been systemic under-funding, and the Government should be asked to set up a national fund for cathedral buildings.

How was it received?

Some deans, including the Dean of St Paul’s, and the Dean of Lichfield, who is the chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, welcomed the report as sensible and “evolutionary”. The chairman of the working group, the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, said that “Chapters have much to learn.” He hoped that the findings would help to safeguard the future of cathedrals. A Church Times leader said that the report tried to “have it both ways”, by integrating cathedral ministry into the broader Church without cutting off deans’ autonomy. But the prospect of a theologian, liturgist, musician, or evangelists being appointed to a deanery in the future seemed less likely.

What happens next?

The General Synod, in July, decided to delay considering any new Cathedrals Measure until 2019, owing to disquiet from some cathedral canons, who felt that they had not been properly consulted. A summary of responses to the report found that there was “considerable support” for most of the recommendations, but a small minority voiced opposition. The cashflow crisis at Peterborough Cathedral, which prompted the setting up of the working group, was partly resolved in July when the Grade II listed Old Deanery was put up for sale for £1.15 million.

 

Discerning in obedience: A theological review of the Crown Nominations Commission

CNC Theological Review Group, 26 January

What did it say?

The Church probably needs more bishops with postgraduate theo­logical degrees to bring a deeper theological voice to public debate. Care should also be taken to avoid having too hierarchical an institutional structure; 70 per cent of those nominated to become diocesan bishops since 2013 were already bishops. CNCs should also be careful not to get dragged into factional infighting and use bishops’ appoint­ments as a “weapon”. Secret voting should be abolished, and there should be a few other tweaks to how CNCs function, but their broad structure should not be changed.

How was it received?

The report was debated at the General Synod in February, where it was mostly met with cautious optimism. There was much discussion of some of the finer points among the suggestions and detailed recommendations for reform, but, ultimately, the Synod voted to take note of the report, which the Archbishop of Canterbury said was already having an impact in how current CNCs understood their position theologically.

What happens next?

The Archbishops set up a small committee to monitor how the recom­mendations of the report were being implemented, and was due to report back to the Synod. Conversations with the Anglican Communion have begun over proposed changes to the Canterbury CNC, and the appointments and standing-orders committees have been asked to consider making the changes the report suggests.

 

Out in the Cold: Homelessness among destitute refugees in London

Jesuit Refugee Service, 26 January

What did it say?

Refugees who have been forced into destitution by the asylum system are suffering from exclusion, homelessness, and abuse. More than half of those surveyed by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) had slept on the streets since they arrived in Britain. Another third said that they felt unsafe in their accommodation. The Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy is blamed for making it impossible to navigate life without official documentation.

How was it received?

Sarah Teather, the former Liberal Democrat MP who now runs JRS, said that the only solution was to undo the “hostile environment” culture and allow asylum-seekers to work while their claims were processed.

 

An Unquenchable Thirst for More: Faith and economic growth

Christian Aid, 2 February

What did it say?

An unrestrained focus on boosting gross domestic product (GDP) will not end poverty. Income inequality is morally repugnant, and society must instead ask “What is wealth for?” rather than seeking only to accrue more and more. GDP cannot be used as a proxy for measuring actual human well-being.

How was it received?

The chairman of Christian Aid, Lord Williams, said that the language of economic growth was an “imprisoning picture”, and people had fooled themselves into thinking that expand­ing the economy was “natural and beneficial to everyone”.

What happened next?

Timed to coincide with the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, the report’s conclusions were perhaps unwittingly echoed by the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, when she told the conference that, while the forecast for international growth had been revised upwards, too many people were being cut out of the recovery.

 

Faith and Welcoming: Do the religious feel differently about immigration and immigrants?

University of Bristol, 4 February

What did it say?

People who attend church regularly were more likely to welcome immigration than the general population, including Christians who do not attend church regularly. But large majorities of both think that immigration levels should be reduced: 81 per cent of non-churchgoers and 64 per cent of those who attend church. “Anglicans in name only” were less tolerant than the general population.

How was it received?

The Bishop of Loughborough, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, a refugee from Iran, said that the Church still had a “long way” to go to express a proper welcome to new­comers to the country.

 

Reviewing the Discourse of ‘Spiritual Abuse’: Logical problems and unintended consequences

Evangelical Alliance, 9 February

What did it say?

The term “spiritual abuse” should not be written into safeguarding policies or law, because it is “unworkable” and “potentially discriminatory” towards religious communities. Not only is the term inherently ambiguous, it recasts emotional or psychological abuse in religious settings as something “spiritual”, which could be a threat to religious liberties.

How was it received?

Jayne Ozanne, a General Synod member whose report on spiritual abuse is specifically criticised, said that she was “perplexed” at why any­one would seek to dismiss the term.

 

Church in Action 2017

Church Urban Fund and Mission and Public Affairs Council, 9 February

What did it say?

Loneliness and mental illness are by far the most common community issues being addressed by parish priests in the Church of England. A survey of 1095 incumbents found that alongside these two issues — which had grown the most in scale since the previous survey in 2011 — were common problems connected with low income, poor education, unemployment, and family break­down.

How was it received?

The Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, said that the report showed encouraging work by churches, but more could be done to bring this into alignment with beliefs on social justice.

 

Annual Report of the Ministry Division

23 February

What did it say?

The number of Church of England students in theological training had gone up 14 per cent compared with the previous year, but there were eight per cent fewer in residential training. In non-residential full-time training, there were 69 per cent more ordinands. Nine per cent of money allocated to the dioceses to pay for training had not been spent.

How was it received?

Some theological-college princi­pals saw the news as vindication of their warnings that the sweeping changes to the way training was funded in Renewal and Reform would cause serious problems. Others welcomed the surge in ordinands, and called for greater confidence in the sector.

 

No Questions Asked

Youthscape, 26 February

What did it say?

Teenagers have a profound lack of curiosity about God, religion, and faith in general. They also have a fear of causing offence, and an insistence that “we’re all the same”. Apologetics might not work with this generation. Instead, evangelism should focus on practical action rather than proposi­tional statements.

 

Travelling Congregations or Fixed Provision? Assessing Models of Rural Ministry

The Revd Dr Robert Barlow, 7 March

What did it say?

Amalgamating parishes and rotating services between many rural churches does not lead to church growth. A study of one benefice in Worcester diocese found that parishioners were much more likely to attend when the Sunday service was at their own village church. When it was held elsewhere, most did not attend.

How was it received?

A Church Times leader said that Dr Barlow’s research showed that amalgamating church services allowed “wishful thinking to triumph over observation. . . The concept of a mobile congregation [is] a myth.”

 

In Churches Too

Restored, 23 March

What did it say?

One in four churchgoers in Cumbria have experienced domestic abuse in their current relationship. The survey of 400 people also found that older people aged over 60 were less likely to report abuse, and women were more likely than men to have experienced it. Only 29 per cent of respondents felt that their churches were equipped to deal with domestic abuse.

How was it received?

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, said that his churches were taking the problem seriously, through promoting helplines, completing training, and working with social services.

 

InHarmony

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, 23 March

What did it say?

Only four per cent of parishes in St Edmundsbury & Ipswich have organists aged under 50; more than half of choirs have no under-50 members; and one in four churches have to use recorded music to accompany the congregation.

How was it received?

The diocese’s music development director, Richard Hubbard, suggested that churches should think more about using the musical talents of congregants. He also said that a national report on church music should be commissioned, for the first time since 1992.

 

Europe’s Young Adults and Religion

Dr Stephen Bullivant, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, 23 March

What did it say?

Religious affiliation among the young in Europe is increasingly rare. In 12 of 22 European nations studied, more than half of young adults (aged 16-29) said that they did not identify with any religion. Only 30 per cent of this age group in Britain said that they adhere to a religion. But those who did still affiliate tended to observe fairly seriously.

What happens next?

The report was produced to inform the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops in Rome in October.

 

The Ties That Bind: Citizenship and civic engagement in the 21st century

House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement, 18 April

What did it say?

Faith schools should not be exempt from the requirement to teach “Shared values of British citizenship”. Fundamental British values, introduced to the curriculum after the so-called “Trojan Horse” case in Birmingham, should be replaced by shared values. OFSTED should not give faith schools an exemption from inculcating these values.

 

Interim report from Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

IICSA’s Truth Project, 25 April

IICSAThe Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which reported back the experiences of survivors in April

What did it say?

The report contained the reflections of victims of abuse within the Church and concluded that survivors respond to clerical abuse largely by either questioning their religious beliefs or using their faith as a coping mechanism for recovery.

What happens next?

The findings of the IICSA investigations into the diocese of Chichester and the handling of the Peter Ball case were completed too late to be included in this interim report, but were published later.

 

What GPs mean by ‘spirituality’, and how they apply this concept with patients

Alistair Appleby, John Swinton, and Philip Wilson, 27 April

What did it say?

Doctors are increasingly being seen as the “new clergy”, as patients come to them with spiritual demands and questions alongside physical and mental-health queries. Family doctors need to become more aware of spiritual issues and better at dealing with them.

 

Not Making Ends Meet

Children’s Society and Church of England, 1 June

What did it say?

People in crisis are increasingly turning to foodbanks and voluntary agencies for help instead of support schemes run by local authorities. Local Welfare Assistance grants are only a fraction of those made by the Social Fund, which they replaced. Foodbanks are having to plug the gap.

How was it received?

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that the country had a “moral duty” to care for those who fell upon hard times, but support was too fragmented. “Strong leadership from local authorities is desperately needed.”


The UK Church in Action

World Vision, 24 May

What did it say?

Only one third of the UK population think that churches in the UK are making a “positive difference in the world”. Of those who are not Christian, one in five agreed. A quarter of respondents chose the words “hypocritical” or “judgemental” when asked to define the Church.

How was it received?

David Kinnaman, a Christian pollster, said that, while churches are increasingly seeing their mission as including social justice alongside evangelism, their efforts were not being widely recognised by the wider population.

 

After Grenfell: The faith groups’ response

Theos, 4 June

What did it say?

Faith groups responded “rapidly, compassionately and holistically” to the Grenfell Tower fire, but churches and other places of worship should regularly practise emergency responses to tragedies before crises occur. Faith groups helped by opening their doors and homes to the victims, meeting housing, clothing, and food needs, offering pastoral care, and space to reflect.

How was it received?

Yvette Williams, from Justice4 Grenfell, said that the community had leant on faith groups for support, and their “fantastic” contribution should be recognised. The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, said that the inquiry into the disaster should continue, but that simply punishing those respons­ible would not itself resolve “anything fundamental”. Jesus called for deeper societal repentance and change, he said.

What happens next?

The inquiry into the Grenfell disaster is still hearing evidence, and is not expected to finish its work for several years. A criminal inquiry by the police is also running in parallel.

 

Fossil-free Churches: Accelerating the transition to a brighter, cleaner future

Operation Noah, 15 June

What did it say?

The Church should rapidly disinvest from fossil-fuel companies and invest in clean alternatives. There is no sign that current church policy of engagement with fossil-fuel companies is working; so full disinvestment from all oil, coal, and gas should take place immediately.

How was it received?

Dr David Atkinson, an honorary assistant bishop in Southwark diocese, agreed with the report, and said that “now was the time” to disinvest fully. A spokesman for the Church Commissioners disagreed, however, and said that disinvestment should come only after attempts at engagement had failed.

What happens next?

The Church Commissioners released a guide for asset owners on how to manage the risks of climate change, and Pope Francis implicitly echoed the report when he chastised the bosses of large oil companies for continuing to search for new fossil-fuel reserves.

 

Nomination to the See of Sheffield: Lessons Learned for the National Church Institutions

William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, 15 June

What did it say?

Dioceses waiting for a new bishop need to be told that, given the Five Guiding Principles, it is possible that a bishop who does not ordain women will be appointed. The National Church Institutions failed to foresee the backlash to Bishop North’s nomination. The “circle of confidentiality” within the diocese should be extended to include more senior figures. There should be more communications training for candidates.

How was it received?

Forward in Faith welcomed the report, and said that it hoped that the next time a traditional Catholic was nominated there would be more “generous responses”.

 

Changing Patterns in Recruitment to Stipendiary Ministry: a study in psychological profiling

Leslie Francis and Greg Smith, 29 June

What did it say?

A study of psychological profiles of clergy suggests that they will be “more tightly managed” and “less inspirational” and “not rock the boat”. Compared with an earlier cohort, the current generation of priests are less likely to follow intuition and instead focus on practical realities. The inference is that, when these priests achieve higher office, the Church of England of the future will therefore be more conservative and less responsive to transformation.

 

Religious Harassment in 2016

Pew Research Centre, 29 June

What did it say?

Christians remain the most persecuted religious group on earth: they are harassed in 144 countries compared with 142 for Muslims. Both figures were up from the previous year. There was also a jump in the number of countries where Jews were persecuted in 2016. The percentage of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions on religion also increased, from 25 to 28 per cent, in 2016.

 

Walking Together on the Way: Learning to be the Church — local, regional, universal

Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission III, 2 July

What did it say?

The fruit of seven years of deliberation, the report sketched out how the two traditions could learn from each other, and reflected on authority, structure, and decision-making. Anglicans were good at regional and provincial authority, whereas Roman Catholics were stronger at global structures. The two Churches should practise “receptive learning” and reflect on their own practices in light of the other’s, on issues ranging from involvement of the laity to the ordination of women as deacons.

How was it received?

Dr Paula Gooder, an Anglican theologian on the committee, said that it was “ground-breaking”, and that Anglicans and RCs were walking together closer than ever. The RC Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Bernard Longley, said that the two Churches were not just looking for places their theology overlapped, but how to pick up ideas from each other. A Church Times leader argued that the document seemed to be written for technical ecumenists, not ordinary church­goers, and posited that there were still “large structural and political hurdles” to full unity. But the report was “bold” in suggesting both Churches suffered by not asking questions together.

What happens next?

The document is not a binding or authoritative statement by either Church, but is expected to be studied closely by both the Vatican and Lambeth Palace. No information has yet been released on what shape ARCIC IV might take.

 

A New Settlement Revised: Religion and belief in schools

Dr Linda Woodhead and Charles Clarke, 20 July

What did it say?

The Church of England should phase out selection on the basis of faith in its schools as part of a radical overhaul of religious education. A new national curriculum on RE should be written by RE educators and made compulsory for all types of school.

How was it received?

The C of E’s chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that the report contradicted itself by calling for an end to faith-based selection while supporting parents’ right to choose a faith-based education for their children. The Catholic Education Service described the report as a “a direct attack on the Catholic Church”. The CEO of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, said that the report showed “the chronic need for action from the Government”, as the legal framework was “no longer fit for purpose”.

 

Survey of young people’s experience of Christianity

ComRes, 20 July

What did it say?

Young adults are more likely to report a positive experience of Christians and Christianity than their elders. Half of 18- to 24-year-olds agreed that “Overall I have had a positive experience of Christians and Christianity”: ten per cent higher than the bracket above them (25-34), and higher than the average across all respondents (44 per cent).

How was it received?

The C of E’s national mission and evangelism adviser, Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, said that Christians in this age group were “doing a better job” of representing Christianity to their peers and inviting them to church. But many of this generation were worshipping in large inde­pendent churches outside the C of E. A Church Times leader dug into the figures to suggest that the overwhelming impression was that “people on the whole are not that bothered” about Christianity.

 

Killing in the Name of God: Addressing religiously inspired violence

Theos, 27 July

What did it say?

While six out of every ten people think that faith teachings are essentially peaceful, seven out of ten believe that most wars were caused by religions. Nearly half think that the world would be a more peaceful place if no one was religious. Eight per cent believe that religions are inherently violent.

How was it received?

Canon Robin Gill, Emeritus Professor of Applied Theology at the University of Kent, said that the relationship between religion and violence was complex, but more work needed to be done to “defuse” religious texts often used as a pretext for violence. The three Abrahamic faiths needed a new ecumenism to contextualise a more peaceful message from supposedly warlike verses.

 

Religious Change Preceded Economic Change in the 20th Century

Universities of Bristol and Tennessee, 27 July

What did it say?

Economic growth has not caused societies to become more secular, as has often been thought. Across numerous countries in the past century, secularisation preceded changes in GDP and economic development.

 

Religion and Worldviews: The way forward

Commission on Religious Education, 9 September

What did it say?

RE should be renamed “Religion and Worldviews” to better reflect the diversity of modern society. The Government should increase invest­ment in RE teachers, and impose a statutory entitlement on all schools to teach it. The new subject should also include other worldviews, such as atheism and humanism.

How was it received?

The chief education officer of the Church of England said that the proposed statement of entitlement needed reworking “to ensure that children and young people develop religious and theological literacy”.

What happens next?

The Commission is urging supporters to write to their local MP and head teachers to encourage them to act on the report’s recommendations.

 

Educational attainment in the short and long term: Was there an advantage to attending faith, private, and selective schools for pupils in the 1980s?

Oxford Review of Education, 11 September

What did it say?

Being brought up in a religious home is a more likely predictor of academic success at 18 than attending a faith school. Any advantage conferred by attending a faith school was short-lived, and real benefits come from having a religious upbringing at home, even when taking into account social background.

How was it received?

The C of E’s chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that Anglican schools were not just “for the faithful”, neither did they exist just to impart knowledge and skills. “Church of England schools remain popular with parents because they value the Christian values we teach.”

 

Draft Covenant for Clergy Care and Well-being

General Synod, 2 October

What did it say?

Clergy are burdened by unrealistic job descriptions, need more pastoral supervision, and suffer from inadequate mental-health provision. There should be a “Big Conversation” at parish and national levels on clergy well-being. Clergy need to set aside time for rest and study, and churches should promise to respect priests’ boundaries.

What happens next?

Feedback and comments on the draft are being welcomed by the team which produced it until the end of the year. It was considered by the College of Bishops in the autumn, and will come before the General Synod in February, and again, if adopted, in July.

 

Never Just a Number: Evaluating the impact of a holistic approach to UK poverty

London School of Economics, 5 October

What did it say?

The social impact of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and its partnering churches is worth £31.5 million — almost four times the charity’s annual budget. Each household helped by the debt-advice organisation benefits society to the tune of £6493. More than half of those who went to CAP between 2013 and 2016 were either debt-free or paying down their debts in a CAP plan by June this year.

How was it received?

Matt Barlow, the charity’s chief executive, said that it showed that UK churches could do what business could not: provide friendship and encouragement to people in difficult situations.

 

Negotiating Well-being: Experiences of ordinands and clergy in the Church of England

C of E Ministry Division, 19 October

What did it say?

Periods of transition, such as the start and end of a curacy, cause physical and mental stress to clergy, and can even make them question their vocation. Parish clergy, in particular, struggle to set boundaries in their work, which often impinges on family time, private space, rest, and sleep.

What happens next?

The report did not make any recommendations to deal with the problems which clergy describe. It is part of a long-term cohort study run by the Ministry Division, which seeks to listen to and amplify priests’ experience of ministry.

 

2017 Statistics for Mission

C of E Ministry Division, 16 November

What did it say?

Since 2007, adult average Sunday attendance in Church of England churches has fallen by 15 per cent, and child average Sunday attendance by 24 per cent. In one year alone, all-age average Sunday attendance fell by three per cent. Occasional offices are also down: baptisms and thanksgivings by 22 per cent, marriages and services of prayer and dedica­tion by 27 per cent, and funerals by 28 per cent. Christmas attendance alone has bucked the trend: 13 per cent growth in the past five years.

How was it received?

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said that there were lessons to be learned by the popularity of Christmas. The good music, formality, and “sense of mystery” should be applied throughout the year.

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