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Clarification: not 10,000 but 20,000 new lay-led churches; not a strategy but a vision

09 July 2021


THE 10,000 new lay-led churches envisaged by the Myriad project are separate from the 10,000 new worshipping communities set out in the Archbishop of York’s Vision and Strategy update (News, 2 July), the Church’s director of evangelism and discipleship, Canon Dave Male, said on Friday.

“We were talking about 10,000 new Christian communities coming out of revitalised parish ministry at the same time as they [Myriad] were launching,” Canon Male said. “I totally see why people were confused.” They were “totally different things,” he said, but “there may well be a bit of overlap”.

The Church of England’s Vision and Strategy Update, which will be discussed at the General Synod on Monday, envisages: “10,000 new communities starting by 2030, reaching people in all spheres of their life — home and local community, work and education, social and digital. To do this would mean that most churches and all dioceses would start something new to reach people in their contexts.”

It reiterates the commitment to the “mixed ecology” (News, 9 July), noting the increase in vocations to ordained leadership (News, 2 July). It also says: “We sense we need a bold calling of lay leaders in their thousands to complement this movement, particularly in ministry with young people.”

Myriad aims to “support the planting of 10,000 new, predominantly lay-led, Church of England churches in the next ten years” and was launched earlier this month by The Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication, which “supports leaders, church teams and diocese across London, England and beyond as they multiply disciples, churches and networks”. It is led by the Bishop of Islington, Dr Ric Thorpe, and is described on its website as “part of the Church of England but work(s) with many denominations and networks”.

At the launch, Canon John McGinley, the head of church-planting development at New Wine and a priest in the diocese of Leicester, said the vision had been “tested”, including by Dr Thorpe, who had spoken to every diocesan bishop personally.

On Friday, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, said: “the Gregory Centre team worked hard to brief bishops about their plans, and I appreciated that. But it doesn’t make Myriad an ‘official’ national initiative.”

Asked whether the Vision and Strategy team and the Gregory Centre had independently produced the 10,000 figure, the Revd Heather Cracknell, the head of development for Fresh Expressions, wrote: “The 10k figure was discussed based on the development work that +Ric had been doing around the Myriad project. It was decided not to include it as a target, but reference was made to it in the description of the outworking of pursuing this approach.”

Canon Male suggested that the Gregory Centre was similar to CMS and other Anglican societies. An advertisement for a “Myriad Prayer Co-ordinator” states that the 10,000 New Churches programme “aims to embed this vision at the heart of the national church’s formal agenda, to inspire a response in all dioceses”.

Canon Male acknowledged that clergy were “exhausted” and that there were “tough decisions for everyone, coming out of Covid”. But he reiterated assurances that there were no plans to dismantle the parish system (Comment, 5 February).

The Synod debate takes place against a backdrop of plans in several dioceses to reduce stipendiary clergy posts and increase the role played by lay and unpaid leaders, with clergy overseeing larger areas. It also follows several years of the Strategic Development Grant programme, in which successful bids have come with ambitious numerical targets (Features, 15 November 2019).

In addition to the 10,000 worshipping communities, Vision and Strategy speaks of “doubling the number of children and young active disciples in the Church of England by 2030”, against a backdrop in which average Sunday attendance has fallen by almost twice as much for children as for adults in the past decade: by 28 per cent, compared with 16 per cent (News, 18 October 2019). The average C of E church has only three children attending, and the smallest 25 per cent have, on average, none at all (News, 20 October 2017).

Canon Male said on Friday of the target: “We haven’t just picked that out of the air. We have worked out how it could happen, but we are going to need everyone together. . . At the moment, we are losing five per cent of children and young people year on year. . .

“If we put big targets, it will force us all to think in different ways. We don’t know all the answers, and that is why we are inviting parishes and dioceses and networks to join with us in this. . . This does all seem crazy, and it seems hard, but let’s give it a try and see if we could do something really special over the next ten years.”

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