*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Leader comment: No threat to the parish?

by
17 September 2021

THE present Archbishop of Canterbury is not the first church leader to use exaggeration for effect. His assertion that “there is no threat to the parish” can be taken at face value, to the degree that there is no intentional threat from the Vision and Strategy process, or from the Myriad initiative. Both he and the Archbishop of York have been at pains to emphasise their commitment to supporting more front-line priests in an organisation that remains a Church for England. It is clear from our two-part feature, however, that threats do exist, and serious ones at that: from a lack of finance, from ageing congregations, from the absence of any sustained state help for buildings, from the difficulty of replacing the clergy who plan to retire shortly — and from many diocesan attempts to meet these threats, often in uncoordinated or faddish ways.

Archbishops tend to be criticised for their remoteness from parish life. It is not a charge that sticks with the present incumbents of Lambeth and Bishopthorpe. Conversely, however, their parish experience might have a disproportionate influence on their thinking. Archbishop Welby reckons that church growth occurred in his Coventry parish despite his own efforts. This idea of organic (“ecological”?) growth conforms with the view expressed by St Paul that God is responsible for growth. It does little to explain present popularity of new, well-resourced churches that are suddenly landed on a community, where numerical growth often comes at the expense of congregations, Anglican and other, near by. Archbishop Cottrell’s recent assertion that future church-plants would fit into the parish system, although it sounded more like a modification than a clarification, is, none the less, welcome; for resistance to new initiatives cannot be discounted as mere conservatism, given so much clumsiness in the past.

Archbishop Cottrell said earlier this year (News, 27 February) that most criticism of Vision and Strategy stemmed not from what was known about it but from its relative silence about buildings and budgets. There needs to be more candour, too, about projections of available clergy in the near future. It was not mentioned in this interview, but on many occasions Archbishop Welby has apologised for an early broadcast in which he made too close a link between church growth and the quality of the priest. As he was quickly informed, there are many circumstances in which such an equation cannot be applied — and he speaks candidly about doubting his own ministry because growth was too slow, as he perceived it. None the less, several dioceses have concluded that a clear link exists between church decline and no priest at all. Is it that dioceses do not speak to one another? Or do the dioceses engaged in decimating clergy posts believe this, too, but are forced to ignore it out of economic necessity?

This week’s collect seems apposite: “Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy. . .”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available

 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)