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General Synod digest: Archbishops’ Council quizzed about Church’s leadership

15 July 2022
Sam Atkins/Church Times

The Revd Charlotte Cook (Archbishops’ Council)

The Revd Charlotte Cook (Archbishops’ Council)

Archbishops’ Council

THE General Synod heard a short presentation on the latest annual report from the Archbishops’ Council on Monday morning.

The Revd Charlotte Cook (Archbishops’ Council) began by speaking about the launch of new online resources, including prayer and discipleship apps and websites. These had been accessed millions of times in the past year. The Daily Hope 24-hour phone line also received about 20,000 calls a month (News, 12 February 2021), she said. In 2021, 501 people had been recommended for ordained ministry, one quarter of whom were aged under 32, and more than half of whom were women. Further Archbishops’ Council funding had been made available to pay for additional curacies, she said.

The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller (London), another member of the Council, reported that it had been lobbying against the Government’s two-child limit on benefits (News, 20 July 2021). One fifth of the Church of England’s parishes were on estates, and much of future grant awards would focus on people working in the most deprived areas, he said. A new Growing Faith Foundation had been established last year to increase engagement with children and families and to champion the Church’s work to become younger and more diverse. There had also been more work on expanding financial giving, and new guidance offered to parishes.

The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said that he could not find a reference to the Council’s work beyond England, such as in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or on the Continent. He also asked what the Council’s strategy and budget was for ecumenical work.

Penny Allen (Lichfield) asked for a full report on Strategic Development Funding to be given at the next session of the Synod. She also asked for more spending on digital discipleship.

Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) asked whether youth organisations would be utilised in the Council as part of its target to boost numbers of young people in the Church.

John Spence (Archbishops’ Council) said that there was work beyond England, even if this had not been mentioned in the report, and that ecumenical work was ongoing. He also pointed Mrs Allen to an annual report by the Strategic Investment Board.

Archdeacon Miller said that the Council was open to collaborating with all possible partners on youth work.

The Revd Graham Hamilton (Exeter) said that the report shied away from the reality of church decline.

Ros Clarke (Lichfield) asked when the Synod had been involved in developing and approving the new Vision and Strategy.

The Archdeacon of Bath, the Ven. Adrian Youings (Bath & Wells), asked whether the Council was actively working on reforming the process of closing churches.

Sam Atkins/Church TimesJohn Spence (Archbishops’ Council)

Responding, Ms Cook said that there were already regular annual reports on statistics published online. She also noted growth was not solely numbers. In reply to Ms Clarke, she said that the Archbishop of York had already answered this during an earlier session at this Synod.

Mr Spence said that the question of closing churches had to be determined locally. He agreed that the broader issue of handling church buildings, especially listed ones, remained complex and largely unaddressed.

Matt Orr (Bath & Wells) asked how the Council could reflect in its spending the research showing that most people became Christians while young.

Tim Bateman (Birmingham) asked a similar question about the Council’s hopes for reaching children from non-church backgrounds.

In reply, Archdeacon Miller said that this did feature in the Council’s work. He also said that he would like to see churches comparing their own practice with that of church schools. Questions about living out faith and prayer were normalised in schools; were they also in congregations, he asked.

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