C of E future: debate

Jul 12, 2021 by

(Scroll down for the latest commentary on this topic)

An initiative to encourage more lay participation in evangelism and planting of new churches was unveiled by the Church of England just before July’s General Synod. An introductory summary can be found in this paper:

Simpler, Humbler, Bolder: A Church for the whole nationGeneral Synod Paper GS 2223:

“The vision for the Church of England in the 2020s is that we become a Church that is centred on Jesus Christ and shaped by Jesus Christ through the five marks of mission. This is not a new vision, but a refreshed way of describing what has always been the case. At the same time, we are called to be a church for the whole nation, serving every community and every person…the Five Marks of Mission…describe a vocation to be the ones who tell the story of Jesus Christ; teach the faith of Jesus Christ; tend to the cares of the world; transform the unjust structure of society; and treasure and safeguard the integrity of God’s creation.” [p4]

This will involve a “mixed ecology” of traditional parish churches and new initiatives; also necessary financial cuts and administrative reorganisation.

and an article in the Church Times explains further:

Synod to discuss target of 10,000 new lay-led churches in the next ten yearsby Madeleine Davies, Church Times

These proposals have led to a strong reaction particularly from those from the catholic wing of the church (both conservatives and liberals), who see the plans as an attack on historic church life and a threat to stipendiary clergy, led by prioritising management rather than faith:

The Church is abandoning its flockby Giles Fraser, UnHerd:

The CofE’s great leap forward will cull clergy and abandon parishioners….

The new growth strategy from head office is code named Myriad, Greek for ten thousand. The idea is to have 10,000 new churches by 2030, creating a million new disciples… As Martyn Percy, the Dean of the Cathedral in Oxford, explained, it’s becoming a bit like one of those Stalinist 10-year plans, something we are all obliged to cheer, yet one that is totally disconnected to reality.


Is this the last chance to save the Church of England? by Marcus Walker, Spectator

‘Key limiting factors’: the end of stipendiary parish ministryby Archbishop Cranmer

Ian Paul has replied to these criticisms, affirming the need for mission and evangelism using innovative methods of church planting, and pointing to some of the critics’ attachment to liturgical and structural tradition while being happy to abandon theological tradition:

Is the Church abandoning its flock? By Ian Paul, Psephizo:

“Dear Giles,

You are a very engaging writer, and I often enjoy reading your pieces….But much of the time, your articles are an admixture of this insight along with your frustration—anger even—and downright errors….

think about the building in which you minister. Where did it come from? Someone, sometime in the past, planted a church. Many of our Victorian and Edwardian buildings started life as ‘tin tabernacles‘, prefabricated kits to allow Anglicans to plant churches in the growing towns and suburbs around the expanding cities of the industrial revolution. This is hardly a ‘new thing from head office’!”


Should everyone be church-planting missionary disciples? by Ian Paul, Psephizo: “…I support many of the ideas in the Vision and Strategy document, but I have observed …that it is short on using theological and biblical language that is recognisable as Anglican, and that has clearly put some people off….As long as bishops make divisive comments about sexuality, in which they denigrate those in their care who actually believe what the Church teaches, then we are compounding the stress, overload, fragmentation and disagreement that already exists.


The Church of England has published a assurance of its commitment to the parish system and stipendiary ministry here:

Clergy and parishes at the heart of the Church of England – now and in the futurefrom the Church of England website:

Following a series of recent articles and blogs speculating about the direction of the Church of England’s ‘Vision and Strategy’ discussions Dave Male, the Church of England’s director of evangelism and discipleship, said:

“I am very aware that some recent commentary in media and social media purporting to set out the future direction of Church of England has caused real anxiety, hurt and pain to many….

“It has been claimed in some places that there is a plan to dissolve the parish system, sideline or even replace trained clergy, especially paid clergy, or to get rid of our beautiful, historic church buildings. “So I want to make it abundantly clear that the Church of England is committed, now as always, to the ministry of the whole people of God including to ordained ministry in our parishes.

Can the C of E plant new churches and retain the parish system? by Ian Paul, Psephizo. (An extended interview with John McGinley of the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication, who originally made the ‘limiting factors’ comment…)


Read also: (newer items at the top)

The C of E: Going, going . . . nearly gone by Peter Mullen, TCW

How, and what, shall they hear?From Gafcon GB and Europe: 

“A model of church which is financially low-cost, but mission-focussed and involving the whole people of God is not a ‘silver bullet’, but it’s surely needed in secularised Britain and Europe as a mission method alongside historic parish ministry. But it needs one more crucial ingredient which is often lacking in historic denominations – a commitment to biblical truth. New, more flexible structures of church for mission, even based on documents full of biblical language about Jesus and salvation, are frankly no good if many of the church’s leaders and theological teachers can’t agree on what being a Christian means, in terms of essential belief and expected behaviour.”

‘A church without walls’: Anglicanism divided on shift away from traditionby Harriet Sherwood, Guardian

The parish church, at risk from the arrogant C of E eliteby Victoria Baillon, TCW

Discernment and Prognosis:- Apostasy, Persecution and Preparing for the Future. A conversation between Rodney Hearth and Gavin Ashenden.

Do we need to ‘Save the Parish’? by Frog Orr-Ewing, Psephizo

Is the Church of England’s church-planting vision realistic? by Gavin Ashenden, Christian Today

Is the Parish Church worth saving? by Alison Milbank, The Critic

What the ‘Save the Parish’ campaign doesn’t understand by James Mumford, UnHerd

Archbishop of York says parish system plans are about revitalising the Church by Julian Mann, Christian Today

Do the Church of England’s bishops want 10,000 new churches or not? by Lee Proudlove, Anglican Ink


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