What is the vision and strategy of the Church of England?

Dec 11, 2020 by

by Ian Paul, Psephizo:

The graphic attached here recently caused a bit of a stir in the Anglican social media airwaves. It was included as part of a document presented to the Archbishops’ Council, and was leaked (on its own, within the accompanying explanation) to social media, where it attracted mostly scornful comment, including comparisons with washing machines (going round and round—though of course washing machines to that to some purpose) and plugholes (as in going down the…). It was then presented again at last month’s General Synod, in an engaging presentation by Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, and we considered it once more at this week’s meeting of Archbishops’ Council. I think it is going to shape decision-making in the Church of England for the next few years in important ways, so it is worth reflecting on. So I would like to offer seven brief questions with reflection.

First, we ought to ask why the Church needs such a thing. Surely we already know what we should be doing, if we look to the teaching of Jesus, Scripture more widely, the creeds, and our own formularies? That is a fair question that might be raised for any local congregation which devises its own slogan, mission statement and strategy—why do we need them? And there are several good answers.

The first is that the picture of the people of God in Scripture is complex and diverse: at times we are likened to a holy temple; at others to the bride of Christ; then we are described as a disciplined spiritual army; then again as the body of Christ consisting of diverse members who all look different; and so on. Different aspects of this multi-dimensional vision will be important in different context and at different times, and part of this exercise is about (both locally and nationally) asking: what is God particularly calling us to be in this time and this place?

A second part of the answer involves being honest about what the Church of England is. Yes, it is part of the ekklesia of God in this land, and in the context of global Christianity, but it is also a complex institution with regulations, legal constraints, budgets, boards and meetings. It is not very easy to read off exactly how, for example, the Church Commissioners should be dispersing their income from the pages of the New Testament! Vision and Strategy statements like this, at their best, function as mediators between theological understanding and practical decision making.

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