Friday, April 24, 2015

Broadside from Broadbent: CofE should take Jesus seriously

There is a very interesting debate rumbling in and around the CofE at the moment. The gist of it is fairly easy to get hold of by reading this report of a broadside from Bishop Pete Broadbent as he takes on critics of a recent lead of the English bishops re better provision of leadership in the future CofE. Ian Paul (of Psephizo blog) also joined in. (Some of these matters were touched on here a post or two ago).

Read a fuller statement from +Peter here.

Gillan Scott (a man) takes up the matters in a post on Archbishop Cranmer's blog.

Addressing the future of a declining church with a vision for how decline might be reversed touches on many themes found (in my experience) in discussions about the Anglican church of these islands and where it is going:
- growth/decline,
- statistics/anecdotes,
- relevance/faithfulness,
- connecting with an irreligious society/promoting costly discipleship.

I think +Pete, Ian and Gillan speak well, pertinently and insightfully.

What do you think?

What are they saying which ACANZP could take note of?


Father Ron Smith said...

I note, Peter, that Gillian Scott speaks of her own situation where her parish seems not to be 'doing enough funerals and weddings' to warrant another curate on the staff. Well, as this really is the sort of ministry where 'the rubber hits the road', it may just be that there is not enough ministry being done in the local community for the parish to need an extra clergyu-person.

This does point to the fact that the Church does not only exist for worship - but from that worship must come service, in productive ministry to the world outside the local congregation. Without it, the congregation may just be indulging in song-fests & moral campaigns .ministering to itself only.

Was it Archbishop Laud who said that the Church is the only institution that exists for others than itself. That seems to me the task of an Established Church, which is the Church of England.

Anonymous said...

Gillan Scott is a man, Ron.


Peter Carrell said...

I must defend Ron, Tim!
I mistook "Gillan" for "Gillian" and wrote that down in the post (now corrected), so Ron was working off my mistake!

Jean said...

Hi Peter

I think the CofE has a harder road than we do in NZ. Not least because of the amount of finances poured into their upkeep of historical buildings and it seems a lot more administrative roadblocks in terms of making changes re appointments and other aspects as you would expect of a bigger/older church. I find their lack of available clergy interesting - is their such a problem in NZ? - Canada is very generous to us Tim : )

I think from a broad perspective it is good they have asked churches effectively what do you think the main things that are stopping you doing what you want to be doing are (e.g. preaching the gospel), and have sought to identify ways to address this.

It would stretch my faith Fr Ron to align Gilan's church not having many funerals or weddings with a lack of community work. Residing currently in a NZ Parish where the Priests would like to spend less time taking funerals so they have more time for the community!! She says they are growing (spiritually, numerically) and are prepared to fund their own assistant minister; it does seem a bit bizarre to wait four years to get permission to advertise for one!

Having been involved in a missional church which then became a parish due to growth and stability, it was interesting the focus was never on numberical growth but on:
- sharing the gospel - through set tools such as alpha, individual witness, invitations, and combined outreach services with other churches
- growing the internal spiritual life of the congregation
- prayer ministry/prayer meetings/healing services

I do see investment in people such as what the CofE seem to be encouraging is also important here too. Such with Bishop Victoria's 'ask' for assistance financing more curates etc; but the investment could be in multiple ways for people who work alongside parishes/diocese. It's not something that comes easy I believe - we all seem to want to see something concrete (pun) for our (sorry God's) dosh!!


Pageantmaster said...

“The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it.”
Archbishop William Temple

I think that Bishop Broadbent and Ian Paul are on the right lines as far as the apparatus of delivery of the Gospel is concerned, however Alister McGrath focuses on the key issue of: 'What is it that all this effort will teach?:

It's the theology stupid

We have seen many efforts, some ongoing, to deal with decline institutionally. To mind come the 'Decade of Evangelism' in The Episcopal Church and the euphoria for mission following their actions in 2003, none of which had any appreciable impact upon the accelerating decline in attendance. Now TEC is embarking upon 'Reimagining' the church.

Unless we are clear about what it is that we are telling people about Jesus, no amount of money set aside for stipends and pensions channelled to diocesan boards of finance will have any appreciable impact other than to make it harder to pay stipends and pensions.

Changing doctrine, whether in TEC, CofE, or perhaps the church down under, is unlikely to bring growth based on past experience. The sheep know the voice of their master. Remembering and preaching what we were ourselves handed down may well, particularly if we take advantage of the new media where people are to be found is embraced. That is not always a matter of spending money, but of attitude, commitment, and of following the path we have been shown.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Residing currently in a NZ Parish where the Priests would like to spend less time taking funerals so they have more time for the community!!" - Jean -

Well, Jean. Do you not see funerals as being an important meeting point between the Church and the local community? When I was an ordinand, we were told that the community will judge the Church by how well it takes Funerals, Marriages and Baptisms.

Perhaps your parish has an entirely different mission plan. If so, I'm sure the clergy-training colleges would like to hear about it. Another question: Is the Church only to be concerned with the worshipping living? Should we not care for the dying and the dead.

I was taught the mission that Jesus advocated: "Go out into ALL the world and preach the good news". Family rituals are a part of that mission.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Please be kind to our colleagues working full time in stipendiary ministry. They are trying to build up the body of Christ, reach out to the community in multiple ways, all the while attempting to live a spiritual life and keep up with their reading.

In some situations the number of funerals (and in some tourist spots, the number of weddings) is both good and bad for community outreach.

Good: community outreach is taking place.

Bad: there is no time left in the week to do more than the barebones of sermon and service peer, visit the most urgently ill; after the visiting family have left the district to return to the big city elsewhere in NZ or indeed to a haven overseas, the funeral taker is left wondering what actual outreach to the local community has taken place!

The long and the short is that in parishes here and in England (and other places, hello Kurt and Tim C!) there are often shortages of staff. It is often heart-rending (speaking as an archdeacon) to hear the pleas for assistance and feel that nothing can be done, at least in the short term.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I do appreciate your concern about the shortage of clergy. However, to take the situation of family rituals - funerals, Weddings and Baptisms, that are not even necessarily connected with members of the local congregation.

As a parish priest, and now an active non-stipendiary; I am constantly made aware of the value of bringing Christ into the presence of 'outsiders' at these family rituals. Where else does one have this opportunity to preach the Gospel? The parish itself may not benefit by one more member of its local congregation, but at least the gospel is preached. It does depend, of course, on what is said in the way of bringing encouragement to faith of those present. Here, we have a captive audience of people who may not otherwise step inside our doors. Do they not need to know about God's love for them?

Jethro Day said...

Ron, you seem to have made the assumption that these "family rituals" are for people from the community. I do not deny that these times can be great moments to proclaim the gospel, but more and more people no longer choose to have Christian "family rituals" and the ones that are taking place are more likely to be for people from within the congregation. Therefore, church facilitated "family rituals" are no longer the "important meeting point between the Church and the local community" they once were.

However, you hit the nail on the head when you asked the question: "Where else does one have this opportunity to preach the Gospel?" The opportunities to preach the gospel in our society seem to be getting fewer and fewer,. Therefore as leaders we need to find new places to build relationships within communities, and so create new opportunities to preach the gospel. We need church leaders who are trained and equipped to go out into communities to build these new relationships, rather than just wait in the hope that someone might choose them to take their wedding, funeral or baptism. But if a priest's time is fully taken up with admin and facilitating events, whether it is Sunday morning or a "family ritual," how will they have time to go out and build these new relationships so that there can be opportunities to preach the gospel? Because "Where else does one have this opportunity to preach the Gospel?"

Jean said...

Hi Fr Ron

The most pertinent point of my statement was that the number of weddings and funerals do not necessarily equate with the degree of community outreach in a parish - to be use this alone to discern staffing levels seems unusual. It is not to say the ministry themselves are not important.

As Peter suggests the difficulty in my current area is not that the taking of funerals aren't an opportunity to engage with the wider community but that the sheer number of them stretch the resources of Priests, greatly restricting their availability in other areas.

I have also been on the other end of the scale, in a parish where there was a lot of community outreach but only one funeral in ten years due to the demographics of the area.


Bryden Black said...

Jethro/Jean. A number of years ago I held a diocesan position that sought to assist parishes in outreach and growth. One factor stood out in those parishes who were effective in this generally: the vicar/pastor/minister explicitly belonged to a community group - squash club, bowling, PTA, whatever. This connection wld inevitably build bridges, and also be a model for similar lay involvement. BUT it had to be more than token membership: 10-15% of discretionary time!! Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum they had to engage in at least 1 hours prayer a day, ie similar %. Interesting stats hey?!

MichaelA said...

More broadsides from each side in the debate on the CofE reports:

Also some blog responses by +Broadbent: