Following the Guardian and Observer’s publication over the weekend of two reports on the Church of England’s program of Renewal & Reform, and some critics of the same, bloggers from both sides of the story are attending the fray. A useful round-up of links is available via Thinking Anglicans.
Fr Eddie Green reacts to the language of the Observer story, which refers to evangelical services as “frenzied” and suggests that outsiders may even be “repulsed” by such charismatic demonstrations. Green writes at the Future Shape of Church blog
Clergy hit brick walls in parish ministry and become disillusioned, but this is not the fault of those who are making it work. Evangelicals have built up support networks that have a proven track record, and are facing up to these new challenges. …
I am convinced that God is doing something new in the Church of England. Yes, there are legitimate questions, those of the critical friend, that need to be asked. My worry is that the voices of negativity will be taken as speaking for whole swathes of the Church.
They do not speak for me.
Green says that he “learnt more about missional parish leadership in a one day course from an evangelical than I did in three years at theological college.”
On the Quodcumque blog, Fr Richard Peers addresses “Holiness and Management” …
Perhaps I don’t need to say much more about management except that I find it extraordinary that anyone would think this was a bad thing. Far from there being too much talk about management in the church I think there is far too little. I suspect there is sometimes a confusion between administration and management. I hate sitting at a desk, I loathe paperwork and filling in forms. But I don’t think either of those things are what constitutes a good manager. This is where management and leadership are inseparable. A good leader recognises what structures and processes are needed and which are unnecessary and sets up the processes, and people, to do them.
… and the HTB trending models of church planting, including criticims, oblique and overt, of the leadership of Archbishop Justin Welby.
Much of the criticism of Renewal and Reform comes from the perceived dominance of evangelical-charismatic models of church growth and in particular the place of the HTB model. Some of this is close to personal criticism of Justin Welby whose faith development was in HTB.
I suppose, again, I am puzzled by this. This is a successful model of church growth and is bringing new life to places which needed it. As far as I can see there is nothing in Renewal and Reform to stop other models of growth being applied. Quite the opposite, the Church Commissioners have made substantial sums of money available for growth initiatives. I don’t know if these grants can be made to non-diocesan groups but even if they can’t, there is enormous potential for those with other models of growth to work nationally or regionally to propose other initiatives in collaboration with dioceses. The real problem is that there simply aren’t other models out there that are as well developed and structured as the HTB model.
Fr Gary Waddington, blogging at The Busy Priest looks for a path through the middle of the mess, and finds no magic solution beyond enduring hard work.
The argument today it seems to me is a false dichotomy. Badly managed churches don’t grow. Over managed churches can be souless. …
But there is a false proxy debate going on. …
I am a priest. I am not a branch manager of an ecclesiastical business. I am a parish priest. But I have to manage staff and volunteers and buildings and support those who want us to succeed in mission. So I am a priest, but I need to develop the skills by which I can manage to grow a parish. That might well be managerialism – but I believe it is also mission.
And yes. I can always say another mass. I can wear ever more lovely vestments to do so. I can pray harder – God knows, I ought to be better at that too. But I cannot, and will not stick my head into the sand and pretend that if only the tat was nicer, the liturgy more mysterious, the silver better polished and the sermon more erudite then that will fill the Church with more people by itself. It won’t. That’s the harsh reality we have to face. I absolutely believe in worship (no surprise there) – and in catholic faith and practice. But if all I can do is to bore on about the virtues of facing ‘east’ or ‘west’ should I be surprised if one day there is only one old lady and a dog left? And if my only answer is ‘plant a hip church’ with a better band and a funky (I’m showing my age now) light system and fantastic coffee that does little more than steal other congregations from the “we were achingly trendy yesterday” cafe church next door, is that any better?
Nor indeed will shoving up a banner with the details of the latest go-to HTB inspired course. I’ve read lots of books on mission whilst I’ve been away. The biggest beneficiaries are no doubt the authors – they must be raking it in.
We need more priests. We need more volunteers. We need more staff. We need better management. This isn’t one or the other, and there is no magic cure for decline – there is only hard work to be done.
Find more details of the Church of England’s Renewal & Reform strategy here. Do you have experience of the Renewal & Reform program to share?
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