|In Partnership with Renewal & Reform, Church of England
The Renewal and Reform agenda in the wider Church of England rightly challenges all church communities to give serious prioritisation to proclamation, evangelisation and growth. Some of the most successful models of growth and church planting come from affluent communities, and are rightly championed as toolkits of ideas and innovations to help others facilitate growth.A cursory scan of diocesan strategy information on their websites in the Northern Province in early summer 2018 revealed that only one of the twelve Northern dioceses included any intentional proclamation of the gospel and provision of sacramental ministry in deprived communities. Diocesan budgets across post-industrial dioceses are beginning to show huge strain, and traditional models of stipendiary ministry are increasingly untenable, making the poorest parish communities the most vulnerable to amalgamation and closure. What does it say about the Church of England if we do not ring fence investment and prioritise this work in the poorest communities of our mission field. In an era of declining stipendiary posts and financial challenges, surely those who are least able to nurture within themselves vocations and financial resources without support are the ones that ought to be imaginatively protected. It is in these very communities that the greatest need for knowing and hearing about the transformative power of God, to encounter repentance and forgiveness, to understand about new life in Christ, needs to be heard.
Reflecting the work of the Reform and Renewal Estates Evangelism Task Group, the Coastal Towns initiative, and the Low Income Communities Funding review work, this timely consultation intends to raise the statistical and theological implications of the consequence of prioritizing investment of stipendiary resources in the communities most likely to grow numerically and to produce the most return financially. It allows us to ask the questions of whether abandoning the poorest communities to find the gospel and the sacraments themselves is acceptable and intentional, and to begin to formulate a response.
The full report from the consultation can be read here