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The Next Quinquennium

A 15-page report from the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council (GS 1815) entitled Challenges for the New Quinquennium was published on 12 January 2011.

Despite the studied understatement on page 3 of:

The fact that 40% of the Church of England's stipendiary clergy are due to retire
in the next decade will accelerate the changes in patterns of ministry over recent
years,

it is hard to draw the inference that the Church of England as a whole is being tasked with the increased involvement of the laity in leading worship. Rather, the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council seem to be pinning their hopes on a rapid increase in the number of young people being trained as full-time stipendiary clergy. This is reflected in the national website, which refers those aged 'between 13 and 30' to a special subsidiary website which has been set up.

This is what the report does have to say on the subject of lay involvement:

18. Inevitably, Church thinking tends to concentrate on what can be achieved through the
Church's institutions but it is as well to remember the words of Archbishop William
Temple, again from Christianity and Social Order, when he wrote, 'nine-tenths of the
work of the Church in the world is done by Christian people fulfilling responsibilities
and performing tasks which in themselves are not part of the official system of the
Church at all'...

81. Fifthly, there is some serious thinking to be done if the rhetoric about the role of
the laity is to be turned into reality. There are really two separate issues here. One
concerns the way in which members of the laity are prepared for specific areas of
ministry as Readers, youth workers, pastoral assistants etc. An important question here
is whether more mixed lay/ordinand training should be encouraged. Further impetus is
also needed to carry forward some of the adventurous ideas within 'Reader Upbeat'.

82. The second issue concerns equipping members of the laity for effective discipleship in
the world (see William Temple's dictum quoted in paragraph 18). Some church
agencies and larger churches provide extensive training opportunities in Christian
discipleship (for example the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity's help in
being a Christian in the workplace). Others are developing ideas for a renewed
Catechumenate. But there is still a long way to go in releasing every Christian across
the Church of England into active discipleship and witness in the world.

The phrase 'an important question...is whether' which is not followed by any attempt at an answer does not suggest a ringing endorsement of either side of the question and the reader may draw the conclusion that, with all the pressing requirements of the rest of the report, the question is likely to remain unanswered until the next quinquennial review, or indeed the one after that.