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“Of The Making Of Many Miscs…



there is no end, and much study is a weariness of flesh,” as Ecclesiastes might have said had he been writing in 2015. Are you sitting comfortably? Refreshing beverage to hand? Very well, then, I shall begin.

The Church has prepared (at least) 39 GS Misc papers for the three-day General Synod which begins on Tuesday. Restricting our interest (for the sake of our collective sanity) to those documents which refer to the laity and lay ministry, they derive from the quinquennial review of November 2010:

GENERAL SYNOD (November 2010)
1. ‘Three main themes have emerged with absolute clarity. We are called –
i) To take forward the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church of England including the growth of its capacity to serve the whole community of this country;
ii) To re-shape or reimagine the Church’s ministry for the century coming, so as to make sure that there is a growing and sustainable Christian witness in every local community; and
iii) To focus our resources where there is both greatest need and greatest opportunity.’
2. Those words from the Presidential Address to the new Synod in Novermber 2010 shaped the report which the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops brought to the Synod for debate in February – Challenges for the New Quinquennium (GS 1815). The report was well-received in a take note debate, but a number of speakers asked: ‘now what?’

Extract from the agenda for February 2015 highlighting the relevant documents


Tuesday 10 February

GS 1977 – Discipleship

GS 1978 – Resourcing the Future Task Group Report

GS 1979 – Resourcing Ministerial Education Task Group Report

GS 1980 – Simplification Task Group Report

Thursday 12 February

GS 1985 – Mission and Growth in Rural Multi-Parish Benefices and GS Misc 1092 – Released for Mission [item 16]


As discussed on the previous blog post, Wikichurch: The Next Big Thing? (and its 23 comments)

On almost every page of the papers for this General Synod is a reference to placing greater reliance on the contribution of lay people, and GS 1979, for example, talks of ‘an aspiration to see numbers of volunteer lay ministers of different kinds grow by 48% (to over 17,500)’ (para 45). The numbers of paid lay ministers would grow by 69% to over 2,000.

The huge increase envisaged in the number of lay ministers (to 20,000) is likely to change the character of the Church and power structure within it considerably. At the very least, it would be unwise to assume that such a body of people would simply form a docile lumpenproletariat. . Similarly, if the people in the pews are to be asked to dig ever deeper into their pockets, it would be wise to recall that he who pays the piper often expects to call the tune.


And yet, in the interview on R4 this morning with Bishop Steven Croft and Professor Linda Woodhead, only Professor Woodhead mentioned the laity. Given that none of the GS Misc papers I have seen goes into any detail at all as to what sort of lay ministers these are to be,  how on earth we are to increase their number to 20,000, and what responsibility they will be given, it is hard not to form the impression that the laity are the last rabbit to be pulled out of the hat in a would-be conjuring trick by a desperate Church of England hierarchy. Although Professor Woodhead did not use this metaphor, she did point out the oddness that more research had not been done into an analysis of the problems and potential solutions before coming out with these papers announcing decisions which have already been made in principle.
A number of people are still asking ‘now what?’

6 comments on this post:

minidvr said...

On our weekend Residential for Licensed Lay Ministry, we got an oversight to developments in our diocese, developments, which are apparently scheduled to spread across the whole church.

I am on the foundation course, which is followed by a further two years of training, for which you have to go through a selection process, which is akin to that of Ordained Ministry, down to the form filling, assessments, references and attendance at a panel of assessors at diocesan level. Even the outcomes in terms of results are the same as used at BAP, Recommended for Training, Conditional Recommended for Training or Not Suitable for Training for Licensed Lay Ministry. After completion of the course, you are interviewed by the Bishop, who will decide whether he will issue a license or not. Once licensed, like Reader ministry, you’re able to be deployed nationally. More likely in your sending parish, but you make a commitment as in Ordained Ministry, to serve across your deanery, diocese, or in diocesan appointments where appropriate.

So, the Church (or at least my diocese) is taking the issue of training, accreditation and empowering lay ministry in a realistic and for me, empowering manner. I’m thoroughly committed to the concept, and wait in anticipation and expectation for what plans that God might have for me in the future. I know where my preferences lay, but being a God of surprises, it might well go in a completely different direction. Only he knows.

What this indicates to me is that there will have to be the development of a CDM like structure for the laity, perhaps in conjunction with ordained Clergy, and perhaps even membership of Clergy Chapters being extended to LLM to allow fraternal fellowship, mutual support and encouragement across all forms of ministry? This type of development will necessarily blur the edges between Clergy and Laity, particularly as in our diocese there is already a Reader licensed as an Incumbent in an urban parish.

Obviously, the difference will be the Sacraments & Blessings, but the reality for most people outside the church will be that they will see little difference between those they see robed in Church or working in mission and ministry roles outside the church.

The church is changing and in my view for the good. If one bishop has the insight and drive to move forward at a faster pace, than others need to smell the coffee and catch on as they say.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thanks for this, Ernie. I delayed replying until I had tapped into my own grapevine, such as it is, which indeed confirrms what you have heard that the emphasis, at least to begin with, will be on existing forms of recognised lay ministry, chief of which of course is the LLM.

09 February 2015 20:37
09 February 2015 06:57
Martin Sewell said...

It used to take 2 years to train Lay Ministers: it now takes 3. I think this unhelpful. If we over professionalise, we lose the merits of lay involvement.

Many thinking of greater involvement will look at the challenge and decide it is not for them or that is can be postponed until family/ work commitments lighten.

Even if you make the case for fully trained lay leadership, we are seeing
“the best” demonstrated as the enemy of the “good”. Lay Ministry has so much to offer through what those people already know: often it is their life/faith experience which qualifies and presents them as leaders, this is a character quality, not an academic achievement.

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, yes and yes again! Thank-you for commenting, Martin – this is exactly my point. The Church is so brilliant at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, isn’t it – if they would only recruit large numbers of pew-sitters to take services of the word, and hence as large a proportion as possible of the Body of Christ in ministry, some much needed oxygen might reach the part that the House of Bishops and even the House of Clergy simply cannot reach…

09 February 2015 08:57
09 February 2015 07:22
Roger Verrall said...

In our deanery ( North Oxon) all LLMs may attend Clergy Chapter. It appears that this is not the case across the C of E – just another instance of inconsistency. Why can’t someone simply review what is happening across the church and move everyone to the highest level of engagement?

Lay Anglicana said...

That would be a start, certainly!

09 February 2015 08:54
09 February 2015 08:16

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