“Its the culture, stupid” opines George Conger — the CoE’s church planting program penalizes success and subsidizes failure
Church planting is one among a variety of ways by which the Church of England seeks to share in the apostolic mission by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The paper gives a set of principles for church planting and also offers practical suggestions and theological grounding for this work.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, said: “A few years ago there was a wonderful series on the radio called ‘Things we forgot to remember.’
“It explored various ideas and movements through human history that simply got forgotten.
“If the church were to construct such a list, then church planting would be near the top. It only feels like something new, because we forgot to remember it. Every church was planted once.
“Every church had a beginning.
“This beginning arose out of a response to God and the desire to reach out to a community of people who did not yet know Christ.
“Forming a new Christian community was the best way to serve these people and share the gospel. In our own day we are beginning to remember how to plant churches. This is a great movement of the Spirit and a huge blessing to the nation we are called to serve.
“This brief report gathers together some insights from our recent experience and offers guidelines for parishes and dioceses encouraging us all to put church planting at the centre of the missionary agenda.”
The Bishop of Islington, the lead bishop for church planting, explained why this paper has been published now.
He said: “In every generation, and with every tradition, the Church of England has planted new churches to reach new people in new places in new ways.
“Most recently, a number of dioceses have now committed to planting over 2,400 churches of all shapes and sizes by 2030. There is a real desire to see this work grow and gather momentum.
“This paper brings together learning from recent experience and the theology of church planting in order to provide guidance for everyone and everywhere in the Church of England.”
The bishops hope that this can also be a helpful tool for dioceses, deaneries and parishes, in thinking about establishing a new church plant or working with others who are in the process of church planting in their area.
The Bishop of Aston, Anne Hollinghurst, said: “This House of Bishops paper is very timely as interest in church planting as an important aspect of mission grows across the Church of England.
“In Birmingham we are conscious of how important a great wave of earlier church planting was in the mission of our diocese.
“In the last century many new Christian communities were established throughout our city and region in response to a rapidly growing, changing urban population and new industrial developments.
“Today dioceses, deaneries and parishes find themselves seeking to respond to many new changes in society and the context in which they are set.
“We hope they will all be encouraged by this short paper which gathers together principles based on good practice which will be invaluable to those considering planting a new church as well as those working with neighbouring church plants.
“We hope these principles will inspire confidence to explore opportunities for establishing new Christian communities in different contexts and across the diverse traditions of the church.”
CHURCH PLANTING AND THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH: A STATEMENT BY THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS
“. Guidance on church planting from the House of Bishops, based on careful reflection on practice and aligned with existing provision for BMOs [Bishop’s Mission Orders], may be summarised in the following ten principles:
i. The Church of England will look for opportunities to contribute to mission and evangelism through encouraging, fostering and supporting new church plants alongside and of equal value to other forms of mission. We will inform and educate local churches about the benefits and lessons of planting, to promote understanding of its place in the overall church ecology.
ii. We expect those responsible for church plants to commit themselves to work to the best of their ability in cooperation with the other churches in the local area, including the church in whose parish the new church plant is located, as an integrated part of deanery and diocesan structures. They should aim to use some of their resources to support the mission of their neighbours and expect to make regular financial contributions to the diocese, as an expression of the mutual responsibilities that are a normal part of church life.
iii. We expect those responsible for churches neighbouring a new church plant, including the church in whose parish the new church plant is located, similarly to commit themselves to work to the best of their ability in cooperation with the new church plant or churches, to welcome them into local structures, and wherever possible to use some of their resources to help support the new church plant.
iv. Church plants should have a clear mission ambition and purpose.
v. Church plants that aspire to be resource churches (church-planting churches supporting a wider area) will have a clear strategy for developing as resource churches for the surrounding area, and/or for further planting into other places. This will be built into the planning and consultation with other neighbouring church communities from the start, with the resourcing (including clergy and lay leaders) planned accordingly. The bishop’s leadership role is key in supporting this planning.
vi. Where church plants are ‘grafted’ into existing church communities, they will be respectful of existing traditions and practices, and seek to value and preserve those as far as possible, consistent with the overall aim of developing alongside them new forms of church which will add materially to the church’s effectiveness in mission.
vii. Proposals for church plants will seek to learn from the experience of church plants in other comparable places, learning lessons from successes and failures.
viii. Churches that are neighbours to church plants within the same parish or deanery will also seek to learn from the gifts and experience of the church plants, as a contribution to reflecting on and re-energising their own mission.
ix. Successful church plants have often operated in networks of similar churches in similar contexts. Future church plants can also benefit from such networks of support. These networks must aim to work across church traditions, to spread the support and learning as widely as possible across the Church.
x. Churches should look for opportunities for creative partnerships for mission, especially between well-resourced churches and poorer parishes to support mission in the latter areas, respecting the contributions and needs of each.”