Behind all this are some bigger questions of strategic thinking. Is the Church of England actually thinking coherently about this challenge, across its different silos of the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners, the House of Bishops, individual dioceses, and those doing research on questions of ministry, mission and growth? If so, how come different dioceses are adopting such profoundly different approaches to the shared challenges that we all face?
For example, it has been clear for some time that reducing stipendiary posts will not lead to growth—yet now we have Chelmsford, Sheffield and Leicester radically cutting stipendiary numbers with Lincoln coming next, whilst others (at the moment Southwell and Nottingham, and St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and possibly others) committing to retain them as part of a strategy for growth—based on the research evidence. On a smaller scale, Bob Jackson’s research demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that vacancies led to a decline in attendance and a loss of income, so that the best way to make the transition was to prepare ahead of time and appointment immediately, ensuring continuity of ministry within the parish. I have yet to come across even one diocese that does this.
I wonder what conversations the House of Bishops has about these things? Is there really no shared approach to these challenges? Is every bishop king or queen in his or her own diocesan castle? Does that make any sense?
And how does it connect to the notion that stipendiary clergy and a national resource, trained in a nationally coordinated way? As Mark Ireland comments again:
We have been praying and working for a 50% increase in vocations. Just when God seems to be answering our prayers and the number of vocations is increasing, we should be prayerfully trusting God to provide the finance to enable us to deploy these priests. What other organisation would go to the trouble and expense of recruiting and training new staff, only to tell them at the end of their trainee post that there was no job for them?
Is cutting down the number of stipendary posts, and reorganising into 'minster communities', the way ahead for the Church of England? Will it lead to renewal and growth?https://t.co/D7HPj1Kam5
— Dr Ian Paul (@Psephizo) October 25, 2021