The House of Bishops has released a new paper on church planting and mission for the Church of England. We have been hugely encouraged reading this report and we've shared some key ideas below.
The House of Bishops’ paper sets out to show that church planting will be welcomed and supported by bishops in the Church of England. It says:
Planting new churches is a long-established and effective means of establishing the presence of a Christian community to witness to the gospel in new places, and of enabling that witness to be shared with more people in all places (paragraph 6).
The report encourages a “new normal”, where both traditional and new forms of ministry can flourish together, and where parish mission and church growth is characterised by “a pattern of diversity.” It encourages us to think about new ways to church plant and reach different groups of people, and gives 10 practical principles for church planting.
Commenting on the paper, the Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe, said:
I’m hugely encouraged by the principles and practical suggestions in the House of Bishops’ new paper on mission and church planting. The call for bishops to create a ‘new normal’ by embracing diversity and adaptability in mission is both exciting and challenging. Church planting has been a long-standing tradition in the Church of England and I look forward to using these principles to help churches of all traditions grow and flourish in mission.
One of the inspiring themes of the paper is that church planting is part of our Anglican heritage. Using examples from history, such as Queen Anne’s 50 New Churches and the interwar years, we see that church planting is not a recent initiative, but one that is embedded in our history. While the strategies to reach new people might change, the heart for mission in the Church of England remains the same. The fact that all churches were once planted is both encouraging and exciting as we think about what God can accomplish through different generations.
The report also encourages all traditions and expressions of the Church to embrace church planting and mission. From traditional forms of ministry such as schools and parish work, to planting fresh expressions of church, the paper encourages a diverse range of outreach. It is exciting to read that “there is a role for both traditional forms and new forms in all our dioceses.”
It also shows that church planting should not be seen as the prerogative of one church tradition but is relevant to all expressions of church. “Planting churches is an activity for all traditions and expressions of the Church of England.” In fact, it is crucial that every tradition of church is engaged with church planting so that we can reflect the diversity at the heart of our culture.
Another key theme in the paper is that church planting needs to be adaptable and evolving. The changes in our culture will affect how we reach our communities with the gospel. Initiatives such as revitalising existing churches, Bishops’ Mission Orders and creating fresh expressions of church are examples of new ways to reach different groups of people.
This paper acknowledges the disruptive nature of church planting as it can challenge old patterns. But it also shows that church planting relies on the support and encouragement of other neighbouring church communities. We are not meant to plant isolated ministries, but ones that work within the existing framework of parishes and that are supported by surrounding churches. Historically, supported church plants have more impact that unsupported ones, so the paper calls for creative partnerships and supportive relationships between new and existing churches.
10 principles for planting churches
The report ends with ten principles for church planting. These guidelines include having a clear mission and vision when planting, learning from the successes and failures of other churches, and respecting existing ministries when planting into a new area. It suggests creating networks of support in all traditions of the Church in order to share learning and encourage planting churches. The report finishes by reflecting that mission is a work of the Spirit, who brings new life and fresh vision. Church planting will continue to evolve and find ways to respond to the creative work of the Spirit; and these principles are likely to develop as we share the gospel in our communities.
To read the House of Bishops’ paper in full, click here.
To read reactions from different bishops on the report, head over to the Church of England website.
Article by Philippa Guy, June 2018