Can the C of E plant new churches and retain the parish system?


There has been a rather heated debate in the last few weeks about new church-planting initiatives in the Church of England, particularly with recent reporting of an initiative called Myriad, and its partnership with the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication. The Gregory Centre describes itself in these terms:

The Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication supports leaders, church teams and diocese across London, England and beyond as they multiply disciples, churches and networks.

CCX is led by the Bishop of Islington, the Rt Revd Ric Thorpe. In 2015, Bishop Ric was consecrated as the Bishop of Islington in order to support the Diocese of London’s goal of creating new worshipping communities across the capital.

We’re part of the Church of England but work with many denominations and networks.

The heated debate centred around some comments about church planting made by John McGinley, whom I know through New Wine and his leadership of Holy Trinity, Leicester. I had a chance to talk to John about his own faith, church planting, and the Church of England.

IP: How did you come to faith yourself, and how did you end up being ordained in the Church of England?

JMcG: The Church of England is in my blood!  I’m the son of a vicar, and there hasn’t been a single day of my 52 years on which I haven’t belonged to a Church of England church. When I married Bridget, my mother-in-law was a priest and father-in-law a Church Commissioner—I’ve got the full set!  Between the ages of 11 and 14 I rebelled quite strongly against my Christian upbringing; there was no-one my age in the church we belonged to and I found it hard to connect with God and my faith. 

But I wasn’t happy, and I saw something good in the lives of my parents and people at church. So like the prodigal son in the pig-sty I came to my senses.  I decided to attend confirmation classes, and I came face to face again with the wonderful truth of God’s love for me in Jesus and was amazed that the God who created everything would come and give his life for me so that I could be saved from sin and death. At the confirmation service I declared my faith in reaffirming my baptism; as Bishop Timothy Dudley Smith laid his hands upon me, the Spirit flowed within me, cleansing me and renewing me and I wept and I knew God had forgiven me and brought me back to himself.

IP: You have spent quite some time in ‘regular’ parish ministry. How did you become interested in the whole issue of church planting?

JMcG: I have been ordained for 26 years and throughout my ministry, in three different parishes, I have served with a conviction that the church of Jesus Christ is called to proclaim the gospel, make disciples and grow. In my curacy I had the privilege of leading a team of people to plant into a redundant church building within our parish which we had redeveloped. It was in a very multi-cultural community, and by God’s grace that church community grew, and we saw people converted and baptised from every different world faith background; when I left we were a church with people from 35 different nationalities.

What I learned from that experience is that we reached people who would never have come into the orbit of our parish church. And so I came to the conviction that churches needed to be planted in proximity to where people lived and the places where they formed community. Jesus called us to go and make disciples and so at times that means we need to move and plant churches to reach new people.

IP: Where do you see the foundations of church planting in scripture and theology? How does it relate to the gospel?

JMcG: In Scripture I don’t think we are taught to plant churches; instead we are called to plant the gospel. But the consequence of God using us to plant the seed of the gospel in people’s lives and make new disciples is church. ‘Church’ is, if you like, the plural of ‘disciple’; it is the ekklesia, the gathering of God’s people with Jesus at the centre of that community. This is what we see in the book of Acts: here, as Paul and other apostles proclaimed the gospel, new churches formed.

It has been said that a churchless mission is as offensive as a missionless church. Mission is never an individualistic calling; we are always called together and so we plant churches as a means of sustaining people in mission and as a consequence of mission as new people become disciples of Jesus Christ. I love the snapshot of this in the Letter to Titus. Paul and Titus had been involved in evangelism and strengthening the church on the island of Crete. Small church communities have formed in different parts of the island, and as Paul has left Titus to oversee the church there, he now writes to him instructing him to appoint elders for each church community in each town (Titus 1:5).

Here we see how the church can plant new churches that are part of and accountable to the wider church. Paul is acting in the way a bishop oversees churches and ministers and he then appoints Titus as his local pastor and he commissions him to appoint local members of these communities as elders—they are untrained but are tested to be of sound faith and good character and Titus is to support them. It sounds a little bit like lay-led church planters being supported by priests and bishops!

IP: Some people have suggested that church planting is not very Anglican. Where do you see the importance of church planting in the history of the church, and the history of the Church of England in particular? Are there precedents for us to follow?

JMcG: We are all worshipping in an Anglican church plant! And there is a story behind why each church was planted—parish churches, daughter churches, tin tabernacles, and so on, were all established to meet a need and quite often this was due to population expansion. The vision was to enable everyone to have the opportunity to come to faith in Christ and worship him.

Our Anglican identity has been established on the vision of the parish system with a church for every community in which the priest takes spiritual responsibility for the cure of souls of people in that parish. I believe church planting is the fulfilment of that Anglican vision and identity, not a threat to it. Now that very few of those ‘souls’ will come to us at any point in their lives we need to go to them with church communities close to where they live or connected into the places where they are forming community. We are no longer in a Christendom pastoral situation and so our tradition now calls for us to move and change in order to care for the spiritual state of people in our parishes who are living with no knowledge of the good news of Jesus Christ.

The question about whether this is Anglican has already been answered. In the 1994 Breaking New Ground report on church planting, Bishop Patrick Harris wrote:

The structures and Canons of the Church of England are flexible enough to allow bishops to encourage and to enable Church Planting to take place in their dioceses.

In the history of the Church of England and in the Anglican communion, lay people have planted churches when there has been a need. And the missionary need has never been greater in England than it is today.

IP: How did the Myriad project come about? Is it a Church of England enterprise?

JMcG: The vision for Myriad came about from the Gregory Centre for Church Multiplication which is overseen by The Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe. Ric was appointed by the Bishop of London to support the planting of new churches in London, and his role has expanded to offering support to bishops and dioceses across England wanting to encourage church planting and establish resourcing churches.

A couple of years ago he formed a group to consider what it would take to see an acceleration of church planting and mission in the Church of England. This group included a number of bishops, members of national Church of England departments, a breadth of tradition, age, gender and ethnicity. And as we prayed and discussed this question the vision for Myriad developed. We were inspired by the work of Pioneers and Fresh Expressions and we wanted to contribute our experience of church planting to the variety of ways that God is renewing his church.

We dared to ask the question about what it would mean for the church if God were to reach 1 million new disciples and see 10,000 churches planted. We realised that it would need every form of church—revitalised parish churches, and ‘resourcing; churches, but also thousands of lay-led congregations. We wrestled with the implications of this for our Anglican identity, the centrality of the sacraments, the nature of ordination, safeguarding and governance. And because of the complexity of all these issues we believed that God was calling us to give time to develop resources and understanding that would serve the church and allow churches to be planted in good and safe ways.

So Myriad comes out of the Church of England and all of the Myriad team are ordained or lay members of the Church of England. But it is not a national church initiative and we receive no national church or diocesan funding. We want to serve the national mixed ecology vision and offer our experience of church planting to help establish the 10,000 new Christian communities that has been set as part of this vision.

IP: There has been some reaction to the phrase you used, referring to buildings and paid and trained leadership as ‘limiting factors’. What did you mean by that in the context of this church planting initiative?

JMcG: I’m grateful for the opportunity to answer this question Ian. I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. And I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding. I also understand the sense of exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed by all we have experienced and all that we are facing. But I am convinced by the need of people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. 

The proposal that lay people can be supported in leading new worshipping communities relies on ordained leaders with theological and pastoral understanding. The Reformed Catholic tradition of the Church of England has a clear understanding of the role of ordained clergy in faithfully proclaiming the gospel, teaching the apostolic faith and administering the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism. Myriad affirms this tradition and nothing in our proposal undermines these core understandings of Anglican ecclesiology. We have a ‘both-and’ vision which wants to develop the partnership between parish churches and church planting. It is a vision that involves building upon what God has already begun to do.

The increase in church planting and the variety of new churches that we have seen in the last two decades since the Mission Shaped Church report means that across the Church of England lay people are already planting and leading churches and God is using them to reach new and younger people. Bringing this alongside the challenging missionary situation where 93% of people in England are not members of any church, we believe that the Spirit is showing us new ways that he wants to work in and through us. Myriad is offering a team and resources to be a catalyst, offer support and contribute to working out what this might look like in ways that honour the Anglican tradition and develops new patterns of ministry for our ever-changing context.

We don’t come with all the answers but we believe God is inviting us to discover them together. And to do this we believe that we will need to change the way we think and remove some of the restrictions that we have established in order to release what the Spirit is birthing.

IP: What do you see as the longer term future of small new church plants in terms of their leadership and provision? How will they relate to existing structures and parishes?

The only basis on which any Anglican church congregation can be led by a lay person is with authorisation from the bishop and with oversight by trained clergy. This is vital in order to ensure theological orthodoxy, have pastoral experience available and to meet the standards of safeguarding and governance that keep people safe. Therefore, this means that priests will be overseeing lay people who are planting new congregations, mentoring and guiding them and providing sacramental ministry. This relationship of empowering lay people in this way is life giving for the priest and lay person.

I was recently speaking to two of the lay people who have overseen church plants and whom I have overseen. We were reflecting how together we have seen God do so much through these churches and how life giving our relationship has been. Since announcing the Myriad vision a young woman living on an estate where many are suffering deprivation came to me and said ‘Do you think I could plant a church for my community?’ She has been prayer-walking the area and connecting with the people on the estate. She recognises none of them will easily connect with the parish church which is a mile away. And so she longs for a church to form so that the people she is witnessing to can begin to follow Jesus.

So the question is can she plant an Anglican church as a lay person? There is currently no established pattern for such ministry, little training and we only just beginning to work out how these churches are recognised within the structures of the Church of England. It is this vital work that Myriad will be investing in. In the Autumn we will be offering a new resource to help people explore the theology and practice of church planting, and also some training to support parish priests who are going to or want to oversee lay people as they go out in mission and lead new worshipping communities.

IP: What can we pray for, for you and for Myriad?

IP: Thank you, John, for your time—and for your commitment to this exciting vision. We pray God will bless, equip and lead you in this new stage of your own ministry.


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114 thoughts on “Can the C of E plant new churches and retain the parish system?”

  1. Will these lay-led churches hold Communion without an ordained person present? Are they expected to pay something for the upkeep of the local bishop? If so, are they supposed to obey him; if not, are they free to ignore him? I am delighted to see the gospel spread, but the relation of such congregations to the Church of England needs clarifying.

    Reply
    • I think John’s comments above clarify the relation with the Church of England at several places…

      ‘Will these lay-led churches hold Communion without an ordained person present?’ That cannot happen in a C of E congregation.

      Bishops’ costs are paid for by the Church Commissioners.

      I wonder how many lay people think in terms of ‘obeying’ their bishop…?

      Reply
      • Readers/LLMs have to undertake to obey their bishop. Fortunately, it is in “all things lawful and honest,” which does give a get-out clause…

        Reply
    • ‘Will these lay-led churches hold Communion without an ordained person present?’
      There’s no scriptural basis for this requirement. Just one of many examples how the priestly hierarchical spirit of (Roman Catholic) tradition makes void the simple word of God and shackles his Spirit.

      Reply
      • I agree – I quit the CoE for a free congregation because both the parish church I was in and the hierarchy were spiritually moribund (I could have stood one or the other) and my attempt to inject some life into the former during an interregnum, while I was on the PCC, was torpedoed by liberals. The move would have been less painful had I understood better at the time what the New Testament said about church polity. But I gladly acknowledge the many genuine believers in the Church of England, and I do not holler “Come of her/Separate yourselves from them”, as some nonconformists are prone to say to Anglicans. I seek clarification about the relation between this “initiative of 10,000” and the Church of England embodied in the parishes, in both the short term and the longer term. I think this relation and its consequences have not been thought through fully.

        Reply
  2. I love the gospel heart and vision John McGinley shares. But I’m not sure he shows his vision is compatible with the parish system. He shows how lay led church plants could be compatible with the ordained oversight the CofE requires. He shows a need and potential coexistence of the parish church with new plants if diverse people are to be reached. But isn’t the parish system the idea that everyone in a community (the parish) worships in the same local church together as one church community. If there are 3 or 4 different Anglican “churches” with different styles reaching different communities within the parish, in what sense is the parish system maintained?

    Reply
    • That diversity is already present in many parishes – for example some daughter churches have a different style/tradition to the main parish church, or different village churches within a united benefice in a rural setting may differ significantly.

      Reply
      • I was going to make the same point and add that within a single group, significant differences in style/tradition/theology can lead to difficulties. Having distinct congregations with their own trustees could well help this.

        I would also add that in urban areas in particular, people do tend to travel to church rather than attend their local parish.

        Reply
    • Apologies for being slow to reply on this. For me the vision of the parish system is to take responsibility for the ‘cure of souls’ (the spiritual condition) of everyone in that community. In the past in a Christendom situation the priest did this through the interaction of occasional offices and parish visiting from a single parish church. This is no longer possible and so if we are to take seriously our commission to make the good news of Jesus available to everyone we will have to do this in new ways and multiple congregations in a single parish which connect with different people is one way to do this. So this fulfils the vision of the parish system- how this relates to the parish church and the parish priest is what we will need to work out.

      Reply
  3. Hi Josh….

    “But isn’t the parish system the idea that everyone in a community (the parish) worships in the same local church together as one church community.”

    That’s often an unacknowledged assumption but is it right? My own assumption is that the parish system gives the” church” the responsibility of reaching out to the parishioners within that boundary. Putting a single building as the focus can be unhelpful, even back to front.

    Of course in times more ancient (and rural) people probably only looked to and met in the only and obvious church building. In urban situations churches were built reflecting the growth in housing areas/estates. These often had different theological/ecclesiastical emphasises… sometimes quite deliberately… even in plain rebellion to “next door”. Planting churches /Chapel of Ease/ Daughter Churches has been prolific and foundational. (The criticism that the CofE does not church plant is ludicrous). The parish system in terms of buildings and boundaries looks fixed but isn’t really and the CofE has made all kinds of variations possible in recent decades. Parish boundaries have meant less than nothing for many years. I doubt that even most of any congregation knows where they are.

    Even multiple congregations in one building does not mean that they are, in practical reality, one church. Services can be quite different in style and separate in personal relationship terms for most people…. essentially separate churches in one building. “If” they are functioning well in kingdom terms maybe they don’t need integration and more than any other groups of churches? What would be the difference if they all met in separate buildings? Some research has shown that groups of parishes can work better than putting them into teams.

    Seeking “Parish oneness” in where Christians meet or “We’re one parish” (which you may not be saying) *may* create a bigger vibe in one place but at the expense of penetration of the wider area.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ian (and Mike and David). It’s good to hear that there is this diversity and active outreach. I’m a baptist, so a variety of gathered congregations each with shared convictions is a model I’m personally happy with. If this is the current reality of the parish system, I think that has 2 implications:
      1) Crossing parish boundaries for church planting ought to become easier. Obviously it makes sense to ensure activities within the CofE are coordinated, but where a church from one tradition wants to plant in a parish with a different tradition, that should be made easier. And as an aside, Anglican churches that are now functionally gathered churches should stop playing the “already covered by a parish church” card when a free church plants into the parish.
      2) If unity among Anglicans is not now expressed in every Anglican in the parish worshipping in the same parish church service, where is it expressed? Has unity become primarily a legal/ administrative thing? Is it shared liturgy? Or is it focused on synod or bishops?

      Reply
      • 1. I’ve no problem with other denominations in the parish. What can be a difficulty us planting without even talking to any existing fellowships (CofE or others). I’m retired but did encourage shared working with whoever in the parish. Experience tells me that Dioceses don’t always get this as well as they might…

        2. Unity… There’s a 21st C can of worms….

        Historically it’s been doctrinal and assent to this given by every ordained minister (but not by the laity whatever office they hold or not.)

        “The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.” (Canon C15)

        Reply
        • Hi Ian, there is one lay office which does assent to the canonical formula you quote. That is the office of Reader/Licensed Lay Minister. For my part, I would hope that any lay role that is authorized beyond a single congregation would do so. I cannot recall if the Commissioned Ministers which we have in this diocese do so.

          Reply
        • Historically it’s been doctrinal and assent to this given by every ordained minister (but not by the laity whatever office they hold or not.)

          But we’ve worked out, haven’t we, that assent to that can (in the minds of those who do publicly assent to it) mean practically anything.

          In practice, might there in fact be greater unity of doctrine among the laity than among the clergy, even if they don’t have to make sure a statement?

          Reply
  4. “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. And I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.”

    And +Ric said it had been misreported, out of context etc.

    So did John say that clergy are limiting factors or not? He says not. But the trouble is the conversation where it is alleged he did is, I think, behind a paywall. Can someone please share the full unredacted transcript?

    The closest I can find online is “‘Lay-led churches release the Church from key limiting factors.” And “When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of church . . . then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.”

    But I’d love to see the whole thing. Otherwise I (and others) are commenting on what we think he said or the snippets quoted by the CT and others.

    Reply
    • Oliver – I wonder if +Ric or John said something echoing Bishop David Pytches well known quote from the late 1980’s: “The Parish System is the prophylactic of the Church of England.” Pytches said this in the context of his desire to see church planting take place, cross parish boundaries where clergy given the pastoral responsibility for their parish were not active or effective in mission and evangelism. Perhaps this well known, oft quoted statement/idea of Pytches was in John or +Ric’s mind and behind something they said?

      Reply
    • If John McGinlay did say that the requirements for a paid leader who had been through clergy theological training, and for a church building, were limiting factors on church planting, then he was correct. If you can’t plant a church until the leader has been through a 6-8 year selection and training process, or until you have a consecrated building on your own land, then you won’t plant many.

      There could have been a positive and constructive discussion about church planting and mission. Instead we have a fight. It isn’t very difficult to work out what the contentious phrase was getting at, and to see that it’s correct. I worry that the CofE (like society as as whole) has been infected by the spirit of the Pharisees who followed Jesus round looking to ‘catch him in what he said’. Sadly it seems we’d rather be outraged than understanding.

      Reply
      • David: we already have too many buildings. Why not plant into them, using them?

        As for the “spirit of the Pharisees who followed Jesus round looking to ‘catch him in what he said’” yes, there’s some of that. But then Jesus didn’t deny that he’d said what he had, unlike John McGinley.

        “Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. So when you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church – I’m not saying they’re not important for some – but when we take the limitation for everyone to need that then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.” (14:40)

        “If we’re going to see the tide turn then, as I said, those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means we won’t have enough capacity to do that.” (34:12)

        Now, as you say, that might be true. But how does that square with his denial in the Psephizo interview above?

        Again, John said:

        “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. And I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.”

        But he did say it! Twice! Own it or retract it but to deny it when it’s still available to view online is not only mendacious, it’s stupid.

        Reply
        • But he did say it! Twice! Own it or retract it but to deny it when it’s still available to view online is not only mendacious, it’s stupid.

          Technically, if you read what was actually said, he didn’t say that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. He said that the requirements for every church to have clergy and a parish church are limiting factors. That is, the limiting factors he identified in his initial statement were not the presence of clergy and parish churches, but their absence, or rather, not having enough of them.

          Now that attitude has its own issues, not least for clergy who fear that the ‘we don’t have enough expensive clergy, what’s a cheaper way to make them go farther’ is the start of a slippery slope that ends up with ‘why do we need expensive clergy at all then?’.

          And he could have been better in his clarification.

          But I don’t think the lack of clarity in communication is necessary mendacious.

          we already have too many buildings. Why not plant into them, using them?

          Possibly because they are not suitable, or are in a dilapidated, unusable state? I can quite imagine that if a parish church is particularly old, then the amount required to be spent on maintenance to keep it in a usable condition might well be many many times what would be required to lease a newer building.

          Reply
          • S: “Technically, if you read what was actually said, he didn’t say that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. He said that the requirements for every [sic] church to have clergy and a parish church are limiting factors.”

            Yes, we see that in what JMcG said here:

            “Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. So when you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church – I’m not saying they’re not important for some – but when we take the limitation for everyone to need that then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.” (14:40)”

            S: “That is, the limiting factors he identified in his initial statement were not the presence of clergy and parish churches, but their absence, or rather, not having enough of them.”

            Not convinced by that. Some church want / need / can afford them but the reliance on them as the norm or default is a limiting factor on church planting. Ditch these costly and cumbersome prerequisites and you will free up the church from these factors that limit planting and growth.

            Hence JMcG saying this:

            “If we’re going to see the tide turn then, as I said, those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means we won’t have enough capacity to do that.” (34:12)

            Buildings and stipends are burdens; unshackle us from needing them (or thinking we need then) and we will be freer, more agile, simpler etc.

            I have a lot of sympathy with that. But this: “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors” is simply untrue. EITHER 1.) own it, explain it, expound it, defend it OR 2.) retract it and eat some humble pie. Me? I think if I were him I’d go for the former. Sometimes, though, the latter is the best course of action. What’s NEVER right is denying you ever said — especially it when it’s up on the internet for all to see.

          • But this: “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors” is simply untrue.

            No, I think you’re wrong here. Leaving aside the issue of what he believes, which we can’t pronounce on, he did indeed never say ‘that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors’.

            What he said was that the requirement for every [sic] church to have clergy and a parish church are limiting factors.

            That is not the same thing as saying that clergy or parish churches are, in themselves, limiting factors.

            It’s confusingly close to it, as we have seen. but he is correct to point out that what he has been interpreted as saying is not in fact what he said.

            What he actually said has its own issues. But he is not saying anthing untrue when he points out that he did not say what he has been widely reported as saying.

        • On the buildings question, church buildings like my parish church can be found dotted all over Somerset. In the last year of ‘normal use’ (i.e. open and heated), it cost £10,000 to heat, insure and maintain. And we’re at the cheap end, as a church which holds 120 when full. If I was planting a new church with £10k in my back pocket, excellent coffee and biscuits would be more of a spending priority than cranking an old building into use. And in most places there are hireable community premises which are in much better locations than the church buildings.

          Reply
    • Apologies for being slow to reply to this. I can reassure everyone that I have never personalised the ‘limiting factors’ phrase. It was used very specifically to refer to a system of thought that says the only legitimate form of church is one that requires an ecclesiastical building, with a stipendiary leader who has been trained for at least 2 years at college. Neither was I saying that buildings, stipends and college based training are always limiting factors, indeed sometimes they are essential. The idea that a lay person can lead a church with on the job training and support is something that has been adopted elsewhere very fruitfully within the Anglican Church. But there is strong resistance to exploring how this might contribute to the renewal of the Anglican Church in England and it is this attitude that I do believe is a limiting factor. I am not suggesting this is not complex with many questions to work through and that is all we are seeking to do through Myriad

      Reply
      • Thanks John for this clarification

        Like Oliver, I was initially concerned that we clergy were being blamed for holding back the kingdom. It wouldn’t be wholly misfired, I think we can be a cork in the bottle, but the clergy need to be encouraged, re-vitalised and re-envisioned. Criticism is a poor motivator. We have had a really rough ride trying to lead the church in a pandemic, blindfolded and with one hand tied behind our backs, and many are utterly exhausted.

        It may be my age n stage of life, but I am increasingly understanding my role as priest not to be the locus n focus of teaching, pastoring, evangelising & ministering the sacraments, but more in the Pauline Eph4:12 of “equipping the saints for the work of ministry”. To identify, train & release the church. If the ‘work of ministry’ is kept in the hands of us professional clergy and focussed on ordaining n formal training, leading in the confines of often crumbling rotten ill fit for purpose buildings, we will continue to decline rapidly in the face of aggressive secularism inside and outside the church. Clergy must release non clergy for ministry. A charismatic ecclesiology will recognise that the ordained clergy person ain’t the only ones with gifts of the Spirit to be harnessed and released. A Protestant ecclesiology will promote the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and see them fulfil their vocation. A missional ecclesiology will recognise the fields are ripe to harvest, and we must ask God to send out more labourers into the fields. Sure, there are all sorts of questions relating to authority, sacraments etc but those are not the primary order of the day.

        May God bless you and your team with vision and strategy and wisdom to help get the job done

        Reply
      • What is “the Anglican Church in England” to which you refer? Do you mean the Church of England, or have you just revealed the name of a rival organisation that you and your GAFCON friends might want to set up?

        Reply
  5. The situation is really quite simple. The majority of parish churches are not reaching their populations for reasons which have already been amply investigated, but primarily because they do not seem to be proclaiming the Good News that Jesus has conquered our two great enemies – sin and death. They have been side-tracked into political, economic and sociological by-ways, where many of them are out of their depth anyway.
    Church plants are needed so that this great swathe of unreached people can be engaged and lay people are probably best suited to do this. They can be helped and supervised by their local clergy and bishop, and indeed should be if we are to be genuinely Anglican.

    Reply
    • But any congregations formed in this way that are faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ are in all probability going to be at loggerheads with their bishop over those political, economic and social matters, which most bishops seem to think more important.

      Reply
      • You don’t think that the idea of people who are ‘not properly theologically trained’ terrifies some in the clergy because of the doomsday scenario that you might have people running churches who believed mad, socially unacceptable things like that Jesus performed miracles, which proper theological training (force-feeding Bultmann et al) would have drummed out of them?

        No, of course not. That would be silly.

        Reply
        • Miracles like the Resurrection and Virgin Birth, indeed. And the biblical definition of sin, and the risk of eternal torment for those who died with their sins unforgiven. The Church of England is like a pyramid, but not in the usual sense. The higher you go in it, the less faith there is.

          Reply
    • The problem is many people simply dont recognise sin as sin, and indeed mock those who even use such a word today.

      I also think one has to be careful when claiming Jesus has ‘conquered sin’, when so many Christians, including those in the public eye, sin on a daily basis, and a significant number are claiming no-sin where there is in fact sin!

      Peter

      Reply
  6. ‘The only basis on which any Anglican church congregation can be led by a lay person is with authorisation from the bishop and with oversight by trained clergy. This is vital in order to ensure theological orthodoxy … ‘

    Theological orthodoxy from the Bishop? Unlikely.

    Reply
  7. 1.)
    “Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. So when you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church – I’m not saying they’re not important for some – but when we take the limitation for everyone to need that then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.”

    (John McGinley)

    https://ccx.org.uk/visual/multiplyx2021-the-10000-churches-project/

    14:40

    2.)

    IP: There has been some reaction to the phrase you used, referring to buildings and paid and trained leadership as ‘limiting factors’. What did you mean by that in the context of this church planting initiative?

    JMcG: I’m grateful for the opportunity to answer this question Ian. I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. And I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.

    —-

    Boris himself would be proud of that!

    Reply
        • Not sure about this. One could regard average stipend of local leaders as a limiting factor, while the individuals involved were anything but. So: bring down the average by increasing the unpaid in leadership roles.

          Likewise one could regard parish boundaries and/or red tape as a limiting factor (though I don’t) and parish churches as a positive asset.

          I imagine this is somewhere near to what he means.

          Reply
          • I think so too. And if that’s what he meant then I think he’s largely correct.

            The trouble is that it was said in clumsy way and rightly or wrongly people took offence. Part of that reaction was driven by churchmanship (“Oh no New Wine are going to take over! Lay Presidency and no more parishes” etc) and part of it was the final straw for clergy who have had a horrendous 18 months of panic, overreach and micromanagement from the Purple Powers, combined with a lack of pastoral care, trust and respect. (If I won the lottery today — figuratively speaking — I’d quit tomorrow. I’m exhausted and disillusioned and sad and angry and lonely. I’ve had enough.)

            But Ian even threw John a line to pull himself up on: “What did you mean by that in the context of this church planting initiative?” That was great. John could have clarified and explained. All very eirenic and enlightening. But no, he just flat out denied ever having said it. That’s just nuts. Own it, retract it but don’t say you never said it.

      • Genuinely not backtracking at all. I am
        genuinely sorry for any upset because that was never our intention. What I am wanting to do is raise the questions and invite people to explore the implications of lay-led church planting within the Church of England. In Myriad we are not stepping back from this intent and we are very encouraged by lots of
        positive responses we have had from us offering the opportunity to engage with this.

        Reply
        • John McGinley,
          I am sure that no offence was meant by your comments. I can understand why some like Oliver Harrison may have thought so, as people like him feel so poorly supported by ‘the purple powers’ – and justifiably so.

          I am interested to know if you think the Myriad initiative has been started with the CoE at large, taking a Gamaliel attitude (Acts 5 :38-39 ) to its success or failure. It is a big goal that you aim for.

          Also, may I ask how you see the Myriad initiative taking in non-conformist denominations (I am a Baptist) on a practical level?

          Reply
    • I agree with what you said elsewhere about the simple denial being disappointing and an expounding would have been better.

      However, the first quote does pretty clearly state that the key limiting factor is the ‘need [for] a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church’ which simply doesn’t imply that the current buildings or the current trained leaders are a problem, or limiting factors.

      His denial is in fact true. You just need the text of his speech with you to see that, which makes it a pretty poor answer.

      Reply
  8. Clergy and buildings are undoubtedly limiting factors. I honestly don’t see why this is a controversial thing to have said.

    Recruiting new clergy is a limiting factor.

    Money/Finance is a limiting factor.

    Competent leadership is a limiting factor.

    [insert issue here] is a limiting factor…..

    Many things limit the flexibility and ease with which one can act and react to the changing needs of a society, and John is hardly being a pessimist to point this out. He might as well have said “having a large familiy is a limiting factor when trying to move house”; it’s flipping obvious.

    The real question is if those limiting factors are significant enough to prevent the action McGinley wants to see? I think his answer to that is pretty clear; an emphatic no. If there are to be obstacles getting in the way of the CofE’s ability to plant and grow churches, then (to be cynical) there are much more pressing concerns presenting an existential threat..

    Mat

    Reply
    • Agreed. And these new lay-led churches will not be constrained by having to have stipends or buildings:

      “If we’re going to see the tide turn then, as I said, those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means we won’t have enough capacity to do that.” (34:12)

      This frees them up to be lighter and more agile. But quite how they will be Anglican is another matter. I note that being sacramental is part of the definition of church (see 30:15 on the video) but that is going to be hard to square with an ecclesiology that can’t even countenance individual cups at communion.

      Under the current dispensation lay-led sacramental churches are going to be very hard unless you have priests dropping in for communion once a week / month / year. Yet anyone with a sincere faith and basic literacy could preside at communion; it takes less “skill” (for want of a better word; less preparation and knowledge and so on) than preaching and teaching.

      It seems to me (and I might be wrong) that 20, 10, 5 years ago the tone from the top was “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” and “experiment” and “we trust you to know your context and theology”. So we had LEPs and Fresh Expressions and Messy Church and Patterns for Worship and so on. But the last 18 months have revealed a control freakery I honestly hadn’t suspected existed. From the infamous ad clerum of March 24th (you “must” not even enter your church to pray) onwards it’s been very different. As I said above, parish priests have had 18 months of panic, overreach and micromanagement from the Purple Powers. How they are going to sign off on lay-led sacramental churches is going to be very interesting to watch. I have a big bag of popcorn ready for that one!

      Reply
  9. I wonder how compatible this vision is with a more catholic ecclesiology? I haven’t seen any comment from those within that tradition but it would be helpful to do that. If this is another scheme that only seeks to promote church growth within the evangelical tradition then it is another scheme that will alienate many more traditional church members.

    Reply
    • Well, I find it totally alien. And, as you know, I am a passionate advocate of lay participation and leadership. However, what we need is not less costly theological training for priests, but more costly theological training for laity. Both/and. And no Diocese, so far as I know, has either the vision or the resources to do that. Even where it is being done and done well (h/t Exeter) it’s run on a shoestring and generous voluntary contributions of time and skills. The potential labourers are many, but there are also lots of ‘passengers’: people who are weary, burnt out, busy, hurting, vulnerable, unsure, etc. who simply want to hear God’s word and partake of God’s sacraments.
      I am sure that many people, even from higher traditions, are aware that weekly communion simply isn’t possible in small parish churches. But that is not, necessarily, a reason to abandon the buildings, nor to replace traditional patterns of worship. Fresh Expressions can, indeed be fresh ways of encountering the living God, but we must beware of making idols of them. Lay-led church plants in people’s homes seems to me to be a recipe for abuse of power, spiritual abuse, ignorance, freelance teaching and unaccountability. 10,000 of these is, fortunately, highly unlikely. Where churches do reach into their communities and help transform people’s lives – whether they are of a Catholic or of an evangelical tradition – they may grow. But growth, simply for the sake of growth is not something we should be seeking.

      Reply
      • ‘passengers’: people who are weary, burnt out, busy, hurting, vulnerable, unsure, etc. who simply want to hear God’s word and partake of God’s sacraments.

        Yes. This. Thank-you.

        Reply
    • The issue of sacraments is one of the questions we want to begin to explore. In my conversations with Anglo-Catholic Bishops they offered some positive areas to look at around the development of how Ordination is discerned and used and also how the Reserved Sacrament is administered. So we are clear in Myriad that this is for every tradition and not just one

      Reply
  10. I am in favour of church planting, fresh expressions and lay leadership. But a proposal for 10,000 lay led churches is completely bonkers. Only a handful of churches have the capacity to plant and most of them are already doing so. And this plan seems to be ignoring some very obvious questions, not just about communion as discussed above – but about safeguarding, finances, training, governance etc. This plan needs to be withdrawn immediately.

    Reply
    • It also seems to ignore the plain fact that many ‘lay’ people already have full time jobs. They seem to be expecting a hell of a lot from unpaid volunteers with limited time.

      Reply
        • New Wine churches seem to full of retired Boomers with bags of energy or young self-starters with initiative and enthusiasm.

          The housing estate I’ve just been through has people who can’t mange their own lives never mind run a church.

          Reply
          • Yes. This is one of the many reasons why 10,000 ‘churches’ will never bloom. I think this model is predicated on suburban and urban white middle class areas where there are lots of parents with 2.4 children and transferable skills. It does not take into account – or ignores – urban and rural poverty and deprivation, churches with congregations of six old ladies, churches where much of the community is vulnerable, unskilled, inarticulate.
            My experience is with tiny, fragile rural churches. Some are being ‘run’ by elderly lay people with great skills – both pastoral and administrative now that everything is online. But that is not a given.
            I saw what I believe is a chilling example of this model on Twitter today. An advert for an internship at St Aldates costing £3990 (for the internee). Both immoral and illegal (unless the Church has some exemption).

          • But does New Wine somehow attract really energetic people?

            Or is it more likely that we have a heavenly Father who loves us and gives His children good gifts when we ask, a Holy Spirit that empowers and grants good fruit. All of which is available to everyone through a relationship with the Son who died for us?

            As a working class person looking in, I think the assumption of Middle-Class superiority isn’t right. I think what we are seeing there is that the Working Class lost their faith first. The working class might have more broken homes and such, but do we see that big a difference with the Matt Hancocks of the world.

            God likes using poor vessels for His own glory.

    • Hi Sam thanks for raising all the crucial issues of safeguarding, financial management, governance and I would add leadership accountability. All of these are integral to all that we are working on with Myriad. And these are also why this must happen in partnership with ordained and trained leaders to ensure all of this happens.

      Reply
  11. For the record (and in reply to David Keen, S, & Christopher Shell) and I’m not saying that John claimed ALL stipendiary clergy & buildings are ALWAYS “limiting factors”. I can see how they might well be so in a church planting context. That seems to me to be what he was saying to the conference here:

    “Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. So when you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church – I’m not saying they’re not important for some – but when we take the limitation for everyone to need that then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form.” (14:40)

    And here:

    “If we’re going to see the tide turn then, as I said, those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means we won’t have enough capacity to do that.” (34:12)

    So, not ALL clergy and not ALL buildings. But sometimes, in some contexts. OK. I get that. Fair point. Makes sense, seems like it might well be true.

    But “limiting factors” is his phrase. And he used it, even if only in that limited way. He then denied using it AT ALL in his interview with Ian:

    “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors. And I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.”

    Let me take the liberty of rephrasing that so it reflects what I think John meant:

    “I don’t believe, and have never said, that ALL clergy or ALL parish churches are ALWAYS limiting factors. When it comes to planting new churches they can be, maybe are sometimes.”

    But that is not what he said. He simply said he’d never used the phrase “limiting factors” in relation to buildings and stipends. (“I […] have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors.”) That’s simply not true.

    You might think I’m splitting straws or looking for offence where there was none, or none intended. That’s as may be. But it’s beside the point. He had a chance to clarify what he said, to be eirenic and enlightening. Instead he point blank denied ever using saying something that he did say and that might actually be true if given a little nuance with a few clauses and conditions attached.

    Doubling down has backfired.

    Reply
    • I’m not saying that John claimed ALL stipendiary clergy & buildings are ALWAYS “limiting factors”. I can see how they might well be so in a church planting context. That seems to me to be what he was saying to the conference here:

      Sorry, I still think you’re misreading. In the section you quote:

      ‘So when you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader or church – I’m not saying they’re not important for some – but when we take the limitation for everyone to need that then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form’

      … it seems clear to me that the ‘limitation’ referred to is ‘ for everyone to need that’.

      That is, the ‘limiting factor’ referred to is not some stipendiary clergy & buildings, or any stipendiary clergy & buildings, but the requirement to always have stipendiary clergy and buildings. So this:

      ‘I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors.’

      …is entirely true. He never said that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors.

      What he said was that the requirement for every church to have stipendiary clergy and a parish church building is a limiting factor.

      Totally different but, when phrased carelessly, easily confused.

      He simply said he’d never used the phrase “limiting factors” in relation to buildings and stipends.

      No he didn’t. Because he clearly did use the phrase in relation to buildings and stipends. but he did not use it in the relationship of building and stipends being limiting factors. He used it in the relationship of the requirement for every church to have a stipend and a building as a limiting factor.

      These are very different concepts, even though both use the phrase ‘limiting factors’ in relation to buildings and stipends. He did say one. He did not say the other.

      You might think I’m splitting straws or looking for offence where there was none, or none intended

      Not at all. The initial speech was very unclear and the ‘clarification’ was not itself much clearer. Your confusion is perfectly understandable and reasonable. Nevertheless you are confused.

      Reply
      • Yes, we’re more or less in agreement. He said it’s a limiting factor for every church to always have to have a stipend and a building.

        Did he say these things are limiting factors per se? No. Not always, not everywhere. But sometimes, yes. Particularly in a church planting context.

        But as I said before, he had a chance to clarify his earlier comments, to be eirenic and enlightening. Instead he apologies “for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.”

        In his “personal statement” video +Ric said:

        “The words ‘limiting factors’ were quoted and multiplied across Twitter in a way where its original meaning was lost. This was subsequently picked up in a number of press articles. […] The phrase was correctly quoted in the Church Times but the wider context was not included. First of all I want to say that I am so sad that this has happened. It’s the opposite message to what we were trying to communicate and it didn’t come across as it was intended to. I am deeply sorry for the hurt and frustration that people have experienced.”

        If you know that why not correct it by supplying some context, clauses and conditions when you’re given the chance by a sympathetic interviewer?

        Reply
        • Oh, and one last thing:

          It was me, I, myself who supplied the quotes that give the infamous phrase its context. Not JMcG, not +Ric. Me, trawling though the internet in my own time.

          If I hadn’t, or if someone has not seen the whole of what JMcG said, then they would have taken his statement in the interview with Ian Paul at face value.

          So you’d all be reading this:

          “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors”

          as a flat out denial that the words had ever escaped his lips.

          I’ve actually done JMcG a favour by supply the context which while it proves he DID say “that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors” he actually did so in a conditional and careful way that a lot of people would agree with.

          I think I’m done here.

          :-/

          Reply
  12. 1.We have to remember that all those who lead parish churches were lay people not that long ago! I have seen too many, on fire for the Lord, come back “churchy” and with the spiritual stuffing knocked out of them by going on official courses. So how will these folks be trained.
    2. The culture of the C of E needs transformation. Look at who it honours (too often paper pushers not disciple makers) and the difficulties placed on the path of those who have tried to be adventurous.
    3. Parishioners who have been to Spring Harvest report so many key lay people are absolutely exhausted. So how will these people have the time and energy if they are not exclusively the retired!?
    4. The strength of evangelicals over the years has been prayer. I believe the decline in prayer meetings has been a cause of spiritual decline.

    Reply
  13. The question of whether or not stipendiary clergy or buildings are or are not a limiting factor has become part of the proxy war between evangelicals and other parties within the Church. It has also prompted exhibitions of some of the worst sort of partisanship.

    However, it seems obvious to me that the buildings are a massive and palpable limiting factor. This is especially the case since the Church lost its taxing powers (those taxing powers being predicated in part upon high grain prices), parishes lost their endowments, and became dependent upon their own resources. Compulsory church rate (which funded the buildings, absent the chancels) was abolished in 1868. Tithe in kind (which financed chancels and clergy) was commuted to rentcharge calculated septennially by reference to the prevailing grain price in 1836; it was made a charge to landlords instead of rate-payers in 1891; it was then redeemed at a heavy discount from 1936 to 1977. Parishes lost their glebe (which also supported some clergy) and their endowments from 1976, which was transferred to DBFs. DBFs have also appropriated most fee income (the third element in traditional clergy incomes).

    Like it or not, the Church is both a community (or communities) of Christians *and* an adjunct to the heritage business. The latter function is a drain on the former. The question is how the Church can continue to fulfil its prophetic ministry without the millstone of the buildings.

    The solution, to me, is is very simple:

    1. Transfer the buildings of pre-1829 foundations and a selection of post-1829 foundations to an agency of the state.

    2. Neutralise the cost to the state by transferring about £6 billion from the Commissioners to the state, as a dowry. The £6 billion would represent most of the capital growth between 1998 when their assets were £2.6 billion (when the Commissioners ceased to accrue for clergy pensions and dropped their stipend contributions) and now when they are about >£9.2 billion. Much, if not most, of that capital growth has been funded by the burden of pensions and stipends falling to the parishes via the parish share system. If the state spends the money on the buildings, it will be effectively returning to the parishes the capital that has been drawn from the parishes over the last generation. The Church cannot complain about the appropriation of its property by the state, when that has happened already (1869-71 in Ireland and 1914-21 in Wales) or when it has itself expropriated the property of parishes without compensation under the Endowments and Glebe Measure 1976.

    3. The state would have the economies of scale to procure discounted labour and materials for the upkeep of the buildings which PCCs will never achieve.

    4. In return for transferring title to the buildings to the state, the Church gets a perpetual free right of use to the buildings.

    5. In order to prevent the erosion of the £6 billion dowry, parallel uses for the buildings could be encouraged, where appropriate, and subject to certain safeguards. I have suggested that if a PCC wished to challenge a proposed parallel use advanced by the agency, then there would be an appeal to a judge, with two assessors, one of whom would be a representative of the Church.

    6. All diocesan and remaining parochial assets and endowments would be transferred to the Commissioners to offset the disendowment of the £6 billion.

    7. The Commissioners would assume responsibility for all of the administrative and financial functions of the dioceses. The dioceses would then be abolished save as pastoral agencies. DACs and DBFs are a relic of the medieval concept of the bishop as a baron with a retinue.

    8. The Commissioners would then have the economies of scale to run the Church which 42 dioceses will never achieve.

    9. Clergy and PCCs would therefore be liberated from the burden of maintaining the buildings, and could concentrate on mission and pastoral work. Bishops would be liberated from the burden of administration and finance, and so could concentrate on their pastoral duties. Neither clergy nor bishops presumably took orders or were consecrated to act as adjuncts to the heritage; business.

    10. The buildings would be preserved for public benefit (they have been financed by past taxation – church rate and tithe, as well as by charitable donations), and not privatised. They would remain objects of Christian witness and worship.

    11. Church planting could then be developed at scale without so many concerns about the diversion of funds away from the parishes (i.e., the upkeep of buildings). My chief objection to the McGinley scheme is that it risks creating a parallel flow of funds, resulting in the closure and divestment (i.e., privatisation) of many buildings, and the appropriation of capital that ought properly to remain a public trust. However, there is no solution to the problem of planting without a solution to the problem of the buildings, and one which entails the Church not having its financial cake and eating it. As mentioned, the buildings have been financed by the public, and should remain a public trust.

    12. The only losers from such a scheme would be diocesan officials. A number of them would likely be transferred either to the proposed agency or to the Commissioners. Many of the residue are probably already under threat anyway, as a number of dioceses are now sharing, or are planning to share, their officials.

    Canon McGinley is right to note that there have been church plants in the past: how else did the parish system come into being? The parish system only became ossified from the 1530s because the parish became the key unit of local government with responsibility for the proto-welfare state: clergy were reluctant to part with tithe, glebe and fee income if their parishes were sub-divided, whilst rate-payers would be apprehensive about dividing parishes if that meant that the relative burden to them of poor rate (usually the largest parochial outlay) or rates for the upkeep or roads and other amenities were to increase. Proprietary chapels and chapels of ease developed only in special circumstances, and then only on a large scale from the 1830s, though I except most of Cheshire, Lancashire and part of the West Riding where, owing to the poverty of the country, the township rather than the parish remained the key unit even in the early modern period.

    The McGinley scheme therefore has merit, but it should only be advanced in parallel with a comprehensive national solution for the buildings, since the buildings are arguably a national asset of great intrinsic worth.

    Reply
    • I always enjoy Froghole’s posts, both here and elsewhere, and if I knew who he or she was in real life I would buy him or her a drink.

      Reply
      • That is most kind. I have attended services in many of the churches in your area of Staffordshire, and would be keen to return there before too long. Actually, I work in IT, and recently in the maritime sector, and am not employed by the Church in any capacity. I also live in east Kent (for the time being).

        Reply
    • I should add that the McGinley scheme *may* have merit. I am not qualified enough to know whether it will or it won’t: cogent arguments have been advanced either way. I have considerable sympathy for those clergy who have felt threatened by the proposals; again, I think that this has much to do with anxieties about the funds being diverted away from parishes.

      In lieu of glebe, tithe and fees, stipendiary clergy are now supported by the parish share system. To create parallel flows of funds risks compromising clerical incomes. In order to be credible the McGinley scheme must demonstrate that it has modelled the impact on the flows of funds, and what effect that might have upon the material circumstances of existing stipendiaries. This is especially the case if the number of new stipendiaries is to increase in order to offset the current bulge in retirements.

      As I see it, there should be fewer stipendiaries (the numbers being diminished by attrition), and many more SSMs or readers. If they ‘leaders’ to whom Canon McGinley alludes are from the latter, then so much the better with respect to the aggregate effect on the finances of the Church. I would see stipendiaries becoming more and more a corps d’elite, possibly as de facto area deans.

      In terms of training, I do think that there should be some national virtual library of theological resources to whom all church leaders (including pastoral assistants, churchwardens, etc.) should have access. I would have thought that some of the major publishers, like Eerdmans, T&T Clark, DLT, etc., or the likes of OUP, CUP, JSTOR, would be able to provide many of their resources online at discounts if the Church can proffer a large user base.

      So I remain opposed to the McGinley scheme whilst it lacks credible solutions to, or remains silent about, the conjoined problems of finance, stipends and buildings.

      Reply
    • Someone (you?) suggested something similar before, and I think I pointed out that the biggest issue I can see comes at this step:

      4. In return for transferring title to the buildings to the state, the Church gets a perpetual free right of use to the buildings.

      There’s no such thing as ‘perpetual’ when it comes to statue, which this would have to be, as no Parliament can bind its successors. As we’ve recently seen with the foreign aid budget, anything that a government legislates, a future government (or even the same government, later) can change.

      So, by signing over its building to the state, the church would be putting its continued use of those buildings at the mercy of the current and any future governments. In the event that the church were to find itself at loggerheads with the government, the government would be able to insist that the church changes its doctrines to fit in with what the government desires or lose access to the buildings.

      Does the church really want to be in that position?

      Reply
      • As mentioned before, there are no such things as immutable property rights. Indeed, there is no such thing as an immutable right of any kind. All laws and property rights are, ultimately, creatures of the state, and what the state gives, the state can take away.

        Again, as mentioned before, the French state is aggressively secularist, and has had no truck with RC dogma: generations of centrist (Radical) and leftist politicians have made a great show of their anti-clericalism, which was arguably the chief unifying force of every French cabinet from 1877 into the 1920s. Even the new atheism in its most aggressive British manifestations has not come close to the hostility of the French centre and left to the RCC during the Third Republic (‘écrasez l’infâme’). This has not led to the French state denying the use of the church buildings it expropriated in 1905 to the RCC, which remain the property of the communes (if parochial) or the ministry of culture (if cathedrals or deemed to be ‘greater churches’).

        To suggest that the British (or English) state would deny use of the buildings to the Church because the attitude of the Church to, say, homosexuality was at variance to the prevailing mores of politicians is, frankly, far-fetched.

        Also, whose doctrines? In 2012 General Synod failed to endorse women bishops. David Cameron condemned the Church in the House of Commons, telling Synod to ‘get with the programme’. Synod, thus cowed, duly obliged. The Church was perfectly happy to disregard the serious misgivings which many Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals alike had about women bishops at the behest of the state. The Church has long proven to be very pliable when confronted with an assertive government, even when faced with existential crises (as in 1869 and 1914) when it effectively capitulated and resigned itself to rescuing the least worst bargain from the wreckage of disestablishment.

        However, since your point is well made, I could include a clause in the bill I have drafted stating that if, for any reason, the Church were denied access to the buildings, then the state would be obliged to return to the Church the £6 billion transferred from the Commissioners, with interest at the statutory rate (8% above base). That would, hopefully, act as a disincentive to the state adopting such an extreme course of action.

        However, I would be grateful for other proposed solutions to the problem of the buildings, which avoid the possibility of the Church trousering the sales proceeds of the buildings which – as I have noted – have been funded by past taxes and donations. For to permit the failure of the parishes and the consequential privatisation of the buildings would be to allow to the ‘appropriation’ (that is the most tactful word that comes to mind) for private purposes of a public trust on a grand scale. Also doing nothing in the context of a continuing collapse in attendance would result in the same outcome.

        Reply
        • As mentioned before, there are no such things as immutable property rights. Indeed, there is no such thing as an immutable right of any kind. All laws and property rights are, ultimately, creatures of the state, and what the state gives, the state can take away.

          Well, no, this is false. the right to free speech, for example, is not a ‘creature of the state’. A state can recognise the right to free speech, or it can fail to recognise the right to free speech; but it cannot take away the right to free speech, it can only throw one in the gulag (or put one up against the wall) for exercising that right.

          To suggest that the British (or English) state would deny use of the buildings to the Church because the attitude of the Church to, say, homosexuality was at variance to the prevailing mores of politicians is, frankly, far-fetched.

          If you think that then you are severely lacking in imagination. All it would take is for, say, a law to prohibit any discrimination in the use of public buildings, and that any group which engages in discrimination should be barred from leasing, using, or occupying publicly-owned buildings — a bill which would certainly pass, likely uncontroversially, under any conceivable future Labour administration (inasmuch as any future Labour administration is currently conceivable).

          As the church buildings would, in your scenario, be publicly-owned, they would fall under this legislation. Then it would just need an activist — and they would be queuing up around the block for the opportunity — to apply to have a same-sex marriage conducted in a congregation that they knew did not support it. They would be refused, they would take the congregation to court, the court would obviously find that discrimination had occurred, and therefore the congregation (a) would have to pay damages and (b) was no longer entitled to use the publicly-owned building (ie, their church) until such time as they agreed to stop their discriminatory practices. That would set a precedent that all congregations which would refuse to conduct same-sex marriages would then be barred from all use of publicly-owned buildings — including all churches that used to belong to the Church of England.

          The previous statute guaranteeing use of building to the Church of England in perpetuity would (entirely legally correctly) be deemed to have been implicitly repealled by the later statute. That’s just a standard constitutional principle: where two statutes conflict, the later one takes precedence and implicitly repeals the earlier.

          Also, whose doctrines? In 2012 General Synod failed to endorse women bishops. David Cameron condemned the Church in the House of Commons, telling Synod to ‘get with the programme’. Synod, thus cowed, duly obliged.

          If your argument here is that the Church of England is so weak it doesn’t deserve to survive and so it doesn’t matter that your proposal would inevitable spell the end of it then, well, I have to concede I have no answer to that.

          However, since your point is well made, I could include a clause in the bill I have drafted stating that if, for any reason, the Church were denied access to the buildings, then the state would be obliged to return to the Church the £6 billion transferred from the Commissioners, with interest at the statutory rate (8% above base). That would, hopefully, act as a disincentive to the state adopting such an extreme course of action.

          But that clause would be just as subject to repeal, implicit or explicit, as the rest of the bill, and therefore would be entirely pointless. As I keep pointing out, no Parliament can bind its successors, and that includes being unable to bind them to pay penalty clauses.

          Reply
          • The state can abolish free speech if it wishes, at law. Whether it can implement the abolition of free speech is another matter.

            The state can ban what it perceives to be discriminatory behaviour in the private as well as the public sphere, if it wishes (indeed, it could be argued that parish churches are already public buildings).

            It is *already* illegal to express racial or religious hatred in a *private* as well as a public space: see Section 29B of the Public Order Act 1986, as amended by the Schedule to the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/1/schedule).

            So, if someone were, for example, to declaim from a pulpit a doctrine perceived by a claimant to be hateful that would be an offence.

            I appreciate that there are sections of the Church who are anxious about developing public attitudes to the conventional Christian doctrine of marriage (and also to the attitudes of many actual or purported Christians to that doctrine), but the Roman Catholic Church in France is as wedded to its traditional doctrine of marriage as ever, and has not been evicted from the churches it occupies, but does not own. I appreciate also that there are many Christians who would wish to express opinions about homosexuality which are at variance with what is now the commonly accepted view of the matter, but they are already at risk of litigation if they do so in a manner which causes a person ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ (as per Section 154 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which also amends the 1986 statute: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/33/section/154); again, the offence may committed in a private as well as a public place. Of course, it would depend upon the manner in which the views were expressed, or the intention of the preacher, but it is possible to envisage a scenario where a person of a particular sexual orientation might feel alarmed or distressed by the vehement opinions of a minister, especially if those opinions received the vocal approbation of the congregation, and for a complaint to be made to the police, under the existing law.

          • The state can abolish free speech if it wishes, at law.

            No, it can’t, any more than it can abolish the crime of murder. It could enact a statute that prescribed punishment for those who speak freely, but that would not make free speech any less a right; just like it could enact a statute abolishing the common law offence of murder and declaring that homicides would no longer be punished, but that would not stop murder from being a crime. It would merely become a crime that the state declined to punish.

            Those imprisoned for speaking freely in the USSR still had the right to free speech, did they not? That they were imprisoned for exercising that right did not make it any less their right.

            The state can ban what it perceives to be discriminatory behaviour in the private as well as the public sphere, if it wishes (indeed, it could be argued that parish churches are already public buildings).

            It can, and indeed in Scotland it has, as I understand. But such legislation would not make it through a proper, rather than a joke, parliament.

            You keep pointing out what the government could in theory do. And you are indeed quite right about what the government could, in theory, do. But in practice public opinion has forced governments to back down on egregious proposals or, where that has failed, has forced subsequent governments to repeal the more egregious aspects; at least when they were obviously egregious. So it is important to avoid getting into a situation where egregious restrictions on what the church can do and believe can be enacted without appearing obviously egregious.

            Your proposal would put the church in such a position, where egregious restrictions could be placed on it that at first appeared perfectly reasonable.

            I appreciate that there are sections of the Church who are anxious about developing public attitudes to the conventional Christian doctrine of marriage (and also to the attitudes of many actual or purported Christians to that doctrine), but the Roman Catholic Church in France is as wedded to its traditional doctrine of marriage as ever, and has not been evicted from the churches it occupies, but does not own.

            FRANCE IS NOT ENGLAND AND THE ROMAN CHURCH IS NOT THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND. The situations and histories are so different that you cannot simply read across form one to the other.

        • Also, I should note A. V. Dicey’s celebrated (though contested) dictum in his ‘Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution’: “The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more or less than this, namely that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever…” (pp. 39-40, 9th edn., 1952). Of course, parliamentary sovereignty has arguably been compromised since Dicey first advanced that doctrine in 1885 by the development of administrative law, and by the UK’s subjection to a supranational international legal order. And yet, in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 parliament struck back by eliminating the application of Section 2 (1) and (2) of the European Communities Act 1972 which had been used as the chief ramp for overriding the sovereignty of parliament (as per the famous Factortame litigation of 1989-2000). Therefore, if parliament wished, for example, to abolish Section 13 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (freedom of religion), which has achieved the status of ’embedded law’ or a species of grundrechte, it could do so (and, indeed, some politicians on the right have argued for the repeal of that statute tout court).

          A more realistic way of expressing Dicey’s rigorist formula is by using the earlier dictum of Erskine May (who in addition to being a great constitutional scholar was also a first rate historian): “The legislative authority of Parliament extends over the United Kingdom…and there are no other limits to its powers for making law over the whole empire than those which are incident to all sovereign authority – the willingness of the people to obey or their power to resist.” (‘A Practical Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament’ (1851) at p. 36, 2nd edn.).

          So there are currently no fetters on the ability of the state to do what it wills with the Church and its property or doctrine, save only to the extent of the Church’s ability to resist, which rather puts me in mind of Stalin’s sarcastic alleged question in 1935 to Pierre Laval (then prime minister of France and anxious about the USSR’s attitude to Germany): “and how many divisions has the pope?”

          Reply
          • So there are currently no fetters on the ability of the state to do what it wills with the Church and its property or doctrine, save only to the extent of the Church’s ability to resist

            But by that argument there are no fetters on the ability of the state to do what it wills with anyone’s property: that My Corbyn, had he by some tragic stroke come to power, could have, by Act of Parliament, expropriated to the state every private dwelling in the land worth over, say, £250,000, turfed out the occupants, and used them to house the homeless.

            And of course constitutionally this is true. But the point is that this is no reason to make it easier for the state to do such things. As long as the buildings belong to the Church of England, for example, a government wishing to use them as leverage would have to pass legislation explicitly expropriating them, which would be controversial and stir up opposition in Parliament and outside. MPs might even rebel over it.

            Whereas if the buildings were publicly owned then their status could simply be changed implicitly by an innocuous-sounding statute that applied to all publicly-owned buildings, as I outlined above, in a way which would allow the government to exercise leverage over doctrine without having to do anything so bold as to explicitly seize the Church’s property.

          • S – in response to your latest (since there is no reply function), yes, there is no fetter on the state to do what it wills with anyone’s property if it can pass the applicable legislation. A fictional Labour government could have evicted people from their property. However, why bother with a Labour government? In the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 the Major government gave tenants a right to buy from landlords, irrespective of the unwillingness of landlords to sell. The then duke of Westminster argued that this was an unacceptable breach of property rights and resigned from the Conservative party.

            All I am saying that it will be easier for the Church to close its buildings by suppressing the trusts which own them (PCCs and/or incumbents), pocket the proceeds which it may then expend/dissipate as it pleases, thereby preventing those buildings from being used for any Christian purpose, than it would be to vest them in the state with the Church having a perpetual right of use. Indeed, the Church could spend the proceeds of sale on advancing the interests of those parties within the Church that wish to promote ‘equal marriage’ (since that is the example you cite).

            All I want is for the ability to proclaim the Christian faith from the existing stock of buildings to be preserved, and for the buildings to continue to be used for the purpose for which they were built and subsidised at public cost. I believe that the demographic collapse of the Church is so far advanced that the Church cannot be trusted with the stock; therefore, the cause of the Church would be better advanced by putting the stock into a public agency so that its continuing use of the same is assured (pace your reservations). I think that would be the least worst option.

            Of course, I would vastly prefer it if the Church could keep secure title to all of its stock, and that it had ample funds to do so. And that the faith was far stronger in this country than is now the case. Only it isn’t, and my experience of worshipping at >5,000 churches has convinced me that things will get far, far worse, Myriad scheme or no Myriad scheme, before we can trust that they will get better, *if* they get better.

          • Froghole, I agree very much with your proposals for salvaging the CoE which highlights the political, financial and administrative steps that need to be taken to ensure sustainability of the buildings and associated infrastructure.

            Despite its faults, the Cof E is still remains the’ public face’ of Christianity in this country- unlike the nonconformist churches – I am a Baptist BTW (our building looks like an aircraft hanger and you really wouldn’t want to preserve it) – which is one of the CofE’s strongest assets. I think this perception is still very much there in the minds of the British public.

            Yet- what is missing from your very coherent and well thought out analysis is any discussion of the message that the CofE preaches which from numerous threads on this blog and elsewhere, indicate a sharp deeply rooted division as to what the Gospel actually means, what it should contain and how it should be preached. I always thought that one of the main purposes of the CofE was to work for the conversion of England to the Christian faith-or has this now changed?

            I believe it was a Bishop of Rochester who once observed there are two gospels being preached in the CofE using the same words but with different meanings -not a ‘broad’ church but rather a polarised one. If there is no unity or certainty in the message that is preached then no amount of creative accounting and reorganisation will stop the steady decline, although it may preserve the physical buildings and infrastructure and make it more sustainable in the long term. I suspect that this is the question that the Myriad initiative is trying to address.

            What are you thoughts on this?

          • Mr Bishop – in response to your message of 11:47 (for which many thanks), I agree with your analysis. In its desire to be ‘comprehensive’ the Church of England has become incomprehensible to most of the public. It is not only unhealthily absorbed with its own internal problems, but it often fails to have anything to say to the wider public on many key issues, and even when it does, its message is often banal, if not platitudinous.

            However, this is not a problem which is unique to Anglicans. Many other denominations have been failing: if they concede too much to the secular zeitgeist they risk selling out; it they concede to little (and in the eyes of many secularised Britons they can seldom concede enough), they are pilloried as obscurantist and reactionary. Whilst I have seen some flourishing independent churches, I have also seen a number which are at death’s door. The churches with the best demographics that I have seen tend to be those which cater to particular ethnic communities – certain Greek Orthodox, Pentecostalist or Polish Roman Catholic churches – where the affiliation is perhaps so often a function of ethnic ‘integrity’.

            In terms of the Church of England’s message, I think that there are some bread and butter things the Church could do, irrespective of its often asinine internal politics:

            1. It could place a much greater emphasis on teaching the rudiments of the faith. In my experience it is possible to listen to thousands of sermons and still not know the basics, other than through private reading. I have heard sermons where the preacher asks questions – often quite basic questions – of the congregation and hands do not go up in response. Of course, there are some churches which really do teach the faith well, but they are a distinct minority, in my experience.

            2. It could, further to 1, catechise its confirmation candidates, and the young (at least in the few places where the young are to be had). I am at a loss to understand how the catechism fell away after about 1960. It’s a handy way of getting attendees to know the faith in an elementary manner.

            3. It could start to say something useful about society as a whole. Yes, society is grossly unequal, but what does it propose as an alternative and, moreover, why has it become so unequal? Take a topic like usury (viz., Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:26, Deuteronomy 23:19, etc.), where the Church had much to say, especially in the middle ages (think of Anselm of Canterbury, Ivo of Chartres, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Joannes Andreae of Bologna or Conrad Summerhart of Tubingen), and even if the scholastics’ analysis of the problem was repudiated in large part by John Calvin, he still attacked usury as an offence against charity. The UK is about the only OECD country which does not cap interest. The argument advanced by Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham (and later by such ‘liberal Anglican’ political economists as Nassau Senior or Richard Whately) is capping interest could be circumvented easily, and that in capping interest bad credit risks – i.e., the poor – ceased to have access to credit at all. Usury was therefore abolished in 1833 and 1854, but we so often see the baleful consequences of that today. Why doesn’t the Church just come out and state that usury is plain wrong and that interest should be capped at, say, 8% above base (the current statutory rate under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998) as it was under the Usury Act 1660?

            4. Ensure that clergy are hail fellow and well met. Too many clergy are introverts and are not the sort to whom the average person is likely to have recourse in trouble. Some clergy are, frankly, not very pleasant, and tend to adopt a de haut en bas manner.

            5. Hold worship at the right times. The Sunday Trading Act 1994, and the consequent transformation of weekend timetables, was a disaster for the churches. As both partners in a couple usually work to pay inflated mortgages, Saturday has become the de facto day of rest, and Sunday the day for doing things. Sunday mornings are now devoted to shopping, sports, etc., and church has been crowded out. The only time on the weekend when the churches have comparatively little competition is between 4 PM (when the supermarkets close and people are returning from seeing relations or days out) and 6 PM (when families start to get ready for the week ahead). How many churches have genuine all-age services (not messy church or evensongs) in that slot? Vanishingly few. If I have been almost everywhere between Broadstairs and Barnstaple, I counted only Claygate (Surrey), Southwick and Westhampnett (Sussex) and Bathford (Somerset) (I have seen this advertised at Shrewton in Wiltshire, but have not had success in getting to it). If I have been almost everywhere between Barton on Humber and Brighton, I can could only Horncastle (Lincolnshire), Haselbech (Northamptonshire), Stow Bedon and Scole (Norfolk) and Chatteris (Cambridgeshire), plus the three from Surrey and Sussex above. That is a massive, and existential, own goal by the Church. Yet the vast majority of the Church insists on having its main services to fit the habits of those whose weekend timetables became set before, during or in the first couple of decades after 1945.

            There are other things I could mention, but those have come readily to mind. Now as to ‘the conversion of England’ this is potentially problematic, given the massive political investment that successive governments have sunk into promoting a neutral form of pluralism that has no place for faith, but the great failure of the Church (and other churches) over the last few generations has been amongst the ‘core demographic’, and there is much to do there.

            Many thanks again!

  14. Is Froghole in the running for the next ABC? If not – why not?

    He puts forward the most imaginative, sensible and pragmatic proposals to bring the Cof E forward that I have read to date, IMHO.

    Reply
    • “Is Froghole in the running for the next ABC? If not – why not?

      He puts forward the most imaginative, sensible and pragmatic proposals to bring the Cof E forward that I have read to date, IMHO.”

      Yeah, *that’s* why not.

      Reply
  15. My friend, John McGinley is being a little disingenuous when he suggests that he planted a church in a redundant church building whilst a curate at Holy Trinity, Hinckley. I was Rector of an adjacent parish and St John’s, Hinckley was a daughter church of Holy Trinity with a regular worshipping congregation. John developed it into a thriving community based church but he did not plant a new church. It is hard to come to terms with some of the ideas that now seem to enthuse him and which stands well outside of Anglican ecclesiology and into which he intimates he was so privileged.

    Reply
    • Hi David
      Great to hear from you. Just to correct what you have said about Hinckley. You are right I didn’t plant in Hinckley what I said in my interview with Ian is that I led a church plant in my curacy which was in the London Diocese (I was Team Vicar and then Rector in Hinckley). And in terms of Anglican ecclesiology our tradition has evolved and developed over the centuries and that is what it feels that the Archbishops are discerning at this time. I am praying that what we will do with Myriad will contribute to further fresh expressions of Anglicanism

      Reply
  16. I’m still confused about the relationship between the Gregory Centre and the Church of England. Canon McGinley tells us that the Gregory Centre is overseen by the Bishop of Islington, who “formed a group to consider what it would take to see an acceleration of church planting and mission in the Church of England.” He further tells us that “this group included a number of bishops, members of national Church of England departments…” and that “Myriad comes out of the Church of England and all of the Myriad team are ordained or lay members of the Church of England.” Yet, somehow, he can also claim that “it is not a national church initiative”.
    I may be cynical, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a national C of E initiative, being run at arms-length so as to avoid the inconvenience of synodical scrutiny: after all, accountability must be a limiting factor to ambitious plans.

    Reply
    • I may be cynical, but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a national C of E initiative, being run at arms-length so as to avoid the inconvenience of synodical scrutiny

      Or exactly the reverse: it’s a skunkworks project done by a bunch of like-minded people within the Church of England freelancing: deliberately avoiding synodical scrutiny because they know they’d never get official buy-in from a hostile heirarchy unless they can present something close to a fait accompli.

      Reply
      • “it’s a skunkworks project”

        I genuinely laughed out loud at that. Not some crappy teenage “lol” emoji but an actual audible chuckle.

        OK, so let’s forget the whole “KLF” thing for a moment (which, hey, he never said anyway, right?) and look at this from two angles: 1.) money and 2.) The Bigger Picture (or, if you prefer the Direction Of Travel)

        1.) Money. Froghole is right. My own parish pays c.40k in “share” but has had glebe and fees sequestrated that must be about £15k pa each. So there’s £30k remitted to the Diocese that never shows up on any statement or balance sheet.

        (The counter argument: but these have been “centralised” and averaged out so that parishes who do a lot of fee-earning work and/or are well-endowed with historic assets subsidise those less fortunate.

        The counter-counter-argument: true, but how come that only applies at parish level and not Diocesan? My parish has glebe that was “nationalised” in the 1970s and forms part of the DBF’s income; why not apply the same medicine or logic to Dioceses themselves? Pool all DBF funds and redistribute them according to need, population etc? The locus of power has shifted from the Parish and Incumbent to the Diocese and the DBF. Why not go the whole hog and have a single common fund for the Church of England?)

        So much for money.

        Now 2.) The Bigger Picture (or, if you prefer the Direction Of Travel)

        LLF is basically a way to bring in SSM. You might be pro- or anti- that but please don’t be so naive as to suggest that anything other than full inclusion all things LBTQ+++ is the final stop on this line (if, indeed, the line has an end: I remember when it was “just” about homosexuals . . . soon you’ll be able to self-identify as a potato or a chaffinch and have the right to marry Zimbabwe or the Milky Way. Or both of them.)

        New Wine is, I think, pretty cool on gender (i.e. it’s egalitarian) and diplomatically quiet (for the most part) on sexuality. But the liberal wing of the church is militant and on the march. And why not? Good for them. The bad old days of “don’t ask, don’t tell” are gone. There were the obvious “friends of Dorothy” whom everyone *knew* were gay but it was never said out loud. Now it is loud. And proud. And on the march. (Literally: Pride Marches.)

        That’s going to force the issue. We have PEVs for churches / PCCs / Clergy who can’t accept women priests / headship. But can we risk or afford *another* schism?

        Myriad could be Methodism Mk 2: a slow, internal split that starts with a “movement” within the c-of-e and ends as a separate denomination.

        Reply
        • That’s going to force the issue. We have PEVs for churches / PCCs / Clergy who can’t accept women priests / headship

          Out of interest, what’s the intended end date of flying bishops? They can’t be intended to go on indefinitely, right? They’re just a stop-gap measure while those who can’t accept female priests or bishops either all die, or become few enough in number that they can be ignored. So is there a timescale for when they will be phased out?

          Reply
          • The fifth of the guiding principles which enabled the settlement that secured the ordination of women bishops states that “Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time…”. Any attempt to set a time limit would be an act of bad faith that would undermine trust in synodical agreements.

          • Any attempt to set a time limit would be an act of bad faith that would undermine trust in synodical agreements.

            Ah, so I assume the intention is that each time one retires the Church of England will see if it can get away with not appointing a successor, until there are none left?

    • Again apologies for my slow reply. All I can say is that the vision expressed in the Myriad programme has been developing over the past 2 years with a completely independent steering group and is independently funded. We are offering a Contribution to the thinking around the mixed ecology vision and strategy but we have not been asked to do this by any NCI or Archbishop. In referencing the Bishops we have been consulting with I was wanting to show our desire to serve the church and be in partnership with Bishops and Diocese.

      Reply
  17. Unfortunately S has correctly identified the
    hole in Froghole’s well constructed lifeboat. It would not launch, float, so large is it.
    A more immediate problem which, in a round-about way highlights S’s point, was argued recently, I think by Robert Peston in the Spectator and that is if our Prime Minister is Roman Catholic, he’d have a say in the appointment of Bishops. And if the PM were a practicing follower of Islam? Or a rigid atheist ?
    Or the second chamber of parliament were abolished or elected?
    As far a heritage of buildings, property is concerned current controversies in Universities and in the National Trust would give substantial pause, insight into a trajectory for a society that fiercy argues over history and heritage in order to debunk and irradicate.

    Reply
    • Many thanks, but I suspect that the lifeboat I have proposed would never leave the slipway. In effect, the scheme I had in mind is a game of musical chairs in which the dioceses would be left standing. Since diocesan bureaucracies, however diminished, amount to a formidable interest within the Church, I strongly suspect that they would seek to scupper the lifeboat, since (to paraphrase Upton Sinclair) their salaries and pensions would depend upon it. Moreover, I think that the Commissioners believe sincerely that the growth of their fund is the consequence of their innate genius as investors, and not a function of their having had a 23 holiday on prospective pension accruals and stipends (formerly their chief overheads) – a holiday funded regressively by parish share subventions. As such, I suspect that they would fight tooth and nail to keep everything they have generated since 1998, even if presented with the douceur of diocesan and parochial assets. As Mancur Olson suggested in his 1982 masterpiece, ‘The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation and Social Rigidities’ polities tend to collapse when they are ‘captured’ by rent seeking special interests, whether financiers, trades unions or bureaucrats. So too with the churches.

      As to S’s cogent critique of the scheme, I think it could be resolved by stating that if the state were to deprive the Church of its statutory perpetual free right of use of the buildings, then the state would be obliged to return to the Church (with interest) the £6 billion taken from the Commissioners to fund the agency. After all, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: the Church will have given the state the money in order in good faith as a quid pro quo for the continuing use of the buildings; if it is deprived of that use, then it is only fair that the state returns the money. If presented with that choice, I suspect that the Treasury would tell the relevant politicians that it would be more politic for the Church to be subjected to rhetorical attacks than to have the state lose the cash. S will presumably respond by noting that the state could keep the cash anyway if it were to legislate on that basis; true, but if the state were sufficiently determined it could ban Christianity altogether and drive the Church underground. The state can always, and everywhere, do anything if it has the votes and the will to do so; however, it seldom has both in suitable sufficiency.

      As to prime ministers, it is worth noting that Grafton was a unitarian (albeit a closet one), Lloyd George was essentially heathen, Chamberlain and Attlee were atheists (Chamberlain was a dogmatic atheist, as was his half-brother), whilst Churchill, Wilson, Callaghan and Major could be described charitably as agnostic. None of this had any effect upon their ability to recommend appointments in the Church to the sovereign. Under the terms of the emancipation statute (the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829) the prime minister can be an atheist or Muslim and still recommend Church appointments to the sovereign, but s/he cannot do so if s/he is Roman Catholic (Section 18). Therefore, it is assumed that if the prime minister is a Roman Catholic, the responsibility for those appointments passes to the archbishop of Canterbury under Section 17 (though some recent commentary has indicated that it would be to the lord chancellor under Section 2 of the Lord Chancellor (Tenure of Office and Discharge of Ecclesiastical Functions Act) 1974, passed at the behest of Lord Hailsham, a devout Anglican, and Lord Gardiner, a tepid Anglican, whilst Lord Elwyn-Jones, a Welsh Tabernacle Congregationalist, was lord chancellor: https://venerablepuzzle.wordpress.com/2021/05/31/boris-johnson-and-section-18-of-the-roman-catholic-relief-act-1829/). It should be noted that some lord chancellors, though purportedly keepers of the sovereign’s conscience, have not been Christian: for example, Viscount Simon (lord chancellor, 1940-45) was a militant atheist.

      Part of the scheme I have proposed involves disestablishment. This is not because I favour it per se, but because it would be useful political cover for the effective transfer of the liability of the buildings to the state. It would help to neutralise opposition to such a scheme from the large body of anti-clerical opinion in parliament and the press. Also, with the Church having the nominal allegiance of about 1% of those aged under 25, establishment is now increasingly hard to justify, and attempts to justify it risk doing harm to the Church. My scheme involves declaring that the Church is disestablished, and that ecclesiastical law will cease to be part of the law of the land, but it would also declare the Church to be a national church exercising a territorial ministry, as per the Church of Scotland Act 1921 (which has led to a long-standing legal ambiguity about whether the Kirk is a state church or not).

      Reply
      • if the state were to deprive the Church of its statutory perpetual free right of use of the buildings, then the state would be obliged to return to the Church (with interest) the £6 billion […] S will presumably respond by noting that the state could keep the cash anyway if it were to legislate on that basis; true, but if the state were sufficiently determined it could ban Christianity altogether and drive the Church underground. The state can always, and everywhere, do anything if it has the votes and the will to do so; however, it seldom has both in suitable sufficiency.

        No; I will respond by saying that the state could keep the cash and still ban the congregations from the buildings by simply passing a law saying that the use of public buildings is, say, on condition of not discriminating on the basis of X, Y and Z. Then if congregations continue to discriminate on that basis they cannot use the buildings, but it is not the government which is depriving the church of the use of the buildings, but the church which is depriving itself of the said use, by refusing to cease its illegal discrimination.

        Thus a government which did not have the votes or the will to explicitly grab for itself the cash while turfing the church out of its buildings, could nevertheless do both with an apparently innocuous piece of legislation that it most certainly would have the votes and the will to pass.

        Your response to any criticism of your plan that it puts the church in a position where the government could apply indirect pressure on it seems to be, ‘well, yes, but if the government had the votes and the will it could apply direct pressure, so what’s the problem?’ Well, the problem is that a government which does not have the votes or the will to apply direct pressure might well still have the votes and the will to apply indirect pressure, so it is still putting the church in a weakened position to arrange things such that indirect pressure, rather than only direct pressure, could be used to sequester its buildings.

        Reply
  18. Froghole’s proposal regarding church buildings has some merit, but there is no prospect of it happening. No government of any political persuasion has any interest in taking on thousands of old buildings at the best of times, let along while dealing with a pandemic.

    His proposal for diocesan offices to be closed and their functions to be transferred to the Commissioners, together with all diocesan assets, is an excellent one. Sadly I think there are too many vested interests in preserving the existing system which will stop anything like this happening.

    Reply
    • I forgot another chief minister who fell away from Christianity, and that was Henry St John (Bolingbroke) who was de facto co-premier to Anne in 1710-14. By the early 1720s, and in exile in France, he became a deist, and had effectively repudiated Christianity (viz. ‘Reflections Concerning Innate Moral Principles’, published posthumously in 1752), which was not far off the scepticism, even atheism, of Hume, Toland, Voltaire, d’Holbach, Diderot, etc. Like Voltaire, however, he was remained convinced of the utility of Christianity as an instrument of social control.

      Reply
    • Many thanks. I agree that there is no prospect of it happening. I had discussions with the Churches Conservation Trust several years ago about it. I had envisaged that they could become a religious buildings agency, since they are already part funded by DDCMS and the Commissioners. At a 2019 ‘debate’ at the V&A the chief executive of the CCT basically said that ‘it will never happen’. This affirmed the stance of the quickly forgotten Taylor Review of 2017 (which was essentially commissioned by the Osborne Treasury to provide cover for reductions in public subventions to parish churches as part of the then-prevailing austerity drive).

      The reason for proposing that the Church provide the £6 billion dowry was to neutralise the impact of the transfer of the stock to the state, both in political and financial terms. The state would also gain an asset (although, it could be argued, a contingent liability). When the pandemic started the probability of state intervention receded still further, but I wonder. Although it remains highly improbable, the state has recently thrown over many of its dogmas, about the state not intervening in the economy (goodness, it even gratuitously nationalised a steel firm in Sheffield only today), so there might still be a very remote chance.

      Also, the main reason why I keep banging the drum about this scheme of mine (thoroughly bored with it as I am) is that I have not been able to think of any other alternative to a mass fire sale and almost complete disintegration, everywhere. I have attended services at a couple of hundred places so far this year and I have seen viable congregations at, what?, two or three of them. I simply don’t believe that most people really comprehend the scale of the collapse. So, I keep advancing this scheme in the hope that it will provoke others to come up with better solutions. However, I have failed, as I have seen absolutely nothing from anyone, as yet. There is either criticism (fair enough) without constructive alternatives, or there is silence. This suggests that the prevailing attitudes are either that of Mr Micawber, or of a stubborn refusal to admit to the palpable reality. Either approach is, frankly, irresponsible, and it affirms my belief that the Church simply cannot be trusted with the posterity that has been (for good or ill) committed to its charge.

      The main problem with the Church, in terms of its organisation, is that for all the attempts to centralise since the last war, it remains merely a collection of mostly tiny (and, therefore, vulnerable) corporations. The inefficiencies associated with that might have been tolerable when there was regular attendance of about 3m a week, but not when it is less than 800,000 a week and falling rapidly. That is why I think that the assets and management need to be consolidated, and the dioceses all-but abolished. It strikes me that the dioceses are now the one tier that the Church needs the least.

      Reply
      • So, I keep advancing this scheme in the hope that it will provoke others to come up with better solutions

        Can I ask — solutions to what? What do you see as the problem? If the Church of England were to undergo ‘a mass fire sale and almost complete disintegration’, why would that be bad?

        Reply
        • I am not sure where you are coming from with that question. I would have thought that the collapse of the Church of England would result in the disappearance of any form of Christian witness and worship from a great many communities (perhaps most). I think that would be a tragedy, not only from the perspective of people not receiving the Good News, but also would entail major cultural and social losses.

          If I were to look at it from a purely utilitarian perspective, I can envisage a time – not far off – when the state may be unwilling or unable to provide an adequate safety net. This might coincide with a generation of defined contribution pensioners (the vast majority of those aged under about 55 outside the public sector) consuming their paltry pension savings within only a few years after retirement. And then what? It would be at precisely that point that the risk pooling associated with churches would become not only desirable but essential for these people. Yet if the churches have vanished, what will be the alternative?

          As I see it, Christianity has not only been a net good for this country in itself, but has also added immeasurably to its landscape and history. Almost all county histories, for example, are organised around the parish. If that were to be lost it would also be tragic, and would make the country considerably less interesting. To throw that away, for whatever reason, strikes me as being a form of barbarism. I admit, however, that a great many people might not share that view.

          Reply
          • I am not sure where you are coming from with that question. I would have thought that the collapse of the Church of England would result in the disappearance of any form of Christian witness and worship from a great many communities (perhaps most).

            How much Christian witness is the Church of England currently providing, really? Any?

            There are churches in England which are providing distinctively Christian witness, but they tend not to be within the Church of England. If the Church of England were to disintegrate, those who really are committed to Jesus Christ would not disappear: they would have to find each other, and might well establish new churches: smaller, but made up only of those who really want to be there, and are willing to sacrifice to do so — the easy option having been taken away. More like the churches in the early days, when joining a Christian community was a conscious choice to reject the prevailing culture and seek out something different, when being a Christian was hard and took effort and commitment, rather than being just a matter of turning up to a church which was just always there for you to drift in and out as you pleased.

            Would that be better than what we have now? It’s hard to see how it could be worse.

            As I see it, Christianity has not only been a net good for this country in itself, but has also added immeasurably to its landscape and history.

            How much would you agree with the idea that being an established church is indeed a net good for the country, but is also on balance bad for the church?

          • S, to respond to your message of 1:44 (and many thanks for that), as I see it the Church of England is still doing a significant amount of good across the country. I have often been impressed by many of the places I have visited, and for the kindness people have shown to me on my travels. I am not certain that many Anglican churches are failing to provide Christian witness, but if a rigorist assessment is to be applied to churches of all types, I suspect that many of them would be failing in one way or another (and I have attended many services at churches of other denominations). Indeed, it seems to me that most churches have been failing most of the time in terms of providing a pristine witness (whatever that is) since at least post-apostolic times. To aspire, and yet to fail, seems to me to be an intrinsic part of the human condition.

            As to establishment, I agree that the cause of the Church of England is perhaps no longer advanced by its established status. The privileges, such as they are, are so moth-eaten and threadbare as to be scarcely privileges at all. The persistence of establishment is almost wholly negative: it is to provide a legal and administrative carapace within which several mutually antagonistic church parties can resolve their differences without resorting to outright schism. Is it a lifeboat, or does it risk becoming a raft of the Medusa, or of the Mignonette?

            Indeed, with the Church attracting scarcely more than a demographic rounding error of the youngest cohorts, the persistence of establishment risks doing harm to the Church. The Church of Sweden saw this in the late 1980s, when affiliation dropped below about 80% of the population: that Church could no longer be seen as one and the same as the Swedish people (whose demographic profile was, in any event, changing rapidly with mass immigration), and so it was disestablished on relatively advantageous terms in 2000 (the announcement having been made about seven years before). I think it is now time for the Church of England to propose its own disestablishment on terms that would be to its advantage, lest time pass and it have disestablishment imposed upon it by a hostile government on less advantageous terms. I have proposed a model for disestablishment. This is something for which the Church should be planning, since the next demise of the crown cannot be that far off, and the accession of a new sovereign will expose the established status of the Church to intense, and unsympathetic, scrutiny.

            So, to answer your question: establishment is probably neither a net good nor a net negative for the country as a whole (which is mostly indifferent), but it is probably a net negative for the Church, save only that it has provided a legal framework which has inhibited schism. However, I suspect that it is not the legal framework which prevents schism as the property rights. If Church finances were consolidated within the Commissioners, church parties might still be wary of going into outright schism if that meant losing access to the financial cream. Ultimately, I imagine that it will be finance rather than law which would dictate the terms and extent of any schism.

            If I recall Thomas Arnold remarked in 1834 that “the Church of England, as it now stands, no human power can save”. Whilst I am very negative about the prospects of the Church, I hope and pray that something can be salvaged for the future, although I admit that if God is indeed working His purpose out as year succeeds to year, he is not doing so, evidently, to the benefit of the Church of England. Many thanks again for challenging me as you have.

          • To aspire, and yet to fail, seems to me to be an intrinsic part of the human condition.

            Good point, well made. I should have asked, how much Christian witness is the Church of England currently aspiring to provide? Or is it rather aspiring to be, say, a progressive civil society organisation leading the campaign against climate change?

            I think it is now time for the Church of England to propose its own disestablishment on terms that would be to its advantage, lest time pass and it have disestablishment imposed upon it by a hostile government on less advantageous terms. I have proposed a model for disestablishment.

            Okay, I think I see what you’re getting at now. My issue is that it seems to me that your model achieves disestablishment on very disadvantageous terms, as it would put the Church of England into a place where it was entirely dependant for the use of its buildings on maintaining the goodwill of the day, even more so than now.

            So it seems to me that if the Church of England is to bite the bullet of disestablishment, it must be prepared to cut the cord completely: to simply walk away from the buildings, take as much liquid resource as it can, and start over, free of any ties to the state. If the state wishes to maintain the buildings for the heritage industry, then let the state take them on. If the state doesn’t want the responsibility, then let them sell the buildings off — perhaps some of them, where the ongoing upkeep costs would not be ruinous, could be bought back by the newly-liberated church.

            But any halfway house proposal, where the Church of England is nominally disestablished but still, say, remains dependant on and therefore in thrall to the secular state as its monopoly landlord, is worse than the current situation. It loses the Church of England the benefits, threadbare as they are, of establishment, without gaining any of the compensatory freedoms of liberation from the state.

            It has to be all, or nothing. The Church of England was born in fudge and fudge has been its besetting sin ever since: more fudge is not the answer. If it is to make the break, let the break be clean.

            This is something for which the Church should be planning, since the next demise of the crown cannot be that far off,

            I hope not, d.v.!

            If Church finances were consolidated within the Commissioners, church parties might still be wary of going into outright schism if that meant losing access to the financial cream. Ultimately, I imagine that it will be finance rather than law which would dictate the terms and extent of any schism.

            Is schism always a bad thing? Or perhaps that might be better framed as: is prioritising the avoidance of schism at all costs a good thing? Might there be circumstances where schism is the lesser evil (and might the Church of England be reaching, or have reached, such a point)?

            Whilst I am very negative about the prospects of the Church, I hope and pray that something can be salvaged for the future, although I admit that if God is indeed working His purpose out as year succeeds to year, he is not doing so, evidently, to the benefit of the Church of England.

            This, I think is my point. It would be a mistake to equate God’s plan and purpose with the success, or even survival, of any particular denomination, such as the Church of England.

          • S, in response to your message of 11:29, I think that your perspectives are perfectly reasonable and rational.

            However, I fear that if the Church does disintegrate, the wider cause of Christianity might not necessarily be helped, since no other denomination has the reach of the Church of England. If that reach is lost, then very large tracts of the country will have no Christian presence, and if the faith survives at all, it will be in the form of a relatively few, if often vibrant, private clubs.

            My scheme is essentially a variant of that applied in France in 1905. Although things looked desperate for the RCC in France at that time, the RCC was able to retain its reach (remember that the state took pretty much everything that the RCC had, and not only the buildings); indeed, within a few years the Ressourcement of Blondel, Teilhard, Chenu, de Lubac, Danielou, etc., was well under way, which greatly fructified western European theology (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/ressourcement-9780199552870?cc=us&lang=en&). I would suggest that the RCC in France, though much diminished, is now in a relatively better state than the Church of England, and it does have a monopoly landlord with which it is often at severe odds.

            What I had in mind with my proposals is, as per Lampedusa’s ‘Leopard’ (1958), that everything change so that things can stay the same (by which I mean that the reach of the Church be preserved). I concede that will not be enough. Yet, if the Church ceases to have the burden of the buildings, and retains access to them, it might – at long last – be able to expend its energies in more productive directions.

            A great experiment is currently being conducted in Scotland (I become presbyterian north of the Tweed). The Church of Scotland was far less well endowed than that of England, so when Heritage Lottery Fund subventions faded after 2017 the Kirk turned to the devolved administration and asked for support. None was forthcoming. This led the General Assembly to pass the Radical Action Plan (2019), which is leading to a massive fire sale of assets, glebe land, manses and many churches, a large portion of which are ancient foundations. The objective is to prune severely to prompt renewed growth, and to liquidate assets to eliminate any existing liabilities and to invest in growth. Thus, for example, Shetland is closing some 20 out of 30 churches, many of which are being sold for a comparative trifle. A county like Berwickshire now have fewer than half of the 33 or so parishes it had a generation ago. We will probably be left with well under half the 942 ancient parishes. If the Plan fails, as seems almost certain with the current trajectory of decline, then not only will the Kirk’s reach have been dissipated, but the country as a whole will have lost much of its posterity.

            My view is that the Church of England does provide much valuable Christian witness, especially at a local level, and I have met so many kind and generous people in the course of travelling from parish to parish. Whether it is the ‘right form’ of Christian witness is not something I feel qualified to judge.

          • However, I fear that if the Church does disintegrate, the wider cause of Christianity might not necessarily be helped, since no other denomination has the reach of the Church of England. If that reach is lost, then very large tracts of the country will have no Christian presence, and if the faith survives at all, it will be in the form of a relatively few, if often vibrant, private clubs.

            Is it really true that in the absence of the Church of England ‘very large tracts of the country will have no Christian presence’? I haven’t been everywhere in England, but almost everywhere I have been, there have been churches of denominations other than the Church of England. More in cities and towns, obviously; it’s possible that in rural villages Christians might find themselves having to travel much farther than they currently do to get to a church. But I find it doubtful that anyone would find themselves without any church within, say, three quarters of an hour’s drive.

            And — and here’s the real point — if they did, there would be nothing stopping the Christians in an area from getting together and forming a church. I’m sure many denominations — including whatever is left of the Church of England — would be glad to help them by providing theological training and oversight. As long as the demand is there, a church can be established.

            What it would mean is that being a Christian would become an active choice. You couldn’t be a ‘passive Christian’, just turning up to the church which is there, whether you support it or not. In order to run the church would at least need a core of people who were prepared to put work into making it function; just like, say, a sports club requires the active participation of at least some of its members.

            But would that be such a bad thing? There wasn’t any such thing as a passive Christian in the first couple of centuries AD either, and that didn’t seem to harm the church’s witness. And if people are prepared to put in the time to run a sports club, but not to run a church, then, well, do they really deserve a church?

            A few years ago a church I was involved with was combined with another, rather more moribund, church in a different area of town. The discussions over what to do with the building dragged on and on, but there were two groups I lost all patience with: firstly the local council, who seems to want the church to keep the building running as a community centre for them; and secondly the local residents of the area, who were massively in favour of the building remaining as a church but who never entered it themselves, nor were they proposing ever to do so. They just wanted someone else to pour resources and effort into the building so that they could walk past it and — I don’t know — get warm fuzzy feelings that there was a building there dedicated to a religion that they didn’t believe in.

            Well, I’m sorry, I have no sympathy whatsoever with that attitude.

            My scheme is essentially a variant of that applied in France in 1905.

            England is not France, though. The state does not work the same way. The church does not work the same way. The Roman church has access to resources, both financial and political, outside the control of the state in a way that the Church of England does not.

            Yet, if the Church ceases to have the burden of the buildings, and retains access to them, it might – at long last – be able to expend its energies in more productive directions.

            Well obviously yes, and if I could eat my cake and have it too then I would be able to satisfy my sweet tooth. But in the real world that ‘best of both worlds’ where the church gets to keep totally unfettered access to the buildings but someone else pays for them just isn’t going to happen. (And we haven’t even discussed how happy, or rather not, the taxpayer will be to have the bill for ongoing maintenance of historical buildings dumped on them). There will always be substantial strings attached.

            The Church of Scotland

            I really wouldn’t look to the Church of Scotland. Last time I was in a Church of Scotland the sermon preached was not just the normal empty platitudes one expected from the Church of England but was actively anti-Christian: the message was that it doesn’t matter whether the resurrection actually happened, and even asking the question of whether it happened or not as to force people into one kind of interpretation of the story, when rather people should be free to relate to it however they want.

            That kind of anti-Christian witness masquerading of Christianity is actively harmful, much worse than a mere lack of Christian witness, and if it’s in any way representative of the denomination then the dissolution of the Church of Scotland can’t come soon enough. And I have no doubt that there are sufficient free churches in Scotland that are actually Christian rather than anti-Christian that it will not be the end of Christianity in Scotland.

  19. Many thanks, Froghole,
    Your contributions reveal great knowledge and understanding. If I may pick up on some points.
    1 the state and Christianity: it is not necessary for the state to ban Christianity, but through neglect and lack of support, even through contrary and opposing moral and pluralistic salami-slicing it encourages an an active and passive withering -wasting -away, within and without the church.
    2. The demographic state, the Monarch in Parliament can not be fettered by previous governments so there is little to no certainty of adherence to promises or existing legislation made from time to time.
    3 I’ d suggest that an idea akin covenants and conditions attached to land, land use and easemeents in respect of land and property may gain more legally enduring traction, than say something like a sale, or gift to the state and lease-back.
    3. You’ve identified a huge obstacle in any change management strategy : vested interest self-regarding/preservation/ interest, serving a purpose of their own. And as it has been astutely said in management circles, culture (of an organisation) eats strategy for breakfast.
    4 Declaration of disestablishment? Is this to be a deliberate obfuscation, slight of hand as it were, to establish ambiguity in perpetuity; a legal fiction? Outcry and kicking the can down the road might snuff that out.
    5. Clearly Myriad has caused significant consternation from those who are against the idea, and from those who are bone weary in the CoE.
    To me, what is encouraging is that someone who is rooted in the CoE has not been gound down by the system, retains a seeming enthusiasm for gospel growth and change and looks or works to put it into effect, eithin the structure.
    While St Paul looked to be all things to all men for the sake of the gospel. The Church demands omnicomptence and expansive spheres of control, as does society. Business start ups are not so demanding but are needful of being alert, and to learn from mistakes. Support from like – minded associations is helful in the voluntary sector. The CoE is akin to a voluminous national voluntary organisation. It may see itself more like the NHS, but that ultimately serves the Government of the day!
    Afterthought: not sure about James Callaghan. Was he a closet Methodist? In any event, he said somewhere that the Labour party owed more to Methodism than communism – through the Tolepuddle Martyrs.

    Reply
    • Many thanks for that, Geoff. I agree with your sentiments. As to Jim Callaghan, I had an extended correspondence with him between 1989 and 1994 (the poor man!). I believe that his family were Baptists, but he had essentially fallen away from active attendance after being demobbed from the Navy. I understand that his wife, Audrey, was of no faith.

      Both of them had their ashes scattered in Queen Square, by Great Ormond Street Hospital (Audrey Callaghan had been a major supporter), and I am not aware that there was any religious ceremony (of course, St George’s Queen Square/Holborn, or the Midtown Church, is a flourishing congregation, though the last time I was there they had moved out of the church building because of structural problems). The Callaghans lived at Upper Clayhill Farm, a dairy farm, on the road between Uckfield and Lewes, above the Ouse, just inside Ringmer parish, but closer to Little Horsted (aka Horsted Parva). This was close to such other Labour politicians as Hartley Shawcross (Jevington), John Wilmot (Selmeston), Denis Healey (Alfriston), etc. I strongly suspect that by the 1970s Callaghan either had no faith at all or was vaguely agnostic.

      This lack of enthusiasm for the Church, as well as the strain of managing a minority government, probably informed his desire to create the Crown Appointments Commission (as it then was) with Donald Coggan and Stuart Blanch. In one of his letters to me, I touched upon the subject of disestablishment, and he reminded me that he had been MP for Cardiff for many years, and that he did not think that disestablishment had done the Church in Wales much harm. Whether he would still hold that view, given the current state of the CinW, is moot.

      Reply
  20. In reply to S:

    “those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means.” (34:12 on the video)

    “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors.” (Interview with Ian Paul)

    Reply
    • “those limiting factors of building and stipend and training means.” (34:12 on the video)

      “I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors.” (Interview with Ian Paul)

      And as I keep pointing out, in context it’s clear (but badly phrased) that the ‘limiting factors’ referred to are not the clergy or the parish churches, but the requirement for every congregation to have a building and a stipend.

      Reply
      • S: that’s not the point. He denied he’d ever said it.

        (And then added:

        “ I am sorry for any upset or frustration that has been caused by this misunderstanding.” Misunderstanding?!)

        If someone had only seen this interview they would come way with the distinct impression that the offending phrase had never escaped his lips and he has been the victim of misreporting.

        As we know, that’s not quite true.

        Reply
        • that’s not the point. He denied he’d ever said it.

          Because he didn’t say it!

          He did not say that ‘clergy or parish churches are limiting factors’.

          He said something similar, but he did not say that.

          Therefore his denial is correct.

          they would come way with the distinct impression that the offending phrase had never escaped his lips and he has been the victim of misreporting.

          That issue is not whether a particular three-word phrase escaped his lips. The issue is whether he was putting forward a particular idea. He was not. Therefore he is correct to deny that he ever put forward that idea.

          Reply
          • He didn’t deny putting forward an idea. He denied using that phrase.

            I think we’ll just have to agree to discuss and leave it now,

            Pax

          • He didn’t deny putting forward an idea. He denied using that phrase.

            There’s no reasonable way to read ‘I don’t believe, and have never said, that clergy or parish churches are limiting factors’ that isn’t referring to the idea rather than the phrase.

            The key there is ‘I don’t believe’. You can’t believe a phrase, you can only believe an idea.

            At this point you’re behaving like someone who hears me say, ‘It would ridiculous to say that black lives don’t matter’; and when I am forced by the outrage mob to say, truthfully, ‘I don’t believe, and have never said, that black lives don’t matter’, keeps banging on ‘You denied saying that black lives don’t matter! But you used the phrase, “black lives don’t matter”!’ So your denial is a lie! You said you didn’t use the phrase and you did!’

        • Oliver I am able to confirm that I have used the phrase ‘limiting factors’. And I would argue that I never denied using that phrase – I have acknowledged it and apologised for the unintended upset it has caused. However what I denied saying is that buildings and stipends and ordination training are in and of themselves limiting factors. It is the single model of church that requires all three of these to be present for an Anglican Church to exist is what I am suggesting is unnecessarily limited. I think having a discussion about the merits of lay church planting and this can or cannot be worked out consistently with Anglican ecclesiology has some merits. But I don’t think trying to prove that I said something that I didn’t and then to prove that I denied saying something that I did say is particularly fruitful. I’m not trying to defend myself against language that was unhelpful and has caused upset- I have acknowledged that. But I am seeking to be clear about what I did or did not say.

          Reply
  21. S: if I said “It would ridiculous to say that black lives don’t matter” or “I do not believe that black lives don’t matter” then, yes, I used the phrase “black lives don’t matter.”

    But did JMcG say “It would ridiculous to say that clergy are a limiting factor” or “I do not believe that clergy are a limiting factor”? No. He said (I think I’m representing him right) that *sometimes* they are. Now that might be true or not or whatever but it’s a very different proposition to the one you put forward. It’s more akin, in your example, to him having said “Sometimes, in some contexts, black lives don’t matter”.

    Again, with suitable qualifications that could be said e.g. “Look at how the media has made little or no fuss over the murder of Christians in Nigeria or the high infant mortality rates in Africa. It’s like sometimes, in some contexts, black lives don’t matter”.

    And Ian graciously gave him the chance to clarify his statement. Instead we got a point blank denial that he’d ever said it.

    Reply
    • But did JMcG say “It would ridiculous to say that clergy are a limiting factor” or “I do not believe that clergy are a limiting factor”? No. He said (I think I’m representing him right) that *sometimes* they are.

      You are not representing him right, is the issue. As has been explained.

      Reply

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