On 9th October, Leicester Diocesan Synod voted to move to what they call a ‘Minister communities framework’ for ministry:
The Diocese of Leicester Synod has voted in favour of a Minster Community framework with an amendment that the stipendiary (paid) leadership team of at least four people (including lay and ordained roles) in each of the 20-25 MCs will be led by an Oversight Minister who is ordained.
One of the team will be a Growing Faith focussed minister (lay or ordained) to increase inclusion of children and young people within the ministry of our churches and fresh expressions. As well as the Oversight Minister, the leadership teams will comprise at least (but not limited, to depending on resources) three other stipendiary posts.
A Minster Community will be a “group of parishes” who work together to collaborate in mission without losing their individual identity, and who work alongside their church schools, fresh expressions of Church, chaplaincies etc.
The framework was overwhelmingly supported (72%) by Synod and it is intended it will gradually be brought into place by 2026, depending on discussions between parishes, schools and fresh expressions working together to decide what their local leadership will be.
It cause quite a stir nationally, and for some good reasons. Angela Tilby immediately criticised the move in the Church Times, principally for its confusion between lay and clergy roles:
[T]he Church of England remains the Church of the English people and understands itself as part of the Church Catholic. Adherence to the threefold order of ordained ministry is part of the deal. Historically, lay influence has been led by the Sovereign and expressed through Parliament and the exercise of patronage. In parishes, the churchwardens embody lay governance at local level. The true work of the laity is to witness to Christ in the world: “Let your light so shine before men. . .”
The distinction between ordained and lay is important not only for the catholicity of the Church, but also for the integrity of the laity. Before ordination, I was a Reader for ten years, and I relished the freedom of that ministry, accepting its limitations. I expected priests to be selected and trained to criteria beyond enthusiasm, Bible knowledge, and faith. The Leicester plan reveals either sheer ignorance of C of E polity or an attempt to overthrow it, because “every-member ministry” boils down to congregationalism under episcopal management.