MIXED ecology will be the first strategic priority to be examined by the new General Synod when it receives an update on the Vision and Strategy initiative during the first meeting of the quinquennium, from 16 to 17 November, at Church House, Westminster. It is acknowledged to have had the most discussion and reaction so far.
Its first “bold outcome” is intended, Vision and Strategy Update, published among the Synod papers, says, to be a revitalisation of the parish system, “expressed as the need for a parish system revitalised for mission so there is a pathway for every person into an accessible and contextual expression of Church”.
From this flows the aspiration to create 10,000 new Christian communities across the home, work/education, social, and digital areas (News, 2 July).
It reflects the nature of Jesus’s humanity and mission, the paper says, drawing on Ephesians, and quoting Professor Andrew Walls in describing the communities as “different bricks being used for the construction of a single building”. It builds on the Breaking New Ground report (1994) and Mission-shaped Church (2004).
The plethora of chaplaincies, religious communities, church-plants, Fresh Expressions, resource churches, and online church communities demonstrates that this is not a new concept: that the ecology of the Church “never has been static”.
The challenge is for a mixed ecology to become “the norm”. The paper says that the real meaning of the phrase “mixed ecology” is “not about abandoning or dismantling one way of being the Church in order to develop another. It is about taking hold of the historic vocation of the Church of England to be the Church for everyone, everywhere, paying attention to the different ways and the different places in which people actually live.”
So, a parish might have “a congregation that meets in a church building, an eco-church, an online church community, a praise and worship gathering, a multi-generational church in the school, a contemplative prayer group in a workplace, a gospel choir, sports chaplaincy, etc. (including all denominations)”, all serving each other and their area.
This work all happens under the oversight of bishops and clergy, although many of these new initiatives will be lay-led: clergy and laypeople will work “creatively and collaboratively” together.
It quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words to the General Synod in 2019: “There is no magic answer. There is no single sentence, no single response that will enable the light to shine more brightly and force back these dark clouds. There has to be a portfolio of responses. There has to be the prophetic, but there also has to be the local, the messy, the untidy, the small, the welcoming of those who are natural pioneers, entrepreneurs and inventors, and their blessing” (News, 12 July 2019).
Read more about the General Synod agenda here