The William Temple Foundation, in partnership with Leeds Church Institute, is delighted to launch the latest series in our ground-breaking podcast Staying with the Trouble. The series will run for the next six weeks, starting 7th June, 2022.
Entitled Perspectives on Poverty and Exclusion in Leeds and produced by Rosie Dawson, the series is anchored by Bishop James Jones, Bishop Emeritus of Liverpool. Via six interviews with key actors across the city, Bishop Jones traces the impact of the current cost of living crisis on the lives of ordinary citizens, and the relationships and practices of solidarity, care, compassion and justice that emerge to provide resilience and hope to so many facing hardship and despair.
As Bishop Jones summarises, these relationships and networks reflect ‘an organic regeneration’ that cuts deeply across religious, secular, ideological, cultural and ethnic divides.
Director of Research for the Foundation, Professor Chris Baker reflects, ‘In this Platinum Jubilee Year, with its emphasis on theme of service as exemplified by Queen Elizabeth, this series really resonates as it shows how daily acts of service and sacrificial leadership build resilience and hope across our communities in the darkest of times.’
Dr Helen Reid, Director, Leeds Church Institute says, ‘I commend the podcast series to all who love Leeds and are troubled by inequality here. The podcasts combine personal experience and local perspectives with insight, hope and action for building a fairer city.’
In recent years, victims of church-related abuse have complained bitterly about their treatment by the church. What has gone so badly wrong, and how could the church do better? Falling Among Thieves seeks to outline a theological understanding of church-related abuse, and the church’s role in ‘re-dressing’ the victim—drawing insights from the story of the Good Samaritan. The text is preceded by a Foreword from Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, who both applauds and responds to Graystone’s words.
Andrew Graystone comments:
“I’m haunted by the scores of people I have met whose lives have been wrecked by their encounters with Christian leaders. In almost every case, the way the church has responded has caused as much harm—and often far more—than the original abuse. Over the years that I have been walking this road, the leaders of the contemporary church have failed to deal with this reality.
Abuse happens in every hierarchical institution—but there is no excuse for the church responding to its victims in such damaging and destructive ways. I hope that Falling Among Thieves will go some way to helping the church think deeply about the damage it has done, and how it might begin to respond more appropriately.”
Chris Baker, Director of Research at the Foundation comments:
“The William Temple Foundation is honoured to publish this important piece of theology by Andrew Graystone that is both a call for justice and a call for reconciliation around the topic of church-based abuse. We hope it will make a positive and substantive contribution to this serious issue.”
In this special blog for Eastertide, Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, explains the Church of England’s new vision for the 2020s.
Easter is a time of great hope. It is the season when Christians remember Jesus’ death on the cross, his victory in resurrection, his ascension into heaven and the disciples receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That gift nearly 2000 years ago is the reason why Christianity continues to this day and why Easter is such an important celebration in the Christian calendar.
It is with this same Easter hope, rooted in the good news of Jesus Christ that the Church of England has embarked on its vision for the 2020s. It was William Temple, when appointed Archbishop of York, who wrote to a friend to say, ‘It is a dreadful responsibility, and that is exactly the reason why one should not refuse’ (letter to F. A. Iremonger, August 1928). Shortly before I was appointed to follow in his footsteps, albeit 91 years later, I had been asked to give some thought to what the Church of England’s vision for the 2020s might look like and, if I am honest, similar words to those of Temple went through my mind.
However, as I embarked on this task, I was clear on two things. This should never be about my vision, but about discerning God’s vision for God’s church in God’s world—and therefore I should not attempt to find it on my own. Over the next 9 months, various groups were gathered together, representing a huge, and usually younger, diversity of voices. After much prayer and discernment a vision emerged which we felt was God’s call on us for this time. Consequently, there is now a clear Vision and Strategy that the governing body of the Church of England and the Diocesan Bishops have agreed—and the whole Church is shifting and aligning to this new narrative.
Except, it isn’t that new. The Church of England’s vocation has always been to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ afresh in each generation to and with the people of England. In our vision for the 2020s, we speak about this as being a Christ-centred Church, which is about our spiritual and theological renewal, and then a Jesus-Christ-shaped Church, particularly seeing the five marks of mission as signs and markers of what a Jesus-Christ-shaped life might look like. It is therefore a vision of how we are shaped by Christ in order to bring God’s transformation to the world. Three words in particular have risen to the surface: we are called to be a simpler, humbler, and bolder church.
From this, three priorities have emerged, and parishes and dioceses are invited to examine and develop their existing strategies and processes in the light of these ideas.
To become a church of missionary disciples. In one sense, this is the easiest to understand, re-emphasising that basic call to live out our Christian faith in the whole of life, Sunday to Saturday. Or, as we speak about it in the Church of England, Everyday Faith.
To be a church where mixed ecology is the norm. This has sometimes been a bit misunderstood. Mixed ecology reflects the nature of Jesus’ humanity and mission. It is contextual, ensuring churches, parishes, and dioceses are forming new congregations with and for newer and ever more diverse communities of people. It is about taking care of the whole ecosystem of the Church and not imagining one size can ever fit all. In the early church, in the book of Acts, we see this mission shaped by the new humanity that is revealed in Christ, made available and empowered by the Spirit. Therefore, mixed ecology is not something new—it is actually a rather old, and well-proven concept. After all, every parish church in our land was formed once. So, mixed ecology doesn’t mean abandoning the parish system or dismantling one way of being the Church in favour of another. It is about how the Church of England will fulfil its historic vocation to be the Church for everyone, by encouraging a mixed ecology of Church through a revitalised parish system. We hope that every person in England will find a pathway into Christian community.
To be a church that is younger and more diverse. Professor Andrew Walls writes, ‘The Church must be diverse because humanity is diverse, it must be one because Christ is one […] Christ is human, and open to humanity in all its diversity, the fullness of his humanity takes in all its diverse cultural forms.’ (The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 77) We need to look like the communities we serve in all areas of age and diversity. For the Church of England that means believing in and supporting children and young people in ministry; facing up to our own failings to welcome and include many under-represented groups, particularly people with disabilities and those from a Global Majority Heritage; and committing ourselves to the current Living in Love and Faith process and our already agreed pastoral principles so that LGBTQI+ people are in no doubt that they, along with everyone, are equally welcome in the Church of England. It also means putting renewed resources into our poorest communities.
Whilst some have questioned why we only have three priorities, they are, I believe, vital for the Church of England in the 2020s as we continue to serve Jesus in the power of the Spirit through his Church.
In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes, ‘if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.’ Our desire is to reach everyone with the good news of Christ, and especially those who in the past may have felt excluded. That is why the work with racial justice, a new bias to the poor, and an emphasis on becoming younger are so important.
Ultimately, this vision flows from the joy we find in the risen Christ. It is an Easter message. A message of transformation for the world, as a church that is renewed and re-centred in Christ and shaped by God’s agenda for the world will be good news for that world. It will bring God’s transformation to the hurt, confusion, weariness, and despair we see around us—that Church existing for the benefit of its non-members as Temple so memorably put it.