I am writing with a major strategy document which has recently been agreed by Diocesan Synod and which lays out our vision as a Diocese for leadership and deployment. It is a wide-ranging document but I hope one you will find interesting. Its starting point is our shared baptismal vocation and so it emphasises the key role of the laity, but it also deals with vocations to the priesthood and the deployment of clergy.
At its heart is an attack on the 21st century heresy of ‘declinism’ – the casual presumption that we make in so many areas of our common life that the battle for the Christian soul of the nation has been lost and that we should be planning for a smaller church with fewer people and fewer clergy. The strategy therefore aims to maintain clergy numbers at least at their current level and equip local churches for growth.
In this respect it issues a profound challenge to us all in three areas:
- Vocations. Nick McKee, our new Director of Vocations, started work this week and his task is to support us in fostering a culture of vocational discernment in which all are encouraged to offer their gifts more and more generously in Christ’s service. It is from this culture of vocation that new and unexpected lay leaders and priests will emerge.
- Stewardship. The giving in the Diocese in recent years has been heroic, however Synod also noted that parish share receipts are no longer increasing as we hoped. We need to go on teaching about giving if we are to meet the goal of maintaining or increasing stipendiary clergy numbers. We are not a Diocese with historic assets which means that we can only fill as many stipendiary posts as our parishes can afford.
- Mission. There is so much good work going on across our Diocese in so many areas and plenty of churches demonstrating growth. We know that in the dying and rising of Jesus we find the pearl without price, a relationship of perfect love that raises human life to the glory. It is our joy in this truth and the salvation it brings that will make new disciples for him.
I hope you enjoy reading this document and feel excited by the challenges it presents. It will go on the website at some point but we were keen that you should see it in advance.
Bishop of Burnley