The Relationship Between the Emerging and the Inherited Church

Now there are some things that you don’t expect to hear from a Cathedral Dean.  Here is the one I heard today:

The church needs to be more flexible. We’ve got too big and stagnant.  The institution is finding it difficult to move.  We need to man the lifeboats.

When ships relied upon sails they could become stranded because of a lack of wind.  When the wind drops you take to the lifeboats and pull the bigger ship along into the future.

Not being an ancient mariner I am unable to confirm the historical accuracy of his words.  However, it is a beautiful illustration for the future of the church.  Truly unexpected coming from one so high within the institution.  Very humbling!


18 Responses

  1. Wow, what an insightful view.

    Does it conflict at all with a previous statement you blogged about, from Graham Cray, about Fresh Expressions having to emanate from the mainstream centre of the church? That seemed possibly to restrict the likelihood /extent of flexibility that could be expected?

  2. Which quote? I’ve slept since then 😀

    I think it is difficult* to just scrap everything and start from scratch. Without continuity there is no sense of accountability and all sorts of strangeness can happen. We only need to look to some of the more outrageous non-conformist movements to see this in action.

    I think we need to build in the flexibility so that it happens.

    *perhaps even dangerous.

  3. You posted a quote maybe a month/6 weeks ago from GC, who’d taken over as the leader of Fresh Expressions, from the Church Times I believe? When I read it, I perceived it to be a narrower interpretation than we’d had before wth Steve Croft and it placed everything new as birthing out of the centre of the mainstream. This is unlikely, I feel personally.

    I don’t advocate scrapping everything – even if I did it isn’t usually possible. We are all products of what has gone before to some degree, even in our DNA it now appears. Its just that freedom to respond, choose and re-interpret is really healthy and necessary. Its no good wanting greater flexibility and range of motion in a huge and unwieldy institution and then tying that down with a huge ballast of traditions and requirement, which will deliver you exactly what you’ve already got.

    The difficulty is how to choose what parts go and what parts stay, and who gets to make those choices. If we want something different / more flexible in some places, its better to see what bubbles up in response to whats happening on the ground, than restrict it to certain parameters or possibilities. The responses will usually contain SOME elements that would be recognisable (ie the sacraments!)

    There are loads of examples of this all over at present -Grace and what they are doing is one model. There are lots of others. I’m sure they all adhere to some basic scriptural principles and tenets and then follow the Spirit beyond that.

  4. I think that from the CofE’s point of view everything is birthing out of the centre as it is what we have got. That doesn’t mean that it is radical, it means that we are using the resources we have. People setting up fresh expressions in the CofE are Anglicans. That is what you would expect isn’t it?

    Strangely, that freedom to respond, choose and re-interpret has been going on for the last two thousand years. We are now looking at how we continue to do that as we move into a new paradigm with a technological revolution happening. What is different is that this time the church is trying to deal with the current paradigm shift rather than responding to the last one centuries later.

    To illustrate, the RC church tried to keep operating as though within a medieval paradigm all the way through the modern era. It ripped the church apart with the reformation. With Vatican II they essentially did what the reformers did only half a millennium later. The RC church has just got to the point where they are able to function as a church within the modern era. Information is free flowing, positions are justified by scholarship and freedom of thought. Not given up, but justified. Two weeks ago the pontiff said he wanted to encourage families to study scripture together in their own homes. I think it was NT Wright who said something like “if they had said that in 1528 there would have been no reformation”.

    What is my point? We are moving into this big wide world and there is a major shift happening. A whole new era is unfolding and the church historically is bad at becoming part of the current era and very good at doing it hundreds of years later.

    The church is doing what it always does but the question is which era are we moving into. Fresh expressions/emergence/whatever we call it are all ways of shifting with the current era…

    One thing people often forget when they look at Grace on the web is that it is a real place with some real people operating under the authority of the Bishop in an Anglican church. That is where the bubbling up in response to the people on the ground is happening 😉

    Sorry it took so long to reply. Life has been mad as a box of frogs!!

  5. ooh, theres a cartoon there! 🙂

  6. Hey – welcome 😉

    I look forward to it 😀

  7. I agree with all but the phrase ‘People setting up fresh expressions in the CofE are Anglicans’.

    I know that this is one of the things that Anglicans and Methodists are working hard on together.

  8. Hi – back from holidays so catching up on all the fascinating posts and chat all over the place. Hope your move went well and you are settling in.

    I think what is difficult for me is that when you say ‘the people who are doing f/e are Anglicans’ you seem to perhaps imply that they are all one same thinking homogenous group?

    Now I haven’t been around for too long in an Anglican church, as you know, but long enough to know that there are maybe only 3 Anglicans who think alike! There are some who worship in the Catholic tradition, some evangelicals, some charismatics, some who don’t believe the crucifixion or resurrection took place as a literal event, some who don’t believe in God at all, and some who are trying to push out as pioneers at the edges. The ‘broad church’ that is Anglicanism has room for all of them.

    But weirdly, despite all this diversity, there is only one way of ‘doing’ f/e!

    I think the reference to Grace is a good point you make, and it can surely only be occuring because the Bishop has a degree of openness to new stuff, and the people at Grace have worked hard to build trust and relationships.

    The church I go to has no collars or robes, no liturgy of any kind, a baptistry as big as a swimming pool, and the vicars all wear jeans. And it is an Anglican church. 😆

  9. Sorry guys – I have no internet for ages yet. I have found a computer I can use for five minutes.

    Dutyo – ‘People setting up fresh expressions in the CofE are Anglicans’. Having spoken to each other in reality we have decided that we are both right. I am talking local – he is talking national strategy and organisation.

    Kim – One homogenous group is what we are striving for. There are no 3 human beings who think alike. You can apply this to any denomination. My wife and I don’t agree about things. We are both striving to follow Jesus.

    People who don’t believe in God? I think that the tiny minority of extreme theologians out there can’t really be said to speak for the majority.

    Anyone who has told you that there is only one way of doing F/E is mad or both. That would be how Nicky Gumble would market F/E. “Show the video and don’t deviate from these words. Make sure you have food and buy a t-shirt”.

    As to clothing – I have just come from the vicarage to the monastery on a black Harley with straight through pipes wearing black leather head to foot and a matt black helmet. Someone did ask me when I arrived if I was the Terminator.

    I’m not.


    Blessings everyone until the next time I get a piece of the internet….

  10. My view of the C0fE (which I attended as a boy) is that it is in many ways stagneent and has forgot its mission given by Jesus to go and make disciples of all men.

    The CofE churches that are alive and vibrant have not forgotten this and are on that mission.

    The issues is with the others who are not, do not know the mission or do not want to go on the mission as it moves them out of their nice comfort zone of security.

    Sometimes some of the smaller CofE churches can teach a lot of the larger ones something.

    But as I am not part of the CofE but in a church in england 😉 I pray that all the churches in England get on with the mission He gave us…

  11. I just re-read your initial piece on this, and it surprises me that you are so surprised that the person high up in the organisation would say this. Surely the people up top are quite wise as to the state of their organisation and so would be the right people to critique it in this way. Its good and necessary that they are switched on.

  12. beatthedrum – I guess it is easy to be that critical that from the outside.

    Kim – you usually seem to be the first person to point those things out about the upper echelons of the CofE. Why the change of heart?

  13. Oops do I ?? Sorry!!

    Strangely I love the ‘upper echelons’ and pray for them all the time, if by that you mean Bishops Rowan & John. Just Graham Cray wot racked me off. I think the ‘middle’ echelons I’ve met seem the most conservative.

    I am trying to learn to be less critical. Just sometimes feel I’m trying to belong and ‘they’ won’t let me. Actually probably what really happened was I read 3 Brennan Manning books for the last month. Hard to stay critical with anyone after that, as am on the floor. Am learning to be myself and be more transparent about what that is. 😆

    Phew, heavy answer after a holiday. Hope you had a good time, and best of with the ordination – and all that comes after 😆

  14. What do you count as upper, middle and lower?

    Just out of interest 😉

  15. 😆

    That was exactly what I was thinking when the concept of upper middle and lower floated into view 😀

  16. upper – archbishes, bishes, archdeaks

    middle- priests of every sort

    lower – the likes of me in the cheap seats 😆

    will that do??? ha, only joking, I have no idea of the true echelon list, none at all. tell me?

  17. Kim – Dave Walker has produced an excellent guide to the chain of command in the church of england:

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