Diocesan Synod November 2012
The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones set out a vision for a new form of leadership to be developed in the Diocese of Liverpool. In his Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod on Saturday, the bishop stated that “we have to find new ways of providing local congregations with a leader who is truly called, talented, tested, trustworthy, trained, authorised and accountable”.
Quoting Tony Blair and Michael Heseltine, the Bishop drew comparisons from the public sector arguing that “although the church is unique in its essence and structure as the Body of Christ there is much we have to learn from other communities and other experiences of growth.” Bishop James commented on the link between local leadership and local growth saying “Tony Blair and Michael Heseltine have observed it in the wider world. I’ve observed it in the church.”
The Bishop set out a range of statistics showing the extent of the challenge facing the Church of England nationally stating “we have faced these realities earlier and sooner than most dioceses” but recognising that “we are still faced with the challenge to create a sustainable, led and transforming Christian presence in every community”.
Referring to the New Testament the Bishop said that “Leadership is crucial to both transformation and to growth. Leadership that can secure a following is what the Church of England needs. But how do we interpret what God is saying to us with vastly more clergy retiring in the next ten years than priests being ordained in the last ten.”
The Bishop called for a radical rethink of the way we look at leadership in our diocese saying “I am aware that in the past we’ve tailored the mission of God to the historic ministries of the church” adding “but perhaps we’re on the cusp of a new reformation where we are being asked what ministries do we need to fulfil the Great Commission in our generation?”.
Citing many practical examples and bringing his whole experience of ministry to bear the Bishop stated “from forty years of ministry as a youth leader, reader, curate, vicar and bishop I’m convinced that every group that grows needs its own leader” adding “in short, every church needs its own local leader and in many cases that leader will be lay”.
The Bishop announced that alongside senior clergy he will be considering a paper exploring this concept of local leadership.
He concluded by reflecting on the Christian faith and how it has changed from being a movement to a institution stating “the challenge for us is how do we move back from an institution to a movement. Or at the very least how do we recover to the institution the characteristics of a movement.” The bishop finished by stating “It’s about adventure, belief, communicating a vision, dedication, example and followership. I believe that every congregation be it a parish or a fresh expression needs such local leadership for it to flourish and grow.
And that must be our vision for the future recovery to the institution the movement which began when people hear our Lord saying: “Follow me”.