The Bishop of Liverpool announced to a major diocesan conference on growth that “It is a source of thankfulness to God that I can tell you today we are a growing Diocese. In both children and adults, across the entire week, during the week, Sunday by Sunday and growing faster, wider and deeper than we thought.” The announcement is substantiated by national church figures, research on Fresh Expressions, by George Lings of the Sheffield Centre and the experience of the Bishop touring deaneries with the Bishop of Warrington.
Bishop James stated that “the pattern that is emerging in this diocese is that we are committed to the inherited church with its visible network of over 200 parishes and also to pioneering with nearly 80 Fresh Expressions of church which are having a genuine impact in reaching a new generation of people”.
The Bishop acknowledged that up until 2009 figures were declining, candidly acknowledging that the decline made him consider his position as “in spite of all our reviewing and planning, in spite of all the teaching and conferences we were still not growing as a Diocese”.
Reflecting on the imagery of Mark 4v26-28 the Bishop sees the turning point as a seed he planted with a presidential address in 2009 where he asked each parish:-
1) How can we grow numerically and spiritually?
2) How can we serve our communities better?
3) How we can rekindle our love for God?
The Bishop stated that the measures put in place since 2000 have taken time to reverse the decline and praised the dedication of parishes and deaneries in rising to the challenge saying “you have taken seriously the challenge of the three questions that launched the Growth Agenda,”
adding “together as a diocese we have sought to recapture the dynamic the New Testament church portrayed in Acts.”
Bishop James commented that in a reverse of the time of Jesus when the poor flocked to him, the 21st century church tends to prosper in middle class areas. However the Bishop stated that “our research is now telling us that the Diocese of Liverpool with its concentration of areas of disadvantage is once more beginning to reach out and to grow”.
Reflecting on his meetings with deaneries the Bishop said “what was so impressive is that so many of the presentations were done by lay members of the congregations”
He also talked about the need for new leaders for the equivalent of the prophets, evangelists and apostles from the New Testament church stating “we have to find new ways and gifts and ministries for proclaiming afresh to our generation. That’s why we’re investing heavily in Fresh Expressions and re-thinking how we call, choose train and make accountable pioneer leaders”.
The Bishop concluded “we’re committed that the future lies with growing, sustainable, led and transforming Christian presences in every community. We know that every growing group needs a leader; the servant leader must heed, feed and lead in a way that enables the led to find and use their own gifts in building up the community and in serving God in the world”.
Download the full address here
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