Bishop of London proposes new 'Bishop for Church Plants' role

Diocese of LondonBishop Richard Chartres says church-planters are in urgent need of support.

Bishop of London is planning to revive a century-old episcopal see to create a new 'Bishop for Church Plants'.

The Right Rev Richard Chartres plans to bring back the See of Islington, which existed briefly from 1898 to 1923. There was only ever one Bishop of Islington, the Right Rev Charles Henry Turner, who was at the same time Rector of St Andrew Undershaft.

The Church Times reports that the proposal is to be considered by the Dioceses Commission.

The aim is to provide additional support for the burgeoning church planting movement. The London diocese is one of the most successful in the western world in terms of growth and diversity. Besides the leadership of Bishop Chartres, this can also be attributed to the phenomenally successful Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) group of churches and the Alpha evangelisation course that originated at HTB.

In a report to his diocesan bishop's council Bishop Chartres said there is an urgent need for church-planters to be given support and mentoring as they start out. The new bishop's ministry would not be territorial, enabling him or her to address this issue specifically.

He or she would "open up new possibilities; provide reinforcement for the oversight which already exists for pioneer ministries; and disseminate the learning gained from new ventures."

Bishop Chartres said it was not about uninvited "Byronic young Evangelical pastors establishing smoothie bars" but providing someone to offer "mentoring, oversight, and really close involvement of a sort which it is very unrealistic to expect area bishops to concentrate on."

The bishop would also offer teaching and advice outside the capital.

Besides London, HTB has planted in Chichester, Norwich, Lincoln and Bournemouth more are planned soon for Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Gloucester, Oxford, Exeter and Guildford. In addition, in London a School of Church Planting and Church Growth is being set up with St Mellitus, which already runs a seven-week church-planting course.

Chartres also intends it to inspire growth in the Anglo-Catholic churches, not just evangelical ones.

He cited St Paul's Shadwell as an example of a successful plant. It had previously had a small congregation, with morale at a "very low ebb". Bishop Chartres said: "It has not lost any of its existing supporters, but, of course, it has developed the kind of church life which people who went nowhere, or went out of the area, find very attractive."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has "warmly welcomed" the proposal. Rev Rick Thorpe of St Paul's Shadwell is thought to be a favourite for the job.

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