Growth plans are not about 'one way of being Church replacing another', says Archbishop of York

(Photo: Facebook/Church of England)

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell has admitted to the General Synod that his vision for "a mixed ecology" Church has not been "clearly presented" and has "caused nervousness".

Archbishop Cottrell was giving a presentation on the Church of England's "vision and strategy" on the second day of the November sessions at Church House, Westminster.

His speech followed a video presentation showing "mixed ecology" initiatives in practice in St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese in Suffolk. This featured local CofE churches running cafes, mid-week children's groups and community youth projects, and also a secondary school chaplain.

"Starting today with mixed ecology, over the next few Synods we're going to dig deeper into these ideas to learn from each other and see how they can help us move the Church of England into deeper and more sustained growth," he said.

"I'm sorry if some of this has not always been as clearly presented as it should have been and has caused some people some nervousness.

"When we speak about mixed ecology we are speaking about the whole ecosystem of the Church, not one way of being Church replacing another," he said.

The Church of England is to be "the Church for everyone, everywhere. We are the national Church", he added.

Save the Parish campaigner Rev Marcus Walker, newly-elected Synod member for London Diocese, is among those concerned that the CofE's "mixed ecology" aim for thousands of new church plants is cutting across established churches.

In The Spectator magazine in July, the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London wrote: "In the last 10 to 15 years, particularly under (the Archbishop of Canterbury) Justin Welby, there has been heavy skew away from traditional parishes with a relationship to a church building and local community, to a style of church set up in a cinema or barn or converted Chinese takeaway."

During the Synod budget session on Wednesday morning, Rev Walker argued that the Church Commissioners' investment windfall of £500m during 2020 should be distributed to local parishes to help them drive down financial deficits worsened by the Covid crisis.

Prudence Dailey, lay member for Oxford Diocese, supported this call.

Save the Parish campaigners are looking to spark a future Synod debate followed by a vote calling on the Commissioners to release the funds to frontline parishes.

In other business on the final day of its November meeting, the Synod approved a motion from Leeds Diocese calling on all political parties to adopt an "explicit policy" of reducing the gap between rich and poor.

Synod members supported an amendment to the motion to "recommit" the Church itself to "working both nationally and locally to respond to human need by loving service, and to transform unjust structures of society which are creating the wealth gap".