'Save the parish' campaign challenges church in a 'cinema' or 'Chinese takeaway'

(Photo: Unsplash/Adam Rhodes)

A campaign has been launched encouraging people in favour of the current parish system to stand in elections to the Church of England General Synod.

The 'Save the Parish' campaign has been started by Fr Marcus Walker, Rector at Great St Bartholomew's, in response to proposals for the creation of 10,000 new lay-led churches.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, has said the Church of England's parish system needs to be "revitalised for mission".

More details on the plans were laid out by Canon John McGinley, leader of the 'Myriad' church-planting initiative, at a recent conference where he said that lay-led churches would "release the Church from key limiting factors".

"When you don't need a building and a stipend (clergy salary) and long, costly college-based training for every leader of church ... then actually we can release new people to lead and new churches to form," he said.

"It also releases the discipleship of people. In church-planting, there are no passengers."

But writing in The Spectator, Walker took issue with McGinley's words.

"Let's use those 'limiting factors' as our banners: 'a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of the church'," Walker wrote.

"That sounds like an ambition worth having — and a more plausible and desirable one than 10,000 mansion churches led by the untrained super-rich.

"Let us be a 'key limiting factor', not to the growth of the Church of England but to the emergence of a church we do not want and we do not need."

The 'Save the Parish' campaign is asking people to stand in the elections to the General Synod " to defend the parochial system of the Church of England". 

Walker said the next five-year session of Synod could be the "last chance to save the system that has defined Christianity for 1,000 years".

"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," he said.