On Tuesday 3 August, a gathering was held in St Bartholomew the Great, London’s oldest parish church, to launch a campaign to “Save the Parish”. Over 100 people signed up online to attend, and thousands have watched the broadcast online. You can watch the video below:
The evening began with prayers for Archbishops Welby and Cottrell before two addresses were given by experts in this field. A campaign was then launched for General Synod, with people committing to stand under the banner “Save the Parish”, pledging to resist plans to redirect money away from parochial ministry, and to resist any further centralisation of power and authority away from parishes and towards dioceses and the central church.
The event was hosted by the Revd Marcus Walker, Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, who issued a rallying cry in the pages of the Spectator Magazine last month, the key section of which was:
This is your church. This is not the Archbishop of Canterbury’s, nor the House of Bishops’s, nor the clergy’s, not even the General Synod’s. It belongs, in a broad sense, to the people of England (regardless of your faith or lack of it — which is why parliament is still its ultimate decision-making body) and very specifically to the laity of the Church of England. You have a say.
There are about to be General Synod elections. So, stand. Stand and write in your manifesto that you are standing to ‘Save the parish’. Stand whether you are an Evangelical or an Anglo-Catholic or a High Churchman. Stand if you’re a female priest or a woman who doesn’t think women can be priests. Stand if you want to save the parish, because these are your parishes and this is the only important question for the next five years. Stand because this might really be the last chance to save the church we love.
And if we’re going to promise to ‘Save the parish’, 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’. 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.
There were two keynote speakers.
The Rev’d Professor Alison Milbank is Professor of Theology and Literature at Nottingham University and co-author of For the Parish, who spoke passionately on why we need to save the parish, that jewel in the crown of the Church of England.
The Revd Stephen Trott is Rector of Pitsford, in Peterborough diocese, and has been a member of both the General Synod and the Church Commissioners for over twenty years. He spoke on why General Synod actually is important and gave us the nuts and bolts of how to stand and what your commitments would be, should you stand.
Are you interested in standing for General Synod under the banner of “Save the Parish”? Sign up here and we will be in touch to discuss how you can stand and how you could best make a difference in these elections. The duties are not onerous (generally two meetings a year, over a weekend) but we will explain this in more detail so you can weigh up whether this is something you feel called and able to do
People making this pledge will vote all manner of ways on the other great issues of our time, and there would be no attempt to impose a collective “whip”, what this would be is an attempt to give the electorate the ability to vote for people who are promising a very limited number of things: the very things that have been called “key limiting factors”:
Our buildings, stipendiary ministry, and long, costly college-based training. And, most importantly of all, to defend the parochial system of the Church of England.