Carlisle Diocesan Synod's historic agreements
Plans for a radical re-organisation of the Church of England's parish system in Cumbria have been voted through today, with massive agreement.
It came as members of the Diocese of Carlisle's Synod met to consider proposals to create up to forty 'Mission Communities' across the county.
Under the plans, the 270 parishes in the diocese will gradually be grouped together with churches from the Methodist circuits and United Reformed Church congregations.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev'd James Newcome, said the historic vote will help the diocese to move forward, together with members of other churches in Cumbria, with its goal of growing more disciples.
Bishop James said: “The rough shapes of Mission Communities are emerging across the county – we think there will be about forty of them.
“They will each be different and will go at different speeds – there is no one blueprint – and that range of possibilities is, from my perspective, exciting.
“They will be more than simple federations of churches – they must be communities of churches, getting on with serving and reaching out to their communities.”
The Mission Communities form part of the diocese's Ministry Strategy, which aims to change the church so that it is led not only by clergy but by active laity. This is seen as returning to what the Church always ought to have been and addresses a reduction in the number of salaried clergy in coming years.
At the same meeting, at the Newton Rigg campus near Penrith, Synod members also voted through a new budget for the diocese.
This will fund an increased emphasis on outreach work to further grow disciples as part of the diocese's stated long-term strategy. It includes the ground-breaking appointment of a digital evangelist to reach out through social media.
The Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Rev'd Robert Freeman, said: “The philosophy behind the two decisions is that God is for all and the Church is by all.
“God is for all, so we need to get the message out, and we have a plan for that called the Reach Strategy.
“Agreeing a budget for the next five years means we are able to plan and allocate money not just to pay for what we have always done, but also for new work.
“For example, we want to appoint a digi-evangelist who will help us to use electronic, social networking, media. We think this appointment may be the first of its type in the country.”
Both Bishop James and Bishop Robert are calling on churches in Cumbria to have confidence as they cope with the changes ahead.
Bishop James added: “Most people don’t like change, but doing nothing is not an option.
“God has confidence in us – he’s called us into his Church and trusted us with his world. We should have confidence in him – that he will give us the strength to keep up with him and do the work he sets us.”
Note for editors
Diocesan Synod is the Church of England’s county-wide elected council; there are about 120 members, slightly more laity than clergy; it decides on finance, strategy and policy, but not, for example, on doctrine or worship, which are decided by General Synod.
For further information please contact :
Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Officer, on 07984 927434 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
or the Ven Richard Pratt, Asst Comms Officer, on 01900 66190 or at email@example.com