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Fresh Expressions.pdf

Fresh Expressions.pdf

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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
By Philip Harrold • No report from the Church of England has sold so well or generated so much reflection as Mission-shaped Church.
By Philip Harrold • No report from the Church of England has sold so well or generated so much reflection as Mission-shaped Church.

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Oct 28, 2013
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    N  o    L  o  n  g  e  r    M  e  s  s   i  n  g    A    b  o  u   t
By Philip Harrold
T
he Church of England is no longermessing about when it comes to God’smission.That is the opening line inSteven Croft’s introduction to
 Mission-shaped Ques-tions: Defining Issues for Today’s Church
(SeaburyBooks, 2008).Bishop Croft writes with experience,having been appointed the archbishops’ missionerand team leader of Fresh Expressions in the mo-mentous year of 2004.Shortly before his appoint-ment, the Church of England had given convinc-ing proof that it was, indeed, serious about its“missionary responsibilities”
in
England by pub-lishing the best-selling
 Mission-shaped Church
(Church House, 2004)
.
No other official reportfrom the Church of England has sold so well orgenerated so much activity and reflection through-out the United Kingdom.
 Mission-shaped Church
introduced the distinctivelanguage of “fresh expressions,” now heard fromLambeth Palace to parishes in rural Yorkshire. Itscall to mission has been formally recognized inGeneral Synod, and the “mixed economy” of newand inherited forms has been regulated since 2008in the Code of Practice of the Mission and Pas-toral Measures.Fresh Expressions includes alter-native worship congregations, base ecclesial com-munities, café churches, churches arising out of community initiatives, multiple and midweek con-gregations, network focused churches, school-based and school-linked congregations andchurches, seeker churches, traditional churchplants, traditional forms of church inspiring newinterest, and youth congregations.
 
October 27, 2013 • THE LIVING CHURCH
9
Other kinds of groups continue to emerge becausethe new language and relaxed oversight have, inCroft’s words, been “immensely releasing and en-couraging to local initiatives.”Dave Male, director of the Centre for Pioneer Learning based in Cambridgeand tutor in pioneer mission training at Ridley Halland Westcott House, Cambridge, has discovered indiocesan reports that as many as a third of parishesare involved in Fresh Expressions, with nearly 30 percent of these efforts successfully aimed at non-members. Dioceses are also reporting that Fresh Ex- pressions now accounts for as much as 14 percent of total diocesan attendance.
W
hile the numbers are trending upward, the chal-lenges of reaching a society where 66 percent of adults have no connection to any church (or other re-ligion) remain daunting. The Fresh Expressions Ini-tiative, as it is now officially called, has also encoun-tered some challenges within the church.From thestart, many have worried about the fate of the tradi-tional parish system in the new kaleidoscope of church forms.Martyn Percy, principal of Ripon Col-lege, sees the initiative as “a form of collusion with a contemporary cultural obsession with newness, al-ternatives and novelty” over and against the “deepcomplexity of wisdom” represented by England’s venerable parochial structures.Conversely, Univer-sity of Birmingham professor John M. Hull, one of theearliest and sharpest critics of Fresh Expressions,argues that the movement remains beholden to theterritorialism of a “land church” despite the collapseof Christendom.He thinks that the new groupsmerely fill gaps in the fractured edifice of a nationalchurch that would rather control the mission than beshaped by it.With Percy one has to admit that the terminologyinspired by mission-shaped thinking can present itsown problems.
Fresh
, he observes, “implies ‘con-sume immediately’ and/or ‘discard after sell-by date.’”
 Expressions
may also suggest a feeling, appearance,or sentiment lacking substance or endurance.Doesany of this language have “sufficient density to bechurch?” he asks.Ian Mobsby, a leading practitioner in Fresh Ex- pressions from the Moot Community in London, ad-mits that the terminology is too easily associatedwith freedom and discontinuity. But he is quick to re-mind critics that it was initially inspired by the pref-ace to the Church of England’s Declaration of As-sent, which dates back to the early 17th century.Ordinands, according to the explanation given inthe preface,declare their loyalty to the “inheritanceof faith” thatthe Church “is called upon to proclaim
afresh
in each generation.”Is this not the “incarna-tional principle” that the original
 Mission-shapedChurch
report saw as “integral to the Church of Eng-land’s mission”?Does it not imply that as somethingnew emerges, there can still be a vital connection tothe history of God’s activity and presence in theChurch?These seemlike reasonable inferences for  proponents of the new language, but few would denyFresh Expressions research director Michael Moy-nagh’s claim that the initiative owes too much to the“inherited church” to be dismissed as an enemy.“Might fresh expressions become an Antioch on be-half of Jerusalem?” he asks.
 A 
sympathetic outsider like Michael Stead of Sydney, Australia,has explained how Fresh Expressionsencompasses two realities: “existing churches that areseeking to renew or redirect what they already have,and others, who are intentionally sending out plant-ing groups to discover what will emerge when theGospel is immersed in the mission context.”Greater clarity and acceptance has been achieved in the lan-guage used by the more recent initiative, with inputfrom the Sheffield Centre of the Church Army and inmutual endeavor with Methodists and other denom-inational entities in the United Kingdom. The over-riding emphasis is now on mission rather than ‘new-ness.’In 2006, the initiative published this definition:
 A fresh expression is a form of church for our chang-ing culture established primarily for the benefit of  people who are not yet members of any church.• It will come into being through principles of listen-ing, service, incarnational mission and making disciples.• It will have the potential to become a mature ex-
From the start, many haveworried about the fateof the traditional parishsystem in the newkaleidoscopeof church forms.
(Continued on next page)
 
10
THE LIVING CHURCH • October 27, 2013
 pression of church shaped by thegospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural con-text.
E
 ven a revised definition usually prompts new questions, so dur-ing 2007a series of “Hard Questions”conferences met throughout GreatBritain, with two theologians eachaddressing a different concern fol-lowed by panel discussion with prac-titioners and church leaders.
 Mis-sion-shaped Questions
is one of thefruits of that exercise. The questionsrange from “What is the essence of the Church?” to “How does a mixedeconomy Church connect with con-temporary spirituality?”The contentof the responses issubstantive, oftenscholarly, and the overall tone is con-spicuously charitable.With regard to the substance of re-flection surrounding Fresh Expres-sions, it is apparent that ecclesiol-ogy and theology of mission arereceiving a great deal of attention.Not since the Tractarian controver-sies of the 19thcentury have we seensuch a proliferation of writing on thesubject of the Church.Of particular interest are questions regarding dis-tinctively Anglican understandingsof 
ekklesia
in relation to mission andcontemporary culture.One finds a great deal of soul-searching regard-ing the legacies of Establishment aswell as quandaries over the “mixed-economy” metaphor, first introducedby Rowan Williams in his forewordto
 Mission-shaped Church.
Sorting through the Anglican doc-trine of the Church, if indeed there isone, and the complex writings of a theologian like Williams are no easytasks in themselves, but inquiringand, at times, anxious minds havealso reconsidered classic doctrinesof the Incarnation, the Trinity, andeschatology in light of the missiolog-ical thrust of Fresh Expressions.Theologians from Richard Hooker toLesslie Newbigin have been appro- priated and, in some cases, reinter- preted to bridge the perceived Christand culture divide.One of the more vigorous conversations has beengenerated by
 For the Parish: A Cri-tique of Fresh Expressions
by An-drew Davison and Alison Milbank(SCM Press, 2010), which questionsthe determinative role that
 Mission-shaped Church
has played in defin-ing contemporary Anglican ecclesi-ology [see Tony Hunt’s review for TLC at goo.gl/DT8sH7]. The litera-ture is voluminous and, in mostcases, fruitful as the Church of Eng-land undergoes what many ob-servers consider to be a paradigmshift in its stance toward late- or  postmodern society. As regards the tone of this livelyconversation, there seems to be a gradual move toward charitable lis-tening as the hard questions persist.In his contribution to a collection of essays,
 Evaluating Fresh Expressions
(Canterbury Press, 2008), StevenCroft is, again, among the more ebul-lient voices in the movement.Hetraces the constructive nature of thediscussion to the general recognitionthat “a fundamental and evolvingshift is taking place around faith inBritish society.”This awarenesshasled theologians and practitionersfrom across the churchmanshipspectrum to “respond responsiblyand in a way that is faithful to scrip-ture and tradition by re-engagingwith what it means to be the churchin mission.”In effect, there is noth-ing like a shared sense of mission for establishing common ground, espe-cially given the latitude afforded by a mixed economy. Sara Savage, a sen-ior research associate and lecturer at the University of Cambridge,thinks that listening, especially “lis-tening to the voices and needs withina locale,” has been an essential keyto Fresh Expressions from the start.Perhaps this “intersubjectivity” hasspilled over into the Church proper,
No Longer Messing About
(Continued from previous page)

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