Matthew Frost was the invited speaker to Diocesan Synod in October. He was the chair of the Lay Leadership Task Group which produced the Church of England report, Setting God’s People Free. He provided a snapshot of the report to Synod, which aims to address how the Church can make disciples of all people.
The report was overwhelmingly endorsed by General Synod in February 2017 and identifies the need for two shifts in culture and practice that is seen as critical to the flourishing of the Church and the evangelisation of the nation.
SHIFT 1: We, ordained and lay, must teach and equip lay people to follow Jesus confidently in every sphere of life in ways that show the difference the Gospel makes. A huge number of lay people serve in positions of influence and leadership in the church, home, community, workplace, and society. Therefore, we need to enable every member of our congregations – lay and clergy alike – to follow Jesus confidently wherever they are.
SHIFT 2: We, ordained and lay, must recognise that we are all baptised equally into Christ, that we are equal in worth and status, complementary in gifting and vocation, mutually accountable in discipleship, and equal partners in mission.
The report made four key recommendations which are being implemented as a matter of priority:
- The national championing of the two key culture shifts. This work began in the spring of 2017.
- The development of a national online portal for whole-life discipleship accessible by every member of the Church of England. The new Church of England website and digital resources will be rolled out from autumn 2017.
- The establishment of a learning community of Dioceses committed to learning how to implement the two culture shifts and to sharing that learning. (In fact, 3 learning communities will be running from autumn 2017 to summer 2019.)
- The remodelling of the selection, training and development of ministers in line with the priority of lay mission and discipleship. This work began in the summer of 2017.
Matthew Frost, says: “Imagine if the same amount of effort and resource we put into helping people discern ordained vocation, was put into lay vocation. I think if every single person was given that investment of time, effort and resource to connect with God’s specific calling for their lives, I think this country would be transformed.”
In his Presidential Address to Synod, Bishop Peter Hancock welcomed the report, he said: “It is a report which focusses on lay discipleship and if it is embraced and implemented has the potential to significantly change the life of the Church of England and transform the communities we seek to serve.”
However, he acknowledged that many of the things highlighted in the report have been “said and advocated in the past”.