The Church of England has today published the report of the Simplification Task Group ahead of a discussion at the February meeting of the General Synod.
“The remit of the Simplification Task Group has been to identify hindrances to mission. We asked bishops, archdeacons and dioceses – “What is it that prevents you from making changes that will enable parishes, churches and congregations to flourish and new initiatives to take shape?” The response was overwhelming, and cumulatively ran to ninety or so pages of A4. Our report lists a swathe of legislation – canons, measures and regulations – which are too complex, cumbersome to operate, and militate against change.
“Top of the poll came the regulations around Common Tenure, closely followed by the Mission and Pastoral Measure and the over-elaborate procedures for Bishop’s Mission Orders. Whether it’s provision for new mission or reorganisation of the church on the ground, the framework for change is far too complex and bureaucratic.”
A wide consultation was carried out with dioceses as part of the group’s work. Responses were received from Bishops, Archdeacons, Diocesan Secretaries, DBF Chairs, and Diocesan chairs of Houses of Clergy and Laity, with the consultation deliberately couched in wide terms, inviting views on aspects of existing legislation which might be considered an impediment to the mission of the Church.
The nineteen key recommendations of the group are intended to address three levels of concern:
- Immediate major hindrances to mission, including pastoral reorganisation and diocesan/parochial management.
- Weighty and worthy bureaucracy and procedure that is of its time, but is no longer fit for purpose.
- Matters which generate redundant paperwork which could easily be simplified.
In the executive summary to the report the group notes “that the Church has been over-cautious when framing legislation, with the result that in some instances it is unhelpfully restrictive in facilitating changes in the way in which we staff our existing parishes or carry through pastoral reorganisation or new mission initiatives.”
In his blog Bishop Pete reflects: “If we’re given a mandate, there’s plenty more to do, and we’ll be asking parishes for their take on an agenda for the next five years. For the sake of the gospel, mission and the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ.”
Individuals will have an opportunity to comment on the paper in a specially created online forum on the Church of England Website at: