“Setting God’s People Free”

This report was presented to July 2017 Diocesan Synod by the Bishop of Grimsby – it’s very exciting…

“Setting God’s People Free” summary report for mission and ministry team

Coming from the Archbishop’s Council ‘Setting God’s People Free’ started life as a report from the ‘Lay Leadership Task Group’ originally asked to review lay leadership, in particular beyond the walls of the church. To do so, it became clear that they needed to broaden their focus to encompass lay discipleship. They maintain that the creation of a culture of forming disciples is the foundation and enabler of lay leadership. For this reason, the report maintains this broader focus – on lay discipleship – throughout

The report suggests a top to bottom examination of every aspect of church life through the lens of one question:

“How does what we do as a church, ordained and lay together, enable God’s people to grow in their capacity to live out the Good News of Jesus in all of life – in service in the church and in the world?”

It identifies what it deems as the need for two shifts in culture and practice that are seen as critical to the flourishing of the Church and the evangelisation of the nation.

  1. Until, together, ordained and lay, we form and equip lay people to follow Jesus confidently in every sphere of life in ways that demonstrate the Gospel we will never set God’s people free to evangelise the nation.
  2. Until laity and clergy are convinced, based on their baptismal mutuality, that they are equal in worth and status, complementary in gifting and vocation, mutually accountable in discipleship, and equal partners in mission, we will never form Christian communities that can evangelise the nation.

In particular the report in summary:

  • Calls for a shift in culture – not a narrow, centrally driven strategy
  • Looks beyond and outside Church structures to the whole people of God at work in communities and wider society – not to ‘fixing’ the institutional Church
  • Seeks to affirm and enable the complementary roles and vocations of clergy and of lay people, grounded in our common baptism – not to blur or undermine these distinctions
  • Proposes steps to nourish, illuminate and connect what is working already in and through frontline parishes – not to institute a top down approach
  • Aims to see confident involvement, engagement and leadership of lay people wherever they are called to serve – not to devise lay alternatives to clergy

Encourages a culture that communicates the all-encompassing scope of the good news for the whole of life, and pursues the core calling of every church community and every follower of Jesus – to form whole-life maturing disciples

Other key points for consideration:

  1. There is a lack of confidence in applying Christian faith Monday-Saturday
  2. Teaching and preaching can be irrelevant to daily life
  3. Emphasis on both the gathered and the sent church
  4. The lack of embedding and action of previous reports including ‘Towards the Conversion of England’
  5. Constraining factors include a theological deficit of lay engagement and leadership; a weak lay voice within the church structures; health of clergy and lay relationships and inadequate resourcing and support
  6. The laity are already leading in a number of ways but this is not fully supported or acknowledged as legitimate vocation and calling.


Key recommendations

  • Develop a theology of lay engagement and leadership giving grounded vision and identity
  • Frontline lay perspectives given voice
  • ‘Lay aware’ episcopal priorities and praxis
  • Equipping the front-line
  • Liturgy that underscores the role and identity of lay people
  • Re-focusing clergy selection, training and development
  • Reforming structures
  • Lay-integrated communities



Questions for us as the Diocese of Lincoln:

Do you recognise what the report describes? Can you identify one specific example from your own experience?

  1. What do Christians need to better express their faith and make a difference outside the walls of our Church Buildings? Can you suggest one specific thing that you would find helpful?
  2. What from the report can be addressed at parish or benefice level? What needs to be addressed by the wider diocese?