GS 2248 God's People Set Free Summary

January 22, 2022
GS 2248 God's People Set Free Summary

A review of the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 Setting God's People Free report. The report recommends two culture shifts: fostering a culture that encourages disciples to follow Jesus confidently in every sphere of life, and affirming the complementary gifting, vocation and mutual accountability in discipleship.

The Discipleship Learning Communities, coordinated through the Disciple Enablers Network, have helped accelerate progress towards the transformational culture change around discipleship in the whole of life.

SGPF engaged with over 2,500 churches and chaplaincies and 400 agreed to pilot initiatives to help people more confidently live out the Good News of Jesus Christ. This has been highly fruitful in building greater confidence in discipleship and promoting lay/clergy mutuality.

Re-modelling selection, training and ongoing ministerial development has been significantly advanced, and the vision and frameworks for lay ministry roles have been incorporated into the Ministry Council's vision. Work on a digital portal to provide resources for discipleship has been undertaken.

Over many years, previous reports on the laity and being confident disciples resulted in no significant change.

This report reviews the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 Setting God's People Free (SPGF) report, which endorsed the vision of enabling the 98% of the Church of England not in ordained or formal roles for fruitful, faithful ministry, influence, leadership and vibrant relationship with Jesus.

SGPF identified two essential shifts in the culture and practice of the church that are required to be fulfilled if the church is to be more fruitful in "evangelising the nation and transforming society." Eight levers for change were suggested that dioceses and worshipping communities could use.

General Synod requested that the Faith and Order Commission provide support for the renewal and reform programme.

In the course of work, two new ways of communicating the aspirations of SGPF emerged - Everyday Faith and Enabling Ministry - which both emphasise the mutuality of vocation between lay and ordained followers, as well as the vital role of people called to ministerial vocations in the life of the church.

The change SGPF calls for has found high degree of championing and sponsorship at national and local levels, with the impact of this change being critical.

SGPF has begun to shape a culture in which everyone can live as missionary disciples in dioceses, communication, worship, and in the selection, formation and development of ordained and lay people.

The issue of centrally delivered programmes and resources has to be replaced by a root and branch, top to bottom examination of the church's life.

SGPF was implemented in 29 dioceses in four cohorts of the Discipleship Learning Community (DLC). The DLC enabled the whole church to engage with the recommendations of the SGPF by framing them within their context.

20. The focus of the SGPF has been focusing on the importance of addressing the concerns of lay people and their callings/vocations in diocesan priorities, practices and processes.

Most dioceses have adopted or adapted a vision for change aimed at building greater confidence in discipleship and lay-clergy mutuality.

SGPF has engaged over 2,500 worshiping communities, with some dioceses adopting higher numbers, and some dioceses waiting until the end of the process to establish clearer diocesan schemes.

The diocese used the DLC process to help frame how SGPF might shape their life together as a whole. They implemented a strategy called Lights for Christ to help people be Christ-like, living as lights for Christ in their everyday lives.

Bath and Wells have changed the structure of their Archdeaconry gatherings to focus on Everyday Faith. They also introduced Everyday Faith question cards and used them to stimulate conversations in and after church services, in church schools and with parents and carers.

The Canterbury team faced the challenge of how to engage diverse communities, some of whom might struggle to be part of the community because they felt uncomfortable talking about their faith. By using two simple questions to open a conversation on everyday faith, the team helped overcome this fear.

The impact of the lead changes on confidence and awareness remains unclear; however, the Big Church Survey, due to be released in 2022, will provide insight on priority areas for action for worshiping communities and dioceses.

A team of 29 churches and chaplaincies in the Dioceses of Chester used a focus on the use of formal liturgy to form and equip people to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ in all places, Sunday to Saturday.

The Diocese of Oxford found a fruitful way to encourage and resource wider calling through the introduction of Personal Discipleship Plans (PDPs), along with prayer and reflection resources. The PDP process offers people an opportunity to reflect on their gifts and to identify next steps in their discipleship journey.

SGPF focussed on small shifts to be received as an "ease of first step" to make a change.

The national church and many dioceses now include stories of everyday faith in their communications, highlighting how individuals and communities understand and express being missionary disciples. Stories of everyday faith are important in the context of the church's focus on social vocation.

A final focus for the implementation of Ministry for Christian Presence is to adapt the development of lay people and ministers to everyday contexts and to support faith in everyday contexts.

The gifting and equipping for ordained ministry is in the criteria for discernment, selection, and formation, but is often conflated with the encouragement of lay ministry.

Pilot work with Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) has identified shifts in practice that can better inform a theological imagination for enabling ministry, such as a shift from a subject-centred orientation characteristic of academic scholarship to a life-centred orientation more appropriate to everyday faith and ministry.

Almost all dioceses in the DLCs explored how to better equip lay and ordained ministers. Several dioceses in the DLCs worked with external partners to provide training and development for church leaders to better adapt to the challenges of leading cultural change.

In the SGPF, a national portal was recommended for the Church of England. This was hoped to connect people to the best resources available for whole-life discipleship and vocational journeys.

Developing a web-based discipleship portal to be used in conjunction with existing digital learning environments, and in order to integrate key aspects of daily life, such as faith at work, personal and public engagement in key missional issues.

The Everyday Faith Portal, developed by the CofE, offers a digital delivery of tailored resources. It is designed to help people find and follow God in everyday life, share this journey in community and live as effective witnesses.

The Church of England is dependent on the fruitfulness of lay ministry, influence and leadership in wider community and society as well as within church structures.

The Church will continue to implement the vision of the SGPF in various ways in the 2020s.

The New Testament calls every one of us to be a missionary disciple, and that Jesus sends out those who follow him.

SGPF has championed two bold outcomes, empowering our calling to be a Jesus Christ shaped church by encouraging church communities to form people to live lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in the whole of life.

42. As we seek to be a younger and more diverse church, our focus on a whole life gospel and vocations in all sectors of society is strengthened.

To serve our nation and help the people of God live richer lives in Christ, may we continue to walk in this way.