Church Commissioner Answers: evangelical congregations, Lambeth Conference, lay membership, church attendance, pastoral support for pregnant women

On 8th and 9th April 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered five written questions from Sir John Hayes MP on a diverse range of issues: evangelical congregations, the 2020 Lambeth Conference, lay membership, pastoral support for women with unplanned pregnancies, and increasing church attendance.

Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): (241392) To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church is taking to ensure the evangelical makeup of its congregations is reflected in the custom and practices of the Church’s leadership.

Dame Caroline Spelman: The traditions of individuals and congregations in the Church of England is not always easily identifiable, and it is often very difficult to label individuals and congregations accordingly. However, the Church is aware of its diversity of traditions and is committed to the growth of the whole Church. A key factor in all senior appointments is the energy candidates bring to evangelism and encouraging confident Christian witness, and of course, different candidates will step into this space in different ways.

The Church’s Strategic Learning Community and Senior Leadership Development programmes have been created to bring together clergy from across the church, from all traditions and backgrounds. More information about this work can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/about/renewal-reform/nurturing-senior-leaders However, it is worth noting that both of the current Archbishops identify as having come from an evangelical background, as well as many other diocesan bishops in the Church of England.


Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): (240952) To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, if the Archbishop of Canterbury will invite bishops from the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church in Brazil to the Lambeth 2020 conference.

Dame Caroline Spelman: I have met recently with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss attendance at the Lambeth 2020 conference.

The publication of information about those invited to the Lambeth Conference in 2020 is a matter for the Archbishop of Canterbury, not the Church Commissioners.


Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): (240953) To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church is taking to improve democratic participation among its lay members.

Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England encourages responsible democratic participation in its schools and parishes, as one of the stakeholders involved with UK Parliament Week, and as a provider of hustings and other forms of engagement at election times. The General Synod is the Church’s own national legislative body, to which lay members can be elected. The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament is expected soon to consider a Church Measure that will reform and simplify Church representation rules on elections for Parochial Church Councils, Deanery and Diocesan Synods.


Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): (240954) To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church is taking to support women with unplanned pregnancies.

Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England provides a wide range of pastoral care through its national network of 12,600 parishes and 18,000 active ordained clergy assisted by 10,000 licensed lay ministers. This care is offered to all regardless of Church affiliation or religious belief. The most effective pastoral care builds a relationship through which a person can be accompanied through difficult situations – rather than offering a service in which the person becomes the client.

Pastoral care at parish level is extended to women with unwanted pregnancies on the basis that ‘Every possible support, especially by Church members, needs to be given to those who are pregnant in difficult circumstances and care, support and compassion must be shown to all whether or not they continue with their pregnancy.’ (General Synod July 2017: written answer was given by the Chair of Mission and Public Affairs Council in response to a question on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act).


Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): (240955) To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church is taking to increase attendance at church services.

Dame Caroline Spelman: Strategic Development Funding has been made available to develop the capacity of Church of England dioceses to increase church attendance. 2017 a total of £44million was awarded to 27 projects in 20 dioceses. In 2018, £61.6 million was awarded to 20 new projects in 20 dioceses. One third of these new initiatives focus on work with children and young people, and the majority are located in deprived areas.

In 2018 the Church of England formed an Evangelism and Discipleship Department, based at Church House, Westminster, to enable a strategic national approach by developing specific interventions and resources to enable and equip its million regular worshippers to be able to talk about and live out their faith. This supplements work at a Diocesan level to develop more growing churches: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/evangelism-and-discipleship

The Church of England is developing 1,000 new evangelists in the over the next five years. Other measures include working with a number of dioceses around a Culture of Invitation to help parishioners to invite people to their church ( http://www.cultureofinvitation.com/ ), helping churches to ensure that those coming for baptisms, funerals and weddings are welcomed and invited to continue attending their local church (https://www.churchofengland.org/life-events/christenings ), and the Talking Jesus Course, which is a simple 6 week video-based course to inspire ordinary Christians to share their faith in natural and relevant ways: https://talkingjesus.org/

Seven million people engaged with the Church of England via digital media channels last Christmas through the ‘Follow the Star campaign’. Two million used it to identify a church to attend through the resource www.achurchnearyou.com The Church’s use of digital and social media has won awards for innovation, and there are now worship and liturgy resources available via Alexa and a variety of Apps.