The Church of England General Synod and the Methodist Conference have both given ongoing and enthusiastic support to Fresh Expressions.
At the General Synod in York, Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, presented a report from The Mission and Public Affairs Council on Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church, outlining his task as conducting
a critical study of the explicit and implicit ecclesiology of fresh expressions, and to produce recommendations or guidelines for ongoing work or change to existing structures that are workable within both traditions.
The bishop highlighted some of the tensions between fresh expressions and traditional forms of church in his recommendation of a 'health checklist' to encourage both to work in harmony. He called for a report to Synod by 2014 to see how things were to move forward in securing the legacy of Fresh Expressions which he described as having a legitimate place in the mission strategy of the Church.
Methodist representative to Synod, Roger Walton, welcomed the
timely, necessary and beneficial
report. In encouraging greater investment and greater risk taking, he emphasised,
The Methodist Church delights in this partnership with Fresh Expressions.
The Bishop of Blackburn, Nicholas Reade, reported that his Diocese had seen a 20% rise in attendance in week day services thanks to fresh expressions of church. Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, welcomed the report but warned that this needs to be a
long obedience in the same direction. It's a work of a generation; it will take us 25 years to learn the wisdom of this.
David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth, moved an amendment to
affirm that radical social action and comment are essential elements of the Biblical witness and Christian tradition, and therefore of any ecclesiology.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, commented,
I hope we do not walk away with the impression that there is anything complacent or inward-looking by the work now done under the banner of Fresh Expressions.
He then gave examples of fresh expressions of church involved in social action and witness.
The amended motion was carried unanimously.
Rachel Jordan, National Mission and Evangelism Adviser for the Church of England said,
It was fantastic to have the whole of Synod vote unanimously and give us a clear, green signal and a 'yes' for the mixed economy. My hope is that we can build on the work of the report and that we can grow into an adaptable and flexible church that's fit for 21st century mission.
Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops' Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team, added
For the third time the General Synod has given full endorsement to fresh expressions of church within a mixed economy. Coming so soon after the encouraging statistics from Liverpool diocese, this will encourage many practitioners to continue with their work and hopefully encourage many others to begin.
The Methodist Conference in Plymouth also saw committed support of Fresh Expressions and Venture FX. Highlights included:
- as part of resolutions passed in the Faith and Order Report, the way has been paved to consider guidelines for the criteria for authorising persons other than ministers to preside at the Lord’s Supper;
- funding previously removed from Venture FX district projects has been largely restored;
- the vision and values of Fresh Expressions are becoming increasingly evident in the bloodstream of the church's life.
Stephen Lindridge, Fresh Expressions Connexional Missioner for the Methodist Church, says,
These discussions and decisions at Conference deeply affirm the direction of travel for the Methodist Church towards being a discipleship movement shaped for mission. We are grateful to God and thankful for the ongoing development of fresh expressions in the life and mission of the Methodist Church but we are facing a task unfinished that should continue to; drive us to our knees in prayer, ready our feet to keep on going for the gospel and our hands in abundant service of the Kingdom.