The Church of England has published a report and launched a consultation on proposals to improve the support for its 16,000 church buildings.
The report comes from the Church Buildings review group, chaired by the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Dr John Inge. It constitutes the first attempt in many years to undertake a comprehensive review of the Church of England's stewardship of its church buildings and includes a wide range of statistics, a substantial theological reflection and a survey of various initiatives being taken in individual dioceses. The report goes on to identify a number of principles that should shape the Church's approach and makes some specific recommendations. It forms part of the Church of England's Reform and Renewal programme, debated at February's General Synod.
The review notes that more than three quarters of the Church of England's churches are listed, and the Church of England is responsible for nearly half of the grade I listed buildings in England. More than half of churches are in rural areas (where 17% of the population lives) and more than 90% of these are listed.
Welcoming the opening of the consultation, Bishop John said:
"Our 16,000 church buildings are a visible sign of ongoing Christian faith in communities throughout England as well as being an unparalleled part of our country's heritage. This report looks at how we can best support the thousands of local volunteers who care deeply for and about churches and offer wonderful service to their communities using their churches.
"We believe that - apart from growing the church - there is no single solution to the challenges posed by our extensive responsibility for part of the nation's heritage. We hope therefore that this work will be a catalyst for discussion about how churches can be better cared for and used for the common good."
A copy of the six principles recommended by the group and the recommendations are available below. The consultation period runs until Friday 29 January and will include a debate at the first meeting of the new General Synod in November.
See full press release here
Read the full report here