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Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of York PA Peter Byrne header2.jpg
Photo Credit: Peter Byrne
Peter Byrne
Church News

Archbishop Stephen Cottrell suffered 'sleepless nights' after parish dismantling claims

by Will Maule

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, has admitted that he lost sleep over accusations that the Church of England was dismantling the parish system. 

Speaking at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on Monday, Archbishop Stephen said he wanted to "save the parish" but that "the best way to save the parish is to grow the Church".

In February, an article was published at the Spectator in which the writer suggested that he was slashing funding to parishes in exchange for "a remote institution which controls everything centrally". 

"The plan to dismantle the parish network is quite simply the biggest act of church vandalism since the dissolution of the monasteries," Emma Thompson declared. 

At the time, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, along with Stephen Cottrell, issued a joint response to the piece, titled 'In defence of the Church of England'. 

They wrote:

"There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community.

"Throughout our history, some churches have closed and others have opened. We weep at the former and rejoice at the latter. But it is not new.

"The untold story is that in recent years the Church of England has planted or renewed at least 100 new congregations and churches." 

In his Monday sermon, the Archbishop of York said it caused him "sleepless nights" that "the things that I have been associated with - which only want to support, uphold, build, and sustain local church and parish church (and more of it) in all its manifold forms - have somehow been interpreted as quite the opposite”.

The way forward, Cottrell contended was "not abandoning or dismantling one way of being the Church to develop another, but taking hold of the historic vocation of the Church of England to be the Church for everyone everywhere, and pay greater attention to the different ways and the different places in which people actually live, then grow the Church accordingly.

"It is about adapting to the challenge of changed circumstances. That is the best way for anything to grow.”

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