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Church of England clergy group launches campaign to maintain traditional parish system

A church of England clergy group has launched a campaign urging the Church's leadership to keep the traditional parish system in the face of plans to encourage church gatherings in more innovative venues.  

The 'Save the parish' campaign seeks to encourage all clergy and lay members to unite under the banner of the campaign at the next General Synod elections scheduled for next autumn. 

Head of the campaign, rector of St Bartholomew the Great in London, Rev Marcus Walker said during its virtual launch: "In the last ten to 15 years, particularly under [the Archbishop of Canterbury] Justin Welby, there has been heavy skew away from traditional parishes with a relationship to a church building and local community, to a style of church set up in a cinema or barn or converted Chinese takeaway."

As part of the vision and strategy for the Church of England in the 2020s, "mixed ecology" is one of the priorities allowing fresh expressions and new form of church to parishes across the country. This is aimed at attracting younger churchgoers as the church battles with a decline in attendance. 

According to Rev Walker "vast amounts" of funding had been given to churches instead of parishes, resulting in the closure of 60 parish churches in Essex.

The Church of England has set a target of establishing 10,000 new lay-led churches during the 2020s. There are currently 12,500 Church of England parishes. 

Rev Walker argues that parishes "are being denuded of the resources they need to survive" and warned that the consequences will be closures and redundancies. 

Rev Canon David Male, the C of E's director of evangelism and discipleship told the Guardian: "It is really heartening to see people coming together with a passion and concern for the parish, which is a precious inheritance at the heart of every community in England and the core of the C of E."

"Throughout our history there have always been other forms of churches alongside and within [parishes] - from cathedrals and chapels to Fresh Expressions and church plants, all of these come from and are part of the parishes. We need them all."

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