The Church of England is considering renting out its underutilized parish churches after declining regular worship attendance.
The move is aimed at preserving the potential for these churches to reopen in the future rather than being sold after merging with larger parishes.
The proposal will be discussed in the General Assembly, the legislative body of the Church.
The plan proposes to lease the underutilized building to local governments, other Christian denominations or various institutions through joint ownership agreements, The Telegraph reports.
The Church of England Commission, the group responsible for managing the Church’s $13 billion endowment fund and investment portfolio, proposed the plan.
The Archbishop of Canterbury heads this group.
Supporters of the plan plan to submit it for discussion at the Synod this week.
They believe in hibernating rather than abandoning these churches and providing opportunities for churches and communities to remain open to new possibilities for service and witnessing as circumstances change.
Campaigners criticize the archbishop for overseeing the parish’s rapid decline and see the proposal as a major victory.
Reverend Marcus Walker, president of the Save the Parish campaign group, hailed the plan as a victory for the local parish.
However, the proposal requires parishioners of hibernating churches to find alternative places of worship.
personal failure to decline attendance
Despite this positive reception, the plan faces a backdrop of sharp declines in church attendance over the past decade.
In June, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby admitted that the drop in attendance during his tenure was a personal “failure”.
A report on the Rental Plan includes a “Theological Introduction” by Andrew Ramsey, Bishop of Ramsbury.
The bishop emphasized the heavy burden of governance in small communities and the challenges faced by local volunteers to keep churches open.
Ramsey stresses that the architectural heritage is being closed prematurely due to stress and lack of resources.
He proposes a fallow period or “Holy Year” period to allow church buildings to rest and rejuvenate, reflecting the natural cycle of growth and abundance.
This approach aims to maintain common ground between the Church and its neighborhoods while awaiting future growth.
This statistic clearly shows the decline in church attendance and church closures.
CofE data analyzed by The Telegraph found 423 churches closed between 2010 and 2019, and nearly 1,000 closed between 1987 and 2019.
The number of churches currently operating is approximately 15,496. In addition, the proportion of Christians in England and Wales has also declined, falling from 59.3% in 2011 to 46.2% in 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics.
source of information
https://cathnews.co.nz/2023/07/06/church-of-england-plans-to-rent-underused-churches/ Church of England plans to rent underused parish church