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Day 2

Synod hears proposal for Pioneer Ministry in the Church of Ireland

The Working Group on Pioneer Ministry brought forward proposals for pioneer ministry at General Synod this afternoon. The motion aimed to reach more people outside the Church in a way that complements existing ministry within the Church of Ireland.

Proposing the Motion, Bishop Ferran Glenfield presented the report of the Pioneer Ministry Working Group. He outlined the key proposals which include:

  • Establishing a National Leadership structure for Pioneer Ministry
  • Engaging with dioceses to promote and prepare pioneer posts
  • Partnership with Church Army to deliver training for pioneer ministers.
  • Dedicating financial resources from the RCB and dioceses to train and deploy paid pioneer ministers.

He said that Pioneer ministry was not a replacement for pastoral ministry in its current forms but that traditional and new models of church should complement each other offering choice. The report recommendations build on a range of church plants and outreach initiatives already in place in the Church of Ireland, he explained. The proposals draw heavily on the experience of Pioneer Ministry in other Anglican churches in these islands and beyond.

He said that the report had been endorsed by the House of Bishops, the Standing Committee and the Executive Committee of the RCB. It is planned to establish the National Leadership Structure, largely through secondment, by this autumn. Any legislation required for Pioneer Ministry in relation to the Constitution of the Church of Ireland, would come before Standing Committee and General Synod in 2023, the Bishop stated adding that details of the financial resources required for the training and deployment of paid pioneer minsters were being worked through and would be in place when needed. The first pioneer ministers would start training and deployment in 2024. Over the next decade up to thirty paid pioneer ministers and projects will be in operation, he stated.

The motion was seconded by Archdeacon Terry Scott (Armagh). He talked about the online word game Wordle the key to which, he said, was identifying the right letters and making sure they were in the right place. He said he knew there were many people with particular God given gifts but the pathways that existed within the church did not allow them to be part of the core of the Church.

Speaking to the report Archdeacon Barry Forde (Connor) said he had been involved in the work of the Pioneer Ministry Group for seven years and was encouraged by it. He thanked a number of the bishops for the leadership they had shown. He outlined meetings with diocesan advocates and the IDLE consultation process. They had received a wide range of responses and they found that the appetite was out there for pioneer ministry. He said that the initiative intended to grow as broad a base as possible to seek to reach those with little or no connection to the church.

Archbishop Michael Jackson (Dublin and Glendalough) said that the programme was concrete, coherent and collaborative. He suggested that members of Synod talk about pioneer ministry in their own contexts. He said it was something that was for the totality of the Church of Ireland.

The Revd Chris Matchett (Down) said he was encouraged by the motion before Synod and urged people to bring news of it back to their parishes. He said his parish had planted two community churches within housing estates within the parish boundaries but from which they had very few members attending church. He spoke of the importance of ministry that takes place alongside parish structures and within parishes. He said there had been consideration given to the relationship between the established church and the new church but it had been an interesting and rewarding journey. He asked the working group to consider the relationship with the parish as any pioneer expression takes place within the parish. He said the church plant leaders valued the parish structures that were in place.

Roy Totten (Connor) emphasised the importance of Church Army. He said that the original research on pioneer ministry was carried out by Church Army which has many years’ experience of pioneer ministry and the Church of Ireland would benefit from that experience.

The Revd Rob Jones (Dublin and Glendalough) commended the report. He said he had been involved in pioneer ministry and commended it as an all Ireland movement as opposed to just being a project. The real emphasis of the movement was to empower the laity who had a passion to pioneer in their own setting, he said. He said an important word to mention was ‘contextualise’. He explained that for many years the Church of Ireland had looked to other places but contextualising it to our local place meant that it was more than just a project but a movement. He planted a church into a parish and said it was important to have both sides of the church involved with support from the bishops and the RB. He said this would be a movement that would be ordained but mostly it was about mobilising laity in their context.

Archbishop McDowell said they had been on a journey and he wanted to people involved to feel they had the support of Synod.

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