The Archbishop of York expressed confidence that the church could grow, but passionately declared his belief that the church must take action to address decline.
Even if the church dies, he said, “let our death be a grand operatic death. Let it be something fantastic. Let’s not crawl into a corner.”
And the Archbishop also told Synod members that his vision of a ‘mixed ecology’ church was not a downgrade of the parish church but a call for a variety of initiatives in order to grow.
He told Synod members that references to General Synod as the ‘parliament’ of the Church of England is not a helpful analogy.
“It is an elected representative body. It is a legislative body. But it is a synod, not a parliament. There is no government or opposition. There are no chief whips. We sit in the round. Synod means walking and working together on the way.”
Highlighting words from Pope Francis, Archbishop Cottrell quoted: “the aim is not to reach agreement by means of contest between opposing positions, but to journey together to seek God’s will, allowing differences to harmonize…. To meet each other with respect and trust, to believe in our unity.”The unity that we have in Christ because of our baptism, the baptism of the wonderful people of God.”
Archbishop Cottrell described the work of Synod as “to work out what it means to be the Church of England in and for this day and in this age.”
“But we do have a compass: an utterly reliable source of comfort and guidance, by the Holy Spirit, the one who has told us that he himself is the way.”
Archbishop Cottrell reminded Synod that the Church of England is “to be a younger and more diverse church.We need to recognise our failures on issues of diversity and inclusion. But of course, these flow from the very heart of the gospel and the new humanity we have in Christ.”
Archbishop Cottrell spoke of a Church of England that recognises that “no one size is going to fit all,” because “we live in rapidly changing and fearfully anxious times, and because we live our lives in very different ways and in very different places, in virtual as well as actual space.”
“We therefore need to care for the whole ecosystem of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ,” he added.
“This is even more important today as the foci of these particularities expand and diversify. This is why we talk about mixed ecology. Not because we intend to downplay parish, but because place and all places and all people are so important,” he declared.
“Therefore, I want to say quite directly to those of you who have been elected on a save the parish ticket, I am with you and I, too, want to save the parish. As far as I’m concerned, you are not the loyal opposition waiting for your turn in government. The heart cry of your movement echoes in all our hearts and reminds us of the centrality of place, the importance of the local, of the continuity of tradition and service and why our resources must be focused on this, the local church of missionary disciples.”
The test of this work will not be the survival of the church he argued as he called Synod to have a bigger vision.