Mission-Shaped Church: A Critical Commentary and Analysis

1.0 Forward & Introduction

Mission-Shaped Church is so entitled because it sees the Church as: "... the fruit of God's mission which exists to serve and participate in the ongoing mission of Go." (xii) and, says Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a typically latitudinarian passage in His Foreword: "If 'Church' is what happens when people encounter the risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other, there is plenty of theological room for diversity of rhythm and style, so long as we have ways of identifying the same living Christ at the heart of every expression of Christian life in common." (vii)

Continuing this thought, the Chair of the Working Party, Bishop Graham Cray of Maidstone, says that Breaking New Ground saw church planting as a supplementary strategy to the parochial system but: "It is clear to us that the parochial system remains an essential and central part of the national Church's strategy to deliver incarnational mission. But the existing parochial system alone is no longer able fully to deliver its underlying mission process. We need to recognise that a variety of integrated missionary approaches is required. A mixed economy of parish churches and network churches will be necessary, in an active partnership across a wider area ... ." (xi)

In looking at the challenges facing the Church, Cray notes the need to come to terms with consumerism, to adopt a more missionary approach to our understanding of church and to achieve a degree of enculturation: "'Church' has to be planted not cloned. ... the Gospel has to be heard within the culture of the day, but it always has to be heard as a call to appropriate repentance. It is the incarnation of the Gospel, within a dominantly consumer society, that provides the Church of England with its major missionary challenge". (xiii)