“Small behavioral changes” are needed among the million or so people who regularly attend Church of England parishes, says a new report on evangelism to be discussed at the General Synod.

The church, the report says, needs to move on “from a narrative of continual decline” and become a community of “advocates and apprentices who are outward-looking and confident.”

The research underlying the research identified a “total lack of confidence” in talking about faith at all. But if one extra person in 50 among regular worshipers invited someone to church, it would reverse the decline. This would lead to growth by 16,000 people per year, offsetting the current net loss of 14,000, the report says.

Synod members will discuss evangelism among young people and the need for a “culture of invitation” to reverse the trend of decline and spread the gospel to wider society.

For some years now the church has said it wants to be “a Christian presence in every community.” The synod will discuss how to renew this commitment by working in housing estates where churches, clubs, amenities, and public services have been withdrawn in recent decades.

A paper by the Rt. Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, urges the church to recognize what he calls “historic marginalization” of housing estates.

“Whilst estates were built with great optimism and can be good places to live, residents can often be dealing with multiple problems,” Bishop North writes. “Many lives are ravaged by the contemporary ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’: Universal Credit, low-paid work, food poverty, and austerity.”

John Martin

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