Bishop's hope for the future

By John HowardReligious Affairs CorrespondentA BISHOP has issued a message of hope for the future of the Church despite a decline in the number of clergy and internal divisions.

By John Howard

Religious Affairs Correspondent

A BISHOP has issued a message of hope for the future of the Church despite a decline in the number of clergy and internal divisions.

Writing in the East Anglican diocesan magazine, The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, spelled out his hopes for the next 10 years.

He spoke of a Church that had struggled and faced painful debates, but was still a force for the future.

The bishop told of his hopes for: “A Church which faced a decline in stipendiary clergy numbers, but which continued to develop the new ministries of all God's people.

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“A Church which was pressed hard to focus on its own survival and to look inwards, but which broke out and grew in new ways of being a church for the world.

“A Church which struggled with its architectural heritage of fine buildings, but managed to persuade people that such a heritage is a national not just an ecclesiastical treasure.

“A Church which came through hugely painful debates on sexuality, women, HIV/AIDS and many more, but was able to establish sufficient trust amongst its members to carry discussion through.”

Bishop Richard was unavailable for comment yesterday, but Nick Clarke, spokesman for the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, said the Church had been through challenging times, facing up to the issues of the day.

He added: “In 10 years the Church of England will still be here and every indication is it will still be strong and be participating in the day-to-day lives of thousands of people across the county.

“There are 15% of Suffolk schoolchildren who go to Church of England schools and we have more voluntary youth workers than any other voluntary organisation. We are involved with communities at every level.”

The East Anglican, which carried the bishop's message, is a subscription magazine of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese with a print run of 15,500 and a readership of at least 31,000 people.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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