The Archbishops' Missioner and outgoing leader of the Fresh Expressions team has expressed his delight over recent figures revealing growth in the Church of England, but cautioned that statistics do not always tell the whole story.
Bishop Graham Cray was responding to figures out last week showing
that within the average diocese, fresh expressions make up 15 per cent
of the total number of churches, and 10 per cent of the attendance.
"There is certainly little point in being involved in Christian
ministry which does not bear fruit; however exciting it may seem," he
wrote on the Fresh Expressions website.
Calling for continued commitment to developing new forms of church, he added: "There is still a long way to go."
The Fresh Expressions movement is a joint partnership between the
Church of England and Methodist Church. It aims to engage especially
with those who would not usually consider attending a traditional
church, and seeks to show that worship can take all kinds of different
Some fresh expressions meet in more unusual locations such as pubs or
bars, though many use church buildings and take a more informal
approach to services.
An estimated 21,000 people attend fresh expressions in the 10
surveyed areas of the 44 Church of England Dioceses, and 66 per cent are
either growing in number or maintaining their congregation size.
With the non-churched being the largest and fastest growing group in
the British population, Bishop Cray said it was "particularly
encouraging" that the non-churched accounted for 40 per cent of people
attending fresh expressions.
The figures, compiled by Church Army, indicate that churches are
successfully finding ways of adapting to the needs of their local
"Appropriateness to local context is the key and different models
connect better with different social groups," said Bishop Cray.
"Fresh expressions are proving to be an effective means to church growth in the member churches.
Bishop Cray said the indications of growth "offer hope to all denominations and traditions engaged in this ministry".
"It is bearing fruit, most particularly in the many lives represented
by these statistics," he noted, before urging the Church of England to
place "renewed priority" and extra emphasis on resourcing and financing
new forms of church.
The research concludes an 18-month study into growth in the Anglican
community, but leaders have promised to continue to look into how the
Church can best serve its communities, and continue to grow its presence
across the UK.