The next Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, Dean of Liverpool, has outlined his vision ahead of the last service to be delivered by him in his current role on October 2.
“The business of growth encompasses growth in depth of spirituality, growth in engagement with communities and many other things, but in this context I mean growing numbers,” he said.
“If the church is to meet the challenges of today - not least those that are posed by government funding cuts - we have to have more people on the ground. Jesus spoke of praying for people to go out into the harvest.
As he prepares for the move to the Diocese of Durham, a diocese with some of the lowest rates of church attendance in the country, Mr Welby sees the mixed economy of church as a vital part of growth.
“I think partly because historically the church has always operated mixed economy when it was at its best,” he explains.
(But) "Without stability you end up just following fashion, Benedict knew that very well, and without the catalyst of the Spirit you end up just becoming utterly embedded and unable to move in what you’ve always done.”
He takes a cautious approach, saying that fresh expressions of church need to be “calibrated and thought through rather than just done ad hoc, as a sort of knee jerk reaction when we need to have a fresh expression”.
What Mr Welby will be looking for when he takes up his new role as bishop is whether or not a fresh expression is “genuinely” a fresh expression, what it is trying to achieve, and in what way it adds to the work of the church and the Kingdom of God.
With brutal honesty, he adds: “If fresh expressions is not at its heart involving an encounter with Christ then I’m not remotely interested.”
Dean Welby can be contacted at email@example.com