Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church
Report of an Anglican-Methodist Working Party
Church House Printing, $39.95
The term “fresh expression of church” was coined in 2004 as a result of the report Mission-Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context, presented to the Church of England synod.
The report’s aim was to explore ways of doing mission that take account of the circumstances and needs of contemporary society. A direct outcome of that report has been the setting up of the ecumenical Fresh Expressions initiative, which has led to the development of “fresh expressions of church” in a large number of Anglican parishes and Methodist circuits in the UK. Some have also emerged in Australia.
However the “fresh expressions” movement has given rise to a number of challenges and questions, not least about what it means to be the Church and how “fresh expressions” relate to “inherited” forms of the Church.
This book is a report which seeks to address some of the major questions that have arisen and how the church might grapple creatively with them. It concentrates on those areas of fresh expressions which Anglicans and Methodists in the UK have in common.
The result is a detailed reflection on the practical, theological and ecclesiological questions arising from fresh expressions both in the Anglican and Methodist traditions, including the big one for many: whether or how fresh expressions can properly be regarded as churches in the “true” sense of the term.
The report also includes a definition of what is meant by fresh expressions; an exploration of Acts of the Apostles in relation to the movement; an outline of Methodist and Anglican traditions; and the beginnings of a mission-shaped ecclesiology.
The final chapter is a summary of the report’s conclusions and its recommendations, the first of which is that the Church of England and the Methodist Church should continue to support and resource the development of fresh expressions of church.
This report will be of interest to those engaged in conversations about the church’s mission in our current context, and those reflecting on the practical, theological and ecclesiological questions which surround fresh expressions of church.
However, for me it feels like driving with the hand brake on. While on the one hand the report wants fresh expressions to continue, the “essential elements” listed looks like the church is trying to pull fresh expressions into a mould that looks very much like the traditional church.