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Facing the Future: Bishops imagine a different church

Acorn Press, 2009
RRP $29.95

Reviewed by Karyl Davison, rural ministry coordinator for the Central Queensland and Mary Burnett Presbyteries.

Recognising that the church faces a challenging future, with declining and aging congregations, this collection of short essays brings together 22 bishops of the Anglican Church in Australia seeking to give clear indication of some options for the way forward.
Essentially all contribute towards the shift in perspective from the church and mission, to the church’s essential involvement in God’s mission.
Editor Stephen Hale, formerly Bishop of the Eastern Region of the Melbourne Diocese, reflects on the need for parish renewal including stepping out in faith to build something new in order to reach those who don’t go to any church.
Stuart Robinson, Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn and Wayne Brighton, researcher and secretary of Fresh Expressions Australia, explore some fresh expressions of church that might engage the non-churched.
From Trevor Edwards, Assistant Bishop of Canberra Goulburn, we hear about the necessity of bishops that lead the way by providing an environment that supports and encourages missional churches and fresh expressions of church.
Phillip Aspinall, Primate of Australia reminds us of the missional potential of church schools, while Len Eacott, the Bishop to the Defence Force, explains the unique position of ‘outsider’ chaplains in the Defence Force fulfil.
Most helpful is a chapter by Mr Hale on the new type of leadership required to bring about the missional church.
He said church leaders today need to be adaptive leaders, “able to be real and honest; relevant to our culture yet able to connect it to the biblical story; responsive to what’s going on yet able to present a vision; and relational and accessible”.
A tall order when many of our churches are “internally self-preoccupied and self-concerned”.
Although Facing the Future gives insight into current thinking in the Australian Anglican Church, there’s not a lot that’s new here.
However it does remind us of the need for all churches to be intrinsically missional and for church structures to be thinking strategically to ensure that this happens.