11 October 1999
The office of Evangelist has received renewed recognition from the House of Bishops with a report on those working in parishes and dioceses and the inauguration of a College for those working more widely. "Evangelism is at the heart of what the Church is and what it stands for," says Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his foreword to the report Good News People. Dr Carey and Dr David Hope, Archbishop of York, will inaugurate the College of Evangelists, at Church House, at 6.00pm today, Monday, 11 October.
Over the past 15 years, an increasing number of dioceses have been training and recognising Diocesan Evangelists. These are lay people and clergy whose call is to evangelise in their parish or more widely within the diocese, in addition to the Church Army evangelists and the Diocesan Missioners who have been a valued part of the Church of England for many years.
The House of Bishops set up a Working Party, in 1996, under the chairmanship of the then Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Rev John Finney, to examine the role of the evangelist within the church. Its Report, Good News People, examines the present situation where Diocesan Evangelists have been adopted and gives a detailed report on six dioceses (including two which decided Diocesan Evangelists were not appropriate to their context).
The report examines in depth the place of the evangelist in the New Testament, in Christian history and in other denominations and overseas. It defines the word 'evangelist', looks at what might be appropriate for the Church of England and discusses the practical issues facing a diocese thinking about the subject - in particular the selection, training, recognition and use of Diocesan Evangelists.
Good News People is intended to be read as a whole as a help and encouragement to dioceses and to give theological basis for the Church's thinking. It ends with two Codes of Conduct setting out the relationship of the Evangelist to the Church and the responsibilities the church has towards the evangelist.
"We hope that the Report will be of value in helping the Church to honour and use the ministry of the evangelist, particularly at the local level," said Bishop John Finney. The College of Evangelists will do the same for those fewer evangelists who have a much wider ministry than the diocese.
"The College of Evangelists is not a building or a training institute but a body of men and women gifted in evangelism," said the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Southampton and the first Chairman of the College. It will enable those with a gift for evangelism that goes beyond the local church to be recognised by the Archbishops and provide a source of fellowship and support by which the gifts of those as yet unknown outside their dioceses can be encouraged and nurtured by the wider church.
"When evangelists who have a ministry which is more than local are invited beyond their own diocese to help in missions or other events, they will now have a means of recognition and commendation," said Bishop Jonathan. "This will give them fresh confidence to develop their gifts and will encourage a new generation of evangelists."
Good News People - recognising Diocesan Evangelists, the report of a working party of the House of Bishops, Church House Publishing, price £4.95, is available from all good Christian bookshops or by mail order from Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel 0171-340- 0271/6/7, fax 0171-340-0278.
Further information from:
Steve Jenkins (press) tel (0171) 898-1326
Jonathan Jennings (broadcasting)