Hope for the Church:

Review of 'Hope for the Church: Contemporary strategies for growth.' 
By Bob Jackson. Church House publishing, 2002.


The first chapter of ‘Hope for the Church’ (titled ‘Facing the Truth’) begins with a warning: ‘this chapter should not be read by Anglicans of a nervous disposition, because it gives statistical evidence for an unpalatable truth: the Church of England is in decline, and has been for nearly a century.’ Given that Bob Jackson wrote this a decade ago, the situation is, if anything, even more critical today. Although in one sense then, ‘Hope for the Church’ is now dated, there is another very real sense in which it is even more relevant and critically important now, than when it was when first published. Using his skills as a former government economic adviser, and the experience of more than twenty years in ordained ministry, Bob Jackson produces in ‘Hope for the Church’ the most practically useful book on church growth and renewal that this reviewer has read. Having confronted the reader with the facts of decline, and demonstrated why numbers matter, Jackson turns to a description of the social context ‘after Christendom’ and asks ‘why should the future be any different (for the Church)'? What follows proceeds on the basis of an examination of the statistical evidence that arises out of the survey of the patterns of growth and decline in the 43 dioceses of the Church of England over the course of the previous ten years. Jackson first identifies which dioceses defied the trend for decline, and instead registered growth, and then seeks to establish the factors and conditions that contributed to this growth, in the midst of decline elsewhere. There follows the most practically useful and important sections, the chapters on what can, and must, be done, in order to assure the future and give hope to the church. These explore themes such as nurturing faith, welcoming all, taking risks, growing younger, and supporting the clergy, ending with an examination of the role of the diocese in fostering growth. The chapters each end with a series of questions and action points for vestries or other leadership groups.        

Review by Bradly Billings.