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Church Merger: When Two Become One – Andy Griffiths

June 5, 2015

CMI read this book because I am involved in the early stages of a possible church merger.

His churches merged when they had congregations of 57 at one and 72 at the other. There are many smaller congregations today.

I welcome his suggestion that some mergers could be between churches of different denominations. The Church of England doesn’t usually think or plan ecumenically enough.

One view was that of Peter Wagner who claimed that, since church splits often lead to church growth, whereas (according to his research) ‘in a merger the usual result is that the merged church soon shrinks to approximately the size of the largest of the two former congregations,’ merging two congregations is a greater sin than splitting one into two by doctrinal schism.’

It depends on the reasons. When they merge, congregations usually, say that they are attempting to preserve their traditions or conserve exhausted resources. If these are indeed the motives for the merger, the congregations will soon ‘experience disappointment and frustration, for merging as a means to conserve or preserve is utterly incompatible with its end, which is sudden and massive change.’

Maybe it’s our duty to merge. Charity trustees are morally and legally obliged to explore the best and most efficient ways of achieving their charity’s stated aims; that this is often likely to entail partnerships or mergers; and that trustees who do not consider the possibility of merger may be negligent in their duties. PCC members and their ecumenical equivalents are, of course, charity trustees.

It isn’t to be rushed into. The advice is ‘Don’t Marry on Your First Date.’ Many aspects of the author’s church life had been merged for some time. They had had a PCC and youth activities in common since the 1970s, so when we eventually merged there was no need to create a new committee structure; the PCC just carried on, simply abolishing its two congregation-based sub-teams (though as chapter five below reveals, a whole new set of teams was created). We had had home groups in common since 2005, prayer groups in common since 2007, and considerable cooperation in the areas of children’s work and music. Theologically, both churches were unapologetically evangelical in tradition.

(Where churchmanship differs, it’s harder. He says that most Anglican bishops seem relaxed about accepting that local churches will not all be able to offer weekly communion, as long as it is available within the ‘cluster’ somewhere. That would ntr be acceptable in churches of the catholic tradition.)

He was determined that there would be a merger not an acquisition.

In the US, more than half of immediate full mergers (full mergers without partial mergers first) dissolve after less than two years.

It might be that two churches, after going through a consultation process, decide that they wish to stay as two churches but build a partnership, for example joint youth, children’s, evan­gelistic or social-action projects.

The Church in Wales’ review suggests that each of these local presbyteral teams have a designated leader as focal minister: ‘In most cases, this would be a self-supporting priest, Reader or other appropriately trained lay person.’ (Called the ‘parson’.)

Nick Spencer suggests that in a given area a number of parishes (or their ecumenical equivalents) should merge. Each of the churches would be re­tained, but one would be designated as the ‘minster’ and the others as ‘local congregations.’ One model would be for all church members to attend their minster church on Sundays…and to meet during the week at their local congregation…Alternatively, local congregations could continue meeting in the local church [most] Sundays, as at present, but attend the minster church one Sunday a month.

Money saved by closing one church might be used t make the other church more suitable e.g. for children’s work.

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