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Cranmer Hall, St John’s College,

3 South Bailey, Durham DH1 3RJ

Cranmer Hall announces new funding for theological research into church planting

Cranmer Hall, St John’s College is delighted to announce that it has received a grant of £60k from the Sir Halley-Stewart Trust to develop the work of the Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research. The funding will enable the Centre’s Director Revd Dr Will Foulger over the next two years to undertake pioneering research into theology and church planting in the Church of England, and to equip and support other researchers in this vital area of the Church’s life.

The Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research was established by Cranmer Hall in 2021 with a unique vision to tell the story of what God is doing though the new churches being started across the country.  Almost every Diocese in the Church of England has a church planting strategy, and the aim of the Centre is to resource the church with high-quality theological research into how such church planting is faithful to God’s mission for the church in the world.

Over the last twelve months the Centre has been carrying out original empirical-theological research into four new churches in Durham Diocese, the results of which will be published later this year.  The additional funding will enable the Centre to carry out research at twenty new churches and collect data from fifteen Dioceses about their planting work. This research will be published in an accessible format online and made available to a range of stakeholders across the church.  Alongside this work, the Centre will continue to grow a network of theologian-practitioners who will be able to serve the Church by articulating a rich theological vision for starting new churches. The Centre will host an annual Church Planting Theology Conference, with the first of these to be held in March 2023 in Durham.

Revd Dr Will Foulger, Director of the Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research, said, ‘I am grateful to the Halley-Stewart Trust for their confidence in this work, demonstrated in this generous funding. I am convinced that we need to think theologically about the exciting work that God is doing in his church, of which starting new churches is clearly an integral part. We must do this work not because we require a theological justification for what we already doing, but because mission and starting churches is God’s work rather than ours. I’ve enjoyed exploring questions of how the new churches relate to the old, and how churches can serve their local communities for the long haul. I can’t wait to get started on the next stage of our research so that we can tell the story of what God is doing in and through His Church and help other theologian-practitioners to grow in their vocation.’

Revd Dr Philip Plyming, Warden of Cranmer Hall, added ‘I am delighted at this significant gift to Cranmer Hall’s Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research. As a theological college we believe our vocation is not only to train future and existing church leaders but also bless the wider church through outstanding research which can inform the church’s mission.  Church planting has a vital role to play in such a mission, but there is vital work to be done in showing how God is at work in the new churches being started.  I believe Will Foulger is superbly placed to lead on this, and I am thankful that this grant will enable Will to draw on his practical experience and theological insights to produce research which will be of huge benefit across the church.’

Revd Canon Lizzy Woolf, Team Rector St George’s Leeds, added, ‘As a Resource Church leader in the North of England I am delighted about the grant for Cranmer Hall’s Centre for Church Planting Theology and Research. I have been impressed by the team there, and believe this will enable them to continue making a vital contribution to the church planting movement, enabling stronger, more robust theological foundations, and thus longer-term sustainability.’


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