GS2222 is a proposal to amend the Church of England’s Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. Of particular concern to ringers is proposed changes to the mechanism for church closures. GS stands for General Synod, which is the Church’s equivalent of a parliament. GS2222 envisages that, for financial and other reasons, church closures will increase from the current rate of around 20-25 per year to possibly treble that number in the next 2-5 years. GS2222 suggests simplifying the process by which churches are declared redundant and closed.
This is clearly an issue that affects bellringing, in that the majority of the bells we use are currently located in Anglican churches. The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) has responded to the consultation on the new proposals on behalf of ringers and their full response is available here:
In summary, the CCCBR’s response focuses on two aspects of the proposals:
Clearly ringers will be keen to see parish churches thrive and continue to be used so that bellringing can play a part in worship, and bellringing can continue to play its part in the wider mission of the church. Of course this is partly driven by bell ringers enjoyment of bell ringing, but that works both ways – bells are the voice of the church whether they are ringing for a service or not, and bellringing can play a part in strengthening congregations and keeping churches open.
Secondly, recognising the fact that some churches will be closed, it is vital that there is early consideration of the bells in the closure/disposal process, otherwise bells which should be used in worship situations will remain unrung, and often unringable, in churches where there has been a change of use. The bellringing community will always be able to find a home for good rings of bells, whether in other Church of England churches, churches in other countries, secular settings, ringing centres or schools. The CCCBR is actively discussing this issue anyway with the Church Buildings Council and Historic England, and there is unity of opinion that the future of bells needs early consideration.
What can you do? The CCCBR is recommending that ringers open a dialogue with their clergy and PCC to ensure that their concerns are addressed if it seems likely that their church will be affected by closure. The Guild is communicating with the Diocese to emphasise how important it is that ringers should be involved as early as possible. We do not yet know whether GS2222 will be accepted by Synod, but the financial situation of the Church of England, particularly following the closure of church buildings during the Covid pandemic, has ensured that the church closure programme will certainly be subject to scrutiny and review. We hope to ensure that ringers will be part of any decision that affects them locally.