Church of England Creates "i-church"

LONDON – The Anglican Church announced the creation of its first “virtual parish” and began receiving applications for its “Web pastor,” on Friday, March 05. The internet church, similar to the “Sunday morning televangelists”, is targeted toward “busy Christians who wish to explore Christian discipleship but who are not able, or do not wish, to join a local congregation."

The “I-church” is "For people who travel a great deal or are unable to attend regularly, i-church can support them spiritually wherever they are in the world," the church said on its Web site. "I-church is different from a local congregation. Although i-church is a sacramental community, there is no obligation on members to meet together."

The Internet Church comes at a time when the Anglican Church – the definitive Church of England – is suffering from declining attendance. Current statistics show that only about 2 percent of England attends an Anglican worship service on any given Sunday.

The I-church will be based on the Diocese of Oxford under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Oxford. The community, however, will be led by a “Web pastor” to build and oversee the internet parish.

At that end, the Church of England posted an ad at the England Church Times newspaper for the position.

“"We are looking for a dynamic, confident Christian, who is able to build this new community, lead its core members, and be available to visitors to the site," the ad said. "You will need excellent communication skills and the ability to work creatively in a new and untested environment."

In addition, the new leader, lay or ordained, will need to be familiar with the internet as well as the Church of England.

The I-church, designed and devised by the Rev. Richard Thomas, author of the recently published book "Counting People In,” has three goals, as specified by the website:

• to provide a focus of Christian community for those who wish to explore Christian discipleship but who are not able, or do not wish, to be participant members of a local congregation.

• to provide an additional means of support to those who do not find all that they need within their own worshipping community

• to provide continuing connectivity with Christians who travel, either through their work or in their life-style, and who are not able to maintain relationships with a geographical Christian community.

"As the Internet is a growing part of that community, we would be failing in our mission if we didn't provide a spiritual community for people who relate with each other primarily through the Internet."

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