Thursday, 20 September 2012

Not enough clergy?

"The basic fact is that the parochial clergy are now all too few. They cannot, therefore, get free from the necessary routine duties of a parish in order to give themselves to the absorbing personal and pastoral ministry of evangelising their people. [...]"

That was written in 1945, in the report Towards the Conversion of England. At the time the Church of England had 17,000 full time clergy. They were all men, so if they'd had men and women responding to vocations in similar numbers as today there ought to have been about 30,000 of them.

The Church of England is currently looking to a future where it operates with 5,000 full time clergy, perhaps only two-thirds of whom will be men, representing a decline in that constituency of 80%. The population, meanwhile, has risen by a few million.

Thank heaven for parish administrators, is my first reaction!

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  1. John,

    I'm aware that this view appears to be common in certain quarters, especially in Chelmsford diocese, but these figures don't stack up with official C of E statistics. According to the latest set, the number of full-time stipendiary clergy will decrease from 8000 to 7000 in the next 10 years, and will continue declining at the same rate. That means it will be 2041 before we reach the 5000 level, and 2051 before the number halves to 4000. (See, especially Figure 36).

    I say this because our deanery is being asked to plan for halving its stipendiary clergy in the next ten years, even though it can afford to pay them. A not well thought-out plan.

  2. What parish administrators?

    Stephen Walton

  3. Quite! (Or non-conformist equivalent)
    & of course, there is (all be it by small amounts) more admin to do every few years. Especially if there are fewer at church who feel competent to step in to do form filling, it falls to the Clergy, if you're looking after multiple Parishes, like Steve, multiple form filling (I guess). More to keep people away from their actual job.

    Sorry, that doesn't actually answer John's question... just goes, "panic more!"

  4. John,
    Here's an idea; all those clergymen and clergywomen now worried about becoming redundant can simply move to North America where the ACNA have an ever-increasing over-abundance of bishops and not enough clergy to serve the millions who are flocking to them. Mind you, the lion's share of the money still goes to the bishops, but with subsidized housing, food stamps and ObamaCare what more could one ask for?

  5. I have been very frustrated recently with the insistence that SSM do the same job as stipendiary clergy. If they are working to provide an income, how can they?

  6. Surely the ideal is for BOTH 'the routine duties of the parish' AND 'the personal and pastoral ministry of evangelising their people' to be done by teams of church members, with the 'clergy' (paid and unpaid) supervising, equipping and training them for these tasks? We have (it seems to me) far too many clergy and far too few ministers.
    Andy Griffiths, Galleywood

  7. The most interesting facts are from Teresa Morgan's Oxford survey on Self Supporting ministry. They now form 27% of the total clerical workforce, and with over 10,000 Readers could staff every parish in England and Wales adequately, maybe even generously. All the silly groups could be split up and every parish once again have its own priest. But would the bishops and the full-timers want that?
    Mike Keulemans,

  8. Here in Chelmsford Diocese, Bishop Stephen Cottrell has this year instituted a review of the role of readers and suspended all reader training whilst it takes place.

    The diocese continues to insist that candidates for readership do a two year preparatory course entitled the Course in Christian Studies before entering the two year reader training. So it will normally take four years to become a reader. For those who commenced CCS in 2010, it will be at least five years as they will not have been able to start the main course this month.

    Yet Bishop Stephen also - rightly in my view - wants to increase lay ministry and participation in leadership given the fact that half of the stipendiary ministers in the diocese will have retired within ten years. So there is an urgent need to unblock the route to readership and also to enable more lay people to lead, to provide them with suitable training, to recognise those who already have the experience and to prepare congregations for leadership and recognised ministry by people without dog-collars.

    But at the moment I can see no plans for how to do this.

    David Brock, Elmdon