Friday 9 March 2007

The Training of the Clergy in Evangelism

98. In view of the immense opportunities open to parochial evangelism, it is alarming to discover how few of the clergy have been given any training in the work of an evangelist, such as in the art of preaching or of personal dealing with enquirers; how few, again, have been used of God to bring a soul to new birth; and how many are embarrassed and tongue-tied when the occasion offers of speaking to individuals about the deepest matters of their eternal welfare. [...]

99. We are gravely disturbed to discover how many of the clergy seem to have received inadequate training in prayer and meditation. [...] We touch here the very heart of successful evangelism. On the one hand, evangelism cannot exist without that vision and power which regular habits of private devotion alone can communicate. On the other hand, it is so very difficult for the harassed and isolated parish priest to maintain, steadfastly and ardently, the inner life of daily communion with God.

100. The ignorance of the Bible to-day, not only in the ranks of the laity but also amongst many of the clergy (and particularly the younger clergy) is really horrifying. Yet there is nothing more vital for the work of evangelism. The Bible contains the title deeds of our Faith. How many priests, to-day, by pointing to passages and verses from the Holy Scriptures, can bring that assurance of salvation to enquirers which our Bible-loving forefathers were able to mediate to countless multitudes? [...]

102. The standard of preaching throughout the Church, speaking generally, is deplorably low. The bitter complaints of the laity upon this score are too general and widespread to be dismissed lightly. [...] There is an art in preaching, as in teaching, which does not come by light of nature save to a specially gifted minority. What teacher would feel himself well equipped for his profession if he received no more instruction in his art than is afforded to most preachers? [...]

103. [...] Definite instruction in the art and methods of evangelism should be provided by lectures before ordination, and by Schools of Training after ordination.

Instruction, however, is not enough. Evangelism can only be learnt by actually seeing it done, and in the art of doing of it oneself. We strongly recommend that opportunity should be given for all ordination candidates and younger clergy to have practical experience of evangelism, whether through participation in missions or I.C.F. Crusades, or by advantage being taken of the evangelistic campaigns for university students conducted by the Church Army and others. [...]

106. 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. [...]

107. During this acute post-war shortage the temptation will be for the laity to demand, and the Bishops to allow, a lower standard of training and of personal qualification, in order to save parish priests from breaking down under an impossible strain. We are convinced that were the Church to succumb, and to lower instead of raising the ordination standard, fatal and far reaching damage would be done to the cause of true religion: above all, to the cause nearest to our Saviour’s heart—evangelism. [...]

108. The situation should force the Church to answer the question whether it could not “by a fuller and more intelligent use of women, strengthen and supplement the ministry of men in its service, and also enable them to make their special contribution.” (Report of the Archbishop’s Committee [1944] on Women’s Work in the Church, par. 4.)

111. But if the seventeen thousand priests of the Church of England are to become seventeen thousand evangelists and trainers of evangelists, something far more revolutionary is demanded than the strengthening of auxiliary ministries open to faithful Churchmen and Churchwomen—nothing less, indeed, than the full cooperation of the whole body of the laity in the Apostolate of the Church.

(From Towards the Conversion of England: The Report of a Commission on Evangelism appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, pursuant to a Resolution of the Church Assembly passed at the Summer session, 1943, London: Press and Publications Board of the Church Assembly, 1945)

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