Thinking Anglicans

Self-Supporting Ministry

BRIN (British Religion in Numbers) reports on a study of Self-Supporting Ministry in the UK.

Self-Supporting Ministry

In 2009 3,100 or 27% of all the Church of England’s diocesan licensed ministers were in self-supporting ministry (SSM), sometimes described as non-stipendiary ministry. Hitherto, comparatively little has been known about these SSMs and how they are utilized by the Church.

That omission is now rectified by research published in the Church Times of 1 April 2011 (pp. 5, 22-3) and 8 April 2011 (pp. 4, 22-3, 30). These articles, together with some of the raw data in chart form, can be downloaded from:

http://www.1pf.co.uk/SSM.html

The study was undertaken by Rev Dr Teresa Morgan, Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Oriel College, Oxford and herself in the SSM, in the parish of Littlemore.

Fieldwork took place during the autumn of 2010 by means of an online questionnaire, to which 890 SSMs in the UK (but mostly from England) responded, representing 28% of the universe.

SSMs were found to contribute a significant amount of time to their ministry, with one-quarter putting in more than 30 hours a week and a further one-fifth between 20 and 30 hours. Only 15% spent fewer than 10 hours a week on their ministry.

Moreover, the overwhelming majority regarded their ministry as a privilege and a joy and had received extensive pre- and post-ordination training.

Notwithstanding, many respondents gave the clear impression that they were ‘ignored, overlooked or under-used’ in the Church, ‘parked somewhere, and left’, and ‘sidelined’. Some commented that stipendiary ministers appeared not to regard SSMs as ‘proper’ clergy and treated them badly.

Likewise, many SSMs reported a degree of stagnation in their ministry since ordination. 46% had held only one post since ordination, and 41% reported no change in their ministry during this time. Just 13% had lead responsibility for ministry in their parish or chaplaincy. 59% exercised no significant ministry beyond the Church. Almost one-quarter claimed to have received no ministerial development review.

Morgan is critical of the Church for its lack of strategy with regard to SSM and especially of the failure of dioceses to consider SSMs in their planning processes. She dismisses the raft of alleged impediments to the effective use of SSMs often cited by Church leaders, arguing that her survey has empirically disproved them.

The two reports in the Church Times are

Unpaid, unregarded, and under-used
Equipped and ready for action

although the second of these is only available to subscribers until Friday.

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Rev'd Peter DoodesMichael bushbyTom KeighleyHugh ValentineFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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Tobias Stanislas Haller
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A tad ironic given the other term for which SSM is an acronym!

laurence roberts
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laurence roberts

Dire reading. Comes as no surprise. Those of us who are SSM can take comfort, in knowing that we are treated little differently from many / most(?) other clergy.

The Church of England treats its ministers appallingly – it is in and of the culture – systemic.

The bishops could nt care less. The pastoral of the stipendiary ministers ranges from abysmal to non-exisistant. And Synod would rather p-ss about with a ‘Covenant’ ! (apparently).

Lettie James
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Lettie James

Is there any breakdown of what percentage of this 27% are women? LettieJ

JCF
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JCF

“self-supporting ministry (SSM)”

The history of this abbreviation may be lengthy and distinguished, but it IS confusing to introduce it here, when in Current Anglican Discussions, “SSM” means “same-sex marriage.” (JMO)

John Roch
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John Roch

I always read it as Society of the Sacred Mission — Kelham

🙂

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

Yes, John, that’s it. For me too, SSM means, and will always, Kelham.

So good was it, that the Church withdrew funding etc., from its excellent and unique training for the ordained ministry.

How impoverished we all are without it.

And yet SSM’s witness is more prophetic than ever.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Moreover, the overwhelming majority regarded their ministry as a privilege and a joy and had received extensive pre- and post-ordination training.” This is good to hear. In New Zealand, the term covering such clergy is NSM – Non-stipendiary Ministers; a term which, perhaps, ought better describe those candidates for Holy Orders whose intention is to serve, from the beginning of their call to ministry, in a non-stipendiary capacity. However, in the N.Z. context, this desire to serve as non-stipendiary clergy seems to sometimes lapse – once ordination has been secured. NSMs seem, sometimes, keen to occupy stipendiary positions in the… Read more »

Hugh Valentine
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Hugh Valentine

It is good to hear Ron’s view and I hope he won’t mind me making some response. What he says seems eminently sensible yet at the same time betrays underlying assumptions which the existence of priests who believe their priestly ministry to be ‘at work’ inescapably challenges. ‘Full timers’, he says, ‘forsake’ careers in ‘other professions’. Indisputably, all priests are ‘full timers’ (just as the baptised are ‘full time’ baptised; and incidentally, one can’t help but mention the number of ‘part timers’ who appear to be paid ‘full time’ stipends – but then every trade has its slackers). Then there… Read more »

Tom Keighley
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Tom Keighley

What I have always found fascinating about being a worker priest is how the church behaves as if there is a divide between itself and the rest of the world. It is OK to see worker priests as part of the bridge of that divide, but the assumption is inherently flawed. It seems to rest on a one-sided redemptive model (the church saving the world) which ignores the essentially incarnational nature of God and the calling to follow Jesus in completing the work of the Father. Many priests called to a parochial ministry understand that and incorporate it into their… Read more »

Michael bushby
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Michael bushby

Please can you explain why the term NSM is still used, when SSM is more acceptable.To define a position in such a negative way as NSM is beyond my comprehension. How can we get rid of the term NSM for good?
Revd Michael Bushby

Rev'd Peter Doodes
Guest

Quite Michael, why does the Church prefix the ministry of some by the description ‘unpaid’? But then again, a ‘training’ minister of mine did describe my ministry as “your hobby”; he treated it as such as well….