Thinking Anglicans

A Covenant for Clergy Well-being

Press release from Church of England Communications Office

First step towards Covenant for Clergy Well-being

07 November 2017

Plans for a new deal between clergy and the wider Church of England – modelled on the ideas behind the Military Covenant – have taken a step forward after a panel was established to begin drafting.

The Church of England’s Appointments Committee has set up a group, made up of members of General Synod, both lay and ordained, alongside others with expertise in areas such as health and education, to draw up a Covenant for Clergy Well-being.

It is being produced in response to a vote in the General Synod in July of this year after a debate which heard of the impact of stress, isolation and loneliness on clergy’s lives and ministries.

The debate heard how the Military Covenant recognises that the nation relies on the sacrificial service of those in the armed forces and in return has a duty to support and value them in practical ways.

Although the parallels with the Church are not exact, Synod heard how a similar pattern of mutual commitment could be recognised in the Church.

The working group will begin work later this month and aims to bring proposals for such a Covenant back to this Synod by July 2019…

A background paper provided to members of Synod ahead of the July 2017 debate can be found here.

Further details of the Military Covenant, and the Armed Forces Covenant which followed it, are available here.

Here is the Church Times report of the July debate: Causes of clergy stress aired in the General Synod.

And the Church Times recently carried several related feature articles:

I was pushed close to the edge

All in the mind, body, and soul

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Father David
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Father David

Onward Christian soldiers!

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“modelled on the ideas behind the Military Covenant “

As a general rule, people who attempt to claim their job is akin to being shot at with live ammunition are, unless their job actually _does_ involve being shot at with live ammunition, in desperate need of a sense of proportion. Private Eye intermittently mocks actors who make wild claims of their job being like life on the front line (not helped by the smug use of the word “civilians” to describe non-actors), and this appears to come from a institutionalised version of the same self-aggrandising delusion.

Fr John E Harris-White
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Fr John E Harris-White

Do we know who will make up this group, and what are their qualities to be members of this specific group?

Fr John Emlyn

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I was shot at with a crossbow and 24-inch rockets when I was vicar on a troubled estate. Fortunately the diocese (Chester) were really good at supporting me. I’m always grateful to them for that.

There’s still the pressure of parishioners’ unrealistic expectations, though, and I’m not sure a covenant will help with that.

Father David
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Father David

Interested Observer
A word of warning about placing the word “civilians” in inverted commas as Jeremy will be after you with some specious non-existent connection with same sex marriage!

Simon Sarmiento
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The names are all listed in the press release, Fr John Emlyn.

Simon Butler
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Simon Butler

Interested Observer, I take complete responsibility for the use of the Military Covenant in this work. The idea comes from my experience both as a former naval officer and now as a Parish priest. There‚Äôs no institutional agenda here: just me borrowing something useful from the secular world. I would welcome any critique of the idea (the report- which you willl no doubt have read before opining – recognised that there is an obvious difference between military service and ecclesiastical service. Although scripture occasionally invites comparison). Feel free to send me your thoughts- we are keen to hear from all… Read more »

Fr John E Harris-White
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Fr John E Harris-White

Thank you Simon

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“as Jeremy will be after you with some specious non-existent connection with same sex marriage” Father David, if you are referring to the recent discussion of the inaccurate “worldwide Anglican Church” and “doctrine” in Caroline Spelman’s parliamentary answers, then I will let other readers judge whether the connection is “specious” or “non-existent,” as you claim. Those misstatements were made, of course, in response to a question under the heading “Same-sex marriage.” That heading was not mine, but Hansard’s. Before you posted “Jeremy will be after you,” I was actually thinking that the “well-being” news in this post would appear to… Read more »

Marshall Scott
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IO, I would note that while combat is our most frequently noted cause for post traumatic stress, it is hardly the only one. Here on the western side of the Atlantic, a good deal of gunfire happens without benefit of such preparation (in any sense) as military experience might offer. Moreover, as a hospital chaplain I can assure that many kinds of assault can result in debilitating post traumatic stress. Is that to claim a false equivalence with combat experience? I hope not. After all, when we ask patients the level of their pain, we are asking them only to… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Soldiers do their jobs, nurses do their jobs, teachers do their jobs, firefighters do their jobs, manual labourers do their jobs, police do their jobs. There should be no hierarchy. Same with clergy and lay people in the church. Everyone faces pressures. Life is rarely easy, whatever your walk of life. I am very guarded about what I sometimes feel is the “fetishisation” of the military in our society. Especially if it’s suggested that soldiers should get priority housing etc. Having said that, like all the other workers I have listed, soldiers deserve support and care. So do priests (so… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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I’m an old fart, and reasonably approachable, so from time to time clergy colleagues talk to me. I don’t know about the UK, but I can tell you from what I’ve heard that there is a real need for this kind of support for clergy (and their families too). For all sorts of reasons, many clergy are struggling.

Jo
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Jo

I would have hoped that the Church of England would recognise that for many Christians, and indeed many priests, a comparison with the military has more negative than positive connotations.

Will Richards
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Will Richards

How interesting that any reference to LGBT+ and same-sex partnered clergy has been confined to a footnote (note 7 on page 6). That is a pointer to one of the significant causes of deteriorating clergy well-being in itself, despite the ‘official’ stance in this footnote. Talk about elephants in rooms.

NJ
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NJ

Jo, don’t tell all the military chaplains that. For many Christians, and indeed many priests, the military is an honourable occupation, a regrettable necessity in a fallen world.

Jo
Guest
Jo

NJ: I’m sure military chaplains are already well aware of the tension in the Christian tradition between “Just War” ideas and outright pacifism that make applying a military analogy across the whole church problematic.

David Richards
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David Richards

I’ve looked at the discussion paper for Synod, and cannot find (though apologies if I have missed it) any kind of definition of what appropriate levels of demand and sacrifice might be for the ordained. Until we identify the boundaries of what is acceptable, and what is not, clergy will be hostages to the fortunes and changing whims of the institution and the unrealistic expectations of those they are called to serve. For example, when is someone going to say that an 18-hour day for most days of the week is unacceptable?