Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 April 2018

Jeremy Morris Viamedia.News IICSA – Is Clericalism to Blame?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church A response to Martin Warner on Safeguarding
[We linked to Martin Warner’s article yesterday.]

Wealands Bell Preaching in red ink

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Janet FifeRod GillisWill RichardsDavid RuncornKate Recent comment authors
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Kate
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Kate

It is with some trepidation that I disagree with an academic of the standing of Jeremy Morris. He is, however, absolutely right to suggest that the real issue is institutionalism, not clericalism, and that we will sadly see terrible failings exposed in very different organisations. But I think he then makes two major mistakes in his reasoning. 1. Within the Church of England, institutionalism cannot be separated from clericalism. 2. Whether one calls the issue institutionalism or clericalism is irrelevant: major cultural change is still needed. The truth is that the Church is inherently hierarchical. The senior figures believe they… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Kate, I agree. I’ve read Jeremy Morris’ blog twice now, some days apart, and on both readings I’m left with the feeling the Church he knows is rather different to the one I know. Which is not surprising, really – the Church IS a different place to academic white males than it is to many females, survivors, BME, and various other groups. And that’s a big part of our problem.

NJW
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NJW

I would venture to suggest that the problem is not clericalism, but rather the opposite. From my experience many of the problems we encounter come because those who should be responding pastorally feel they cannot, as they hand over the response to professional advisors in the relevant field – be they safeguarding advisors, lawyers or insurers. I would hazard that one of our problems is a lack of confidence among those in positions of authority that causes them to defer to the expertise of others – often with results that are narrow and can be less than desirable. This can… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Regarding Jeremy Morris and clericalism, he is correct when he writes: “we’ll see these things emerging in social work and social care, in medicine, in education, in the police, in local government, and in politics … .” Yes the church shares with other institutions a perverse exceptionalism that empowers the culprits and puts the institution ahead of victims. However Morris’ pointing away from clericalism and Archbishop Welby’s pointing toward it, both are mistaken for the same reason i.e. clericalism is not a completely unique phenomena. For example classical clericalism ( which Morris pronounces dead in the C of E) cannot… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“Kate, I agree. I’ve read Jeremy Morris’ blog twice now, some days apart, and on both readings I’m left with the feeling the Church he knows is rather different to the one I know. Which is not surprising, really – the Church IS a different place to academic white males than it is to many females, survivors, BME, and various other groups. And that’s a big part of our problem.” – Janet Fife Add straight and cis. S and I can’t just visit any church, even for communion, and expect unconditional welcome. If the minister doesn’t feel that individually, or… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

NJW, we have seen in the IICSA hearings and in various reviews that the bishops did feel able to extend pastoral care. Trouble is, they extended it to the clergy abusers, and not to the victims. That’s clericalism. Or ditch the word and just call it sinful, or scandalous, or corrupt. As long as you recognise it.

Marshall Scott
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I find Jeremy Morris’ article interesting. And, yes, we do find this not only among clergy, but in all the “helping professions.” Some are better at what, in the US, is referred to as “required reporting;” but all professions have those who fail at this. In my training we refer often to one’s “authority issue” – and everyone has one, whether it comes out more clearly when one is in authority or when one is under authority. It’s functionally less about the institutional structures (although those are not irrelevant) than it is about power differences in relationships, and how one… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re:Marshall Scott, good post. “I’m never sure who is more attached to it [clericalism], clerics or lay persons.” Spot on.

NJW
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NJW

Janet, I agree entirely – that is what I meant to mean about the misuse of authority, which has at times been sinful, scandalous or corrupt (or all three) – directed in the opposite direction to where justice and love require. Perhaps it was lost in the language of clericalism, but my underlying point is that with proper lines of authority and responsibility this sin should be obvious – which is not about clericalism, but about having proper hierarchy (with no hiding places), inhabited by people of integrity. I would also stress that my understanding is that not all the… Read more »

Will Richards
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Will Richards

One aspect of Jeremy Morris’s piece that is being conveniently overlooked in this discussion is the recognition that the Church of England is an episcopally-ordered church, with a distinctive three-fold ordained ministry. It is part of our collective character, and our claim to be Catholic, to call people out of the laos into one of the three distinctive orders of ministry. If we want a different starting point, then I guess we head for the Quakers or somewhere like the Vineyard network (which can often be more authoritarian and less accountable, in practice). That is why I think Jeremy Morris’s… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re Will Richards, your point about Anglicanism and the ministry of oversight is correct on the face of it.

However, the ministry of oversight can be exercised collaboratively with presbyters, deacons, and the whole people of God. Episcopacy does not have to be ‘clericalism’ as destiny; but it certainly requires that the whole people of God be especially vigilant that it does not become such–something which has happened, is happening, and that appeals to three fold ministry does not excuse.

Kate
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Kate

“… the Church of England is an episcopally-ordered church, with a distinctive three-fold ordained ministry. It is part of our collective character, and our claim to be Catholic, to call people out of the laos into one of the three distinctive orders of ministry”

It is, but it needn’t be hierarchical, nor need it be laced with privilege and it most certainly doesn’t need titles.

David Runcorn
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Kate I agree about privilege, possibly less so about titles but know where you are coming from on that. But as a matter of interest do you know any society, organisation, community or historic church tradition that has not ordered itself around some form of hierarchy of shared and delegated authority? And has endured, flourished and sustained its life? I have been part of a variety of Christian communities over the years. None have flourished or survived without such structuring. It would help to have examples of the alternatives you are urging. I am genuinely interested.

Will Richards
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Will Richards

Kate, if it isn’t hierarchical, what is it? How is accountability and oversight expressed? Collaboration, of course. I have no problems with that, and there is much evidence that this is refreshing the mission of the Church. But the buck has to stop somewhere. There can only be one Diocesan bishop. There can only be one priest to whom that bishop delegates authority and responsibility for the life of a parish within the legal framework we have inherited. Or are we aiming for some kind of egalitarian chaos, where no-one but everyone is in charge? Given all that we now… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: Will Richards, “Or are we aiming for some kind of egalitarian chaos….” We are a long long way from that. Let’s reel in the red herring, no? But I thought your earlier comment about Archbishop Welby agreeable. ” …he [Welby] has repeatedly used his position to ‘big foot’ situations outside the boundaries of his authority.” I don’t know much about the guy’s approach beyond his media/public persona; but he strikes me as kind of like the centurion in Matthew 8:9. “I say to one man go and he goeth…” type thing. His finger pointing about clericalism seems ironic. It… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Will, Jesus does have a lot of titles, but he didn’t go around using them. ‘I, Saviour, High Priest, Christ, Prophet, Shepherd, King of Kings, say to you…’ He referred to himself as ‘the Son of man’. ‘I’m one of you.’