Comments: A Programme for Reform and Renewal – Post-Synod Briefing

Looks like the Archbishops mean business! I only hope that the target of a 50% increase in ordinations is achievable, in order to replace the 40% of clergy who will retiring ere long. It is also good to see an emphasis on the recruitment of younger ordinands to replace old boys like me who have laboured and are currently labouring long and hard in the Lord's vineyard.
I don't know if the Bishop of Huntingdon has acted out of turn by publishing this document on his website when it isn't currently available on the official Church of England website?
I seem to recall that Bishop Blunt of Bradford caused a bit of a stir when he indirectly referred to an issue concerning King Edward VIII thus opening a great big can of worms. However, it seems to me that this document should have the widest possible circulation as it shews that, at long last, the Church of England is being serious about Evangelism. William Temple would that thou hadst livest to see this hour.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 20 February 2015 at 6:09am GMT

Apologies if I'm missing something very obvious, but how does the intent to increase ordinations by 50% from 2020, mainly with younger candidates, square with the plan in every diocese (as far as I can see) to decrease the numbers of stipendiary clergy posts? I work in one of the relatively well-off dioceses and even we have a plan in place to reduce numbers. Anecdotally, the cohort of stipendiary curates finishing their curacies this year are finding it more difficult than any previous cohort to find jobs. This is despite all the talk of baby-boomer retirements en masse.

Is there a plan to release funds for clergy stipends and housing, or will all the extra candidates due to be ordained be self-supporting? If the latter, how realistic is this given that they are supposed to be younger and more diverse, ie, having had less time to build up a career and financial security?

Also, how will the increase in candidates be achieved? I am a little concerned if there is a numbers target then unsuitable candidates will be put through to meet it.

Posted by Olivia Jones at Friday, 20 February 2015 at 10:29am GMT

One point which has been left out of the analysis is that younger ordinands, recently out of university, will be carrying a fair amount of debt via student loans. Unrepayable debt used to be a bar to ordination - but in any event they will not have resources to put towards retirement housing, unless they inherit or have a spouse who works, or other access to capital. That will distort the intake rather and may reduce diversity rather than increasing it.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 20 February 2015 at 2:03pm GMT

The Archbishops (and others) seem here to be undertaking something commendable and necessary - if it is affordable/realistic (comments above). That fact - if it is a fact - must not stifle efforts to hold them accountable for their wholly unacceptable - even cynical - maltreatment of Jeffrey John. Upholders of decency and honesty in regard to this particular issue must continue to fight.

Posted by John at Friday, 20 February 2015 at 7:55pm GMT

I agree with Olivia Jones.Giving a a hostage to fortune. Decade of Evangelism? Remember that?

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 21 February 2015 at 9:06am GMT

Perry may well be being realistic but surely we can learn from our mistakes with regard to the disastrous Decade of Evangelism? A 50% increase is a considerable target to achieve but consider the alternative - a continuing decline. The powers that be have realised at the eleventh hour that we need more priests to replace the 40% of stipendiary priests soon to retire.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 21 February 2015 at 9:32am GMT

In addition to Olivia Jones' important questions I would ask whether it has entered the heads of the Archbishops and their fellow bishops to ask how many priestly vocations are being lost due to their continuing injustice toward gay Christians. Most of the younger people I know regard this policy, and those who maintain it, with undisguised contempt, so they will feel unable in good conscience to respond to a call to ordination even if they hear it. It seems a high price to pay simply because Church leaders are desperate to pacify a vocal minority of fundamentalists.

Posted by Barry at Saturday, 21 February 2015 at 12:25pm GMT

I've heard people relatively senior in the church, including those responsible for selection and training of ordinands, talking about the imminent retirement of a large number of stipendiary clergy for several years now, Fr David, yet I don't see it on the ground. The first tranche of baby boomers, those born in 1945/46, will be 69 or 70 this year so should already have gone, but I don't see a swathe of advertisements to fill their posts. As I said, anecdotally people are having difficulty finding incumbency positions at the moment, while less anecdotally, all the dioceses I know about have serious plans in place to reduce stipendiary clergy numbers by a largish percentage over the next few years. I agree with you that the church needs to be prophetic and take risks, yet this doesn't all look very joined-up to me.

I'm also worried, as I said, about the quality of candidates being put through if there is a numbers quota (the church has been clear up til now that every decision is based on discernment of each individual's vocation, not on any need to meet a quota). More than that, though, I worry about the young people who will be selected under the system. Burdened, as Mark Bennett says, by student loans and facing an unaffordable housing market, will there be enough curacies for them to go to, and jobs for them beyond that? And if so, who is going to pay for them?

Posted by Olivia Jones at Saturday, 21 February 2015 at 1:21pm GMT

Mark Bennet "they will not have resources to put towards retirement housing, unless they inherit or have a spouse who works, or other access to capital. That will distort the intake rather and may reduce diversity rather than increasing it."
Those of us ordained some 30 years ago (then in our 20s and early 30s) came in without resources to put towards retirement housing - indeed some were encouraged [instructed even]to sell their houses and use the proceeds towards the maintenance of themselves and their families through their time of training. Now, as we face retirement in the next 5-10 years, the pension and housing provision that many of us had expected to rely on is all on shifting sands. But I expect that I speak for the majority of us if I say that we embraced this uncertain future as part of a sense of sacrificial vocation "taking no thought for the morrow" as followers and disciples of Christ. I would hope that those offering for ordained ministry in our times will also be willing to recognise the sacrificial nature such a vocation entails. "the foxes have their holes and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head"

Posted by Paul Richardson at Sunday, 22 February 2015 at 10:06am GMT

@Paul Richardson: I remember those times, though I was ordained later (a long story). But now young ordinands will have debts you and I never had. And I too share that vocation. I remember, as a lay member of Southwark Board of Finance, arguing that there was a counterpart to the commitment to vocation of the clergy, and that was the commitment of "the rest of us" (the non-ordained) in the longer term. And we didn't seem to be up to the task. Now I am ordained the argument is self-interested - I made it without knowing where it would end.

I am sure you will note that the current discussion of the working groups is essentially about how we use money in the service of the church. Keeping ourselves comfortable while we rely on others to make sacrifices was never the gospel.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Sunday, 22 February 2015 at 10:55pm GMT

@Barry is right to be concerned about lost vocations. I have learned only this week, from someone who is providing pastoral and strategic support for people in this situation, that those attending BAPs who admit to being gay are not being recommended. Those who collude with the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy are finding the situation unsustainable and leaving full-time ministry in the early years (in some cases) months of ordained life. Are we then to assume that, in the recruitment of ordinands, that the 50% figure means '50% more of People Like Us'?

As Alasdair Macintyre identified some decades ago‘All power co-opts and absolute power co-opts absolutely.’

Posted by Michael Chancellor at Tuesday, 24 February 2015 at 10:42am GMT

Do we know how many people do leave full time ministry and why? Does MinDiv ever explore this?

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 27 February 2015 at 10:10am GMT
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