Comments: "Increase in ministry numbers is necessary and achievable"

Well, then they may start with the half-a-dozen of my friends who felt called to both marriage and ministry and were forced to choose.

Posted by DBD at Tuesday, 20 September 2016 at 11:09pm BST

Yes, DBD. And what modern woman would allow her girls to go to a church, or a diocese with a bishop, that won't ordain women?

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:13am BST

"At the same time, the Church is also seeking greater diversity among those training for ministry. This will better reflect the communities where the Church is working, in terms of age, gender and ethnic and social background."

Arun : "Do you think anyone'll notice I didn't mention the gays or people with disabilities?"

Justin : "I think you got away with it."

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 10:02am BST

One would hope that the 'big push' to swell the numbers of clergy would not further lower the apparent quality of their education in such matters as Scripture and its various schools of interpretation, theology, church history, and liturgics. My experience of recent ordinands shows many of them to be woefully ignorant of all of the above and a reluctance to learn. My sincere apologies to all recent ordinands who did value and attend to these things.

Posted by Revd Ellen M Barrett at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 12:38pm BST

I have resisted commenting until now. I find this push for more ordained people very sad. How about offering training to lay people? And even allowing them to use their God given gifts? As a lay woman I feel marginalised and ignored. I take your point, Ellen Barrett about the absurdity of the current position and the choice some of us have to make between marriage and ordained ministry and the lack of opportunity for those of us who are differently abled. I was part of a congregation when the incumbent tried to improve access with a ramp. He was told firmly that "we don't have disabled people here." I wondered why...... Although I do appreciate that there are some functions which need a priest, but please, please let us not ordain people who are not suited to the job, or even just not called. We do still have talented lay people whose ministries need to be recognised and affirmed. So please let us think long and hard before ordaining a lot more stipendiary clergy. If the church must have a recruitment drive, what about self supporting ministers who understand a lot more about the real world of work most of us inhabit? Who bring far more to the table than some stipendiary clergy I know. The model if 'one priest per parish' no longer meets the needs of the inhabitants of Britain. So let us think again, creatively, through the eyes of our Lord and allow him to guide us into new paths.

Posted by Anne at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 2:22pm BST

Am I missing something, or isn't it God who calls us to the Priesthood, not a sales person or committee. What happened to those days of prayer for vocations to the priesthood, and the religious life. Is that like the sacraments of Holy Unction, and Restoration of a Penitent now old hat, and disregarded.
Tomorrow I thank God for the 53rd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I thank God for those who have prayed for me, and others that lead us to say yes to God. Be it unto me according to Thy will.

Posted by Fr John E. Harris-White at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 3:31pm BST

I have to say that I think that the Holy Father in Rome is more realistic, and that in a few words gets to the heart of the matter: "He [...] said bishops must not get caught up in a game of numbers with vocations, but focus more on quality and forming mature priests, who are not slaves to their personal vices and weaknesses."

Posted by american piskie at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 4:41pm BST

Whilst I have some sympathy with the objective of maintaining clergy numbers at a certain level, I have profound misgivings about a 50% increase, especially if the bulk of this number is to be stipendiary. The Church simply cannot afford it if current projections of declining attendance are realised, and I simply do not believe assertions that more clergy will result in higher rates of attendance. Only [deluded] higher clergy suffering a certain rigidity of thought and their lay little-sir-echoes could possibly believe otherwise.

Ellen Barrett has rightly noted the importance of quality over quantity. It has been my experience that quality cannot generally be assured at current rates of pay, and to assert that quality will be guaranteed with a 50% increase is, bluntly, incredible. If quality cannot be assured when finances are so tight, then what, really, is the point of the whole exercise? As to her remarks about the scholastic attainments of the clergy, it is evident that the learned parson of yore is frankly quite rare (to the extent that I sometimes fear we are reverting to an Erasmian mumpsimus), and many sermons could well benefit from at least a little leaven of learning, which certainly need not be derived from a three year residential course. However, what is rather more important is that genuinely personable candidates who have a sincere interest in people are ordained. I have encountered some clergy who, frankly, are not especially nice at all; as such, they are worse than useless, and a particular drag/insult when resources are as constrained as they are.

The running down/closure of OLM and like schemes has been noted; whilst these programmes had their detractors, they made some sense and afforded access to ministry from sections of the community that had often been discounted and/or debarred in the past.

By all means increase numbers by 50%, but ensure that the great majority are NSMs and (as others have noted) please place a far greater premium on lay leadership in worship. Worship may often be conducted perfectly satisfactorily, especially in rural areas, without clerical participation – so much so that this inevitably leads to the question: why have clergy other than for the periodic administration of the sacraments? I suspect that much of the anxiety to increase numbers has its origins in a clerical fear of irrelevance and creeping congregationalism, and an associated loss of power/control.

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:12pm BST

The 50% increase is in the number of ordinands per year, not in the total number of from about 500 to about 750.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 7:33pm BST

A fantastic set of comments but I would add there's no need for someone ordained to lead sacraments either.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 8:58pm BST

Laurence Cunningham said it well. The announcement of new procedures to attract more candidates to ordination are laughable in view of the fact that ordained clergy who are married to partners of the same sex are not permitted to serve in ministry by certain bishops.

Also, one friend who was recently ordained to the priesthood in the C of E had numerous obstacles and delays placed in his path, enough to discourage a less determined candidate. I think of another friend, not yet ordained, faced with the same types of obstacles and delays for reasons mysterious to me, because both seem eminently qualified.

Posted by June B Butler at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 12:42am BST

One detail in the stats is that at present, ordinations outnumber retirements and deaths, yet clergy numbers are falling. Why? because 'other leavers' (leaving parish ministry to go to chaplaincies, other non-parochial roles, or leaving ministry altogether), outnumber both, at roughly 300 a year. Half of this number rejoin parish ministry every year, but worryingly 90-100 clergy drop off the radar completely.

If we did a better job at support and retention of clergy, this might have a big impact on the projections.

Posted by David Keen at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 8:34am BST

On lay ministry, we still await the R&R report in November -

Posted by Helen King at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 9:14am BST

So, very simply there are 250 people a year who currently make a rational decision not to get ordained and who need to be persuaded to make a different decision (actually more than that as the number of people who want to get ordained but fail to get selected will presumably increase too)

Broadly, these 250 people might be grouped into 2 categories; those who would be suitable for ordination now (both in their own eyes and the eyes of the church) but incorrectly believe they won't be, and those that wouldn't be suitable now.

To give some clarity to what's happening, it'd be helpful to have a breakdown of which of these categories the church expects these to come from. If they're almost all in the first category then this is all a big PR exercise but it would be interesting to know if there's any understanding of what misconceptions need to be dispelled.

If it's in the second category, it'd be very interesting to know what rules are going to change.

A big flaw in all of this is that it counts 'ministers' not 'ministry'. Without wishing to denigrate the work of part time and NSM priests, in any way, a full-time stipendiary minister does inevitably have more time to do more useful things than anyone else, so in terms of assessing the claimed problem that loads of priests are about to retire, we can't know how useful the extra 250 a year will be if we don't have an expectation of how many will be stipendiary or NSM. (We also can't have a rational discussion about the affordability of all these new stipends)

And, as usual with R & R there's a token reference to lay ministry with no attempt to work out what on earth they might mean by this. The problem of counting 'ministers' becomes even more acute here; very simply, they need to attract people who have rationally decided they don't have enough time to become readers.

Posted by Leon at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 9:41am BST

Kate, your anti-clerical prejudice is showing itself - yet again. This is the Church of England not congregationalism. Laity have their proper and honourable place - but ordination is necessary for sacramental grace to be invoked. However, marketung the vocation to priesthood as a 'numbers game', seems quite the wrong way to encourage priestly vocations.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 11:03am BST

Whilst acknowledging the correction from Simon, I share Froghole's concern over the affordability of this scheme. It may be deemed to be necessary and achievable but that isn't enough.

As Froghole says, there is clearly the underlying assumption that having more clergy (than we would have had without this scheme) will automatically result in greater attendances and financial contributions, but the evidence for this is limited and highly questionable.

If this assumption does not in fact come to pass, this scheme will saddle our ageing and declining congregations with an even greater burden. Several dioceses, including my own, are already having great difficulty in balancing their books, and we should not lightly embark on actions which will exacerbate this problem.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 4:44pm BST

"Kate, your anti-clerical prejudice is showing itself - yet again. This is the Church of England not congregationalism. Laity have their proper and honourable place - but ordination is necessary for sacramental grace to be invoked."

And the Biblical basis for that is? Because Christ didn't say, "find yourself a priest and do this in remembrance of me" but simply, "do this in remembrance of me". Just because something is the teaching of the church doesn't make it inalienably true, otherwise there would be no discussion on same sex marriage. Indeed the Bible suggests that any occasion on which we eat bread or wine is an eucharist and suggesting that only those occasions when a priest is present count is not just un-Biblical but also denies the presence of Christ at other times. Isn't that what Peter did wrong? In private, in safe spaces (which a church is) he acknowledged Christ but in public he denied Christ. In what way is that different to denying the presence of Christ when we eat bread or drink wine in public?

As to whether lay presidency of the Eucharist is somehow not Anglican, we need to read Article XXXIII. That makes no distinction between preaching and ministering the sacraments. Accordingly, if the laity can lead worship or be involved in mission, then they may also minister the sacraments. +Any+ lay person, whether or not licenced, who is called to mission - and the Church of England is now calling all laity to mission - has equally been called to minister the sacraments. The Church cannot - or rather should not because it tries to - have it both ways: either mission is the sole responsibility of the ordained or all church members may minister sacraments.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 10:23am BST

Just want to speak up in support of Kate's view here. With regard to my friend Father Ron's comments, it is often noted on this site that Christ said nothing about homosexuality. Indeed. He also said nothing about the question of who presides at the Eucharist.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 23 September 2016 at 11:19pm BST

I have a close friend, indeed we have been friends since university days in the 1960's. He is a member of the Uniting Church of Australia (formed from Methodist, Congregational and some Presbyterians). In his retirement he has become a lay minister in his church and is allowed to preside at Communion services. I am happy for him but such a service would be meaningless to me. I would prefer to join him for a cup of coffee or a full glass of wine and something more substantial than a piece of bread or thin wafer.
Although brought up in the Evangelical Diocese of Sydney I was taught in the catechism, which I learnt by heart before my confirmation, that there is an inner meaning to Holy Communion which requires it be administered by an ordained priest. As I have moved to more Anglo-Catholic churches this has been reinforced as I partake of the Eucharist. In fact I see no point in going on Sunday to an institution where I am regarded as a 2nd class citizen except for this sacramental grace. I am certainly happier drinking coffee or wine with my many friends who never darken the door of a church if they can avoid it. Lay administration would see me join them.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 3:08am BST

With this proposed increase in ordinands of 50% - does that mean we shall soon be seeing the reopening of one of the many Theological Colleges that have been closed in recent decades?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 12:27pm BST

Tim and Kate. Actually there is no one pattern of any kind of ministry in the NT is there? Nor is there much of a clue as to what services looked like in NT churches, what they included and who led them. So I am not sure Kate has any more grounds for her own radical vision of Christian ministry than she does for denying what she sees in the church today and plainly does not like.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 24 September 2016 at 8:27pm BST
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