Thinking Anglicans

bishops question competence of clergy

Updated again Tuesday evening

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has a report in the Sunday Telegraph headlined ‘Poor quality’ of vicars alarms Church leaders.

This is based on a Ministry Division report entitled Quality and Quantity Issues in Ministry.

…It found that there are “serious concerns” at the top of the Church hierarchy over the quality of its clergy.

The internal report suggests that the standards of new clergy has dropped, because of the demands on the Church to fill vacant posts, while many vicars who have been in the job several years have lost their energy and enthusiasm.

To tackle the problems, the Church is to vet new applicants for ordination more vigorously and is considering changing the selection criteria and a pay review…

…The report, which was produced by the Ministry Division, the Church body responsible for staff issues, reveals deep anxiety amongst bishops over the competence of its paid ministers.

A survey of diocesan bishops found that one-third believe that more than half of current clergy – as many as 6,000 – are unable to cope with the demands of the job.

In addition, 90 per cent of the bishops believe that a third of the new intake of clergy do not have the necessary gifts and abilities…

Sunday evening update

Dave Walker has a roundup of responses on other blogs.

Tuesday evening update

Bishop Alan Wilson has written an informative article at Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Supply. This shows that we have slightly more clergy than we did in 1950. One of the main reasons is that we now have far more “active retired” clergy than before, 4468 vs. 1262. (Click on the graphic in his article to get the numbers larger.)

And he has written a further article, Vicarage Allsorts: Clergy Quality.

Since Chaucer’s time there’s been public anxiety about this subject. 200 years ago Sidney Smith lamented the decline in the quality of clergy since the enforcement of residence was preventing gentlemen from desiring ordination. In the roaring 20’s, Hensley Henson bemoaned the decline in the quality of ordinands since the first world war. The document quoted in last week’s Sunday Telegraph, however, is barking up a very different tree. A more accurate headline than “poor quality of vicars alarms church leaders” would probably be “desperation to inject alarm into drab HR questionnaire twits journalist.”

As Dave Walker notes, Bishop Pete Broadbent also supplied further information here, i.e. in the comments below.

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Kahu Aloha
13 years ago

I won’t comment on the internal affairs of the CofE any more than I would accept their comments on our internal affairs. It is a common problem, but at its root, I don’t think it is a civil service matter – even if the organization is configuered that way.

Adrian Wait
13 years ago

I feel that the Church of England is in real danger, like the Titanic it is increasing its speed, without knowing or acknowledging the dangers ahead. The stresses and strains within the structure are deeply fractured and each section claims to know what is right, and what the direction should be. Like an old wine skin it is being stretched and torn, and will not be fit for the new wine! I do not rejoice or revel in such news, it saddens me, but the slow corruption and tendency for relativism – ‘isms and ologies’ that become more important than… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
13 years ago

No study on the quality of bishops, I assume.

Simon Sarmiento
13 years ago

I feel sure that if there had been, Lapin, then Jonathan would have mentioned it.

But this problem didn’t arise suddenly, did it? The bishops were themselves all members of the “inferior clergy” earlier on, and they have been the people ordaining those that they are now criticising.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Shome mishtake surely. Shouldn’t the report read “90% of the clergy believe the bishops to be of inferior quality”?

dodgyvicar
dodgyvicar
13 years ago

Just give me half an hour to elaborate on the subject ‘cock-ups and problems caused by inadequately trained bishops and archdeacons’ and I would be delighted to oblige.

Pluralist
13 years ago

There are deep anxieties about the quality of bishops. What gets me is the lack of proactive planning, for example for restructuring parishes and infrastructure, and organising personnel. If bishops stopped letting things “hang” and “wither” so that a decision only emerges after so much frustration, but acquired some management training and skills, then the clergy and indeed active lay people might feel somewhat more themselves organised and capable. There are so many books about management and motivation. There is a Lambeth Conference about Better Bishops but I bet there is nothing about management training and organisation involved.

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

please, god, no!!!!! not management training. look at the nhs, look at the education system, look at northern rock. management failures all of them. the problem isn’t that the c of e doesn’t bother with management, but that it does. it’s all management, no mission, no theology. archdeacons and bishops spend more than half of their time sitting in committees and pretending to be managers. and the poor bloody infantry of the parish clergy get it in the neck from their hopeless attempts at running things. and don’t even start me on the mangement culture of clergy appraisal. can you… Read more »

Raspberry Rabbit
13 years ago

Simon – any link to the report itself? Is there someone who can send us a copy in a brown paper wrapper?

RR

Simon Sarmiento
13 years ago

RR

Not yet. We are, after all, still waiting for the report on Bullying to reach the web.

Although a press release about the other document mentioned in the newspaper, about preaching, did appear during the day, see
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr4908.html

robroy
robroy
13 years ago

The elephant in the room: For the first time in history, more women than men are being ordained in the CoE. Political correctness would never allow the question be asked, what is the breakdown in “incompetent” male versus female vicars?

When the priestly vocation is thought of as a female vocation, quality will truly plummet. One simply has to look at other professions where females dominate, e.g., nursing and primary education. Unfair? You bet. Society unfortunately does not value or lend prestige to occupations dominated by females. Without prestige, the best and brightest will look elsewhere. That’s hard reality.

Pluralist
13 years ago

Well, there is management training and management training. What I am suggesting is communication, and this means informal as well as formal, making sure there is feedback, again informal. A long time ago the systemic view of management was seen as compatible with a Pauline view of the Church, and that systemic view is not hierarchical but based on specialities in various places, often people in position knowing more than the pyramidal management chain. This calls for delegation, communication and participation in management. I cannot see that this will do any harm at all. Management by drift is not an… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Leonardo Ricardo
13 years ago

“gifts and abilities”

The second part is in question at the very top…no wonder the less-amongst equals are confounded as to which end is up.

Merseymike
Merseymike
13 years ago

Given that this is written by a church which has Nazir-Ali and Dow amongst its bishops, this is amusing indeed.

David Keen
13 years ago

Even by the serpentine standards of CofE statistics, this is bizarre. If 90% of bishops don’t think 1/3 of the clergy are up to it, then either a) they are ordaining people they know aren’t good enough or b) 10% of bishops are ordaining a small army of substandard clergy. Normally, one of the biggest factors in morale, performance and work productivity (horrible word) is the quality of the line management. If vicars are losing enthusiasm and are feeling overwhelmed, then the hierarchy should be looking at the quality of its own leadership and clergy support before it looks at… Read more »

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

I bet the feeling is mutual. ;-/

[Lemme guess, Adrian: YOUR individual concerns equate to “the Word Preached and shared”, whereas other people’s are nothing more than “isms and ologies”? Physician, heal thyself!]

a vicar
a vicar
13 years ago

Let me see – under trained, under paid, scared of homelessness in retirement, expected to break the European Working Time Directive on a weekly basis, stretched thiner and thiner… many of us sacrificing health and family.

Why do we do it – we love God and the people we’ve been given to serve.

There are bad clergy, and sometimes you wonder how some of us passed selection, but there are a lot of heroes and heroines in collars out there. Don’t make the clergy carry the can for structural problems beyond our control.

choirboyfromhell
choirboyfromhell
13 years ago

(Stop me if you’ve heard this before) A priest and a bishop went to heaven. At the pearly gates both made an appointment to see each other for cocktails, the former deciding to visit the latter in his cell. At the appointed hour, the priest knocked on the door and was amazed at the sumptuousness of the furnishings and space. Later, doing a slow burn, the priest stopped St. Peter’s reception desk to make a complaint, and the good saint took him aside and confided that priests were a dime-a-dozen and usually ranked normal lodgings. He then stopped the priest… Read more »

YankObserver
YankObserver
13 years ago

I’m an Episcopal priest in America, but I recently came into contact with a priest from Britain. He said that while he serves a small congregation, he is responsible for over 12,000 people because the CofE is the “established” church. He must provide funerals, etc. regardless of whether these are members of his parish. Here’s what I’m wondering (only you in England can answer this; I don’t know): Could part of the problem be lack of time to prepare sermons? I know how demanding even a small congregation is; if you must serve them and anyone living in that area,… Read more »

Peter of Westminster
Peter of Westminster
13 years ago

“archdeacons and bishops spend more than half of their time sitting in committees and pretending to be managers. and the poor bloody infantry of the parish clergy get it in the neck from their hopeless attempts at running things. and don’t even start me on the mangement culture of clergy appraisal” — Poppy Tupper You could substitute here “academic administrators” for “archdeacons and bishops,” and “faculty” for “clergy” and you would have an apt description of the institution in which I live and work. Weaker academic administrators (jumped up faculty all) even come to disdain faculty as they are reshaped… Read more »

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

that’s exactly right, peter. i mentioned education as one of the areas of national life that is being ruined by mangers. it’s typical of the c of e, always one generation behind the world. just as secular institutions are beginning to show that the management culture is ruining them, the church decides to import it into its own structures. the worse victims, as far as i can see, are the cathedrals – destroyed by the hoew report which insists that every cathedral should have an administrator. bring back matron, bring back the head teacher, bring back the proper dean and… Read more »

Adrian
13 years ago

NO, JCF, you simply make the same mistake… I know people categorise to dismiss… but my concern was Seeking the KIngdom first, not personal agendas… Where the heart is….the authority of Scripture does not rely on personal opinion… bu tif it helps you to blame me… so be it!

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
13 years ago

Watching your language at TA, Robroy? I’m sure readers here would be interested to read your T19 “gloves off” comment on the topic:

“…. When a field is perceived as a women’s job, prestige falls and quality of applications falls in turn. ……… I looked and they did not (and dared not) look at the question of poor quality vicars were female.”

a vicar
a vicar
13 years ago

I think our American clergy friend has hit part of the nail on the head. I spend a lot of time on ‘occasional offices’… weddings, funerals and baptisms for people who live in the parish but have little or no tie to the worshiping congregation. This is a great privilege, and done well, is a form of mission. But, it does take time. I also have to look after a Medieval church! Most American clergy I have talked to (and I have a lot of American ties) are shocked at the small amount of time English clergy give to sermon… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
13 years ago

We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God … … some of the best people I know ask themselves the question ‘how do I get the best out of […]?’ and develop some sklls in imagining good answers. It works up the chain (how do I get the best out of my Bishop/Archdeacon) as well as down it (how do I get the best out of this vicar who seems to be struggling). It is consonant with the idea that we all have gifts given by God which are given for the common good. The danger… Read more »

counterlight
13 years ago

“…. When a field is perceived as a women’s job, prestige falls and quality of applications falls in turn.”

Which might explain why such professions as teaching and nursing, that everyone agrees are vital, are so poorly paid and badly treated in the USA, and I strongly suspect elsewhere.
Perhaps the problem is not “quality of applications” but latent misogyny that keeps wages and prestige for these professions low.
And now that the ranks of the C of E clergy are being filled with women, conveniently we now have an excuse for paying and treating clergy like nurses and teachers.

YankObserver
YankObserver
13 years ago

“This is a great privilege, and done well, is a form of mission. But, it does take time.” – A Vicar You know, I thought about that too. In England, you have a type of access I do not as a priest in America. This could give you many opportunities for ministry and evangelism I miss. Preparing a sermon, I would estimate I spend anywhere from four to ten hours per week. I suspect it would be tough to do that with the obligations you face. You’re right that in America there is a strong tradition of not just adequate… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Leonardo Ricardo
13 years ago

Quality Control, or simply, a new approach to slandering “progressive” clergy, laity and softening the recent rush of enthusiasm for making WOMEN Bishops?

I find it fascinating the only “good NEWS” is apparently/authentically proclaimed by bigots masquarading as puritans with non-stop demeaning of ever other Christian persons SOUL but their very own. Irresponsible, premeditated damagemaking, yellow-journalism and the driving off Church seeking Christians (only to note the “decline” of pew sitters)…odd, how quickly this and other “bad NEWS” smear campaigns follow the quest for WOMEN BISHOPS…WOMEN BISHOPS NOW!

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

“my concern was Seeking the KIngdom first, not personal agendas…” It seems your personal agenda, Adrian, is to declare yourself morally superior to lil’ ol’ me. I am simply trying to encourage you—as to encourage us all, beginning w/ my sinful self—to SEE our personal agendas (in order to confess them, and repent). Insisting that one doesn’t have a personal agenda (or that one’s agenda is simply “Seeking the KIngdom first”) is so much DENIAL. My personal agenda is to be ever-vigilant to those I believe are trying to screw me over (because I apparently believe I’m So Wonderful, that… Read more »

Malcolm+
13 years ago

There are layers of issues here. First off, in my several careers, I have NEVER seen a failure that was not, at some level and at least in part, a leadership failure. If a huge percentage of the clergy are failing, the responsibility lies – above all – with the bishops. Second, presuming that theological training in England is not much different than in North America, most colleges and seminaries are training clergy to function in Christendom. But Christendom is dead. We are training clergy to maintain the status quo, not to be outward-focussed and mission oriented. Third, parish ministry… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

” there is the expectation on the part of congregations of great sermons every Sunday”

That’s something I have always expected – and received! – from all the village parishes in England I’ve lived in. But I must admit, I’ve never attended evangelical churches, precisely because of their usually anti intellectual preaching.

And, Robroy, by pure chance I’ve only ever belonged to a parish with a woman priest.

It would be interesting to see the criteria for the bishops’ criticism.

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
13 years ago

I’m sorry that the original report has been leaked to the Press – and I fear that it gives a distorted picture of what it actually says. I’m very confident in the qualities of those I sponsor for ordination – and they’re very focused on the calling to be missional priests in the church of God! Where the report does have some important questions to ask is in the area of (1) readiness of clergy for mission in the fast-changing C21 society (2) whether those being trained on some courses are getting proper theological education, on a par with what… Read more »

a vicar
a vicar
13 years ago

Malcom – I think there might be more difference between the American and English training set-ups than you suspect. I gather (but may have mis-gathered. Please do correct if I am wrong!) that your knowledge is of the American system. Having had some experience of both, the differences are quite large. The American gold standard seems to be a 3-4 year MDiv, usually undertaken by seminarians who are already graduates. In England, the lucky ones get to a residentual college for 2-3 years, but increasingly many of us are trained part-time over several years on regional courses. I also think,… Read more »

david malloch
david malloch
13 years ago

Pete, I guess, however, that the majority of bishops consider those of us opposed to women bishops to be entirely ependable? I hope they have sufficient clergy in line to fill the vacancies. They really are likely to push out a good thousand or so!

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
13 years ago

The report makes no mention of attitude towards the ordination of women, which is not relevant to the issues it is addressing. Indeed, the last two appointments I have been involved in making have been of priests who are not convinced that women can be priests. They happened to be the best people for the job! Since the report isn’t in the public domain, let me at least give some headlines of what it is actually saying: 1. It proposes that there should be work done on what gifts and skills are required in the clergy of the future. 2.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

Vicar I have been to many evangelical services in various churches, but I have always been fortunate that my local parish is middle of the road. Of course, I may have been as unfortunate with my evangelical forays as I have been fortunate with my local parishes. But in the evangelical sector I have largely found abridged creeds that focus on Jesus blood sacrifice, preaching that insisted on PSA as the only interpretation of the Atonement, a certainty that those who are not Christians will perish in hell, and once a sermon by a well known writer who insisted that… Read more »

Adrian
13 years ago

How can seeking to be obedient, to deny oneself, be anything else but denial? After a quarter of a century in the frontline of community work I am acutely aware that we all have agendas… Thanks for your encouragement, but I think you fail to understand that this is what I am seeking – our ability to be heard is equal to our capacity to listen! I have never insisted that I do not have an agenda, I just seek to point away from self and towards a deeper understanding of service. And I agree with you we all need… Read more »

RichardM
RichardM
13 years ago

Reminds me of a comment I heard recently in my secular workplace (the civil service), that ministers are always happy to say that the civil service is useless, slow, etc., but when pressed always say that all the civil servants they work with are good people. Leadership is often a problem in the civil service (one that occurs at all levels), and I don’t doubt that many feel the same of the church. I think Bishop Pete’s comment: “if anything, the report is an indictment of some bishops for lacking a strategy for deployment of clergy” could well be a… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“I just seek to point away from self and towards a deeper understanding of service.” But unfortunately, adrian, you are giving the impression that you believe a certain conservative viewpoint is the only holy one. Now that could be that people have become so sensitized to the sneering judgement of “the other side” that they overreact to any whiff of it. And yes, I know there’s sneering judgement going the other way, too. I do some of it, though it’s just as wrong for me to do so as it is for others. The following quotes are illustrative: “the slow… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

If the Church of England goes down the management route of spurious objectives and quantitative assessments based on those, then I would think we will get the same delusions we now get in education. Once upon a time educationalists discussed different theories of education, of which the virtual behaviourist input output model was the least rewarding. Then along came league tables, statistics, public presentations, endless testing personal and institutional. I’ve taught students paragraphs to learn and where to put them in essays: AS and A level students feeling the width of work but not the quality. What is wrong, as… Read more »

BIGDAN
BIGDAN
13 years ago

Excuse me but: “Vanity! Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” Erika, From what (relatively little) I know about evangelicalism, you have been fairly unfortunate. I am with you that PSA (I assume you mean penal substitution) is not the only valid understanding of the atonement. The theory is supported by Paul (I think – I don’t know my Bible all that way) and by the classic “pierced for our transgressions”, but I still think it’s a bit dodgy, and doesn’t fit in with how I understand the big picture of things anyway. As for hell – I hope you don’t… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

BIGDAN, As to PSA, it can’t be denied that there is penal imagery in the traditional understandings of the Atonement, but it is manifestly untrue that it was the central, or even most prominent image of atonement till recently. Reading Exodus at the Easter Vigil is not some “liberal innovation” after all, and if you read the ancient liturgies of the Orthodox, you find a great deal of freedom from bondage and Christ the hero doing battle with the forces that enslave us. You will see little of the vindictive judge who wrath is so hot He must be bribed… Read more »

David Keen
13 years ago

Pluralist – I’ve just come back from doing a Powerpoint presentation for our church, giving and overview of the Bible, and it was very well recieved. Some of them even want another.

Malcolm+
13 years ago

Canadian, actually, Vicar.

In any event, I’m not sure the differences you point out negate my essential thesis on the training issue – that we are training priests to a status quo that is no longer.

I am glad to see that Bishop Broadbent is in agreement with my first point – that failure of the clergy is, if anything, an indictment of the bishops.

Malcolm+
13 years ago

PowerPoint?

Friends don’t let friends use PowerPoint.

An excellent tool when used well.

It is a pity that no one has ever seen it used well.

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

Adrían wrote on Tuesday, 3 June 2008 at 8:32am: “How can seeking to be obedient, to deny oneself, be anything else but denial?” The word used in the Bible and in later Theologies wrongfully translated as “sin” is (Greek) ‘amartìa. This is an archery term meaning that humans miss the mark shooting over the Board from trying too much. This is the Original sin. Wanting go be God. Now, “obedient” is not in the Good Book, only in (some) very late “translations”. “Godly obedience”, is what some say, even. The word used in the holy scriptures (always in the plural)… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

BigDan Anihilation? No Redemption? So Jesus went as far as allowing himself to be crucified for us in order to rescue only good little boys and girls? And “punishment” only for those we consider wicked, not for all sinners? You see how I immediately run into huge difficulties with this idea of a punishing judgemental God. Personally, I prefer to think of a new state of awareness where each one of us recognises what we truly were and what we could have been. That is “punishment” enough and can only be borne because it will be held within God’s saving… Read more »

Adrian
13 years ago

I genuinely apologise if my comments have offended, I am seeking to understand and quite frankly I have been extremely naive with regard to the political motivation and agendas of the various groups within the Church of England, and the divisions that my comments have highlighted, it appears that to seek the kingdom first makes me a ‘conservative’ I have, it appears, stumbled into a long running power struggle where language is dissected to determine which “side” I am on! This is a very sad state of affairs, and certainly supports my observation that the church is focusing on internal… Read more »

BIGDAN
BIGDAN
13 years ago

Ford Elms:

Thank you, that was most enlightening.

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

Goran, Kallistos Ware says the same thing, for the Orthodox, sin is “missing the mark”. He doesn’t confine it to just the idea of wanting to be God, but likens it to walking off a path. We start on a road to God at our baptism. When we go astray “are deluded by the passions” in Orthodox parlance”, we wander off that path. So much for the “sin is crime” idea.

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