Thinking Anglicans

more on clergy competence

The Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper both have stories about the Ministry Division report that was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, as reported earlier here.

Bill Bowder wrote Bishops question the clergy’s ability to cope in the Church Times.

Toby Cohen wrote Church report questions the ability of the clergy. The text of that story is not yet on the web, but is reproduced, with permission of the CEN, below the fold here. Update Religious Intelligence now has the original here.

The Ministry Division issued this press statement:

“This paper, written for consideration by the House of Bishops, represents part of the ongoing work of the Ministry Division in supporting and developing clergy at all stages of their ministry. The initial research exercise sought views on how our current programme of training should be developed to fully meet the challenges facing the Church in the future. One insight not reported [in the Sunday Telegraph] was that more than eight in ten bishops expressed confidence that our newly ordained clergy have the gifts and abilities to meet such challenges and opportunities.”

The Church Times also had a leader: Criticising the clergy? It’s not all bad:

IT IS possible to say anything about the clergy and for it to be broadly correct. Say that they are not adequately trained to lead mixed teams of professionals and volunteers, and most clerics will probably agree. Say that they lack theological or pastoral or managerial experience, and there will be few gainsayers. Say that aspects of worship, welcome, pastoral provision, discipleship, etc. in their churches are not the best they could be, and suspicion would attach to a priest who demurred. It is not suprising, therefore, that a survey of bishops, circulated last December and leaked this week, should articulate the same concerns about the capacity of priests and the adequacy of their training. Bishops naturally spend their energies on pastoral emergencies, hard-to-fill parishes, and hard-to-place clerics. It is all too easy for them to lose sight of the scores of competent priests working quietly in their dioceses, causing their bishops no anxiety…

Church report questions the ability of the clergy
By Toby Cohen
Church of England Newspaper

THE CHURCH has been thrown into turmoil following the leak of a restricted Ministry Division report finding that clergy are not up to the job.

While the Archbishop’s spokesman insisted that they were not aware of many complaints, shortly after The Sunday Telegraph revealed the findings of the report, Quality and Quantity Issues in Ministry, ecclesiastical blogs filled with bitter remarks illustrating the betrayal and hypocrisy observed by clergy.

In a response to concerns expressed by bishops over the standard of clergy, the report surveyed the opinions of 37 diocesan bishops, about 90 per cent of the House of Bishops. A third of those replied that half of the stipendiary priests in their diocese were unable to meet the challenges of ministry.

Only one bishop replied that he was very confident that the newly ordained have the gifts and abilities to meet those challenges. In response to the furoré, the Ministry Division issued a press statement which said: “One insight not reported was that more than eight in ten bishops expressed confidence that our newly ordained clergy have the gifts and abilities to meet such challenges and opportunities.”

The statement also highlighted that it was initial research, however while the report itself recognised that fact, it emphasised there was sufficient evidence to make one statement in bold: “There is a problem.”

One unnamed bishop is recorded by the report as saying: “Most candidates have a ‘my own show’ view of ministry, and have little or no skills in working co-operatively, or knowing how to share, as distinct or delegated, ministry. “Egotism rules. Contemporary worship is feeble, ‘sweet’, and leads no one to the Majesty of God.”

The Rev David Keen, a vicar in Yeovil, said: “Even by the serpentine standards of CofE statistics, this is bizarre. If 90 per cent of bishops don’t think a third of the clergy are up to it, then either a) they are ordaining people they know aren’t good enough or b) 10 per cent of bishops are ordaining a small army of sub-standard clergy. “If vicars are losing enthusiasm and are feeling over whelmed, then the hierarchy should be looking at the quality of its own leadership and clergy support before it looks at recruitment policies.”

The report said: “Finally these concer ns merge into the sharp question: Is it possible that we may be just about keeping up the numbers of stipendiary clergy by unconsciously lowering the threshold?”

The Church has recognised the challenge of having to train and pay for an increased number of clergy. The report expresses the need to “re-assess the selection criteria” of clergy, and to consider whether poor pay is acting as a disincentive.

The director of the Ministry Division, the Ven Christopher Lowson, recently announced that the Church was already going to have to find extra funding to maintain the training currently offered, following Government cuts to be implemented in a year’s time.

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