Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 11 July 2020

Emma Percy Modern Church Safeguarding, Vulnerable Adults or Adults at Risk? What’s in a Word?

Adrian Chiles The Guardian I’m glad to be back in church – even if there’s hand sanitiser instead of holy water

Andrew Brown Religion Media Centre Church Commissioners spend £24m to ‘create 50,000 disciples’

Giles Fraser UnHerd How HR is strangling the Church of England

Sarah Mullally ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…So We Need to Take Care of Our Mental Health

Stephen Trott Church Times The C of E needs to be leaner and fitter
“There is too much control from the centre, and power should be returned to parishes”

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Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
23 days ago

Re: Giles Fraser on the ‘new’ York, Fraser’s 2nd last para referencing re-evangelism with the church  being “completely different to the secular organisations that demand our day-to-day allegiance.” One wonders if the magnitude of the task in the western world is understood? Here is an example (recorded during lockdown) from William Barber on what may be required.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eviTAayTGT4&feature=youtu.be
 
Like Fraser, Barber is addressing a context; but from Barber’s sermon we may apply ‘America’ metaphorically for the challenge before us wherever we live.
 

Last edited 23 days ago by Rod Gillis
Ian
Ian
23 days ago

Three cheers for Adrian Chiles He reminds us amidst all the arguments about closed churches and unhelpful directions from people in high places that it is indeed blessing to receive the blessed sacrament. As a young Anglo catholic student forty-odd years ago I was taught that it is the Mass that matters. And it does!

Anne Farthing
Anne Farthing
23 days ago

Stephen Trott’s idea is interesting and has some considerable merits, not least getting rid of the multiple layers of diocesan bods who ‘advise’ in this-and-that. The proliferation of these full-time posts (along with too many senior appointments) over the past 30 years has been a huge drain on resources – and for very little obvious return. Even in the one diocese that has been merged in recent years, there is still too much costly infrastructure, top-heavy weight and duplication of roles.   My only hesitation is Fr Trott’s proposals about local parishes paying local clergy. This has some potentially unforeseen… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
23 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

In my experience in two parishes in TEC and being through four rectors between them, I have never seen the problems Anne suggests may occur (“unreasonable demands being made of the priest locally”; “a culture of bullying – or of ‘hire and fire’”).   First of all, in our system, except in matters of theology, doctrine and liturgy, all decisions are made by the vestry (our version of the PCC)…so I’m not sure what “unreasonable demands” would be. And, once “called” (we don’t call it hiring, firing, or even employment), it is the rector’s decision alone to end his connection… Read more »

Charles Read
Charles Read
23 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

Anne, can you point to a diocese, other than maybe Leeds, where the full time diocesan advisor posts have proliferated in the last 30 years? My experience in 3 dioceses over that time is that they have shrunk considerably. As such a post holder now, I can tell you that we are under resourced and parish clergy and Readers are too stretched to take on this work alongside their parish responsibilities. The point of posts like mine is to take work off parish clergy and others so they can focus on other things. Al,so, it makes more sense to do… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
22 days ago
Reply to  Charles Read

and surely it would make even more sense to do some things nationally. I write within one hour by car of diocesan offices in Lichfield, Derby, Birmingham, Leicester and Coventry. Worcester and Southwell are 1.5 hr away (though I think some of Southwell’s work is done in Nottingham, 1 hr). My beef with diocesan advisors was that they pushed their own agenda, they were not interested in my local situation, and their own parish experience was in prosperous suburbia. They came across to me as arrogant, I to them doubtless as dismissive. My most treasured memory was from a fundraising… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Stanley Monkhouse
increasingly grumpy old woman
increasingly grumpy old woman
22 days ago

Thanks Stanley – I laughed out loud at the garden party suggestion!

David Keen
David Keen
21 days ago
Reply to  Charles Read

The Bath and Wells headcount for staff employed at the Diocesan Office was 42.2 full time equivalents in 2011. In 2019 it was 57.8.

ACI
ACI
23 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

“…such as TEC.” A close evaluation of the authority of rectors of parishes in TEC would repay. It is extremely difficult to ‘fire’ a rector in TEC.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
22 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

When in parish ministry I was very grateful for the assistance and expertise of diocesan advisers – particularly those in education; children’s and youth work; and child protection (as it was then called). I don’t know what I would have done without them, but I do know that I would have been much less effective.   My difficulty with the idea of parishes paying their own clergy is that it will mean only the wealthier parishes get priests. I see some of this happening already – but do we really think Jesus meant to found a church which abandons the… Read more »

ACI
ACI
22 days ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Not to hold up TEC, but as it was referred to above, what happens in a typical Diocese is that every parish pays a share, based upon records of attendance/communions, to the Diocese. The Diocese in turn uses the funds to support missions, smaller parishes, outreach, camp and college ministry, theological education, and so forth. If parishes are ‘wealthier’ well that assists the weaker units and causes.It provides the funds for vicars and smaller parishes.

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
22 days ago
Reply to  ACI

That is what happens in the CofE Christopher.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
22 days ago
Reply to  ACI

That’s how it has been done here, but it seems to be breaking down.

ACI
ACI
21 days ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Sorry to hear that.

Andrew
Andrew
21 days ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Janet, they’d have more control of their financial resources were it not for the parish-share.   Yes, the wealthier parishes could offer more lucrative remuneration packages, whereas the poorer ones only modest stipends, or none at all. But, the vicarage or rectory – if it hasn’t already been expropriated by the diocese to rent out or sold off – could be offered (house-for-duty) in return for conducting weekly services and light pastoral/clerical duties. This would be a very attractive proposition if based in a pretty village, say, while the cleric is self-supported in part-time, or even full-time, secular employment, or… Read more »

Stuart
Stuart
21 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

How light are light duties, though? It’s great that there are so many people willing and able to exercise ministry without needing a stipend; the church would collapse without them already and that is only going to be a more urgent need in the years to come. But whilst a rent-free parsonage is significant, tent-making clergy will still need time to make tents; for many professions that means that they can’t also be on-call for parochial emergencies. I think the general principle of parish finances is that a small number of people give most of the money; there’s something ethically… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago
Reply to  Stuart

Stuart,   Isn’t it the other way round? ‘Trusting in providence’ (Mt 6; Lk 12) suggests that it’s questionable to run the parish system on the basis of charging worshippers huge sums for a relatively well-heeled workforce.   Tent-making can be done from home, in many cases, as we’ve learnt during the pandemic. And the reality of the secular employment world these days is that many people have portfolio careers, juggling many different jobs at the same time.   If you needed to pay someone for a day’s parish work for the loss of earnings they would otherwise have earned… Read more »

Stuart
Stuart
20 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

That’s the question, though, isn’t it, Andrew? There might be parishes that can run on Sunday + 1 day of ordained minister time, but I suspect that many would struggle.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
20 days ago
Reply to  Stuart

Certainly, if the example of the two TEC parishes I am familiar is worth anything, being the clergy in charge of any kind of successful parish is a full-time job.

Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago
Reply to  Stuart

Indeed so, Stuart.   Qualitative and quantitative studies are needed to find out how much ministry costs in practice. What’s missing is a proper comparison between the tasks carried out by stipendiary clergy and the cost savings from volunteers’ time in a variety of parish roles: lay readers, pastoral assistants, churchwardens, stewards, servers, treasurers, secretaries, musicians, cleaners, flower-arrangers, vergers, sacristans, cleaners, gardeners, sextons, and so on.   Numerically, licensed NSMs and retired clergy outnumber stipendiary clergy, so it would be interesting to compare how much each group gives to the Church in terms of time. Many dedicated Church people are… Read more »

american piskie
american piskie
22 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

This fundamentally chips away at the clear theological principle of a priest being authorised by, and being primarily accountable to, the Bishop.”
 
I find myself increasingly suspicious of clear theological principles which entrench the position of the clerical caste.

Andrew
Andrew
22 days ago
Reply to  Anne Farthing

Anne, under employment law, parishes already employ workers when they pay administrative staff and regular organists, who are part and parcel of parish life. So, if this were extended to the clergy, their rights would automatically increase, not decrease. Their position would no different from the employees of local charities, with governance provided by a board of trustees, rather than a PCC. On pastoral, theological, and canonical matters, the clergy would still be accountable to the bishop – rather akin to the system in TEC, as Pat notes.   Clergy ought to be directly accountable to their congregations. The quota… Read more »

John Waldsax
John Waldsax
20 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

An excellent starting list of practical suggestions Andrew; I will pray for the day they are implemented. The real and tricky issue is the role of the bishop in regulating relationships between the larger wealthy parishes and smaller, often dying ones. We have put in a lot of local effort in a benefice structure with both a large market town church and four neighbouring village churches. Few villagers wished to lose their formal independence, some still grieving for a long gone golden age where each church in a village of 100 houses had a a paid priest.. But when they… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by John Waldsax
Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago
Reply to  John Waldsax

Thank you for your kind words, John.   The ‘cost of ministry’ is oppressive, but only because we are lumbered with a system that hasn’t altered in decades and fails to respond to the needs of today’s Church. It places intolerable burdens on dioceses too, because their pastoral function is tangled up with the responsibility for funding ministry.   This needs to change. Compare the wealth of the Church Commissioners’ investment fund with the wealth of parishes. Ethical policies apply to the former’s investments but not to the actual hoarding of capital which was expropriated from parishes in the 1970s… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
19 days ago

With all the support here for parishes employing their own clergy, and expecting them to meet their demands, I’m thinking that this site, or at least this thread, will shortly have to be retitled ‘Thinking Congregationalists’!   Still bearing the scars from seeing a good young priest bullied out of his parish by a few over-entitled elderly congregants who thought that this employment arrangement was already in place, and that they knew much better than he did how he should do his job, I will never support such an arrangement.   Of course parish priests have a responsibility to their… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
19 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

A shocking and sad episode, Malcolm.   Under employment law, statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures apply, with back up from regional HR support services (in my recommendations). The situation you describe is rather like a breakdown in relations between a local charity’s chief executive and its board of trustees. In secular corporate governance there are often better checks and balances – when applied to parishes this prevents them becoming personal fiefdoms.   Restoring the status quo ante would, in some respects, be to return to the way parish life endured for a thousand years, with minimal diocesan oversight. Non-Conformists are… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

Thanks, Andrew, for your comments but, no, I won’t be supporting your proposals. If I had to sum up with hindsight the unhappy situation that took place in my parish, I would describe it as a clash between those who see the parish as a business, with the Vicar as its employee, paid to do exactly as the business specifies, and those who (correctly in my view) see it as a mission, with the Vicar as a priest sent by the bishop to lead that mission. As your proposals would strongly favour the former view, I don’t agree with them.… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
18 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

Many thanks again, Malcolm.   Ideally, there’d be an amicable parting of ways if things didn’t work out in the early stages. This is the reality of the world of work outside the Church. And there ought to be no contradiction between being ‘paid to do exactly as the business specifies’ for one group, and ‘those who see it as a mission’ – in regard to cure of souls and parochial mission objectives.   If parishes had more say over recruitment, any differences in aims, theology, or aesthetics, would be quickly apparent. PCCs could vote on a short-list if they… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
18 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

But in what passes for the ‘real world’ of the CofE, you can’t always count on the Diocese to support you if there’s a problem, and senior clergy often hide behind process rather than get behind their frontline staff. The HR support simply isn’t there. And ‘shaking the dust off your feet’ also involves moving house, uprooting your family if you have one etc. It’s not like quitting any other job, its quitting a life, and a location too. Not to mention quitting the place you thought God had called you to be.

Andrew
Andrew
18 days ago
Reply to  David Keen

David, a more distant relationship with dioceses might be preferable. If you thought God called you to be in one place, you may suddenly get a phone call offering you an appointment in another diocese, compelling you to uproot. Isn’t that what ministry entails?   In my proposals, administrative functions are amalgamated into regional offices. They comprise an independent inspectorate and teams of specialists to assist parishes in their compliance with law and best practice.  These twin functions are directed centrally.   The regulatory arm would have statutory powers to intervene whenever there are allegations of wrongdoing, and carry out routine… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
19 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

This is why I think the TEC system works better. Priests are not “assigned:” to a parish by the diocese or the national church, but are “called” by the parish itself, after a period of discernment to decide the sort of person they want for the position, and then a usually lengthy search. It took nearly 18 months for my parish to find the truly excellent rector we have now, who has led us through the trying past six months with grace and knowledge and skill, despite having taken the post only in November.

ACI
ACI
18 days ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

I am a bit unclear about the distinctions being called for. I served a parish in the CofE Diocese in Europe. It’s call process was pretty much identical with TEC’s. There are occasions where a priest is assigned in TEC (missions) just as they are in the CofE.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
18 days ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Thanks, Pat. The system here is more similar to the TEC system than you may think. Although the bishop makes the formal appointment, the candidate is chosen by a small group of people including the archdeacon, two representatives of the parish and a representative of the patron (if there is one other than the bishop). Before advertising the post, the PCC draws up a detailed profile of the parish and a statement of requirements for the new priest.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
17 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

In TEC (at least in the two dioceses I have known), the bishop is not involved until after the parish has made a decision on a candidate, and even then it’s mostly a formality as to checking the candidate’s credentials and approving the employment agreement. Nobody from outside the parish is involved in the discernment/calling process at all, except as an adviser.
 

ACI
ACI
16 days ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Parishes do not begin a call process independently of the diocese, which your note seems to imply.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
16 days ago
Reply to  ACI

The diocese sends an adviser, but in my experience his/her role is to assist the parish in their discernment, such as gathering the information to create the material for the call advertisement. He/she takes no part in choosing which respondents to interview or in interviewing them. In fact, the parish can and sometimes does ignore advice from that adviser.

Andrew
Andrew
16 days ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Pat, your recruitment and appointment process is probably superior, and allays fears that candidates are imposed without the parish getting much of a say.

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