on Wednesday, 11 October 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Helen King sharedconversations The ‘saviour moment’?
Oliver Harrison Psephizo A Letter From The Front Line
Mr Harrison gets a lot off his chest some of which resonated with me loud and clear but I fail to see how the reorganisation he advocates would help hard pressed clergy at all. He’s right that the bishops bungled almost everything during the pandemic; they whipped themselves up into a tizzy and reinvented themselves as Infection Control Nurses. Threats of CDMs and the Archbishop’s kitchen table Easter Day Eucharist were particular low points. As Oliver points out, the bishops were not willing to take responsibility for any of this and get tetchy when challenged about it. The stark reality… Read more »
Oliver Harrison fails to mention all of the ways life has become easier for Clergy. They are much less expected to be on call at all hours, the vicars wife is no longer expected to teach Sunday School, a rest day on both Fridays AND Saturdays is a commonplace, they are no longer expected to teach classes of 30 children unsupervised. In one parish I know of, home visits have ceased altogether. I think part of the problem is that there are many elderly clergy who have just given up. Being a good vicar is hard work, but being a… Read more »
I’ve never encountered the “lazy vicar” you describe, and I don’t know any who take both Friday and Saturday off. I’m inclined to think you’ve got one example in mind and are extrapolating to the whole.
As for the vicar’s wife no longer having to teach Sunday school how does that make life easier for the vicar? Most clergy spouses now work outside the home, I suspect. It has been a very long time since a stipend was enough on its own to support a family.
“I’m inclined to think you’ve got one example in mind and are extrapolating to the whole.”
I know several. What makes me think it’s widespread is the casual way they discuss it. There seems to be no shame or embarrassment. It’s a given that if the vicar does anything on a Saturday then he takes all of Monday off.
All of the data that says clergy work hard seems to come from the clergy themselves, and seems to be more about what they feel than what they actually do.
I don’t know the circles you move in, but I suspect this might be a reflection of tradition. In the Anglo-Catholic world, I don’t know any clergy who glibly assume that they must take the Monday off if they do anything on a Saturday. Indeed, I don’t know any clergy who take 2 days off each week. But I am aware of evangelical clergy who have a very different work ethic, who regard having to take more than one service on a Sunday as an imposition, and are fanatical about taking all their time off. One local evangelical church is… Read more »
The people I’m talking about are all liberal Anglo-Catholics, but I’m not surprised that the problem is widespread.
Ah, liberals – there’s the problem…
I have known some stupendously lazy Anglo Catholic clergy and I do know some very dedicated and hardworking liberal clergy, as I suspect you do, so I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here.
Oliver M are you a vicar? I don’t know any of my fellow clergy who take 2 consecutive days off a week on a regular basis, many of them struggle to protect the 1 they have. There may be a very good reason that home visits have ceased (though in our parish, the home visits are done by lay pastoral assistants, all trained, and all better at pastoral work than I am). The ratio of clergy to parishioners has fallen dramatically. In our Diocese, Bath and Wells, the number of stipendiary clergy has fallen from 400 to 150 over the… Read more »
My sense is that the CofE is struggling to recruit and retain clergy in parochial ministry, there is also a high rate of suicide among the clergy. Although the clergy are office holders and with no employment rights or responsibilities, the senior clergy make it clear what they expect of parish clergy. I loved pastoral visiting, and would always turn out in the night to someone who was dying or in great distress. I had no time for the silly diocesan initiatives that were invariably rehashed old ideas that had failed previously. Pastoral work is largely unseen and not spoken… Read more »
Dear Fr Dean, I live in Berlin and thank God in Germany the Pandemic was in the hands of medical experts (not history graduates) so they decided (in detail) what was going to happen and that included what was allowed to happen in places of worship. This included the design of masks people had to wear in public places. I felt much safer than I would have done in England. Unlike you I am not an expert but my impression is that the Church of England has completely lost touch with what it is supposed to do as a Christian… Read more »
I have rarely read such self-indulgent hubris as I have from Mr Harrison. It is indicative of the woes of the church. This sort of self-pitying rhetoric shows how disconnected the church and its clergy are from reality. Everyone is feeling the challenges of a changing world. So grow up, pull up your whatever you wear and face those challenges head on. Yours is not the “front line”. The families who are working below the poverty line, doing two jobs to pay for the family, facing up to all the issues which everyone is facing – is the front line.… Read more »
I think it would be better to listen to Oliver Harrison. Whether or not you call it the front line, to be in a post lacking usual employment rights, with duties and legal obligations which take no account of your (or anyone’s) capacity to deliver them, whilst seeing reductions in congregations all about you (whether or not your own is declining), and being told of financial pressures, would appear to be quite difficult and stressful. Yes clergy have housing, a stipend and a pension – and frankly these are the terms they were hired on, why criticise the office holders… Read more »
Clergy have far better employment conditions than most people. Think of CEOs or polititicians who can be fired on a whim, or self-employed plumbers, or car wash operators, or zero-hours coffee shop workers.
I get that you are unsympathetic to the plight of any clergy who feel unhappy and demoralised, but there are many people who work for the NHS, the civil service, private companies and local authorities who have employment conditions comparable to or better than the clergy terms of service – and also get paid more. Some clergy are on fixed term contracts. Oliver Harrison wasn’t asking to be paid more, he was pointing out the difficulties of the role.
The point is that clergy are so much less accountable than all those other professions you mention. Doctors have to acount for what they do minute by minute, and if they’re health outcomes are lower than expected their ward gets put into special measures. It’s the same with other jobs.
Most people have to work hard, but for clergy it’s optional.
You seem absolutely determined to ignore the fact that clergy are not employees. But it is a fact. You may not like it, you may think they’re being lazy, you may wish you could micromanage them, so it could all be very efficient. But they aren’t employees or workers. And it is profoundly unfair to blame them for their own terms of service, when they didn’t write these. If you’re not happy, get the Church of England to be their legal employer, do it properly, but don’t blame the clergy themselves. And as for doctors, well – emergency doctors have… Read more »
Helen King implies in her article that a structural differentiation package will be unable to overcome a major obstacle.
It would have to require a majority synodical vote in favour of Same Sex Rites and opponents of such Rites could never lend their votes to allow it
That is not so. Those who do not support such Rites can abstain.
There is a very big difference between simply abstaining and insisting on the creation of parallel church structures for conservative believers.
There is no evidence at all that those who are seeking change are open to compromise and I am well aware of that.
My point is if those who seek change would concede structural differentiation it would obviously need a response in which those opposed to change “got out of the way” in regard to the future arrangements for those who want SSM.
A synodical process would emerge to allow it. That is all I am saying.
There is evidence actually. Proposals for clergy/churches ‘opting in’ or ‘out’ of using the prayers without legal sanction either way are one clear example. I really feel that the unwillingness to compromise is coming from conservatives.
‘Conservative believers’…..again many of us might identify as conservative theologically but are pastorally committed to social justice.
To many social justice is integrally part of authentic Christianity.
Flat Earthers saw themselves as both ‘orthodox’ and ‘conservative’ in the 16th Century.
Where GS needs a 2/3 majority it is 2/3 of those present and voting so abstensions count as noes in these cases.
On that basis, these would be the figures for the February 2023 motion voting:
Bishops 36 for, 6 against
Clergy 111 for, 88 against
Laity 103 for, 97 against
Abstain by their absence from the chamber.
That’s not the case, as the following standing order makes clear.
36 (7) For the purposes of these Standing Orders and for the avoidance of doubt, recording an abstention from voting on a question is not to be regarded as voting on that question.
That makes my earlier reply to Charles Read redundant, although on the quoted figures in question the outcome would be the same.
Re CEEC If it’s true that they say they wouldn’t ‘allow’ bishops to preach, confirm, ordain, etc, then they need to recall that they made Declarations of Assent, and swore Oaths of Canonical Obedience to their bishops. They made those solemn oaths, and then took and enjoyed all that flowed from being CofE clergy. It’s not ethical for them to decide to ignore their oaths when they choose, and even try to dictate what they’ll ‘allow’ their bishops to do over one doctrinal issue. If they are not happy with honouring their oaths anymore, other denominations are available. The good… Read more »
Just trying to understand: If CEEC and others did ‘allow’ B2 to pass through Synod as some kind of quid pro quo for a structural separation for its followers… … what would there be to stop CEEC and others, having secured the structural separation, to block all further progress to actual same-sex marriage in the Church of England? Because, presumably that could still be blocked by just 34% of Synod members? Unless elected Synod members change significantly in the next quinquennium (2026-2031) is there realistically prospect of gay and lesbian marriage happening? Would structural separations be sufficient for ‘multiple doctrines’… Read more »
Good analysis Susannah. The lesson from 2014 is that even after separate oversight, etc, was agreed for those who didn’t accept ministry equality for women, they still voted against the women bishops settlement. There’s no reason to expect anything different with this situation, as you rightly point out.
That is simply not correct. Structural differentiation is an entirely different form of settlement to that which was agreed in regard to the ministry of women.
Destroying the history, legacy and cultural uniqueness of the Church of England is a huge mistake.
I can sympathise with Rev. Harrison’s plight and how he and other incumbents are treated by an increasingly managerial overstructure, but moving out of our glorious churches, further destroying our traditional forms of worship and effectively turning us into one of very many similar protestant denominations will not save the CofE and will just make it indistinguishable from those denominations who actually do what they do better than we do.
There appears to be much confusion about the term structural differentiation.
It means conservatives and progressives walk apart as good neighbours
There would have to be separate and constitutionally established orthodox bishops.
Not only would it obviously be necessary for progressives to have the freedom to do as they see fit as a “quid pro quo” but that would be an aspect of the differentiation.
Conservatives would neither seek nor accept further responsibility for the decisions of progressives.
Is that not just schism by another name? If you want separate congregations, separate bishops, separate rules, separate decision making processes why not simply join the self-described Anglican Mission in England, the Free Church of England, or have the bishops who agree with you resign their CofE appointments and set up independently? There are enough church buildings around the place that I’m sure some could be surrendered without too much difficulty. Is it simply that you don’t want to walk away from the financial and institutional security of the CofE?
The rebuttals to your points have been provided many, many times. I am making a simple technical point in response to a clear sense of confusion in both comments on this site and in Helen King’s article. There is a clear route to Same Sex Rites in the Church of England. It requires the concession of structural differentiation. If you and others do not wish to support such an option that is your choice. The notion that orthodox churches will act in bad faith or against their conscience is wrong. (A clear inference of both is made in comments here… Read more »
I’ve apparently missed the rebuttals amid all the bluster. Feel free to summarise.
As for conservatives acting in bad faith, that seems to be the most likely explanation, other than people deluding themselves about who and how many people they speak for.
As others have said there is also the matter of General Synod votes. How do you envisage ensuring that the separated parishes don’t vote in Synod elections so that Synod doesn’t have ‘orthodox’ representatives who block further progress?
A general settlement would obviously include provisions to obviate the possibility you describe
Peter, as long as you continue to appropriate the term ‘orthodox’ to mean people who agree with the conservative reading of the scripture passages about ‘lying with a man’, those of us who are thoroughly orthodox but disagree with that interpretation are going to continue to protest that usage. It is insulting and inflammatory, and you are well aware that this is how it is received by most people in this community.
Tim, I have no wish to offend you personally. You have extended the hand of kindness to me previously and it grieves me that you are affected as you are. I believe in free speech. One of the reasons I comment on this site is because Simon is clearly also committed to free speech and continues to publish comments with which he certainly disagrees. I cannot and will not accept that others may prohibit vocabulary and direct the speech that I may use. I absolutely defend your right and that of anybody else to use the term orthodox with whatever… Read more »
I am not directing your speech, Peter. I am asking you to show some respect to the self-understanding of people you disagree with. Most of us believe every article of the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds just as you do. When I was ordained, the ordination service required me to declare that I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God containing all things necessary to salvation, and I was glad to do so. You talk about defending my right…to use the term orthodox with whatever meaning I wish to attribute to it.… Read more »
Morning, Tim. Picking up your comment about pacifism never being part of Christian orthodoxy, yet being widely held;I have to say, as a fellow traveller, that I agree with you. I’m temperamentally a pacifist, not so much from theological reasons as for very practical ones relating to my family history. My late father sailed on PQ17 (enough said) and most of my immediate forebears were at the sharp end of just about every major ‘show’ in two world wars. I grew up seeing the mental price they paid for our freedom, and no way can I support any politician wanting… Read more »
There seems to be an assumption here that “orthodox” is a desirable accolade. I’m not sure I think of Jesus of Nazareth as particularly orthodox…