on Saturday, 28 October 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Did Jesus root his proclamation of the kingdom in orthodoxy and tradition?
Alison Milbank Church Times Management and mission: the Church of England is not a machine
Helen King sharedconversations Leaky Church
Excellent article by Alison Milbank! This captures it for me: “a secular-derived instrumentality allowing an apparently convenient marriage of pietism with the latest slick techniques.” Seems like we need to return to Pauline transformation (Rom 12:2) to avoid what she calls “the ravages of consumer capitalism”.
Alison Milbank assumes that all clergy are working hard and putting effort into their vocation. My experience tells me that many clergy just need a good kick up the backside. Clergy are human beings and need to be managed just like all other human beings who get remunerated for what they do. Nobody likes to be held accountable, but it’s just a fact of life.
The clergy are office holders and not employees; they have no employment rights and thus no employment responsibilities. The CofE fought a case to protect the status of clergy all the way to the Court of Appeal. I think instead of posting rebarbative content here if you do want closely manage the parish clergy you need to start by campaigning for them to get an employment contract.
It’s not just about rules and laws, it’s about culture.
Oliver, while I don’t doubt the experience that informs your views, I would be reticent to damn a whole category of those toiling in the vineyard based on what can only be severely limited data i.e. nobody can possibly know what all clergy do all the time, or indeed what a single clergy person does with their time, unless, of course, you are that clergy person.
Interesting….unless I’m mistaken, in the US Episcopal Church, it is the usual thing for rectors to have an employment contract with their parish, outlining salary, vacation time, etc.
Properly undertaken, the vestry must approve stipend, housing allowance for IRS purposes, and so forth. Missions handle this at the Diocesan level.
Thanks. That’s about what I recall from my time on vestry.
Isn’t TEC rather congregational when it comes to employment practices? What i mean is that in my diocese of Edmonton there’s a diocesan salary grid that parishes are obliged to follow, but I’ve always understood that in TEC the parishes get to decide for themselves what they will pay their clergy. Is that the case?
Again, my understanding is that there’s a minimum salary, which can be affected by things like housing allowances. In my parish, one previous rector opted to not use our rectory (as he and his wife were afforded housing by her employer) and his compensation was adjusted (upward) accordingly.
For some tax purposes in the US, parish clergy are generally treated as independent contractors. They are generally not subject to income tax withholding (like employes) and instead pay estimated taxes (like independent contractors). In addition, like independent contractors, they are generally liable for both the employee portion and the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes. (Employees are liable only for the employees’ share.) There are some parishes that try to mitigate this additional burden by additionally paying their clergy the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. But these additional payments don’t completely cure the issues… Read more »
The Church maintains that licensed clergy, both stipendiary and self-supporting, are not employees. They are traditionally ’employed by God’ and within the Church’s polity they hold office in one way or another. However, office holder and employee are not exclusive categories as the Church puts it about. Coroners are both, as are office holders in academia and other fields. ACAS helpfully sets out the criteria to work out if a person is an employee: they’re required to work regularly unless they’re on leave. they can usually expect work to be consistently available. they cannot unreasonably refuse to do the work.… Read more »
I’ve come across clergy of such astonishing incompetence that it would hard to imagine them holding down any sort of employment outside the Church, but I have yet to meet one that I would describe as lazy – in fact these same people often work very long hours. Part of the problem would appear to stem, in my opinion, from an absence of adequate training in the most basic of administrative and management functions, plus the fact that it is an unusual person who has both a vocation to priesthood combined with, for example, the skills to maintain Grade I… Read more »
Colin- a wonderful heading
A thoughtful and powerful article by Alison Milbank. Excellent as the analysis is I feel it misses something important. Much academic debate assumes the good intentions of all the sides to an argument and I don’t believe that this is always true. Take Universities. I think it would be a serious mistake to assume that when senior university managers impose a top down managerial approach, they do so to further the well being of their academic community. A much more plausible explanation is a lust for power. Far too many university administrators are greedy control freaks who care very little… Read more »
I know that Colin participates in discussion here and I’d be interested to know whether he has engaged with the writings of Jewish scholar Amy-Jill Levine on the question of Jesus’ relationship to orthodox Judaism.
Tim = no, I haven’t engaged with the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, but I’ll take a look. Jesus’ relationship to orthodox Judaism is clearly an issue that I intuit to be of relevance in some way to historical contemporary constructs of Jesus and Christian faith but what most engages me is the way we all unconsciously are to a greater or lesser degree committed or addicted to ‘our’ tribe and our version of faith.
Colin, I think you would enjoy her, and she would also challenge you as she has challenged me. The place to start is ‘The Misunderstood Jew.’
Colin, perhaps my own issue with christian commentary on orthodox Judaism is one you might have sympathy with. I don’t think there was an orthodox Judaism. I think there was a huge variety of ways of being Jewish in those days, just as there is a huge variety of ways of being Jewish, or Christian, today. Jesus’ teaching was just one of those varieties of Judaism. As well as Amy-Jill Levine, Sarum College (Salisbury) run 4-5 day courses each year on this very theme, led by a Rabbi who also works in this area of Christian Jewish mutual understanding. Best… Read more »
I found Rabbi Harvey Falk’s _Jesus the Pharisee_ to be very helpful in unpacking some of the issues in the Judaisms of the Second Temple era, and Jesus’ (and Paul’s) engagement with them.
This was my thought too.
I say this with the greatest love and respect for Colin and the message he is working to promulgate. But I believe that many Christian writers risk confusing actual Jewish tradition and orthodoxy with Christian caricatures of Jewish tradition and orthodoxy, often caricatures contained in the gospels and other early Christian texts themselves. I thought Colin may have strayed in this direction in his latest post.
There has been a lot of recent scholarship around this by both Christian and Jewish academics. Amy-Jill Levine is one excellent example.
Thank you, Simon and Tim. I’m not an expert in Jewish tradition and orthodoxy. My frustration is with the caricature contemporary Christianity is making of Jewish tradition and orthodoxy as interpreted by what people think Jesus’ teaching is. People seem to think there is a baseline orthodoxy transmitted or dictated by God (horrible mixed-metaphor here, sorry). This baseline orthodoxy is known only to the elect and is, of course, understood accurately only by them. The richness of our Jewish wisdom heritage, playful and deep, is unknown to them.
My intuition leads me to liken Jesus to a Jazz musician whose grasp of the underlying principles was/is so profound that he could/can move coherently around a structured theme producing something new and unexpected. It simultaneously “is” the tune but also it often emerges in a radically different and sometimes challenging form.
As I put it, literalists play the notes, those with a confident faith in the mysterious God play the music.
I love that analogy.
This analogy is a brilliant one and is expounded very eloquently and compellingly in Professor David Ford’s book “Living in Praise”, which is one of the best books on worship I have read!
I think JS Bach would be a strong contender, possibly the strongest (with apologies to Handel, Mozart, Haydn, etc.). I once heard the late Anthony Caesar (composer, musical editor of the New English Hymnal, Subdean of HM Chapel Royal and a private chaplain to Her late Majesty) describe JSB as “God’s Messenger”.
On the other hand, the brilliant Aaron Sorkin is apparently a literalist in the sense that he insists that his actors speak exactly the words he writes for them with no room for improvisation at all. And yet, no one would say that Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is not brilliant music.
Also, J.S. Bach and Oscar Peterson were both wonderful musicians.
Colin, thank you for your article. Can you enlarge on your objection to salvation theology? It seems to me to lie at the heart of our creed, ‘who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven’.
Is this part of the ‘orthodox, traditional Christian teaching and truth… defined by and contained in Christian doctrine, Christian orthodoxy, the Christian Bible and Christian liturgy’ that I need to transcend?