Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Planning Clergy II

Now another blogging bishop has written about clergy numbers and variety, and then about clergy quality, thus opening the brown paper and sellotape wrapping that little more. There may be more to come too. This is from the Area Bishop of Buckingham, Bishop Alan Wilson and it is interesting.

The Bullying report has been issued, but not this one (yet). Thinking Anglicans provides the link on that.

Now we are told in his first blog entry that the bishops' clergy report is just crude statistics and a straw poll, and Bishop Alan makes a more general point that the numbers of clergy and lay ministers have actually risen over the last nearly 50 years, via the increase in those unpaid and retired. The paid ones have dropped to about 9000 with over 1500 chaplains in addition, but there are nearly 3000 unpaid and some 4500 active retired. My point remains that the paid 9000, which will reduce in number, presumably, should be the main facilitators and co-ordinators on the ground, and thus managers of sorts. We all know about the rise of professions and the professional ethos, and that clergy were fitted into the notion of the professional, but my suggestion is to think of paid clergy as managers.

In that entry Bishop Alan briefly looks at variety, backgrounds and distribution of kinds of clergy and where. On pay he points out that the dead used to pay the working living, now the dead pay the retired living, whereas live income pays the future retired. Clearly money has been behind the shrinkage in paid clergy, but a problem is lack of overall planning - and allowing closures by local drift, for example.

There he leaves the big question unanswered (but to watch his space), which is what the living-working are paid for when paid. This is what I've had a go at and why the previous post went on about co-ordinating, managing, communicating, facilitating and training others, so that paid clergy are almost localised bishops and ought by an emphasis on their own training to go on to be bishops. Thus things start to look a little more Presbyterian (where there are two orders of clergy - and Presbyters do oversight). On this basis the numbers of paid clergy could drop further so long as the numbers of different kinds clergy and other leaders cover the field and all those in an area sing from the same hymn sheet.

The second blog entry made concerns issues already highlighted regarding quality. Poor clergy quality is a long in the tooth subject, and the Sunday Telegraph report was just a bit of current sensationalism. He raises the issue of a complex clergy role that receives a lack of social support, and lack of supervision becomes emptiness.

This of course is a reflection on professionalism when the role as a profession ceases to be widely recognised. This is why it ought to shift somewhat from that perception. He says too:

Most failures are about human interaction, not theology or even ethics. Many are driven by misunderstanding, desperation or exhaustion. If there’s any way people can go over the top with better weapons and body armour, I’m all for trying it. Who wouldn’t be?

And he says about solutions:

It’s interesting to note the suggestions bishops made: Clergy need to focus on the realities of the Church they represent. They need support in missional thinking, doing and living. The Church needs to get its act together about consistency of training and deployment. Anyone disagree? presumably not. But How to do it? There’s the rub...

Which again returns back again to the communicating, more systematic overseeing actively, more formal and informal contacts, evaluations taking place (discussive), keeping in touch and some planning - what is the problem, what to do about it, how to implement, to be discussed in the area, with all who can be involved, and in up and down communication with the bishop.

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