Monday, November 07, 2011

Killing George Herbert is now the official policy of Chelmsford Diocese

Diocesan Synod last Saturday affirmed the paper 'Transforming Presence' which includes the following:

"...stipendiary priests will need to be more episcopal in the way they understand and express their ministry... they will become much more obviously those who have oversight of the ministry of the church in a cluster of rural communities, or in a town or suburb. Their role will be to lead and facilitate ministry in that area, not provide all that ministry themselves. They will, of course, be involved; but their main task will be to animate the ministry of the whole church."

It's been a while, but I'm glad we've got there in the end. Full paper here.


  1. "At what point does the Church of England call time on a system set up in the Middle Ages, but increasingly no longer fit for purpose? At what point do we declare that the burden of maintaining 16000 historic buildings is no longer an asset to mission, but an impediment? At what point do we press the red button, and try to do things differently, rather than squeezing more out of less and hoping that somehow everything will get better?"
    ......good comment from David Keen on his blog, earlier!

    As someone who had the privilege of seeing the 'Transforming Presence' paper in some of its genesis, I agree that it marks a significant shift and one for which I give thanks.

    We wait to see how open or resistant others are to cashing this out, though, eh!?!...

  2. I suspect there are many in-between models between George Herbert and Transforming Presence. I doubt if I would recognize my ministry in either of them (if your summary of Transforming Presence is accurate).

  3. It still assumes that the ordained minister is somehow going to be 'over' the laypeople. That doesn't work. We get Methodist ministers who think they're above us, and they cause nothing but problems, which we have to sort out after they move on. They never know people and situations like we do, so it doesn't make sense for them to be in charge.

    In fact, the situation in a Methodist church is that the leadership consists of the minister and the stewards. If they've got any sense, the ministers work collaboratively. They're better in an advisory role, while most of the leadership comes from laypeople.

  4. Paul - I think that's a good post from David (here: ) with much to ponder on. Given our conversation last week, I quite liked the other Diocesan paper too ;o)
    Justin - we can dream!
    Tim - I agree that there are lots of other models. I think you're in a comparatively privileged position though (one full-time minister for one church).
    Robert - absolutely agree that collaborative is best and works, but I think some notion of authority is inescapable. If I have time I'll write something up about that, comparing church to the Occupy movement.

  5. Sam - in my diocese my 'comparatively privileged position' is the majority situation.

  6. Tim - it has often seemed to me, looking from the outside, that the scenario in Canada is different. I suspect that it is, in part, because Canadians have a clearer and more straightforward understanding of the local 'sustainability' of structures, whereas many CofE parishes stumble on with a 'false consciousness' about these things... I have always said that I love the genius of Anglicanism, but think that there is much on the Church of England which is an anachronism...

    Sam - whilst there is much in 'Transforming Presence' to be applauded, I note that it doesn't question the core-structure of large Diocese.... I think this is an error. My own contention is that both parish AND diocese are fractured and doomed structures, which no longer serve mission well. Just making lots more mini-Archdeacons and mini-Bishops still may be just playing....Is there a question of whether turkeys ever vote for Christmas, though?!...

  7. There is also a fundamental dishonesty about the deployment of resource to mission...
    [I may have had these arguments with 'others' in the past!??]
    For a more private conversation, I suspect?!?...

  8. Paul - please don't get the idea that everything is rosy on our side of the pond. In our diocese we have a majority of urban parishes (two thirds), and they are all single point and most self-supporting. Parishes are responsible for the entire cost of stipend and housing, all local expenses and upkeep of the church, and what you would call a parish 'share' that amounts to about 15% of our income, that goes entirely to diocesan and national expenses. In our parish (average Sunday attendance of 92) that means an annual budget this year of about $140,000, not including our outreach giving which is voluntary and extra-budget.

    But many of our rural parishes are reduced to part-time ministry because they can't afford to pay a full stipend. And of course, given that some of them are two or three hours drive from the city (there's our prairie geography!), it's hard to find people who want to work part-time.

    But all in all I think that thing that frees us up the mot is that we are not an established church and that we have a canon on our diocesan books which says that no priest may be compelled to administer a sacrament against their conscience. I only do three or four baptisms a year and this year I did no weddings, and this week I did my first two funerals of the year.

  9. Tim - I do think your structure is much better than ours. (very much liked your 'what I like about this parish' post btw)

  10. Thanks, Sam. I think what we in Canada sometimes admire in the C of E is your ability to have a national policy on things. Our dioceses are so independent that there is often quite a bit of confusion moving from one diocese to another with regard to canons, employment practices etc. And we've been talking since the 1980s about having a single stipend scale across the country but we've never been able to get anywhere with it.

  11. Killing George Herbert and burning the ordinal it appears.

  12. MP - only if you restrict 'ordained' to 'full time paid ordained'.

  13. It would seem more logical to me to just ordain enough priests to deal with the situation rather than turning the few we have into branch managers. The laity should do the managing. Priests should preside, preach and visit.

  14. Paul - very intrigued by thinking of parish and diocese as doomed structures; there's a sense I'd agree with and a sense I wouldn't - I'd want to hang on to Episcopal leadership which has the logical consequence of area coverage... I think! I'm sympathetic to throwing a lot of things into the melting pot though.


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