(CC) Samuel Wells–What’s really killing the church

The crown jewels of the Church of England are its parishes. Priests have the cure of souls””not just the churchgoers but of every resident of the neighborhood, where every blade of grass in the entire country has a church that seeks to make itself in some way a blessing to all, where the clergy know that “I can’t know everyone, but everyone can know me.” But this inheritance is under pressure. In the corners of clergy gatherings there are mutterings. Stories are told of spouses or friends in health care and education who see very few patients or students any more, but instead sit behind computers filling in forms about targets and thresholds. The same is said about priests””that a Prussian-style bureaucracy is infesting the poetry of the priest’s relationship to the parish.

In the Church of England, parish clergy are all paid the same; there are no “rich rectors” with well-endowed churches and sprawling expense accounts, so the conventional commercial appraisal””balance sheet healthy, 2 percent pay increase, MBA completed, another 2 percent increase””doesn’t apply. But now appraisal schemes for ministry review have been introduced by some dioceses, and this is the bureaucracy that is resented by clergy who see it, with its target goals, assessments, statistics and accountability, as another layer of control.

When I overhear the clergy grumbling, the elderly Welsh millworker comes to mind, and I find myself asking, “Shouldn’t we pause for a moment and ask ourselves why all these systems and controls have been introduced? Isn’t it because the glorious parish system puts the parish priest in a position of extraordinary trust, and because that trust has gone without honor rather more times than we’d care to admit?”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

2 comments on “(CC) Samuel Wells–What’s really killing the church

  1. TomRightmyer says:

    About half the Episcopal churches I have known about in 47 years of ordained ministry have suffered from serious misconduct by clergy or lay leadership. That includes the kind of stupidity described above as well as drunkenness, sexual misconduct including adultery, fornication, and seduction of minors, and stealing.

  2. Cennydd13 says:

    In my own mission, our vicar is a priest who has served for most of his career in small parishes, and he prefers it that way. This is a man who cares deeply about the people in his charge (and yes, that’s how he sees us), and it shows. No large church, no huge endowment, no high salary, but a lot of genuine love and caring for our church family.