Category : Ministry of the Ordained

(AH) Rodney Hacking–St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Renewal of the Anglican Episcopate

Ignatius offers a fascinating insight into the heart of a true man of God given over to His will. It is tempting to want to leap from his example and vision of episcopacy to its practice within our own Church at this time, but such a leap needs great care. A bishop in the first decade of the second century cannot fairly be compared even to one of 250 years later let alone in the Church of today. The three-fold ministry was still in an early stage of its development. Even though Lightfoot has cogently argued that a case can be made for regarding episcopacy as being of Apostolic direction, and therefore possessing Divine sanction, long years of evolution and growth lay before it. At this stage too the Church across the Roman Empire faced the daily possibility of considerable persecution and martyrdom. That demanded a particular kind of shepherding and witness.

On the other hand a bishop at the beginning of the third millennium might profitably and properly ask (or be asked) whether endless committees and synods are really the way in which their lives are to be laid down for their flock? An institution requires administration, but in the New Testament list of charisms, administrators are quite low in the order of priorities, and of its pastors at this time the Church has other, more pressing, needs. Rather than imposing upon an already disheartened clergy systems of appraisal (mostly copied from secular models of management) it would be good for parish priests to experience bishops as those who were around so much that they could afford regularly to ”˜drop in’ and just be with them. It is hard to expect the parish clergy to make visiting a priority if their fathers in God do not set an example.

In some dioceses the more obviously pastoral role has sometimes been exercised by a suffragan but as more and more diocesan bishops, at least within the Church of England, are being selected from the ranks of the suffragans the temptation is for those who are ambitious to prove their worth more as potential managers than those given to the ”˜Word of God and prayer’ (Acts 6.2). If the communities within which the bishops are to exercise their ministry of unity and care are too large for them to do their work has not the time come to press for smaller dioceses and for bishops to strip themselves of the remnants of the grandeur their office once held and be found, above all, with their clergy and amongst the people, drawing them together into the unity for which Christ gave himself?

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

James Jordan–“..We should sing the Bible in worship. When I found out that the Church used to do it, and then stopped, I was amazed. “

I was speaking with a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church a while back, and he told me a revealing incident that happened during his ordination examination. An older clergyman asked him if the psalter were an important part of prayer, and thus of counseling and worship. When my friend replied in the affirmative, the older clergyman asked him to give the theme and gist of every psalm, starting with the first and ending with the 150th. My friend, who had spent some years in Episcopalianism and thus knew some of the psalms, struggled for a while, but finally had to give up. The older clergyman opposed his ordination, maintaining that my friend should master the psalter before presuming to lead God’s people.

Amazing? Surprising? I think not. In fact, I think that the older gentleman’s position is absolutely correct. I think this is a great ordination question – though I confess that I would fail it. After all, I’ve spent twenty years in hard-core, Bible-believing, tough-as-nails, Reformed, evangelical Presbyterian churches, so I barely know the psalter. I only know what I’ve studied on my own.

Here’s a question for you: Given that our theological seminaries have chapel services daily, or at least several times a week, how many of them teach the students to sing all 150 psalms during chapel? How would you like to have a pastor who went to seminary where the psalms were taken seriously? A pastor who was taught to sing the psalms, and who was familiar with all of them?

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Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology: Scripture

(The Record) A transgender minister’s ‘long, painful, joyous, happy and dizzying’ road to acceptance

Her transformation at church was slow but noticeable.

She let her wavy hair grow out, and occasionally allowed herself to replace the transparent nail polish she wore on her manicured hands with a more vivid pink. Her eyebrows were thinner and more defined, and her cheeks seemed rosier, drawing puzzled looks from congregants at the church she had led for 15 years.

She was known as Peter Strand then, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ridgefield Park. A married man and the father of two.

But after a year of hormone replacement therapy, Strand, who now uses the name Petra, decided in April 2015 to let the congregation know what she had known for some time. She was a woman.

She addressed a four-page letter to the members of her church to explain the physical changes they may have noticed. She invited them to a meeting after a Sunday service, where she offered to talk to them about her transition….

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, Theology

Kendall Harmon’s Sunday Sermon–Jeremiah and the challenge of False Confidence, False Prophets+true Hope (Jer. 7, 23+29)

You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology: Scripture

(TLE) Study of group of C of E ministers shows extreme dedication to your career damages long-term success

People who feel their work is integral to their lives and identity may actually find it difficult to sustain productivity over long periods of time, new research from Kings Business School suggests.

According to Dr Michael Clinton, who studied the working lives of 193 Church of England ministers, people who view their career as an intense calling are less able to successfully disengage from work in the evenings which limits their energy levels the following morning.

One would assume that these people would dedicate more energy to their work. However, Clinton has discovered that having an intense career calling motivates people to work longer hours which directly limits their psychological detachment from work. In turn reducing sleep quality and their ability to focus.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Sociology

(CT) A federal judge (again) has declard that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the 1st Amendment

Once again, a federal judge has declared that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy. It’s the “most important tax benefit available to ministers,” according to GuideStone Financial Resources.

It’s also the biggest: American ministers currently avail themselves of the tax break to the tune of $800 million a year, according to the latest estimate by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Wisconsin district judge Barbara Crabb first ruled against the housing allowance in 2013, finding that the second part of Section 107 of the IRS tax code provides “a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.” Her ruling “sen[t] shockwaves through the religious community,” the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability stated at the time.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Taxes

The Chicago Sun Times Interviews the pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Johnson Kershner

On tackling street violence, as some Chicago-area congregations have tried: “We have adopted a posture of humility and of waiting to be brought into those conversations to see how we can be of assistance.

“These are our kids, too.”

                                                             ***

“I’ve never lived in a city so defined and segregated by neighborhood before as Chicago.”

                                                             ***

Is Christianity the only way to heaven?

“No, God’s not a Christian. I mean, we are . . . For me, the Christian tradition is the way to understand God and my relationship with the world and other humans . . . But I’m not about to say what God can and cannot do in other ways and with other spiritual experiences.”

 

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Theology

(WSJ) Mary Sherry–I Can’t Understand a Word My Priest Says

Now grown up, those pagan babies have cellphones, careers, Twitter accounts and many trappings of modern life. Some have become priests and nuns after learning English as the language of commerce in their native lands. Many see opportunities for ministry in the U.S. Some come as political refugees; others find salaries are higher here, enabling them to send money home to support their families. Still others find that life in the U.S. is just more comfortable. Most see the U.S. as spiritually needy—so privileged that its people no longer crave sacramental care.

No matter what motivates them, opportunity knocks loudly. They’re welcomed especially by U.S. bishops eager to avoid closing parishes for lack of clergy. That the U.S., once a rich source of missionaries, has become mission territory in less than 50 years is amazing.

The cultural differences can be unsettling. Some of these missionaries are unsparing in their criticism of matters like street-dress altar-server apparel, the custom in many American parishes. Add this to hard-to-comprehend English, and it’s no wonder the people in the pews get annoyed and check their emails—or start shopping for another parish.

Yet there can be a bright side to these cultural differences. Our pastor told us during a recent Friday Mass that a new priest from India would be coming to learn the cultural ropes for a few weeks before moving on to another assignment. He urged us to welcome the new priest at the weekend Masses with small gifts—some flowers or even cookies. We’d never done this with an American priest, but apparently it is an Indian tradition.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., India, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) Justin Barrett–Does Your Pastor Need a Friend? A study reveals why relational ministry can leave our inner circle empty

My pastor recently asked me, “Why is it so hard for people to see pastors as friends and not just pastors?” In one respect, the question caught me by surprise. He is part of a large pastoral staff of a big and vibrant church with a reputation for being highly relational. How can someone whose life revolves around forming caring relationships have a lack of friendship?

It turns out my pastor is far from alone. In a recent study, my team discovered that most relational-style pastors and missionaries average fewer personal relationships than the typical adult, and an alarming number have too few close confidants to support them in their life and calling.

Though it may be tempting to simply encourage ministers to seek more relationships, many ministers are faced with a trade-off between quality and quantity. Those with a large number of very intimate relationships have a smaller overall social network, and those who form lots of relationships have impoverished inner circles. Failing to get the right balance corresponds with burnout and ministry ineffectiveness.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Church Times Article on the recently released C of E Ministry Statistics

The statistics, published on Wed­nesday, show signs that the drive to nurture vocations to the ordained ministry — a central plank of the Renewal and Reform programme — is having an effect. Overall, the number of those entering training is 14 per cent higher than last year (476 candidates).

None the less, the C of E must reach its target of 50 per cent more ordinands by 2020 if it is to reverse the overall decline in clergy num­bers. At the present rate, people are not entering the ministry at the same rate as others are retiring.

Another Renewal and Reform target is to recruit younger and more diverse candidates. Ordinands are younger than last year: 28 per cent of this year’s intake are under the age of 32, compared with 23 per cent last year. At the other end of the age range, 16 per cent are aged 55 or above, compared with 20 per cent of last year’s intake. The overall number of new ordinands under the age of 39 rose by 39 per cent, from 109 to 151….

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Seminary / Theological Education

Bishop of Clogher John McDowell’s Diocesan Synod Address

One of the principal tasks of a leader is to communicate reality to those who wish to take his or her lead, and the reality that I observe all around me, not just in Church but in every sphere of life, is a mood of impatience with other points of view, of an increasing narrowing of vision and of a drawing back from the sort of commitment that creates sustainable and worthwhile communities. It is hardly an exaggeration to call these developments the triumph of individualism and I sometimes think that the word “individual” should be banned from Christian conversations and replaced by a word like “person” to reflect the complexity and value which each of us has – what we share as much as what we need.

This individualism which is so prevalent in our world and sometimes in our parishes is the enemy of reasoned debate and very far from the spirit of Anglicanism. Over the past ten years or so a new and very revealing way of opening a conversation or a debate has entered into our way of talking. “Speaking as an X.” somebody will say, whatever X might be. Speaking say as a woman or speaking as a progressive or speaking as a traditionalist or speaking as a unionist or as a republican – whatever it might be. But the intention of that way of opening a conversation is not to engage in an equal conversation but to establish some sort of privileged position. “I am X and you are not, so you couldn’t possibly understand.” It is an attempt to set up a wall against questions and it turns conversations into an encounter about power. The winner of the argument won’t be the person who has the strongest reasons but the one who has the morally superior identity and can express the greatest outrage at being questioned.

The key word to look out for is “offended”. Other people’s arguments aren’t weak or illogical – they are offensive. What replaces argument is a series of taboos rather like in the old paganism where only a small number of people, like the Druids or the shamans, were permitted to speak on certain matters or do certain things but nobody else not of that caste could interfere. Propositions become pure or impure, not true or false. Ask any of your children who have been to university recently about the matters which people simply aren’t allowed to debate any more or the beliefs which are denigrated because they are outside a certain limited range of reference.

As you may have guessed by now I believe that the antidote to this strange perversion of the liberal spirit is the smallness and the diversity of the parish. It is what I meant when I said last year that the parish is the place where we create local significance in a globalised world.

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Posted in Church of Ireland, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(The Tennessean) ‘He’s killed me. I’m dying.’ Minister Joey Spann recounts chaos during recent Tennessee church shooting

Minister Joey Spann expected to die.

He lay bleeding, collapsed on the floor of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, and watched the masked man who had just shot him in the chest and hand walk farther into the church.
“The shots kept going,” Spann said. “I thought he was going to kill everybody.”

The gunfire stopped. But Spann, who leads the small congregation in Antioch, still thought he was dying. So the minister prayed.

He didn’t pray to be saved by the church members who applied pressure to his wounds. He didn’t pray to be saved as he heard them call 911. He prayed for forgiveness.
“God, I’m sorry for things I didn’t do right,” Spann said in a telephone interview Monday evening from his hospital room.

Read it all.

Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

Church of England releases its Ministry Statistics 2016

The number of people entering training to become priests in the Church of England is at the highest level for a decade with women making up more than half the total, according to new figures released today.

A total of 544 men and women are starting training for ordained ministry this autumn (known as ordinands), an increase of 14% on last year and the highest figure for 10 years, according to statistics from the Ministry Division of the Church of England.

Women make up more than half of those entering training, or 274 ordinands, the biggest intake of female ordinands for a decade, and an increase of 19% compared to last year. At the same time, the number of younger ordinands, in the under 32 age group, rose by nearly two fifths, and now accounts for 28% of the total.

The figures, covering the period from 2008 to 2017, are published alongside Ministry Statistics for 2016 showing the number of women serving in ordained ministry in the Church of England rose by 7% from 5,310 in 2013, to a record high of 5,690 last year.

Read it all and follow the links at the bottom of the page as well.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

(Church Times) ‘Purpose-filled’ clergy score highly on well-being according to the Experiences of Ministry research project

Despite demanding work that often starts before sunrise and does not finish until late in the evening, clergy report higher levels of well-being than people in other occupations, because they are “filled with purpose”, a seven-year study suggests.

Started in 2011, the Experiences of Ministry Project has explored the views of 6000 Church of England clergy through regular national surveys, in addition to more than 100 in-depth interviews, and a series of week-long daily diaries. It was led by Dr Mike Clinton, a reader in work psychology at King’s College, London, and supported by the Ministry Division.

A summary, Effective Ministerial Presence and What It Looks Like in Practice, was presented at King’s last week. Its conclusions bear out the findings of the Living Ministry study published last week (News, 15 September).

“The well-being of clergy in our research compared favourably with other occupational groups,” the report says. “Despite having highly demanding roles, most priests cope, and even flourish, because they are filled with purpose, and derive meaning and fulfilment from their work. Even though they make substantial and frequent sacrifices as part of their role, they mainly do so willingly and see them as worthwhile.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sociology

The Historic Diocese of South Carolina responds to the New TEC Diocese’s Motion on the Rehearing

Today The Episcopal Church (TEC) filed their reply, as requested by the Court, to the motions by the Diocese of South Carolina and 28 parish churches for recusal and rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court, regarding its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.

On behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina, Rev. Canon Jim Lewis issued the following statement:

“Today’s filing by The Episcopal Church argues in essence, that the Diocese and its parishes waived their right to recusal, by not requesting it earlier, and that the Constitutional issues raised in their motions are negligible or mistaken.  The facts in this ruling, as it presently stands however, will not yield to such arguments.  Justice Hearn’s bias and conflict of interest is clear to any impartial observer.  The Constitutional issues for Freedom of Religion remain.  As our petition for rehearing stated: “These are serious issues for Respondents, Appellants and for all religious organizations in South Carolina. This Court should grant a rehearing.”  That continues to be our hope and Constitutional expectation from the Court.”


The Diocese is also providing the following background information and details:

•    In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted by an 80% margin to disassociate from The Episcopal Church.  In a complicated and sharply divided ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court appeared to rule on August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church are subject to a trust interest in their property by (TEC).

•    The Constitutional due process requirements of the 14th Amendment are clear.  No member of government should make decisions in matters in which they have a vested interest in the outcome.  The Justice in this ruling who provided the deciding vote is a member of a TEC parish, Diocese and its national church.  Under South Carolina law, that Justice is a legal party to this litigation.  The bodies to which this Justice belongs as a member would be the beneficiaries of a nearly $500 million property windfall if this ruling stands.  That is a massive conflict of interest.  And it is the responsibility of the judge, under the South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, to reveal that issue, not for a party in the case to challenge the propriety of their actions.

•    The expert affidavit testimonies of Nathan M. Crystal, Professor and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at the University of South Carolina and NYU Schools of Law and Lawrence J. Fox, Professor of Ethics at Yale University are unanimous in their conclusions.  The due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina have been violated by these actions and the only appropriate response is for this Justice to be recused from further participation in this case and their opinion vacated.  As Lawrence Fox observes in his analysis, “This is not a close case.”  The violations of due process here are not subtle.  They are profound….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina