I recently found myself starting to complete one of these surveys. By the time I reached Q4, I stopped and binned it. There were two reasons for that.
Firstly the relatively small size of our church means that any set of responses risks not being representative of the whole
Secondly I think it is always unwise to deal with deep and personal issues by responding to a set of questions posed by others. The result is likely to be what we see in this article. In a very different context, we regularly respond to requests for responses on matters of policy from the Scottish Government. I am usually an advocate of a response in which we disregard the supplied Questionnaire and write a statement of our position. Only in that way can we hope to achieve clarity with balance.
I see no evidence that clergy of our church are sceptical about God. We are at present seeing an influx of people into our processes of discernment – people wanting to test an inner conviction that God is calling them to ministry in our church. As part of that discernment, we expect people to be able to articulate clearly their experience of God at work in their lives – and their deep conviction about God’s presence, power and love. Nobody would make the commitments – and the sacrifices – which are involved unless they had that faith present as a vibrant reality in their lives.
But of course there are other realities.
We minister and pursue our mission in a very secular society. That society is full of quiet voices which erode conviction and attenuate passion. When you are tired and disappointed, the inner voice which says, ‘This isn’t doing any good, you know’ can be a disturber.
I see clergy who have done their best – who have bravely pointed the way forward – but have been ‘knocked back’ one time more than their resilience can stand.
Yes this is difficult – difficult because we carry faith right at the very centre of our being. So when we are hurt in the cause of faith, we are deeply hurt.
People who read this may say, That’s what you would expect’. To them I say that they should look at the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church today – at our energy and growing confidence, at the quality of our clergy and our ordinands …