I just worked my way to the end of Steven Croft’s ‘Ministry in Three Dimensions’. Basically he suggests that ordained ministry should function in three dimensions, the diaconal, the presbyteral and the episcopal. And as I read, I wondered if there might be some of the answer to the question of how ordained ministry fits into the collaborative ministry setting.

I’ve always seen the diaconal in terms partly of what some have called ‘non-directive leadership’. This doesn’t mean finding a mob and placing oneself at the head. More that one places at the service of the group/church one’s theological knowledge, experience, vision, energy. The aim is to help the group to find the ‘best’ way forward or to discern God’s will.

And when you think about it, it seems obvious that all clergy will have an episcopal dimension to their ministry – a watching over, caring for, protecting the church and the ministry of others – particularly the ministry of the laity.

Or have I got it wrong?


  1. Well yes it is a bit different – certainly so far as the SEC is concerned. Within our membership there is an extraordinarily high level of education and experience – and therefore expectation and appetite for involvement in ministry. Our congregations are independent groups – rather than parishes – so the culture is a bit more bracing than Ireland. We also have a well developed culture of lay and collaborative ministry. Part of the problem is that we have rather lost the ability to describe how clergy will act with authority in that collaborative setting. Taken together, that leads me to try and explore what the role of clergy is. I’m not really talking Fresh Expressions. More that I believe that the leadership of clergy is a much more essential element in all this than some people think – but it needs to be described and defined

  2. Have to say (having a foot in each camp, so to speak) that I feel Ian has a strong point in the second half of his penultimate sentence. A sense of community and good leadership …… surely all-important.

  3. David,

    We got heavily into Fresh Expressions and new models of church and all that stuff for a while, investing heavily in a full time evangelist to work across three small parishes. The whole thing collapsed because it was alien to our experience and culture (each of the parishes had spent over €40,000 and hadn’t a single thing to show for it).

    Irish people do community well and we went back to doing the basics and trying to be a community. The congregations are growing and new people are appearing. Steve Croft and the other writers are fine in an English context, but Irish people are very traditional, they like knowing their own priest; they like being visited by their own priest; and they look to that priest for pastoral care and parochial leadership.

    Is Scotland very different from Ireland?

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