You may have picked up the silly season spat on Thinking Anglicans highlighting bishops’ concerns about the ability of clergy to do the job. It all started with a report in the Daily Telegraph which was in turn based on a report of the Ministry Division in the Church of England. Bishop Alan of Buckingham does a bit of helpful debunking and I don’t think it’s true either.
A number of other things seem to me to be worth saying. I think the job is immeasurably more difficult than it used to be. I think clergy aspiration to do it well and encourage growth is higher than it has ever been. I think the confusion of expectations about what the task is is greater than it has ever been. I think the diversity of backgrounds and life experience from which clergy come is greater than it has ever been – a richness but also a challenge for formation.
And what do clergy think about the competence of bishops? I do my best but I have had no training for what I do other than 30 years of sometimes jaundiced episcopal spectating from the parochial trenches. And then there is that wonderful and ever sharpening clarity about the role and function of clergy which you acquire when you don’t have to do it yourself. I maintain a cheery [and occasional] e mail correspondence with Terence, my successor in the parish. He’s sent me one or two lately which seemed to be saying, ‘David, in the 19 years you spent here, were you aware ……?’ Well actually – no I wasn’t.
As you may remember, I try to look at this kind of thing with an outside researcher’s eye. The great majority of the rising young folk in the clergy I meet appear quite impressive. Often serious in mind and quite academic. Also less ‘me-Tarzan-you-Jane’, and (a corrolary of the latter) less inclined to talk about folk who dissent as ‘angry’. And a fair number of pretty good preachers too. So instead of orange, perhaps the future may be brighter than we might think
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