Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Clergy - what should we pay for? [3]

I have received a great question regarding this thread, it goes like this:

"Are we facing the problems we have regarding paying for clergy because of the Clericalism of the Church of England. Do other denominations suffer less than us because they have leadership styles that draw upon all the members rather than one leader or group of leaders?"

I guess the first step here is to assess what the other churches do and a quick finger in the air shows me that even where the church style is congregational we generally find that leaders (Pastor, Minister, Vicar or Elder) are paid and unpaid. Some of the congregations pay directly for their leaders and where the ability to do this is limited then the leader is unpaid, where there is money to pay for the leader/s they do - it's as simple as that!

I struggle with clericalism but then again I struggle with much of the anticlerical stuff too. There was a bit of a wally who used to talk about taking the grip of the clergy off of the stuff that is Church and handing it back to the people (a sentiment with which I am in full agreement by the way). The reality was that whilst they sought a decline in ordained clergy and the empowering of members, what was happening was that we saw no coherent leadership or planning and panic mode recovery of situations where nothing had been done. I am all for leaders who lead regardless of renumeration issues but also return to the number of Elim ministers I have worked with whose one desire was to be able to stop their day job and concentrate all their time on the ministry before them. This desire to be able to do the stuff without the distraction of a day job seems to indicate that the stipend is a sound concept.

Now, oddly enough, my original ambition was to be a minister who worked in the world as saw the world as my parish - as happened with the train and the church it became and the people with whom I engaged in the workplace - but I was persuaded to take the stipendiary route and have to say I have no regrets at this.

The reality though is that it's not about clericalism but about paying for the privilege of having someone spin the plates, visit the sick and generally get stuck in on a 7*24*365 basis (although I do feel some sell their vocations a little short regarding this, but that's for a different discussion) and they do this because they have been 'called out' (ekklesia) to do that roll.

The majority of the churches, groups, denominations and settings I have looked at pay for their leaders when they can and some do it even when they can't because of the generosity of others through relationships or by means of the Common Purse (Parish Share). Some groupings, denominations and the like do perhaps suffer less because they work on the basis that the ability and desire to pay, for this engenders the ability in others, is the key to whether payment is made and so a cash strapped church is freed from the need to pay what they cannot afford. The problem is (and I have just run someone to check as they have an unpaid pastor) is that those who rely upon lay led leadership do find that the tensions between 'ruling elders' and the rest and the lack of cohesive direction is a price that is paid when the price of leaders is not paid. A real conundrum that isn't it?

So the answer to the question appears to be, "No, the problem isn't that we pay the clergy to do stuff, it's a much deeper issue than that and looks at changing church needs, the ability to pay, numbers of people coming forward to be ordained and a good many other issues. It's not about clericalism - it's much wider, deeper and demanding that that alone."

With this I find more to add to the scales and more to to be considered in this evermore weighty issue.


1 comment:

UKViewer said...

I wonder if we've got ourselves painted into a corner regarding paying for Clergy, because when we can't afford to pay for one, generally we (in the CofE) will either do without one, or be merged with another parish, in the vain hope that together we'll be able to pay for Clergy, who will have double the workload for the same money. Than we multiply the issue again and end up with Beneficed parishes of 8 or 9 churches in some parts of England.

Isn't it perhaps time that we consider alternatives for Churches (not parishes) that if the local community value them so much, donate the Church to them and allow them to use the building for community use, which may or not include lay led or occasional clergy led worship?

We can still have a parish set up, perhaps in a deanery size scenario, with a large parish church, centrally located, where paid clergy can have some loose oversight of the unpaid Clergy and Laity leadership across the enlarged parish.

In this scenario (Which might well be happening in the CinW, where Mission Areas are replacing parishes based loosely on deaneries) we have an opportunity to work with partners of other denominations to share resources include the occasional use of churches handed over to their communities.

I'm sure that there will be those who challenge this, my answer would be, well you step up to the plate with a plan of how the resources can be made available to maintain both paid clergy and viable parishes built upon the current model?

I believe that we're captive to our ancient worship spaces, and mission energy is dissipated by the endless cycle of admin and maintenance of them, when Jesus' church was built upon groups meeting together in homes and public spaces to share the bread and wine. I'm not sure that any of these were consecrated or holy places in the way that our church buildings are, or are considered to be.

Surely the principle of Jesus saying that where two or more are gathered together in my name, I will be there, is enough?