Three steps to change the culture of the Church of England

This is by way of a short summary of things that I’ve written about before; I wanted a single post to point people to.

Were I to be given dictatorial powers over the Church of England I would do three things:
1. abolish the parish share system and require parishes to do two things instead, a) tithe their income to the Diocese and b) pay for their own ministers (singly or shared across congregations);
2. install all ordinands approved for training into seven year training posts, housed and salaried, split 50:50 between academic training and incumbency mentoring. Ordinations would happen in years 3 and 5;
3. re-establish the position of ‘lay incumbent’ who takes on all the duties and responsibilities to do with church fabric and site management, letting priests just be priests.

I believe that these measures – which could be implemented fairly swiftly and straightforwardly – would release a great spiritual energy. All we need is faith and nerve on the part of the powers that be…

12 thoughts on “Three steps to change the culture of the Church of England

  1. 1. Bad idea. Survival of the wealthiest.
    2. Good idea.
    3. Isn’t that a Church Warden?

  2. 1 – only if you assume they won’t be Christian. it seems to me that we’re headed for survival of the wealthiest as we are, I actually think this is one of the things that might stop that…
    2 – :)
    3 – no (though it probably should be)

    PS my house group LOVED your book….

  3. I’m all in favour of 2 & 3 too. But I have serious reservations about 1. leading to the kind of religious consumerism sometimes found in congregationalist polities – i.e. who pays the piper calls the tune. Clergy get coerced into ministering the the desires of the congregation and telling them what they want to hear rather than being in a position to challenge and disturb without fear that this will have adverse repercussions on their positions.

  4. 1. Sounds like something that should be trialled in a smallish area to see what the impact & consequences are in practice.
    2. Sounds like an excellent idea to me. Wonder what the arguments against would be from those currently involved in training ordinands who understand the process.
    3. As Steve said, it sounds like a Churchwarden I know, but also totally unlike some other Churchwardens I know. Btw, are you implying this should be a salaried post? Amateurs can make such an Awful Mess of this kind of thing.

  5. I’m not a member of the Church of England so I can’t really comment as to whether these would be good ideas for you. Just to say, though, that I have served since 1991 in two dioceses (Athabasca and Edmonton) that practice ’1′ in part (churches have to pay their own ministers, although the apportionment to the diocese is much higher than 10% – mainly because our dioceses, though geographically many times larger than yours, are numerically much smaller). Yes, it may lead to survival of the fittest (although it didn’t seem to hurt the earliest generations of Christians), but it also means that churches aren’t enabled in a dependency culture.

  6. 1: Tess suggests that this should be trialed in a small area to see how it works. It is the system currently in place in the USA, which might give you a sense of it.

  7. 1. you need to be careful you don’t end up with the American Methodist system where the bigger the congregation the more money you are paid.
    2. yes, do this. although you can do the same over 5 years, Methodist ‘probationary’ period for ministers is five years. my Father did his probation and training at the same time so it does work, he did join the ministry in later life so had lots of experience, probably not a good idea of a 20 y.o. You are trying to be radical but you still have kept the hierarchy in ministry of deacons and priests, if you are called to be a deacon then be a deacon, if a priest then be a priest. there really is no need for priesthood to be dependant on having to be a deacon first. this is a false understanding of what a deacon and priest are called to be. they are separate and distinct not a hierarchy.
    3. a better idea would be for paid staff to do all the paperwork you suggest but across a deanery.

  8. I suppose it’s a good idea, then, not to give you dictatorial powers over the Church of England.?

  9. Sorry – probably 2 and 3 are good thoughts, but this is still moving the Titanic’s deckchairs. Need to be MUCH more radical!

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