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«THE O R D A I N E D MINISTRY IN DIFFERENT TRADITIONS By COLIN DAVEY ~ S T H E O R D A I N E D MINISTRY in some sort of crisis in our several ...»

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54

THE O R D A I N E D MINISTRY

IN DIFFERENT

TRADITIONS

By COLIN DAVEY

~ S T H E O R D A I N E D MINISTRY in some sort of crisis in our several

traditions7 Are there different versions of the same crisis, all

relating to the need for the clarification of the roles of lay and

ordained and the relationship between them? Or are there different crises caused by the different circumstances and structures to be found in different traditions? And in either case, has too little attention been given to issues of power, authority and accountability?

I shall attempt to give some answers to these questions in looking at the ordained ministry in some of the different traditions found in the member churches of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CCBI); but I shall also hope that the wider perspective offered may counteract any over-narrow focus on the current problems of any particular church. My own hunch is that a closer focus on the role of lay people would help to restore the role of the ordained to its proper perspective.

Issues, problems and crises At a recent United Reformed Church consultation on an interim report, Patterns of ministry, ~ someone commented that the members of the working party which produced it were very confident in their vision of ministry, and therefore unrepresentative of the neurotic attitudes of so many in the URC, which brings together and continues to struggle with its Presbyterian and Congregational traditions! At that same consultation, there were murmurs of agreement when I raised the question of power and authority and what an earlier draft had called 'the hidden agenda about lay-clerical relations in the church'.

As well as debating questions of authority involved in 'seeking together the Mind of Christ', on the basis of the 1994 report, The nature of the Assembly and the Council of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, z the Baptist Union is currently facing the unexpected problem of too many ordained ministers and not enough viable congregations to support them all. This is partly a consequence of the autonomy both of its theological colleges and of its local churches.

DIFFERENT TRADITIONS 55

The Church of England is dealing simultaneously with a number of issues to do with ordained ministry: from welcoming and doing justice to women priests in terms of their appointment to positions of responsi- bility, to offering pastoral oversight to parishes whose integrity refuses the ministry both of women priests and of bishops who have ordained them; from the loss of a significant proportion of central financial support for the maintenance of ordained ministry, to consequential questions about the viability of many parishes with small congrega- tions; from what a Zambian priest working here describes as a lack of a sense of direction among many clergy who, he says, are greasing the wheels of maintenance where an overhaul is overdue, to the inability of many lay people to evangelize, because, unlike their Anglican brothers and sisters in Zambia, they do not talk about God quite naturally all the time; from the much publicized matter of sexuality and ordination, to the continuing issues of church and state.

The Church of Scotland is currently putting an emphasis on producing a more competent but less numerous ordained ministry, assisted by Readers rather than Auxiliary Ministers. This is a reminder that not only are there varieties of ordained ministry in all our churches stipendiary and non-stipendiary, parish-based and chaplaincy or 'sector' ministry, traditional and pioneering - but also varieties of commissioned lay ministers as well as the 'every member ministry' of lay men and women at work, at home, in the neighbourhood.

Both the Anglican Church in Wales and the Presbyterian and other churches in Wales are struggling with an excess of buildings and the maintenance of ministry, particularly of rural ministry. Their investigations into possible co-operation in 'Community Pastorates' run up against the as yet unsolved problem of the non-interchangeability of clergy from episcopal and non-episcopal churches.

Meanwhile the New Testament Church of God, and the many other smaller black-minority Pentecostal and Holiness or African Independent Churches, give priority to evangelism and to lively preaching and worship, but face the massive costs of their rented or recently purchased and often heavily mortgaged buildings. For, as pioneers in Britain, they do not have the luxury of inherited premises or inherited financial subsidies. As a consequence, they are unable for the most part to pay their pastors as full-time stipendiary ministers, which gives them a double burden, of dally work to earn a living by, and of demanding ministry and pastoral care of others. In these circumstances, a different challenge is also being faced, as Rev. D r S e l w y n Arnold put it: 'There had been such an emphasis on preparing people for heaven that we had 56 DIFFERENT TRADITIONS neglected to prepare them to live and participate in present-day British society' and in their 'struggle for survival' here. 3 Another issue has been raised sharply by black Methodist, Anglican,





URC and other ordinands and clergy, as Rev. Sonia Hicks has written:

Theological education pre-supposes a white middle-class identity. I am pleading for a realisation that black ministers will have to perform their ministries in a different context to white ministers and that, therefore there is a need for that context to be given some priority...

regardless of where those black ministers perform their ministry...

We need to develop the necessary skills which will help the black community, suffering under the ravages of racism, to stand tall.4 The Greek Orthodox Church struggles between preserving and promoting the use of the Greek language in worship and in the home, and introducing English-language services for the benefit of third- and fourth-generation children whose loyalty it wishes to retain.

Alongside these indications of issues, problems and crisis of various kinds in churches, it is also important to record that in many places in Britain there are lively and full churches with teams of devoted and sensitive clergy encouraging lay witness and ministry day by day.

Statistical and other factors But are there some particular factors which make life especially difficult for ordained ministers today?

Statistics may be one pointer here. According to the UK Christian Handbook, 5 which lists adult worshippers, churches/congregations, and full-time stipendiary ministers (but for black-majority churches the numbers include both the small number of stipendiary and the much larger number of non-stipendiary ministers), we find the following

figures in descending order of size of members:

–  –  –

This produces the following ratios of (a) average number of members

per church/congregation; and (b) of stipendiary clergy per church:

(a) The highest average of adult members per church are:

–  –  –

It is these first ratios which indicate the average size of congregational adult membership and therefore determine the financial viability including maintenance of buildings (subsidy permitting), size of pastoral responsibilities, and often the morale of local congregations and their stipendiary clergy. For example, as Robin Gill wrote, 6 in the North-East of England there are twice as many Roman Catholics as Anglicans in church on a Sunday; but the Anglicans have four times as many churches.

(b) Those with the highest ratio of stipendiary ministers to

churches are:

–  –  –

This speaks for itself in terms of the provision or stretching of human resources, though to the ratios of stipendiary ministers should be added the many non-stipendiary clergy and commissioned lay readers and other lay pastoral ministers. Also, compared with their counterparts in 'gathered' churches, Church of England clergy and Church of Scotland ministers also have a sense of pastoral responsibility towards all who live within the parish boundaries of these 'established churches'. Greek Orthodox clergy have large communities to minister to from proportionately far fewer churches, which are well attended but extremely demanding. The distribution o f population in rural and urban areas is ~ott~e~ fact~,uhich may furthe~ compound any particular situation.

Another factor which affects the morale of ordained stipendiary clergy is the ambiguity often created by the combination of higher than average educational qualifications and professional standing, larger 59

DIFFERENT TRADITIONS

than average tied houses (vicarages or manses), and much lower than average (for graduates) salaries or stipends. This may be felt more acutely at a time when churches as institutions and as employers are facing financial cut-backs. It may also be a factor affecting recruitment to full-time stipendiary ministry and producing a larger number of candidates than before for non-stipendiary training courses and ministry.

The current intellectual climate of uncertainty about absolutes in morals or metaphysics drives some to see the Church as a rock on which to build, while others see it as a rudderless raft in which to drift around on a sea of faith and doubt. This can create problems, for instance for 'liberal' Baptists seeking employment in 'evangelical' churches or for Anglicans on fixed-term contracts.

Power and authority In January last year, on my way to a World Council of Churches' Faith and Order Standing Commission meeting in Switzerland, I spent a n aftemoon in Lausanne. I sat for a while in the bare Gothic cathedral there, which reminded me sharply that, like the 1989 changes in Eastern Europe, and with the same sort of popular involvement, the Reformation was not only a 'back-to-basics' religious renewal and revival, but also a violent and disruptive movement of social and political change involving a transfer of power. In 1536 the Bernese army had already taken possession of the city of Lausanne and had ejected its prince-bishop. A disputation was then held in the cathedral, the verdict of which was to 'suppress all idolatries, Papal ceremonies and human traditions and ordinances not in accordance with the Word of God'. Directly it was over, the mob stripped the cathedral of everything suggestive of 'the abomination'. This was 'Evangelicalism, if you will, but no less certainly municipal Caesaropapism on the familiar pattern', comments the French historian I~mile Ltonard, 7 emphasizing the new sovereignty of some town councils in religious affairs, resulting from the Reformation.

If we can reread not only church history, but also the New Testament, as a series of struggles for power and authority, we shall be aware of the close links between doctrinal and constitutional issues (constitutions being essentially about power and authority, checks and balances). We shall not be afraid to notice the importance of constitutions or of each particular 'ecclesiastical polity', since in an institution like the Church, where, from the start, and wherever it is as allembracing as it is called to be, tensions are bound to arise from a wide 60 "DIFFERENT TRADITIONS social and ethnic mix of people, served by ministers, such as apostles, prophets, teachers, deacons, presbyters and bishops, with competing claims as interpreters of God's will as well as the main desire to dominate despite the divine command to serve, s We can also observe, as Aristotle wrote, 9 that any authority system can degenerate and lead to another one, which can do the same, and so on in a kind of cycle: benevolent monarchy becomes monstrous autocracy, or tyranny, and is overthrown; elected collective leadership, which succeeds, can become a dictatorial oligarchy or junta which a revolution removes; popular democracy in which all have a say can degenerate into mob rule, which then throws up a new leader, who may be benevolent or an autocrat. This is worth remembering when we are looking at the theological and constitutional arguments for episcopal, presbyterian and congregational forms of church government, and how they work out in practice (whatever the theory) at local, regional, national, international and universal levels.

Three recent discussions are relevant here. The first concerns the clarification in the United Reformed Church's interim report Patterns of ministry of the concept of 'the priesthood of all believers'. This emphasizes that 'it is the Church as a corporate body which shares in the high priesthood of Christ. The verse (1 Peter 2:9) is not speaking about the ministry of priesthood of Christians as individuals', although it is 'sometimes misunderstood as implying that "anyone can do anything"', lo And it is that misunderstanding which caused 'an aberration in the history of Congregationalism' when R. W. Dale asked his church meeting to allow a lay man to preside at communion once a year 'as a reminder of the priesthood of all believers'. This was severely criticized, not least because it 'led only to the debasing of ministry'.11 The second is a proper protest against 'An abuse of power', as a series of articles in Modern Believing is entitled) 2 Here a group of lay people, working under the auspices of the Association of Centres of Adult Theological Education, argue that 'one of the major evils which confronts us is clericalism or clericism which runs through the Church as sexism and racism run through society with similarly disabling effects, creating oppression and hindering the advancement of the

Kingdom'. x3 For, as Chris Peck writes:

–  –  –

by clergy as being passive, needing teaching, unspiritual, untheological, unresponsive and ultimately irresponsible, unable to be trusted with the things that matter - the holy mysteries. 14 The third is the Churches Together in England's Called to be one

process, and the responses by its member churches to the questions:



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