Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A radical force for change?

This report by the Western Mail today:
Church targets the young as clergy retire
 'The Church in Wales is to launch a campaign to encourage more young people to seek a career in the Church after admitting there is an “urgent need” for new clergy.
Its governing body will meet in Lampeter tomorrow to debate their strategy after Gregory Cameron, the bishop of St Asaph, said the days of a vicar being part of the establishment had gone and he wanted young men and women who would make the Church a radical force for change.
The initiative comes at a time when many clergy are approaching retirement and few young people are joining the ministry.
Last year the Church in Wales saw a net fall of 13 in the number of full-time clergy. Now, a quarter of all clerics are aged 61 to 65 and 10% are aged between 66 and 80.
Just 9% are aged 26-40 and only 36% of trainee priests are in the 20-35 age group. The bishop, a former deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said: “I very much believe this is an opportunity – not a problem.
“What we have got the opportunity to do is recruit a new generation of leaders of the Church – and specifically target younger people and bring their new vision into the life of the Church.”
He said stereotypes of the clergy, such as the vicar from the comedy Dad’s Army, did not reflect the reality of the modern role, which could involve working in prisons, schools or hospitals.
“Come and lead us,” he said. “Come and enthuse us with your vision of change.”
It is proposed that an average of three people from each diocese will be ordained each year, of whom two will be aged under 35.
Bishop Cameron said the church was looking for “someone who has found a lively faith of their own – someone who understands Christianity as an encounter with a living Jesus who calls the church onwards to activity and mission”.

Good luck to them! In many ways I hope this appeal is successful; a weak and declining Church in Wales is in no one's best interests. We can all agree wholeheartedly with the last statement of the Bishop of St Asaph.
The irony is, of course, that the Province is doing its level best to discourage some of its clergy from remaining at all. They, of course, are the "wrong sort" of clergy - those with orthodox theological views, whose vision of  "a radical force for change" may have more to do with biblical and patristic 'ressourcement' and in moving towards an immediately achievable form of Christian unity (again, probably the 'wrong sort' of unity) than the fashionable liberal nostrums favoured by our current leaders. But as to much of what is reported above, they say nothing is new under the sun, but isn't it a little soon to start recycling the worst slogans of the 1960s?
I can't help being reminded of that famous comment of G.K. Chesterton quoted in the curent edition of New  Directions, "We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world."  That is the vision which must be kept alive.


  1. The piece says a lot about the decline of the church. In Anglicanism "career" has replaced vocation often attracting 'converts' who previously would have considered social work. In that sense a better comparison would be the Vicar of Dibley. But "come and lead us" with ++Barry at the helm? That's a laugh. Come and do what Barry says would be more accurate. Be obsessed with politics, wear pink spectacles and avoid anything to do with the historic Apostolic faith. An excellent "career" opportunity for followers, but leaders! Petros

  2. Don't forget that the policy of all Ordinands training at St Mikes, means that quite a few people choose to escape to England, either through Pastoral Placements, or through the diocese their Uni happens to be in. It's the younger one who tend to be able to pursue their vocation over the border. If the CiW wants young people to return to Wales, they should give them the freedom to train in England, and make St Mikes a place that some English Ordinands (and perhaps some link to the Scots to appease the Anglo-phobes?) want to go to!

  3. We seem to have lost some published comments - I'm not quite sure why. My apologies to those whose comments have disappeared.

  4. St Michael's College has become a joke - yet another drain on church financial resources directed at turning out wishy-washy clerics playing with the latest management techniques. Living, teaching and promoting the Christian faith in the community is regarded a old fashioned.
    A CofE priest who was involved in the last inspection at St Michael's College was in the chapel one evening. He spotted a lady ordinand lighting several votive candles. When she had finished he attempted to engage her in conversation about the devotional nature of using votive lights. She said, "Oh I don't believe in any of that! I just like lighting lots and lots of candles - they look pretty!!"

  5. I thought that the ordination of women to priesthood was meant to solve the recruitment crisis? So that worked well then didn't it?!

  6. Another laughable read:
    #I did it myyyy way...


  7. The Church in Wales is short of clergy because in the past it looked not for a sincere divine sense of call but proven social work skills. Even today trying to find somebody who can provide spiritual direction in relation to vocation is impossible. I have written to a Bishop who was unable to suggest any help to those Not Recommended for training but said he would ask the Director of Ministry to look at the possibility of prayer and support in the future! The Church badly needs priests who put spirituality and pastoral care above media publisised social and charity work


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