The taboo subject of bullying

Bullying is one of the major stressors for clergy, one Diocesan Counsellor I spoke to commented:

A clergyperson can have their lives turned into a living hell by just two or three dysfunctional people in the congregation who relentlessly bully them. In years gone by these people could have turned their attentions to any number of people in authority living in the community – the doctor, the headmaster, the police officer, but now it is the vicar who has to cope with their dysfunction alone.

In a survey I asked clergy to respond to the statement “I experience bullying”, 22% said they never experience bullying, and 37% experienced it rarely, which left 41% who experience bullying sometimes, most of the time, or always. This is a huge number of clergy who are experiencing bullying in the workplace. The chart is below, it is notable how curates and associates suffer less:

Responses to the question ‘I experience bullying’

In the Scottish Episcopal Church, a similar survey has been conducted, the Church Times reports:

Thirty-nine per cent of respondents to a clergy well-being survey said that they had experienced bullying or harassment during the previous 12 months.

Speaking in the debate, the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, said: “We must say that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. The trouble is, it has been.

I think Kelvin hits the nail on the head, we simply have tolerated our clergy being bullied, the impact is huge for the clergy who have suffered and for the church as a whole, it is genuinely shocking and needs to stop. One solution would be for Diocesan Human Resources Departments to help with protocols around bullying. Often clergy are ashamed when they are experiencing bullying, but silence will not help. I love these words from Bishop Alan’s blog:

One thing’s for sure. Doing nothing will make the problem worse, and you will increasingly internalise it until it becomes business as usual. To paraphrase Jesus, Once the light within you becomes darkness, said Jesus, you are well and truly stuffed. And so are all the rest of us.

5 thoughts on “The taboo subject of bullying”

  1. Thanks for this. The survey results are troubling. Can you say what the sample size was please? There is also the issue of bullying between clergy, particularly in the incumbent/curate relationship.


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