Category Archives: Encouragement

Are Bishops Still the Pastors of the Clergy?

Most priests look to the bishop as their pastor. The bishop ordains and licenses clergy and these moments are profoundly meaningful. Each year most bishops ask their clergy to come to the Maundy Thursday service and renew their vows together, there is a sense of shared vocation and mutual respect. The clergy know that the Bishop sees their work as an extension of his or her work, because at the licensing service they are told “Receive this cure of souls, which is both mine and yours”. The Bishop has a staff as his symbol of pastoral ministry. The expectations are set up in all these highly symbolic moments.

However, the pastoral care of clergy is delegated to the archdeacons and the diocesan counsellor and in some dioceses it is also delegated to the Area Deans. Yvonne Warren, in her paper for general synod writes:

This sense of working in partnership with the Diocesan can then be totally lost. There needs to be a real in-depth rethink about whether the primary role of a Bishop of a diocese is still to oversee and care for their clergy or whether this role is obsolete. If it is then there needs to be real thought as to who within The Church has that care and oversight. It is because of this lack of clarity that so many clergy feel dislocated and displaced by The Church they seek to serve and trust in.

There is a sense that bishops would like to spend more time working with their clergy but the other duties preclude it. Could some of these duties be removed? Could we make all suffragen bishops area bishops, so that within that area that bishop does ordain, license and pastor their clergy, restoring the sense of pastoring and partnership? The area bishops could be cover the same area as the archdeaconries, giving good continuity between archdeacon and bishop.

The Benefits Of Honest Praise

One of the counsellors that I spoke about clergy wellbeing to said that it is really important to talk to lay people about encouraging the clergy. I slightly ignored what she said – I guess I wondered who might talk to the lay people – is it the clergy? How would that sound?Praise me… Encourage me… I’m not needy, honestly! Mmmm.

Two things have made me come back to the words that she said that I discounted. The first is an article entitled, ‘Appreciation: A Pastor’s Emotional Fuel’, in it the author says:

For some strange reason, people tend to be silent about positive changes in the church until something goes against their grain. In many cases the result is that the pastor becomes tentative, uncertain, and feels overworked and underappreciated.

Gary Gonzales

The article is worth reading in full – he talks about two issues ‘The Omnipotent Pastor’ when he was trying to live up to impossible expectations and ‘The Invisible Man’ where he was working really hard but people in the congregation were complaining that they didn’t see him and there was the hurt of rumours circulating. He got to the end of himself ans then this happened:

It was hard, but finally I brought the issue before our board: “I can’t do everything people seem to expect. I am a limited human resource. I need your encouragement, counsel, and help—and everyone else’s, for that matter—if this ministry is going to function as it should.”

That frank admission prompted several months of positive, productive dialogue with the board. We discussed my role, but also the unique strengths and weaknesses of each board member. We sought specific ways to nurture one another’s personal growth. Each elder ended up with a terse, well-written job description that was the product of group process, and hence, we all sensed we were part of the ministry.

It made me realise that often we struggle on without seeing the help of the PCC (in the case of Anglican Churches).

The second thing that made me think about appreciation is a book I’m reading at the moment by Martin Seligman called ‘Flourish‘ who finds that you can tell which companies will succeed depending on the ratio of positive words to negative. He says that that ratio needs to be about 3:1 in business but in marriages it needs to be much higher – 5:1. The numbers don’t really matter, but it got me thinking about how we all can cause each other to flourish in churches – how kind words and loving attitudes make such a difference. And clergy are simply not immune to this. Perhaps we need to talk frankly about the needs of our clergy – or to be even more direct, perhaps as clergy we need to be much more willing to be vulnerable.