Monday, 4 November 2013

Solomon's dilemma: The Debate on Clergy in 1997

In August 1997, a debate began in "The Pilot" magazine about whether or not there were too many clergy in Jersey and whether the numbers should be reduced. It is interesting, not least because the debate was largely settled in favour of the status quo, with minor adjustments among the district churches.
It began with a short piece by "A.H. ", on the factual situation. David Jones also put an interesting case. These can be read here:
But after that, two more senior clergy also commented - Tony Keogh, who was then Rector of Trinity, and the Dean of Jersey, John Seaford. Tony Keogh was right, Canon Law can be change, and the new Jersey Canons of the Church of England which now say in particular: "None, either Dean or Minister, shall hold two Rectorial Benefices together", which is not what it used to say.
Tony Keogh Sept 1997
While I recognise the discipline of Canon law, I also recognise the discipline of quoting them correctly. There are several observations which I would like to make concerning the item in last month's PILOT, signed by AH. The writer quoted Canon 14 as reading, "None, either Dean or Minister, shall hold two Benefices together, unless in time of vacancy." The Canon actually reads, "None, either Dean or Rector" shall hold two RECTORIES together..." The correct reading assumes that there may be a need in certain circumstances for a Rector to care for two benefices. All the evidence suggests that Canon 14 was promulgated in May 1949 to prevent rectors from living in one rectory and claiming any revenue from the other building.
More importantly, what AH fails to mention is that the present Canon 14 is indeed a revision, proving the point that, if necessary, Canon law can be changed.
The view of the Pastoral Committee is that the proposals which are to come before the Deanery Synod contravene no Canon Law. No doubt, those who oppose the proposal will try to prove otherwise. The path of legalism is a sterile road which will do great harm to the Church of England in Jersey. Like the Irish, we will believe what we want to believe. If the only argument which the other side has in the Pastoral Reorganisation debate is a legal argument, then they have lost the debate.
I particularly welcomed the contribution in last month's PILOT from Fr David Jones, Priest-in-Charge at St Luke's Church, not because it confirms what I have been saying but because his is a voice which is going to he increasingly heard in the Deanery as new appointments bring clergy from the real world of the mainland church, where clergy are having to minister to as many as five churches at the same time.
Above all, we would ask you to pray for all who are given the grave responsibility to make decisions at the November Deanery Synod, that we may all conduct ourselves as children of the Light that is Christ; that we may seek to serve God and His world better by our decisions and when all is done and the decisions made, we may all dwell in peace and brotherhood which is the household of faith.
Deans Letter Dec 1997
For many years the Anglican Church in Jersey has been talking about the need for Pastoral Reorganisation - meanwhile both the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church have started and completed their schemes to provide ministry for the whole Island with less ordained ministers, and using less buildings.
Because of the interwoven constitutional position of the Church of England within the fabric of this Island, and the long history of independence of the ancient parishes, it is just slightly more complicated for us to devise a plan which recognises these excellent traditions and yet is realistic in its use of an ever diminishing resource, that of the ordained clergy.
At the meeting of the Deanery Synod last month the Pastoral Committee presented yet another report, this time with specific recommendations to achieve the required saving of two stipendiary posts. Predictably this was unpopular, especially in the parishes most closely involved.
No parish has ever wanted to be, in the picturesque language of the Instrument of Institution, "bereft of an incumbent" permanently. But the starting point for the debate is that there has been a dearth of vocations to the full-time stipendiary ministry. With the development of Non-Stipendiary Ministry, and the increasing role of Readers, many people with a vocation to ministry, whether ordained or lay, have chosen to remain in their secular employment, and serve the Church in their out-of-work hours. This has been of enormous benefit to the Church, particularly on Sundays for the leadership of worship, but these people are not available for the all-week pastoral care.
The other point is demographic. The population of this Island is unevenly distributed, and presently some 80 per cent of the population is cared for by 40 per cent of the stipendiary clergy.
The report is being considered now, and undoubtedly various parishes will produce alternative recommendations, based on the NIMBY principle, that the changes should happen in one or more of the other parishes. The problem seems all too reminiscent of Solomon's dilemma (1 Kings 3) with only one "baby" claimed by two "mothers," so before we go any further perhaps we should all repeat the prayer recorded in verse 9.
However much everyone would like to, and there is no one that does not want to, we cannot maintain the situation as it is now. There has to be some give somewhere.

1 comment:

James said...

Am I right in thinking that the 1949 revision was also the point at which Rectors from outside Jersey were first allowed in?