Blue sky thinking from Tim Norwood and the cloud…

A few days ago, I asked some of my friends on Twitter what suggestions they might have for encouraging collaborative ministry in the Anglican Church. They came back with a number of suggestions that broadly fitted into two categories:

  1. Fewer Vicars
  2. Make area deans into bishops

This cloud-sourced strategy for collaborative ministry suggests that we should make episcope more local, while cutting back on professional ministry. Local ministry would have space to flourish – and be properly nurtured. In other words, we need more oversight and fewer one-man-bands.

Such a strategy should be attractive to dioceses since they are all concerned about falling number of stipendiary clergy. It would also acknowledge the reality that we have increasing numbers of non-stipendiary clergy who want useful roles with clear boundaries.

To be honest, I have been wondering about this for a while and had come to similar conclusions. We need our people to rediscover what it means for them to ‘be church’ and to do this in a sustainable way. I have found that people are really keen to ‘do church’ differently and share ministry with one another, but they want proper support, training and supervision. As someone once said, ‘if we want church members to become more priestly, then we will need our priests to become more episcopal.’

A pipe dream you say? Well, it’s surely worth a try. I would like to challenge a diocese to pick a deanery and hold an experiment. In many areas, a terminal financial crisis is looming anyway, so what have we got to loose? Within this deanery they would:

  1. appoint a bishop (properly ordained) who would oversee the deanery. This individual would also take on the responsibilities of the area dean…
  2. cut the numbers of stipendiary clergy to a level below that which the deanery can afford. I wouldn’t like to set a number because circumstances vary, but I would suggest that the numbers need to be low enough that business as usual is impossible!
  3. allow the deanery manage it’s own finances. If the numbers of clergy are reduced sufficiently there should be a reasonable surplus that could be used to pay administrators, youth workers, mission costs, etc…

A pipe dream? Probably? But now is the time to give it a go, before financial problems make it impossible to carry on anyway…

(P.S. this post does not represent the official position of the Local Ministry Network…)