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 Issues | Ministry | Senior Appointments

Extract from the Pilling Report

Talent & Calling (GS1650)

4.1.1            Concern has been expressed to us that four distinct categories of clergy are under-represented among senior office-holders: women clergy, minority ethnic clergy, conservative evangelicals and ‘traditional catholics’. We believe it to be desirable that the holders of senior appointments in the Church of England should broadly reflect the diversity of the clergy from among whom they are drawn – and indeed that of the Church of England as a whole. (Suffragan bishoprics will remain a partial exception to that unless or until legislation permitting the ordination of women to the episcopate is passed.) In this chapter we shall reflect on each of these categories in turn.

4.4            Conservative Evangelical Clergy

4.4.1            The other two groups whose concerns have been laid before us (conservative or ‘classical’ evangelicals and ‘traditional’ catholics) are more difficult to define than the first two that we have considered, because they are based on opinion rather than more objective categories (in respect of ethnicity there is a general willingness to accept self-definition). Ecclesial traditions are not watertight, within each of them there is a spectrum of views, and individuals’ precise opinions are subject to change and development.  None the less, we have to recognize that there are two groups of members of the Church of England who believe that clergy of their views are not treated fairly and equally when senior appointments are made.

4.4.2            The small number of conservative (or ‘classical’) evangelicals appointed to senior office in the Church of England has been discussed at a series of meetings between leading representatives of that constituency and the Appointments Secretaries since 2001. A statement issued following the most recent such meeting in July 2006 may be found on the web site of Anglican Mainstream.


4.4.3            When we discussed the issue, we felt that some of the difficulties in securing a representation of conservative evangelicals among the senior church appointments within the remit of our group flow from the attitudes of many conservative evangelicals themselves, and to an extent at least this has been recognized by members of that constituency in their discussions with us and with the Appointments Secretaries.

4.4.4            The priority that many conservative evangelicals give to teaching and evangelism can lead them to conclude that they can minister more effectively at the level of the parish than in a role within the wider diocese. Ministering as a bishop or archdeacon to congregations across the full range of the spectrum of worship in the Church of England involves all bishops and archdeacons in styles and practices of worship with which they are to some degree uncomfortable. For some conservative evangelicals in particular, however, the diversity of what is lawful in Anglican worship extends beyond that in which they can in conscience engage, and this may discourage some from seeking or accepting senior appointments. Because of the emphasis that they place on teaching and evangelism within the local community, conservative evangelicals may also be reluctant to devote time to involvement in the life and structures of the diocese, whereas such involvement is a necessary preparation for offices which involve responsibility for the diocese’s life and structures.

4.4.5            Cathedral ministry, in particular, is something to which many conservative evangelicals do not feel called. There are physical aspects of many cathedrals – such as shrines, multiple altars (as these Holy Tables are commonly called) and candle stands – that mean that conservative evangelicals may not feel ‘at home’ in them. Moreover, the liturgical life of cathedrals, including frequent celebration of Holy Communion and daily choral services which the dean and residentiary canons are expected to attend, has sometimes been at odds with an evangelical emphasis on a word-based ministry (which for some includes neither frequent celebration of Holy Communion nor the daily office). Whereas many of those engaged in cathedral ministry see the provision of space (metaphorically as well as literally) in which individuals can explore their understanding of spirituality as playing an important part in their engagement with the wider community, conservative evangelicals tend to emphasize the importance of presenting the content of the Gospel more explicitly.

4.4.6            Many of these factors may also be expressed more positively by saying that for many conservative evangelicals, as indeed for many clergy of all traditions, the pastoral leadership of a congregation is the ministry to which they feel called and indeed they view it as the highest vocation. This ministry may involve direct pastoral responsibility for hundreds of people, oversight and direction of significant numbers of ordained and lay ministers, ultimate responsibility for extensive ‘plant’ and a large budget, and considerable freedom to develop a personal evangelistic ministry within and beyond the parish. Many of the most noted leaders of evangelical Anglicanism have been and are the ministers of prominent churches with large congregations, rather than bishops, archdeacons, deans or canons, and these can therefore be regarded as ‘senior appointments’.

4.4.7            We rehearse these points not in order to suggest that conservative evangelicals should not or cannot successfully take on senior church appointments, but in order to be realistic about the degree to which individual clergy from this tradition actually wish to do so.

4.4.8            Such hesitation cannot, of itself, explain all of the present perceived under-representation of conservative evangelicals in the appointments within our remit. Other factors might include a suspicion on the part of those responsible for putting names forward that a focus on word-based ministry might restrict individuals’ ability to minister to broader traditions within the Church of England. In many cases, we believe such suspicion to be unjustified.

4.4.9            We continue to believe it to be desirable that conservative evangelicals should be represented among those occupying senior appointments to a greater degree than is at present the case. If this is to be achieved, it will require bishops and those working on their behalf both to seek to persuade able clergy from this tradition to consider whether they might be called to such a ministry and also to help them to acquire the experience of the wider church within the diocese and the Church of England nationally, and also beyond their own tradition, that would equip them for it.

4.4.10            It will also require a readiness on the part of bishops and others to appreciate the value of experience gained in parish churches with large staffs, sizeable budgets and strong commitment to the communities in which they are set, and a willingness – on the part of clergy and laypeople involved in discussions about appointments as well as on the part of bishops, to appoint conservative evangelicals.

4.4.11            Figures for the number of self-described ‘conservative’ or ‘classical’ evangelicals on the Preferment List are not available. We recommend that bishops should be asked to indicate which (if any) of those currently on the List from their dioceses are from a conservative evangelical background. Bishops should be asked positively to look for clergy from this constituency who might either be qualified for inclusion on the Preferment List or might be developed in such a way that they might be qualified later on.

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