A PAPER published by the House of Clergy Standing Committee (HCSC) invites the Church of England to consider whether it is time for “minimum standards” in the area of clergy well-being.
The report, published with the list of Synod papers this week, says: “The wellbeing of the clergy is crucial to the health of the Church at worship, in mission and in pastoral care.” During the past six months, the HCSC has begun to look at the issue of clergy well-being, and specifically at whether, in addition to the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, the Church should “explore what duties it owes to its ordained ministers, in terms of ensuring that the clergy have proper support, guidance, practical help, and assistance in the conduct of their ministries”.
The paper makes an initial assessment of the “state of play” as regards clergy well-being, “based chiefly on a relatively informal consultation with the national chairs of the House of Clergy”.
The issues that the report identifies include: self-management: the importance of developing strategies and patterns of self-care in ministry; preventative education and training: the need to identify what makes the clergy resilient in ministry; the importance of being able to access counselling and mental health services; spiritual and theological resourcing; and a culture of clericalism, in which clergy are expected to “do and be everything”.
The report says that areas needing to be addressed include: the impact of maintenance and repairs on clergy housing; ensuring that “disengaged clergy” find support networks; ensuring that Ministerial Development Reviews are “fit-for-purpose”; the pastoral care of the clergy, at a time when bishop and archdeacons are expected to focus on vision and strategy; and the increasing perception that the clergy should “do more with less”.
The report says that the scope of provision for clergy well-being “varies widely across the Church of England”. An informal survey of the national Chairs of the House of Clergy suggests “a considerably greater level of provision in urban areas”. There is “little focus in the resourcing of parish churches and PCCs as potential partners in caring for the clergy”.
Funding is also a concern. “In financially challenging times, especially in many dioceses, resources for clergy wellbeing can easily be seen as ‘nice to have’ rather than essential”.
The report concludes: “In the light of these remarks, the purpose of this report is to invite the House of Clergy, and through it the wider Church of England, to ask itself whether, alongside the proper focus on professional standards as outlined in the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy, the time is right to ask whether there ought to be some commitment to some form of ‘minimum standards’ in the field of clergy wellbeing.”
It regards the Armed Forces Covenant as a potential model for this.