“BEYOND BOUNDARIES” was the subject of the National Conference of Advisers and Deans of Self-Supporting Ministry, at Merton College, Oxford, on Wednesday of last week.
In her keynote speech, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, spoke of her ministry experience, both as a self-supporting minister (SSM) while Chief Nursing Officer, and in other positions, including stipendiary, within the church.
Bishop Mullally noted the misleading nature of the title “self-supporting minister”, which served to define them in financial terms, and called for their gifts to be recognised. “The Church doesn’t always understand the experience and gifts that they bring. SSMs need to be translators, and we need to ensure they are given the tools to understand their boundaries, their rhythm of life, and to develop working agreements.” An SSM bishop? Why not, she asked.
The audience came from around the national dioceses: nearly two out of three were represented by SSM advisers and deans, archdeacons, diocesan directors of ordinands, and those with ministry-development positions.
Several themes emerged during the day: dioceses were shown to be reinventing the same wheels, underlying the need for a national network of SSM advisers to be created, both as a point of information and advice and to share good examples of policy.
Twelve dioceses had used a common research instrument to explore the attitudes, behaviours, and experience of their SSMs, and used the findings to support arguments for change.
A more challenging question concerned the way in which the Church could make use of the background experience of SSMs. There was recognition that this question was asked with a two-way perspective. The local church often failed to understand the working life of SSMs, and the ways in which their work-specific skills might be used, while SSMs with such skills would themselves benefit from bringing those gifts to the notice of the diocese in which they worked.
The conference was sponsored by SPCK and Ecclesiastical.
Read more in our vocations supplement