THE longest-serving bishop’s officer for non-stipendiary ministers has urged the Church of England to promote and give full recognition to their ministry.
The Revd Hugh Lee, who is stepping down after 30 years as Bishop’s Officer for Self-Supporting Ministers (SSM) and Ministers in Secular Employment (MSE) in Oxford diocese, says that the Church is too inward-looking. “The Church is in danger of being run by stipendiary priests for stipendiary priests,” he says.
Almost one third of licensed (non-retired) clergy are NSMs. “It is time for the Church hierarchy to fully recognise our contribution.”
Mr Lee welcomes a May initiative, by Church House’s Ministry team to engage more NSMs, in which a working group is collaborating with a network of more than 40 Bishops’ officers for NSMs and MSEs. “This shows there is some momentum. Christians always remain hopeful.”
Mr Lee, a founding member of the network Christians in Secular Ministry (CHRISM), served on the General Synod from 2000 to 2015. The work of NSMs, he says, is to help “ourselves and others to celebrate the presence of God and the holiness of life in our work, and to see and tell the Christian story there”.
He regards his work as an energy economist as the main focus of his ministry. He held a senior post with the National Coal Board (NCB) during a period that included the 1984-85 miners’ strike. He was briefly a go-between for the NCB and union members who were unhappy with their NUM leader, Arthur Scargill.