The CURSE of the Were Clergy!

Okay…the title and photo were gimmicks to grab your attention. And yes, the picture is from “The Curse of the Were Rabbit”, so my apologies to the Rev. Clement Hedges.

In many ways this is a postscript to my previous blog on the church being the problem with Christianity. Integral to that problem are, of course, the women and men who are ordained and paid by the church. I was one of those for decades, so I have earned the right to speak my mind. Some years ago I was a facilitator for the Regional Training Partnership in the East of England. This included the Cambridge Theological Federation which encompassed most of the Christian denominational training colleges: Catholic, Orthodox, Church of England, Methodist and more. The Partnership was to help oversee the training needs of the churches for both lay and ordained. Amongst other things, we kept the numbers of trainees, costs, etc.

And then came the day when, as we were considering training expenses and attendant costs for clergy in all of the denominations, the figures leapt off the page and, as a character in one of my novels might have said: “Whupped me upside the head.” What struck me was the hard fact that most of the churches’ money went to what I have come to call “the care and feeding of clergy.” Lay people barely got a look in as regards money spent for their benefit, spiritual development and discipleship. Well over 90% of funds went solely to the clergy. And God bless us all, the church training colleges (re-education centres?) do their best to make us ministers of Church, Inc. The prophetic spirit is to be eschewed . And as for Mr. Jesus’ admonition to serve the “hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, sick and the prisoner (Matt. 25),” well….”only after we’ve paid clergy expenses, repaired the bell tower, and new robes have been purchased for the choir,” etc.

In England, clergy collars are popularly refered to as “dog collars” and that is quite apt, for–like dogs–clergy are tamed and trained not to rock the institutional boat…or one might lose one’s “living” as the Anglicans call it. Most ministers live in vicarages or manses–church-owned houses…kennels comes to mind(!)…as well as not biting the hand that feeds you. More than once I was admonished, after a particularly prophetic sermon, that “we own your house!” In other words, “say nothing to challenge or to encourage us to become more Christ-like or you’re outta here!” After I resigned from parish ministry (I was in the United Reformed Church at the time), it was nine months before my Provincial Moderator paid me “pastoral” visit. His main concern was that if I only stuck it out another ‘so many years’, I could have a house for my retirement. Ironically, he was visiting me in a house we had taken out a mortgage to buy, so I told him that, 1) I didn’t need to wait to have a house of my own and, 2) I hadn’t gone into ministry for the promise of a house at retirement.

As I draw this blog to a close, I suppose I should have entitled it “Vampire Clergy” because, in all too many cases, we drank the life-blood of the church’s resources. Happily, many Jesus followers are coming to the realisation that while learning and education are always necessary, they do not require the institutional church, which chokes the very message it is meant to share. It is liberating to contemplate that God–the power behind the entire universe–does not need the church.

2 thoughts on “The CURSE of the Were Clergy!

  1. So true, and one of the most wonderful priests I ever knew was ousted because he would not cowtow to the heirarchy. He spoke of Jesus, from the heart. Can you wonder why I am leaving the Church of England!
    The most wonderful priest was a Methodist, I love him still.

    Liked by 1 person

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