WHERE IS THE LOVE?

I have been an unemployed Church of England priest for nearly three years now. I sit at home all day waiting to die. I know that sounds melodramatic but, unfortunately, as I am unable to let go of my conviction that I was called by God to be a full time priest, it is the truth of the matter. I don't have children to place my hopes for the future on and so, as I have had my hopes for the future removed from me without any due process by a man so powerful that I cannot escape from his influence in respect of any position I go for, I have no real reason to continue living other than an unease about the dying process itself.

It is an extremely lonely position to be in. I hardly ever meet other people to speak to. The odd exchange of meteorological information with a shop assistant is usually the extent of my daily discourse until my wife returns home from work. My lack of a stipend means that we cannot afford to go out much other than on lonely walks. The refusal of any of the clergy I used to know to keep in contact with me incase they are tarred with the same brush of shame that has indelibly marked me for life is a pain that I find very difficult to bear and the reason why my wife will not even cross the threshold of an empty church anymore let alone join in Christian worship. It is such a lonely experience that I forget that I am not alone in having my life completely ruined by a corrupt, very human, very secular minded, church hierarchy jealous of its own dwindling authority. The same is happening to Anglican priests and other church ministers throughout the world all the while. At least, in the USA, somebody with some clout has noticed and raised the alarm. The Reverend William Doubleday, priest and professor of Pastoral Theology at GTS for many years, posted a lengthy piece on this issue on Facebook on the seventh of March this year. The following is taken from his article.

Though I have not engaged in a scientific sampling process, I can report that FORCED CLERGY TERMINATIONS are growing more common week by week across our church. There is now a growing body of recent and very disturbing literature about church conflicts, toxic congregations, poorly managed after care situations, repeat lay antagonists of clergy, episcopal mishandling of divided parishes, and related topics.

I want to make clear, I am not talking about clergy sexual misconduct or financial malfeasance cases – though I have come to suspect that long-term systemic dysfunctions and congregational histories and patterns may in some instances actually encourage such serious problems. Rather, I am addressing those congregations where, often relatively early in a pastorate, or at a point of some crucial decision making, a group of antagonists emerge in the parish who rapidly rise to what Speed Leas would characterize as Level 4 and/or Level 5 conflict with their priest. Usually, at least some of these antagonists are on the parish vestry, or even among the officers of the vestry. Very often these conflicts escalate so rapidly that it seems almost impossible to mediate or deescalate the conflict with either skilled consultants or mediators or through skilled intervention by bishops of their staff. There is growing evidence that in many instances, diocesan bishops or staff often begin to collude with the antagonists when it appears they are going to win.

You can read William's words in full at THE EPISCOPAL CAFÉ where I left the following comment.

In England it is very difficult for a minister to be forced out without the active participation of the diocesan bishop and his "senior" staff. Any bishop worth his or her salt can either stop a disagreement getting out of hand or can provide real help (not just words of comfort) for injured parties if the disagreement does get to the point of the minister losing his or her job. That so many bishops choose to face the other way when the proverbial is hitting the fan or, worse still, actively use the problem at congregation level to get rid of a minister they don't like, is a sign of just how much the Church bosses have bought into secular, capitalistic human resources models and how much they have turned their backs on the early Church models that originally gave them their episcopal authority.

If the Church, in particular it's chief pastors, the bishops, cannot provide real pastoral support to the accidental victims of the human nature of the Church, than what is the point of belonging to the Church and, even more so, what is the point of people giving up everything in their lives to work for the Church?

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