Paul writes – Further to yesterday’s post, another few thoughts on priesthood in the Anglican Church – particularly as it relates to tikanga pakeha (of which I am most familiar) in Aotearoa New Zealand.
As I see it, there are a few leadership, structural and resource challenges that need to be faced if our missional identity in this land is to be engaged more creatively and contextually. My comments will really only be “bullet points” – thoughts I’ll come back to in terms of my own thinking and reflection, but I thought I’d share them. Others might have different insights and draw on different experiences. For me this remains a work-in-progress:
- The role of priest needs to be re-engaged through a missional lens, as much (and maybe more so!) as it needs to be engaged through the lenses of sacrament and liturgy, pastoral care, Anglican tradition etc.
- The existing path to ordination is predominantly focused on the parochial or parish model. Candidates for potential ordination (whether stipendiary or non-stipendiary) need to be active in a parish church context and require the support of that parish as part of their application for consideration.
- The gender and demographic mix of the majority of Anglican congregations is reflected in those offering themselves for selection. This raises real issues particularly with regards to demographics, and especially the reality that missing demographic groupings (broadly speaking – those under 45 years of age) are seldom represented. This has all kinds of implications for how we engage a changed context and demographic groups with often no church background or interest in church in the traditional sense.
- In the discernment process it needs to be remembered that past behaviors, leadership styles, passion, focus of energy etc are invariably (but not always) good predictors of future behaviour etc. While modification might be possible, "a leopard doesn't largely change it spots" - especially true the older and more set in their ways a person is.
- Models of ministry need to be reconsidered, e.g. consider an associate priest/missioner supported and enabled by a more traditional (but engaged) priest in a typical parish context. It's hard energy-sapping work leading change and it most definitely requires a team who share the dream.
- As a corollary, because these demographic groups are missing, possible candidates who sense a possible call to ordination aren’t able to both test (and discern) or explore that sense of call; whether it amounts to anything or not.
- If these younger demographics aren’t attending a traditional established Anglican church now – whether evangelical, Anglo-Catholic or whatever – it’s not likely they’ll conceive of any possible call to priesthood as a call to a traditional / aged parish context; especially given their peer-group are significantly under-represented if indeed they are present at all. They could conceive of that if they felt a commitment to a (potentially renovated and renewed) parochial model and had skills and experience as change-agents able to help congregations discern the future of God amongst them and beyond the life of their congregation.
- Another corollary. If the occasional younger person is attracted to the possibility of ordination and a call to a traditional parish, they would more than likely typically feel comfortable in that context and as a consequence largely maintain the status-quo, rather than initiate and direct the hard work of re-imagining the context and the possibilities for contextual ministry and local mission. Youth isn't always a predictor of a missional engagement or the skills to transition a congregation.