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JOHN BAKER, then Bishop of Salisbury

(in a paper on 'Ministry Today' 1983)

  • Special Categories of Ministers: It needs to be remembered, also, that this new category of [non-stipendiary] ministers covers two types: those who, usually in retirement, pursue their ministry unpaid; and those, the larger number, who are in secular employment …. The latter … bring some new and important ingredients into our church life.

    First, they follow a high and honourable tradition, of which St Paul himself is perhaps the most notable example, of ministering while supporting themselves in the ordinary fashion of human life. They have to wrestle with such things as mortgages, the demands of firms for total commitment to them, and the threat and actuality of redundancy. What does it mean to be a priest under these conditions? It can mean a truly priestly, sacrificial identification with one's people beyond anything open to the ordinary bishop, vicar or curate. Are these ministers pioneering a way of life which will before long be the norm rather than the exception? And, if so, shall we not be deeply grateful for their insights?

    Secondly, though usually contributing in some way to the parochial ministry, they also carry the flag of the Gospel in areas of life where it is rarely seen. The lay Christian can choose whether to have a high or low profile at work. The man or woman who is ordained has no choice. They are in the front line on a sector where the Church always professes to want to be, but rarely is. There they both minister to their fellow Christians, and share with them under identical conditions in ministering to the world.

    Thirdly, because of this experience they can bring back into the parochial congregations to which they belong a realism about the Gospel and work which can transform prayer, worship and study, and immeasurably increase the value and scope of pastoral counselling.

    The Church at large is certainly grateful for the service of such people, but it may be wondered whether it is grateful for the right reasons. Do we realise the urgently needed enrichment and enlargement of our total ministry which they bring? Is it what they are doing when they are not 'helping on Sundays' that we most need?

ANNE KNIGHTON , Chair of the Ecumenical Commission on the People of God in the World

(reporting to The Methodist Conference 1990)

  • We discovered, as we interviewed and reflected together, that theology is spoken in various languages and styles. As the New Testament has a variety of styles and theologies, and as indeed has the whole Christian tradition, so we found that no one group has a complete understanding. We affirm the validity of peoples' witness, and their attempts to hammer out a theology to enable them to discover the holy in their daily lives, to be true to Christ wherever they are, and to experience the presence of Christ in all the confusion of the world as it is …. Our attempt to find a spirituality that is worldly and rooted where people are, revealed to us that to be in the messiness of the world is to be where Christ is. Wherever we go, wherever we are, we are the Church. We need a theology of compromise and failure, as well as a theology of success and joy.

KEITH RAYNER, then Archbishop of Adelaide

(at the Conference on Ministry in Secular Employment 1988)

  1. You are to recognise and affirm the signs of the Kingdom of God in the world. I think you are also to name them. Your job is to relate those signs to God and help people relate them to God, and in this way they are helped to become part of the fuller purposes of God. It is not enough just to say 'Here are the signs of the Kingdom of God'. These signs have somehow to be made explicit in relation to God, and God's relationship with people in connection with these signs is to be made explicit.
  2. One of the very critical ministries you have to the Church is to help the Church in its parochial and diocesan structures to discover how it can be a body fit to receive those who feel themselves alienated from it.
  3. Part of the process of enabling the laity to discover and exercise their ministry is that there have to be some who are leading the way and showing how it is to be done, and being able to speak from their own experience in a way the parish priest cannot do. It seems to me that is the particular role of that somewhat elite band who are called to ministry in secular employment.

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