As I have grown to know and understand the Church of England more, I am often quite surprised by how many folk in positions of power have been privately educated. I guess it’s not really that surprising but it seems to me that there seems to be a disproportionate amount of privately educated bishops our church. Research was done into this in 2014 and at that point 50% of bishops were privately educated 36% attend grammar schools and 14% went to comprehensive school. Moreover 60% of bishops got their first degree from Oxford, Cambridge or Durham.1
I guess this is not surprising or massively different from other senior positions such as judges, MP’s, Lords and even journalists, however I think there is a bigger question. Is the leading of our church by an educated elite defining the way we view God and the church?
We always here about the tale of the poor man who becomes rich and looses it all where as the rich man administers his finances diligently. This is especially brought into focus in recent times when the church is struggling for money and we seem to value those churches who can contribute fully to the cost of the ministry they are receiving more than those who struggle due to the demographics of the parish they serve.
I think the problem go deeper than money though, I think the way that we have over intellectualised the role of a vicar, has led to a focus on theological education. By focusing so much on getting a good theology degree in order to be ale to be and effective vicar we rule out many folk who would make excellent priests. We also end up making the role of a priest more about preaching and teaching and less about drawing alongside and ministering.
I guess this leaves me with some questions about the possibilities of changing the way we select people for ministry.
What if we made an ‘ordinary person’ a Vicar and gave them the chance to listen to us, hear from God, pray with us and for us. Would we move away from a vicar knows best sort of sermonising where clever understanding of the scriptures is valued more than personal experience of the love of God?
Can we find a place where to be a priest means that we are there to help others meet with God, receive the Holy Spirit, be inspired by the lives of those in the Bible?
Could this make church more accessible and people would value the more ministry of a priest more if they were seen as a community chaplain rather than a religious instructor?