A Clergy Glut: a Few Thoughts

A reality check!

The Episcopal Church did a horrible job of funding clergy education.  It’s why I went to University of Chicago rather than General.  It is one reason seminaries aren’t supported by their clergy after they graduate.  The Episcopal church, as a whole, does not fund clergy education the way other denominations do.

It might be that our jobs will change.  Churches fund benefits,  allow priests to be out in the world, doing other vocational work that they love.  As churches are organized, they can get benefits for their priests and fund a pension much more reasonably.  Priests can do what they love during the week, but fulfill their clear canonical expectations of teaching.  They can live in the rectory and throw parties for the church.   In essence, priests would work 1/3rd time.  It would be humane, force churches do develop lay leadership, and encourage some creativity in the clergy.  It shouldn’t be the only type of position, but a possible one.  Perhaps we would ordain people who were already lawyers, social workers and musicians with a steady profession.

But this also means that seminary education should change.  We could require masters in other disciplines, but require a steady three year reading list, consistent writing, and local apprenticeship.    Seminaries can do online education during the year, and host intensive 2-3 week training on-site, or weekend training for lay people; or offer training during the week training for clergy.

Not all residential three year seminaries should close.  But they should be competitive.  Let them turn people down.  But we should remind congregations that “we need strong lay people” and do a better job of rewarding them.  Clergy should have $15,000 hospitality budgets to spend on feeding and rewarding other people.

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