We have responded to the draft consultation paper 'A Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing' with a letter of which the summary is below.
We see evidence in our own charitable work of increased pressures on clergy wellbeing and heightened levels of clergy stress. We therefore welcome the principle of a covenant for clergy care and wellbeing, and the idea of establishing it by an Act of Synod, with subsequent adoption by diocesan synods. We also agree on the need for appropriate monitoring of implementation, including a review by General Synod in February 2022.
In the context of what is perceived to be greater managerialism and ‘target-setting’ within the Church, we also detect increased levels of cynicism and disengagement amongst many members of the clergy, especially those approaching retirement. So effective implementation of a new covenant by all dioceses (not just those who already promote best practice in clergy care) will be absolutely crucial if the covenant is to be more than just words.
Our specific comments on the consultation paper relate to the following three areas:
- The definition of what the paper calls ‘the Wider Church’ and the need to include within it para-church organisations like Sons & Friends, and indeed secular organisations who work in support of clergy welfare, which may not necessarily operate ‘through the Office of the Bishop’.
- The effect on clergy wellbeing and stress levels of financial factors, particularly clergy stipends and retirement provision, neither of which is touched on in the consultation paper.
- The need to restore trust between ordinary clergy and diocesan hierarchies, a trust which appears to have been undermined in recent years by greater managerialism, a lack of appropriate pastoral supervision and inconsistent approaches to Ministerial Development Reviews (highlighted in the paper), and also the increasing misuse of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) process.