A major survey of clergy views on a range of issues has just been published, covering everything from austerity to the parish system, immigration to assisted suicide. Full tables are here, press release from Linda Woodhead here, and a helpful summary at British Religion in Numbers.
There are various fascinating bits of detail, e.g. a much higher concentration of liberal clergy in Cathedrals. The bit that caught my eye was this question:
Based on your experience, do you feel that the Church of England is generally good or bad at identifying and supporting clergy’s talents, gifts and initiatives?
Quite Bad 33%
Neither Good nor Bad 20%
Quite Good 25%
Women were slightly more likely to rate the CofE better, as were younger clergy, and those ordained in the last 14 years, since 2001. The only subgroup in the stats who gave a net 'good' rating were Archdeacons and Bishops. Well, you would wouldn't you, if you were the ones who had the main responsibility for 'supporting clergy talents, gifts and initiatives'. (And this makes the problem worse - those who are mainly responsible for supporting clergy, or for making sure the support is there if they don't directly provide it themselves, actually think they're doing a good job)
This is a shocker, to say the least. About 70% of our budget goes on clergy, but only 1/4 of those clergy feel that their talents, gifts and initiatives are well supported by the church. Almost 50% feel unsupported to some degree or another. If half of your main workforce aren't being supported and resourced in using their talents and gifts, then it not surprising the whole enterprise is struggling.
Mind you, it would be interesting to see a similar survey of CofE laity. I don't recall any training in my 4 years at theological college on how to recognise and support the talents and gifts of my congregation. Though a key part of leadership is spotting, nurturing and deploying talent, we are still wedded to a vicar-does-everything model. In some places, it's the laity who are more determined to maintain it than the clergy. For a great post on what a gift-affirming church could look like (but doesn't) read this at Learning to Float.
Though a lot of the comment on this survey will focus on split views on same-sex marriage, or on whether the church can/should 'disagree well', this is a stat that needs close and sustained attention. If we really are failing 50% of our frontline paid staff then the CofE needs to look long and hard at how it supports us, and helps us to support others.