The Roman Catholic worker-priest initiative was premised on priests taking up unskilled or semi-skilled labouring work. The theological argument was that such identification with ordinary working people would help the mission of the church in reaching the unchurched. It was also a form of solidarity.
What we now have in many Anglican provinces is the ordination of men and women who remain in a wide variety of secular roles after they are ordained. Many - most I believe - hold middle class, white collar, jobs. This may reflect the C of E generally (what used to be called the working classes don't attend in great numbers) and in any event, in Britain, there are fewer people working in industry.
The question which current patterns of selection for SSM/unpaid ministry raises might be: what secular jobs might make a person unsuited to holding the public, representative office of priest? I see little conversation about this, and so was interested to read the following from a 1967 CofE report, A Supporting Ministry:
"Both the diocesan authorities and the Selectors will have to scrutinize the secular occupation which the auxiliary priest will follow. This raises important, but complex, problems. The possibility of a particular occupation causing scandal, even unjustified, resulting in a barrier to a man's ministry, must be weighed. It is impossible to draw up a list of such occupations because much depends upon the individual and on the circumstances. We are, therefore, unable to do more than to suggest that the Selectors should advise about each case, bearing in mind the following words in the 1961 Report:-
"[The occupation] must be useful and honest in the fullest sense, neither pandering for gain to human weakness, nor having as its main objective the mere acquisition of worldly wealth. If it is itself of a pastoral nature or for the relief of suffering, it will be the more obviously appropriate. But it will not necessarily be inappropriate simply because these factors are missing. The secular occupation may properly do no more than provide an honest means of livelihood. The labourer is worthy of his hire provided the labour is worthy of the labourer. Both the labour and the hire must be such that the labourer is able to attend to his religious duties, personal and public. He must be primarily a priest whose useful secular work brings him sufficient reward to enable him to attend to his priestly functions; he must not be primarily a layman who is prepared to devote some of his leisure hours to being a part-time priest. If these general principles are borne in mind, we think that the answer will be clear in many cases”. A Supporting Ministry: A report of the Ministry Committee of the ACCM, Church Information Office, November 1967.
The church has ordained a banker who is a former Minister of State and a peer, and also a CEO of The Post Office. Do such roles meet the necessary features set out in the above quote? Why is this question of an ordained person's continuing secular role raising conflicts and difficulties (in practice or perception) not much discussed?
Over recent months I have been making use of the new Lambeth Palace Library archives. I've been looking at material concerned with what was called 'auxiliary ministry' but has had numerous other descriptions over the years: volunteer ministry, supporting ministry, non-stipendairy ministry and currently the drab 'SSM', self-supporting ministry. More spirited terms (to my mind) have included worker-priest, priest-worker and priests in secular emplpyment, though where these have cropped up in the material I have seen the tone has been slightly dismissive. For the uninitiated, these are all terms for unpaid clergy.
I have been able to read internal reports and correspondence involving bishops, archbishops and the officials dealing with ministry matters within the Church of England. It has been fascinating. This is not the moment for a more detailed account of what these adventures have unearthed. But it may be the place for some brief observations....