This week the Church of England Ministry Development Team is launching their invitation to researchers to tender for a role in the ongoing Living Ministry research project, this time with a focus on the experience of Working-Class clergy.
It is widely accepted that the Church of England is disproportionately middle class, in terms of both congregations and clergy. Recent initiatives to address this include the establishment of the Estates Evangelism Task Group (EETG) as part of Renewal and Reform, and efforts to make discernment and formational processes more accessible to a wider range of people. The Emerging Church vision unveiled in 2021 states as one of its priorities ‘a church which is younger and more diverse’ (including social and economic diversity), and as one of its bold outcomes, ‘a Church of England which fully represents the communities we serve in age and diversity’. As part of the aim to see 10,000 new worshipping communities established by 2030, the EETG is seeking to help and resource dioceses to plant 2,000 new worshipping communities on estates. Developing indigenous ordained leadership is key to this aim.
Along with the missional objectives of the Church of England, work is ongoing to address issues of clerical diversity from a social justice perspective. This has so far focussed largely on gender and race (the latter particularly recently following the establishment of the Anti-Racism Taskforce and the Racial Justice Commission). More limited and less high-profile work is being conducted to address issues facing disabled clergy. Socio-economic diversity has so far received little attention from this perspective; indeed, the Church Times noted in June 2021 that Lynne Cullens, now Bishop of Barking, ‘has observed a certain wariness when it comes to discussing class in the Church.’
The issue of clergy wellbeing is currently being addressed by the Ministry Development Team through a ten-year research project, ‘Living Ministry’ https://www.churchofengland.org/living-ministry, exploring how ordained ministers flourish in ministry. The research follows four cohorts of clergy through their ministry at two-year intervals, each wave comprising a large-scale quantitative survey and a smaller-scale qualitative study. The Living Ministry research has not yet explored issues of social class in depth; however, class has been raised by a small number of the 85 participants in the qualitative element of the study as having implications for wellbeing. To understand how wellbeing and illbeing are experienced by working-class ordained ministers, the Ministry Development Team is therefore seeking to commission a stand-alone, qualitative research project.
Aims & objectives
To understand and contribute to improving the experiences and wellbeing of working-class clergy.
• Identify the particular wellbeing experiences of working-class clergy.
• Identify ways of improving the wellbeing of working-class clergy.
Anticipated questions to be explored
• How does ordination affect class identity and what are the wellbeing implications of this?
• How far is the Living Ministry wellbeing framework adequate for the experiences of working-class clergy?
• What are the particular factors that influence the wellbeing of working-class clergy?
• How do experiences vary within this group, e.g. by role or location and how does social class intersect with other factors affecting wellbeing?
• On what strategies and resources do working-class clergy draw to sustain, enhance and overcome barriers and threats to their wellbeing?
• How and how far is their wellbeing supported or hindered by the church at different levels?
• How can the wellbeing of working-class clergy be supported and improved?
Anticipated policy implications
• Support the work of the Ministry Council:
o Inform diocesan senior clergy and staff about structural barriers to the wellbeing of working-class clergy and how best to support these ministers;
o Inform national, diocesan and theological education processes for working-class clergy, ordinands, and people in the discernment process;
• Inform the work of the Facilitation Group for the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing and the ‘Big Conversation’ on clergy wellbeing at all levels of the church;
• Contribute to the national Church of England Vision and Strategy, specifically the bold outcome of ‘a Church of England which fully represents the communities we serve in age and diversity,’ and inform the work of the Estates Evangelism Task Group.
The detailed methods to be employed will be determined by the researcher, in consultation with the Advisory Group. We envisage the main method to be qualitative individual or group interviews with clergy who are working-class or have a working-class background. The Church of England does not hold data on clergy social class so other approaches will be required for sampling and recruitment. The Advisory Group may be able to assist with suggestions of and access to formal and informal networks.
The following outputs will be required:
1) A full report of the research findings, to be published on the Church of England website and disseminated by the Ministry Development Team within the national church, dioceses and theological education institutions as appropriate.
2) An accessible summary or practical resource, based on the research findings, for senior clergy, diocesan staff and individual clergy, to be available on the Church of England website alongside other Living Ministry resources.
They welcome applications from individuals and teams. As well as possessing expertise in qualitative research methods, the researcher or research team should:
• Include researcher(s) who are working class;
• Be sympathetic to the Christian faith;
• Be familiar with key structures and processes of the Church of England;
• Be aware of any potential impact of the research on their own wellbeing and have in place appropriate professional support.
They expect the research to begin in October and be completed by 31st March 2023. Flexibility with dates may be considered.
The research is commissioned by the Archbishops’ Council’s Ministry Development Team. It will be managed on a day-to-day basis by Dr Liz Graveling and supported by the project Advisory Group. All research commissioned by the Ministry Development Team must go through the NCIs’ research ethics process.
The research budget is £12,000, to include all expenses and VAT.
How to apply
• Deadline for tender submissions: 5pm Friday 16th September 2022
• Notification of decision by: 30th September 2022
Please send submissions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, including the following information:
• A detailed method for undertaking the study, including the conceptual approach to ‘working-class clergy’;
• An indication of what a practical resource might look like;
• Details of the researcher or team and how they meet the criteria given above, including relevant experience, allocation of time and roles where appropriate, and main contact;
• Details of how personal information and confidential data will be handled;
• A timescale for the project;
• A breakdown of costs, including daily rates.