kicked in the privates

30 05 2012

After hearing and reading Michael Gove‘s comments about the dominance of the privately educated in pretty much every aspect of public life (from the Cabinet to Olympic medal winners to comedians) it caused a little recurring demon to unravel its wings within me. My dad always used to call me an inverted snob, being as I am as middle-class as they come (in the Purley sense, not the Kate Middleton sense) but never really liked that and pretended not to be. My university never had a ‘t’ in it, for example.   

I’ve always been hyper-sensitive to the dominance of the wealthy elite. And now I am in church leadership it seems even more prevalent. I go to clergy gatherings and the demon roars. From the (stereotype alert) evangelicals in their chinos (before they were trendy) and brown loafers to the (anglo-)catholics in their black suits and shiny shoes, from the New Wine obsession with v-necks casually slung over shoulders to the Walsingham set counting vestment stitches and comparing organ voluntary favourites, we in the C of E are awash with the privately educated.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being privately educated. After all, if your parents choose to inflict their principles on you, you can’t be blamed, and you must do your best to fight the system, regain a sense of community, ethics and discard the knowledge that you have a right to succeed (*tongue in cheek*). There is of course nothing inherently wrong with a mixed-economy education system, especially when everyone pays for the state system whether or not they use it. 

But my thinking is this: why does it seem that so many clergy are from the private system? When I originally tweeted about this, other questions came up: what about Bishops, surely the percentage of those privately educated is huge. Why is this? For me, there is something about being in church hierarchy which means you begin to get obsessed with things ‘ordinary people’ are disconnected from: vestments, golf, literature, yourselves, and other privately educated people. Like Bishops.

I could of course be very wrong. And this could all be irrelevant. I have no figures to back up my thinking. And the thing about Jesus is that he uses all sorts to lead his people, regardless of background, and even despite their background. From the most annoying private school churn-out to the salt-of-the-earth rough diamond with no social graces, and even the left-leaning middle-class university-educated  mocha-drinking inverted snob like me.

Thank God. 

There’s just something worrying about it. It does matter. Doesn’t it? 

There, I’ve kicked the demon in the privates and it’s back in its box. 

I began thinking about this because of blogs by Jon Kuhrt and Sarah Mullally.

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6 responses

30 05 2012
David Eversden

I think Kevin it only matters when the established hierarchy stop listening to God and choose each other for office because of reasons stemming from human qualities – Israel chose a King, Saul because he was tall and handsome, a good leader, but God had a choice; David. God’s deep desire and choice was himself, but gave them a royal line out of Grace. Saul was not a good leader to lead the people in the way of God’s ways. Saul was annointed by a flask, David a horn which symbolised that he was the true choice and annoited one for God’s people. I know Jesus is the ultimate King to come and God’s choice over all mankind. Back to the Church, The 11 apostles after Judas had hung himself annointed another through casting lots.; (Acts 1:26) they chose Mathias, But he is not heard of from then on. Peter’s apostolic ministry to the Jews begins to flourish and Chapter 9 of Acts, Saul encounters the risen Christ and like Jacob has a name change. So Saul, now Paul becomes God’s apostle to the Gentiles,whilst Peter continues on with the Jews. God’s choice was Paul, the 11’s choice was Mathias. Did they get it wrong?

It’s important as treasure in a poverty srticken POT or JAR or Container is still treasure. We are all God’s temples for his Spirit to dwell inside, and He is the real treasure, deposit and witness on earth for Christ, apart from His blood shed on the cross. We are earthen vessels carrying a royal God Head inside us, of whom we can have as little or as much as we want. If a person is unschooled and uneducated, smelly, not very good looking but full of God’s Spirit, I will go with them, and I think people will be drawn by the Spirit of God in that person – if a person is educated, a fine speaker etc but God is not allowed to interupt them or their fine preaching then I wouldn’t cross the street to listen.

It doesn’t matter what their background, if God has chosen someone it will be obvious to people who will follow and the wider Church will recognise the calling…..others for me are fine public speakers with inteligent ideas about God but do not poses personal knowledge of Him and therefore are a bad advert for the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who said signs and wonders would acompany or follow on from the word of God being preached (Mark’s Gospel). Some preachers need svaing!

However, i think God had called you to be a sign and a wonder to the Church System you find yourself in. I think you balance very well the formalities of old and the Burning Spirit inside you to lead people to drink from the one true water of life, Christ. And not just know it, but experience him. The words knowledge and know are often linked together with a personal experience in scipture. I think you do a great job in leading folk to knowing Christ and putting away old dead Church stuff that is all human effort and ideas with out God.

May Christ burn in you and express himself through you more and more with signs following your Spirit filled preaching! May God protect, bless, encourage and lift you up…………..and give you a share in His harvest.

I am thirsty, do not give me an empty cup!

31 05 2012
andrewbrims

Enjoyed this one Kevin. Gets me thinking about 1 Corinthians 1:26 onwards…

31 05 2012
c2drl

If clergy are an exemplar of people with a private education I am jolly glad I didn’t send my children to private school.

I must say I think that the system I grew up with, where we were streamed according to our ability, not our wealth is a much more ethically correct system. It produced people like me, from working class backgrounds but with a good education, and also allowed others to learn skills that would have been of little use to me. But Grammar school is now a bad word, instead of striving for excellense we have dumbed everything down so that everybody has the same. I don’t find that in a gospel that respects and delights in individuals.

31 05 2012
edgsoni

It’s not so much the preponderance of privately educated clergy that strikes me, but rather the fact that so many ministers find their way into church (via university) without anything that might look like ‘normal’ work experience as part of their development. I’ve yet to meet a vicar who could tell you what it is like to work in an office, yet 25% of the UK workforce are working in what would be classed as office work. Nearly 3 million people (mainly women) work in the UK retail industry, yet I doubt that many of them will become vicars (Saturday morning jobs as a teenager don’t really count).
Is that why so many sermons have little practical application in the work place, I wonder?

1 06 2012
Kevin

I do understand this, but we get ourselves in a bit of a catch-22. 20 years ago people tended to go straight from Uni to vicar-factory and were therefore in post by mid-20’s; then people said they should get life experience, so when I was at vicar-factory 10 years ago (nearly!) the average age of an ordinand was 35-40, which means life-experience but not an incumbent until 40-45, and people complain ‘where are all the young clergy?’!
What’s best? Being authentic, whoever you are.

1 06 2012
RON M WEEKS, CERT CH STUDIES, CD

I am quite amazed that in today’s clergy the numbers of those who came into clergy roles are now trying so hard to retire and remove themselves as active church leaders. I am the complete opposite yet after near 15 years of post gradute time and three attempts to be selected for appointment, for good reason, the ( Church) now will not select me, even though I know that once ordained it is after all for life and ever after. I am a 59 yr old man with a theological education at a Canadian Seminary yet I see and hear of clergy exiting yet Bishop’s and their staff are reluctant to add staff, like myself.

I read your comments with keen interest and maybe i should seek the allings in other countries and location yet few listings are given for Anglican churches to seek men and wmen like myself. Is the Anglican community so reserve and stoic to not see that it needs fresh voice and perspective from young and senior theologian people to foster new hopes and actions to quell the exit of Senior Clergy who want to spend a few years in retirement yet they too will want a seat at the table of heaven when the time to dine with God takes them to the final banquet.

If you know of a church that seeks a dynamicaly trained persons like myself please send me a reply as I too have hopes that one day the gates of the parish will be open for me to enter and serve those that need a me.

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