Church of England adopts a management solution to a spiritual problem: the Caleb Stream project for finding clergy

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The current leadership in the Church of England is straining to maintain some form relevance in the daily life of the Church.  Dropping attendance started long before the arch-episcopally required suspension of worship services during the pandemic. This is not showing signs of abating.  Clergy numbers are also in decline as are parishes financially able to meet the costs of paying for a full-time stipendiary clergyman.

It is a spiritual conundrum with very practical effects.

In short, finding suitable people to become clergy, properly training, and providing for them is a problem.   What is the Church to do?  The proposed solution, first trialled by Holy Trinity Brompton, is called the Caleb Stream. It is an effort to recruit and then ordain “retired City workers, teachers and policemen” and provide them with one year’s training before putting them in charge of parishes.  

The Caleb Stream is a managerial solution to a spiritual problem.   As such, it will not prove beneficial to the Church.

Those ordained to the office of priest (presbyter) have to meet very clear biblical requirements.  The Apostle Paul sets out those requirements in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and are restated within the Ordinal.

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be of a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

We know of no reason that people with a comfortable pension and experience in three particular professions become more qualified for ordination to provide the Cure of Souls within the Church than others.

Consider this from another angle.  

Would someone with one-year’s training in a midwifery programme be turned loose in a delivery ward? The NHS programme requires three years of full-time and five to six years part-time before a midwife is sufficiently trained.

Would an oil company be allowed to give someone with one-year’s training as a petroleum engineer responsibility for overseeing a problem in an oilfield?  In the UK, the course of study for that profession takes five years. 

Imagine the hue and cry from most corners of society, let alone the eco-warrior class, if a catastrophe happened on the watch of someone with only one-fifth of the required training?

So what makes the ecclesiastical boffins think that one-year’s training is sufficient to be prepared for ordained ministry? 

The only logical conclusion is that they believe it is of lesser importance than being a midwife or a petroleum engineer.  

The practical effect of the Caleb Stream would be to produce a class of poorly trained, monkey-see, monkey-do, mass priests not seen in this Church since before the English Reformation. They were rightly done away with then and there is no reason for them to be reintroduced now.