Report suggests training for the ministry is only for the wealthy

DON’T become an ordinand unless you are well-off, that was the message of a new report released by the Church of England.

The Living Ministry research follows cohorts of 85 ordinands and clergy through their ministry over a decade.

According to the report, non-residential ordinands who started training in retirement, maintaining their pension drawings or those who retain an adequate salary even after a reduction in working hours to fit in training,report the best financial wellbeing.

This is the same for those whose main household income is their partner’s (about two thirds are reliant to some extent on income from their partner).

One male participant reported:“I think actually [the Church has]probably got it bang on that that is what you need to live on, because I can live on that, but it is so tight that anything extra that comes up, you’ve got no way of doing anything.”

Regarding financial and material wellbeing, which the paper describes as ‘a subjective concept’, two of the 27 ordinands in the sample describe ‘severe concerns’ regarding their finances while others report ‘pressures and tensions’.

“Non-residential ordinands juggling study and work may be faced with enormous tensions between money, time and health,” the report stated.

Where students have to move to college, ordinands reported expensive travel to visit friends and family.

One non-residential participant who took on a part-time job in order to maintain her family’s standard of living reported:“You don’t have money to go out for meals. You don’t have money to take your children to the cinema…

“So, you know the fact that I can say ‘yes, you can still do [extra-curricular activities],’ was really important for me.”

Meanwhile those receiving maintenance grants say they are ‘aware’ that any increases in their partner’s salary will result in a corresponding decrease in their grant.

One residential ordinand reported:“The assessment made against your wife’s or husband’s income does cause some issues both personally and in relationships in the sense that if my wife gets a pay-rise for working hard … I will just get less money from the diocese and we will see no benefit at all.”

In the instance that both partners were training for ordination, one couple sharing a single maintenance grant (of which one couple reported ‘there is no national or diocesan plan for that situation’) said they got the sense that ‘you’re not really valued’.

Ordinands also reported a variation between dioceses in levels of financial support provided.

One participant pointed out that some ordinands get no help when a car breaks down, while others do.

Meanwhile ordinands reported delays in grant payments, while those with low incomes and little in the way of savings also reported cash-flow difficulties at moments of outlay for regular (usually travel) or contingency expenses for which they know they will be reimbursed.

One ordinand reported:“To pay it with money you haven’t got and then claim it back can then take up to six weeks.” He said this could even lead to borrowing money off family to survive.