Shortage Of Man Power

Vocation and Ministry, by F. R. Barry (Nisbet, London, 1958, 184 pp., 12s6d), is reviewed by Talbot G. Mohan, Secretary of Church Pastoral Aid Society, London.

The established Church in England is facing a grave crisis through the steady decline in the numbers of its ministry. The author describes the ministry as “just dying on its feet” and gives some impressive statistics to prove his statement.

During the last half century the number of clergymen on the active list has dropped from 19,000 to 15,500, while the population has increased by several millions. In 1886 there were 814 ordinations; in 1956 the number was 496, and that was the highest for 15 years. Of this number 25 per cent were over 40 years of age. The average age of the clergy today is not less than 52. To maintain our present inadequate ministry requires 600 ordinations every year. In 1957 there were 478. This phenomenon is, of course, not confined to the Church of England. The free churches, the missionary societies, and the interdenominational missions are all facing the same problem.

The author is an English diocesan bishop with unique qualifications for writing on this subject; for throughout a long and distinguished ministry he has been closely concerned with the training of candidates. He reveals a transparent sincerity and earnestness. He is no sacerdotalist with a tractarian theory of apostolic succession. He longs to ‘declericalize’ the church. The laity must have their scriptural place—indeed the laity are the church and he praises the English Reformers for restoring this conception.

This book is full of wisdom, and, like everything that Bishop Barry writes, arresting, challenging, and of absorbing interest. It would seem unkind ...

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