The New York Times ran a crop of letters yesterday in which writers responded to the Times’ recent story and op-ed piece about clergy burnout. This one came from Bonnie Anderson, President of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies:
G. Jeffrey MacDonald ascribes clergy burnout to “congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.” The real problem is the provider versus consumer mentality.
Ministry is not solely the work of professionally trained clergy. Rather it is a shared enterprise in which lay people are equal partners. Clergy burnout occurs because both parties lose sight of this fact. The result is clergy who believe that they must meet everyone’s needs while playing the role of a lone superhero, and members of the laity who are either infantilized or embittered because they cannot make meaningful contributions to their church.
Embracing a circular ministry model that values and uses the gifts of laity and clergy while sharing power and authority engages everyone in the work of reconciliation. The big questions are: Will the clergy be able to give up their ascribed power? And will the laity be able to step up to the challenge of their baptism?
Susan Russell has also written about Anderson’s letter.