Bishop Alan Wilson has done it again. Late last month he checked in with a piece called “How to Change Your Vicar”, an insightful meditation on priest-parish conflict. “How To Change Your Vicar: Part Two” makes the seemingly simple point that one can’t remove a priest from a parish because the priest isn’t doing things that priests can’t be expected to do. Wilson writes:
Clergy have all kinds of unusual talents. Vicars have managed to combine ministry with keeping bees, woodcarving, climbing the Himalayas, even inventing submarine detection equipment.
Some clergy have Really Useful collateral skills — playing the guitar, journalism, fundraising, stage magic for school assemblies….
My second piece of advice is for people who believe there may be a capability issue with their vicar. For this to go anywhere formally, it should normally relate to what incumbents are actually there to do. A hymn writing, guitar playing or beekeeping fail is bad news. But it’s unlikely to support capability proceedings.
Wilson’s list of the jobs that priests are given in the canons of the Church of England is a helpful reminder that as expansive as the job can become, there are actually a finite number of tasks that clergy can be expected to perform.