Archdeacon Bill Harrison, director for mission and ministry in the Diocese of Huron, explored the role of priests in a declining church at a recent conference in Niagara Falls. As a Huron priest, his credentials as an expert in church decline are impeccable since his diocese is at the forefront – is pushing the boundaries, even – of denominational disintegration.
His solutions for the problem include giving the priests less to do so they have more time to “make disciples”. Disciples of what, though? Disciples of the zeitgeist, of the latest in social justice fashions, of same-sex marriage crusades, of leftist political agitation dressed up in pseudo-theology, of Gaia? All the aforementioned, I expect; the problem is and has always been trying anything and everything except actual Christianity.
As the number of Anglicans in Canada decreases and churches close, the parish model—in which every church has a priest and every priest is full-time—is rapidly becoming a relic of the past. How can the Anglican Church of Canada train priests to serve in this new, more uncertain reality?
This was the question posed to a group of 70 priests, educators, bishops, diocesan and theological college support staff at the beginning of the conference on theological education and the training of priests held Feb. 14.
In a wide-ranging address, Archdeacon Bill Harrison, director for mission and ministry in the diocese of Huron, said that meeting the challenge of this question requires the church to see the role of the priest as one that has evolved throughout Christian history.