Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Diocese by the Numbers: Clergy

Let me say first off that this is largely going to be about rectors, vicars, and priests-in-charge, mostly because only twenty out of 104 parishes have more than one priest, though nineteen have a deacon (with some overlap with those with assisting clergy). I also counted associated retired clergy as best I could; these tended to be concentrated in a few parishes, and I'm pretty sure the list of supply clergy would add to that considerably.

Collecting data was a bit of an adventure; mostly I worked through parish websites, but resorted to the Parish Finder when I came upon a website that didn't say who the rector was. The diocesan parish finder is very good, featuring a Google-maps-enabled list that was easy to use. Every parish has a website; the diocese saw to that a long time back, but some are more forthcoming than others. The parish finder, however, has a lot of trouble with handling the problem cases, because of various naming inconsistencies, and in a number of cases I was forced to list all parishes in the Baltimore area and go through them by zip code.

Once I had the name of a priest, the clergy finder usually came up with a date for the current position, and ordination date, bishop and diocese. Usually. Finding people was made somewhat annoying because the search could not deal with dashes, periods, or apostrophes in the name anywhere; the flip side was that once I got those out, the search was very aggressive and generally found the person right away, and eventually I was able to find everyone. That didn't always mean I found good information: sometimes position data wasn't recorded, and for priests received or transferred I could not tell where they came from, though in half the cases I could get some idea from the parish website.

I counted people as follows: everything was based on the present head of the parish except that if someone had been named rector but not yet assumed the position, I still counted them. The alternative was a significant bump in the interim numbers, which I didn't see as helpful. I recorded the date they came, their ordination date, and the ordaining diocese, and also counted total priests ignoring retired associates, number of deacons, and other associates. Cases where I could not get this info were divided into interims, supply (some parishes only use supply priests as a going thing), transfers (i.e., not ordained in ECUSA, but this doesn't include those where I could find out where they came from), and no info at all.

So, the big numbers: of the 104 parishes, four use supply priests, twelve are in transition, and three I had no info on; three were transfers from unknown dioceses. That leaves 83 parishes where I had data on the principal priest. And here is where Maryland starts to look interesting: 38 of those were priested in the diocese, sixteen of them since Sutton's consecration. His hands must be burning.

What is more striking is that at least fifteen priests seem to have come into rectorship directly from ordination, including two cases where they were ordained after they took charge of a parish. There are five more who took a rectorship within two years of ordination. There appear to be some 4-5 cases where someone was ordained specifically for a particular parish. Median years from ordination to a parish charge is seven; the mean is much higher mostly due to a few very long-serving priests.

A similar pattern is seen when we look at tenure, in which we can see those few long-timers directly:

In fact the second and fifth longest tenures belong to a married couple, serving out in western Maryland, but they are quite exceptional: the median tenure is six years, and the vast majority of priests got their positions under Sutton. I cannot say whether this represents a change from the past; the large number of transitions suggests that it might be, but as I don't have a good way to get tenures for recent departures, I cannot say.

The priests I can get info on represent a relatively small number of dioceses. Maryland, as I mentioned, accounts for about 40% of the total; twenty-eight other dioceses accounted for the other others, including four outside ECUSA (two in Africa, one each in Canada and the Bahamas). Of those, eight dioceses supplied more than one priest, with Virginia ordaining five. They do not represent a particularly theologically diverse group, although Howe in Central Florida did ordain one, and there are some from generally moderate dioceses (e.g. two from Southern Ohio).

I have no word from Bishop Sutton or from anyone else for that matter about the strategy, but what we are seeing here is an experiment in a clerisy which is relatively inexperienced and locally made. But not necessarily all that young: I have no age statistics, but there is still a lot of "have a career and then get ordained" going on, though associate priests appear to tend young, and female. Women head 37% of parishes with a permanent head, but it's clear that this number is going to climb, and increasingly, prominent parishes are headed by women. How does this compare to other dioceses? Well, in my next post we'll be taking a look at Washington.

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