January 26, 2005
At the present time there is a debate raging in the PC(USA) about whether there is a clergy shortage or not. Some say there is a shortage of clergy, while others argue there is no shortage, it is a just a distribution problem. Truthfully, I don’t know what the right answer to that question is in the PC(USA). But I can honestly say that here in Blantyre Synod, in the Church of Central Africa-Presbyterian we have a definite clergy shortage.
Let me offer the following information from the records of Blantyre Synod. The first Malawian pastor, the Rev. Harry Matecheta, was ordained in 1911. Since 1911, Blantyre Synod has ordained 229 men and 4 women. Of these 233 pastors, 88 have died, quit, been suspended, or transferred to another Synod.
If my math is correct, that means at the present time Blantyre Synod has 145 pastors. With approximately 1.4 million members in Blantyre Synod, that means there is one pastor for every 9,655 members.
But that is still not an accurate picture of how many pastors are actually serving Blantyre Synod. Of the 145 pastors, 19 are officially retired. What that means is that you no longer can be transferred by the Synod, you only have to serve a small congregation near your home village. Also, at any given time, Blantyre Synod has approximately 10 pastors who are studying at Universities outside of Malawi. Take this into account, and at this very moment there are 116 active pastors on the ground in Blantyre Synod; or one pastor for every 12,068 members. Anyone want to talk about a clergy shortage now in the PC(USA)?
Will the shortage of pastors improve in Blantyre Synod in the future? Probably not! Zomba Theological College can train about six (6) pastors a year from Blantyre Synod. Blantyre Synod shares Zomba Theological College with four other Synods and three other denominations. The six (6) pastors that graduate and are ordained every year usually allows Blantyre Synod to stay even, given the number of deaths and retirements of pastors.
There is definitely a clergy shortage in Blantyre Synod, yet Blantyre Synod is growing about 3.5% a year in membership. Is there a correlation between the number of ministers and the growth of the church? Something to ponder!