C of E throwing money at the wrong problem.

I am trying to make sense of the alleged plan to groom talent for high office in the Church of England.

The short version seems to be this: there is a plan to create a “talent pool” of people suitable for “high office” (to include bishops and deans, but also incumbents of “large parishes” — which could easily be the only stipendiary posts left in some dioceses), and give them mandatory business training. And yes, I think it’s business training: even if you re-name modules like “Building healthy organisations”, “Leading growth”, and “Reinventing the ministry” to something that sounds more church-y, it’s pretty clear.

The report is virtually silent about the shortcomings of the present system of preferment in the C of E. Its stated intention, though, is to see leaders emerge from “a wider variety of backgrounds and range of skills than is currently predicted”.

So let me get this straight: to try and fix a system where a sort of unofficial old boys’ network and a great deal of prejudice means that middle class white men are privileged when it comes even to getting basic parish stipendiary posts, the Church in her wisdom is going to create a much more official and robust network, with mandatory training demands which will almost certainly disadvantage women and marginalised people and, especially, anyone who doesn’t have a good “cultural fit” with the ethos of the training. It will then exclude from high office all who are not in said network. There’s no word in the article about how one gets into this network in the first place, but I bet it has to do with coming to the attention of the “right” people. And if your performance falls you get asked to leave the network: so don’t take a post in a difficult poor parish where it’ll be a struggle to keep numbers where they are because people keep moving away or dying, and don’t have any experiments that fail.

I don’t think this will work very well. In fact, I find it downright worrying.

I don’t think there are any shortcuts, you see. I think we should be thinking creatively about how to best distribute the resources we have, but I don’t think spending £2 million on mandatory further training and monitoring for existing bishops and deans and some 150 people who might be suitable for higher office is the way to do it.

Jesus seemed happy enough to call random fishermen off a beach, and his instructions were clear enough too: “Feed my sheep.” The most worrying thing about the report of the report is the lack of indication that anyone has thought about whether the scheme will enable this to happen.

I can’t say much more on the matter today, because I have a pile of parish admin to do. I sure wish we had a secretary or admin assistant who could help with this, so I could focus on my ministry as an organist, which I’m much better at than at paperwork. If only there were some money we could spend on things that would help parishes be more effective…. oh.

7 thoughts on “C of E throwing money at the wrong problem.

  1. Bizarre. Bizarrest is the ‘asked to leave if they don’t fulfil potential’. Why not supported to find out why?

    1. Because under competitive schemes, which this absolutely will be, the only possible reason why is that they aren’t good enough. Only the fit survive.

      I wish someone would tell these people that meritocracy doesn’t really exist (even if we try to create it, which is pretty dicey).

  2. What happened to plans for church unity? Are there no detectable “talents for high office” in other churches with which our Esrablished Church might have spoken ?

  3. I am not against organisational planning but it seems to me what the C of E needs most (as do all churches) is a good dose of the Holy Spirit and a commitment to following the teaching of Christ in the way He showed us during His ministry on earth. (One time Reader for 11 years)

    1. I think it’s the result of a deeper problem: we’re enmeshed in a capitalist, competitive worldview and in our desperation to survive it we try to apply the same techniques inside the church. The result is usually messy and unhelpful, at worst putting parishes and clergy into competition with one another, but of course “success” is defined by the “winners”.

      So, not a problem that’s going away any time soon, no matter how it manifests.

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