THE Church of England is a complex and demanding institution,
and good management, at all levels, will always be important. Some
of the ideas listed in the training section of the Green report
would seem to be sound. Managerial insights clearly have a place in
the Church, and I readily affirm that.
There are serious problems with this report, however - not only
within the text, but also the manner in which it was conceived.
In terms of process, there is a problem about the composition of
the group who produced the report. Not one ordained woman was on
the review group - and at a time when the Church is about to
welcome women bishops. This is breathtaking. Nor was there a
recognised theologian, or an academic specialising in continuing
professional or vocational education. And, despite the fact that
the report raises secular "MBA-style" programmes to a level of
apotheosis, no recognised scholar with expertise in management or
leadership from the academic world formed part of the core working
In the actual text of the Green report, there are a couple of
serious issues to wrestle with. First, it has no point of
origination in theological or spiritual wisdom. Instead, on offer
is a dish of basic contemporary approaches to executive management,
with a little theological garnish. A total absence of ecclesiology
flows from this. The report has little depth or immersion in
A more notable absence is any self-awareness in the report:
unaware of critiques of management, executive authority, and
leadership which abound in academic literature, it is steeped in
its own uncritical use of executive management-speak.
SECOND, a small "talent pool" of potential future leaders, we
are told, will be selected and shaped by a handful of executive
managers, and their selection and training facilitated by them. The
criteria for joining the talent pool are controlled by these
executive managers, who, in turn, have determined the vocation of
the Church, its strategic priorities, its goals, and, to some
extent, its identity. The report highlights "high", "outstanding",
and "strong performance" as key indicators of leadership potential.
An individual's potential will be measured against "growth
Entry to this new talent pool will be strictly limited to about
150 people (so fewer than four potential leaders in each diocese),
who have demonstrably built "healthy organisations, [are] leading
for growth, contributing to the common good, [and] re-shaping
ministry". (No prophets or pastors, then; and a final fond farewell
to those tiresome theologians.)
Members of the talent pool will be allowed to be part of this
elite group for up to five years. The report predicts that about 30
people will go into posts each year. "If there is a decline in
measurable performance or potential, an individual will be asked to
The report expects to see all senior leaders equipped with a
standard toolkit of MBA-type organisational skills. But it does not
say how this might connect with the primary calling of bishops as
"shepherds of Christ's flock and guardians of the faith of the
apostles". Or what the implications for public ministry might be if
bishops now move from being chief pastors to chief executives.
Despite the report's stated aspiration to increase diversity in
senior leadership (much needed), there seems to be no space for the
bishop as scholar, evangelist, contemplative, theologian, prophet,
or pastor. Or scope for senior church leaders who might be
visionaries, risk-takers, and pioneers.
ULTIMATELY, the report is coy about the problem it is actually
trying to solve: ecclesiastical preferment. No definition of
leadership is ever advanced in the text. The report shows no
evidence of having solicited the views of the led. Or of former
church leaders. The executive managers already know what they are
looking for in preferment - folk like themselves.
There is no critique offered of the expectations placed on
church leaders. The text focuses on training people for management
tasks that the review group take as givens. No different models of
leadership are discussed, such as servanthood, collaborative
ministry, or pastoral care.
Although executive managers are patently not the leaders of the
Church, they none the less aspire to be in charge. If this report
is put into practice, they will be. A few administrative offices
either side of the Thames, based in Church House, Westminster, or
at the Wash House at Lambeth Palace - secretariats that once served
the Church - will become sovereign.
THIS work on leadership in the Church really needs to begin in a
different place with different people, starting with deep
spiritual, intellectual, and theological interlocutors. They would
produce something less presumptuous, with a clearer methodology and
a cogent argument rather than a set of assertions.
Consultation on the report has been promised. But I have already
received a summons, urging early booking on the new MBA-style
programme for senior church leaders. Comments are welcome, it
seems; but the agenda still forges ahead.
We appear to live in an age in which all bishops must now fit
the "executive mission-minded-middle-manager" paradigm. Our
executive managers who run the Church tell us that this is what is
needed. Before ordination, Justin Welby was himself both a product
and proponent of this executive-management culture. But, as an
Archbishop, he should exercise far more caution when giving
sweeping powers to unrepresentative task forces such as this.
Convening a group like this may initially look like
appealing, dynamic leadership; but the tactic can quickly lead to
demoralisation and alienation. For example, the task force
reviewing ministerial education brazenly excluded any serving
theological educators from the core group.
The Green report represents a straightforward bid for power from
a small group of elite executive managers, who seek to reign over
the selection, training, and oversight of church leadership. This
needs challenging and resisting, and the proponents need reminding
that their ministry is serving and supporting the Church, not
leading and controlling it.
It is ironic that the Green report begins by quoting the
Archbishop of Canterbury's first address to the General Synod in
July 2013: "[We are] custodians of the gospel that transforms
individuals and societies . . . called by God to respond radically
and imaginatively to new contexts."
The inexorable rise in power of ecclesiastical
executive-managers is just one of those challenging new contexts
that the Church faces. It does indeed need some radical and
The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy is Dean of Christ