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Responses to the Green report on senior appointments in the C of E

19 December 2014


From Professor Brian Thorne

Sir, - It was with increasing incredulity that I read your account of the Green report (News, 12 December); and my incredulity turned to deep sadness when I reflected on the extracts from the report itself. Could it be that this was the proposed training to be offered to the bishops and deans of the Church I love and - even more unbelievably - to a specially chosen "elite" who are apparently to be groomed to succeed them in the years ahead?

What is more, it seems that this report has been long in preparation, has been allocated a generous budget (to the tune of £2 million), and is already in the initial stage of implementation, despite the fact that no consultation has taken place in the General Synod or, as far as I am aware, anywhere else.

The concept of leadership which appears to permeate the report has only too often in secular settings resulted in a model that through its autocratic or bureaucratic implementation (or an unhealthy mixture of both) has caused untold stress and unhappiness in institutions and companies up and down the land. Outcomes may have "improved", but the sum of human misery has inexorably mounted.

I have little doubt that Lord Green and his colleagues have laboured with integrity, and I can only surmise that the Archbishops and Bishops have been genuinely persuaded of the validity of their recommendations. When I read, however, that courses are to be "mandatory", that our present and future leaders are to be "leading growth", "re-inventing the ministry", and averse to an "over-attunement to empathy", I sense a disastrous path ahead.

May God preserve us from the cultivation of leaders so committed to the Church of England plc and to the pursuit of strategic and spiritual excellence that they forget that the Church is the Body of Christ and requires pastors who know what it means to lead through loving, healing, self-forgetfulness, and holiness of living. Sadly, I do not know of an MBA that majors in these disciplines

BRIAN THORNE (Lay canon)
14 Salter Avenue
Norwich NR4 7LX

From Professor David Sims

Sir, - The Green report was so effectively shredded both in your editorial and in Dean Percy's article that I hope its authors will have the grace to withdraw it. In case they have not, I would like to comment, as a former Associate Dean for a highly ranked MBA programme, and a professor of Organisational Behaviour.

I had hoped that the Church had gone beyond the discredited managerialist assumptions of the 1980s, which have done such damage everywhere they have been tried (NHS, Civil Service, Social Services, etc.). It is sad to see the same failed approach being tried again, and to see discussion of the issues such as those taking place within MODEM (www.modem-uk.org) ignored.

Working from your summary of the report, I have a few comments in addition to those made last week.

1. The notion of a talent pool is rooted in very outdated notions of leadership, such as that five per cent of people are leaders, and the rest are followers. There was never any respectable research evidence for this view, although it was unsurprisingly popular in 20th-century fascism.

2. Related to this, the notion of identifying "high potentials" was very popular in the banking sector in the lead up to the crash of 2008. It has since suffered the obscurity that it deserves.

3. People are different, and can bring different contributions to leadership. There are no super-people who can be developed to offer all aspects of leadership.

4. The term "Mini-MBA" has been popular with those who cannot square the circle of trying to educate without paying for it, but it has no clear meaning.

5. Most responsible providers do not offer MBA-type education within one organisation, because so much learning comes from working with people from other fields.

6. If this attempts to emulate serious MBA education, the cost per head would be about £40,000. No high-quality business school makes money out of MBA teaching: it costs that much to deliver. To offer that to 60 people in 2015-16, as suggested, would immediately blow more than the £2-million budget.

7. Educationally, the idea of training before appointment has little support compared with work-based learning.

8. The report appears to believe uncritically in a number of "management-speak" processes that sound good so long as you do not ask whether they really mean anything, such as "ministerial development review", "hitting an absolute standard", and "measurable performance".

9. The idea of "healthy organisation" also sounds good until you ask what it means. Transferring metaphors from one level to another needs care if they are not to confuse.

If the report is published, we will no doubt find good things, too: who could argue with the need for "joy and resilience" on the part of current and future leaders? It might make a good stimulus for a properly constituted task force, including an appropriate diversity of gifts, knowledge, experience, and gender.

As it stands, it is a recipe for wasting large amounts of money, taking the Church backwards, placing undue faith in mechanistic forms of organisation, and wasting the opportunity for well-informed work on church organisation and leadership for the next generation.

Daffodil House, Wordsworth Green
Malvern WR14 2UG

From Canon Robert Cotton

Sir, - The Green report should be received with enthusiasm, since it could be a stimulant towards fresh thinking and improved standards in ministry. Yet those in charge of handling the report are doing it in a way that is secretive, unaccountable, and dictatorial. These are precisely the attitudes that undermine senior leadership in any organisation. No wonder turbulence is increasing and reaching a level that will damage the whole change programme being proposed by the task groups. The outline agenda for February's General Synod does not even mention the Green report.

The report says: "The task is urgent"; but why begin with spending more than £2 million within the next 18 months on a small group of men who will retire in the next decade? The other task groups will be emphasising the need for a step change in provision of lay training, for sleeker systems to train more ordinands, and for better methods of investing in clergy throughout their ministry. The success of this radical change programme relies on widespread enthusiasm being given from parishes, dioceses, and chaplaincies, as well as the General Synod itself.

But the Green report is being held aloof from that, just as one of its key proposals will, because of the massive investment of money in advance of any other proposal, create a talent pool that will distance 150 clergy of "high potential" from the laity and clergy whom they will supposedly lead.

The Green report presents a solution, but it is not clear to what problem. It seems short-sighted to entrust the very people who are responsible for the current much-decried preferment system with millions of pounds without identifying clearly what needs changing. So now three things are needed: the Green report must urgently be published in full; implementation must be taken away from the Wash House (whose expertise is in selection and not theological training); and the process of change needs to be overseen by a body that is willing to ensure widespread ownership and thoughtful debate.

The building of strategic capacity within dioceses is far too important to leave to bishops and their unaccountable advisers alone.

9 Eastgate Gardens
Guildford GU1 4AZ

Sir, - First of all, it is not at all surprising that the chairman of this group is the Evangelical Prebendary the Lord Green. There is also a feeling within the Church among many people that Caroline Boddington should have relinquished her office when she married a bishop. It does not seem fitting that the Archbishop's Appointments Secretary should continue to hold such an important post in such circumstances.

The Dean of Christ Church is quite correct when he says that there is already in existence a large number of very talented people without sending them on management courses. Down the ages, the Church has produced many wonderful bishops and deans, whose job is primarily to be spiritual leaders. They can get all the help they need in those areas where they do not personally have expertise.

It seems a complete waste of £2 million at a time when the Church is struggling financially in many parts of the world to survive.

Name & Address Supplied

From Canon Brian Hails

Sir, - The Dean of Christ Church has no alternative option to offer to Lord Green's initiative. In the real world, which includes God's calling to episcopal ministry, vocations need equipping with enterprising expertise to ensure optimum development of the limited human resources that the Church has at its disposal. Questions that, I hope, will emerge will include the following.

What are the limiting factors restricting efficient stewardship of province, diocese, and parish? What qualities are important/essential in bishops and deans, which will enterprisingly influence Chapters, archdeaconries, and synods in their respective ministries?

Dean Percy may perhaps need reminding that Green's approach is no more than a tool of management, and is, therefore, I hope, going to be a sharp one, correctly engaging in reviewing and appraising growth and excitement in the Church and allowing it to serve its communities with visible joy and confidence. The prime objective that this tool will attack will be: has the Church Militant here in earth genuinely explored how best to serve its people in this third millennium? I am delighted that this process has surfaced and is under way.

The Coach House, Church Lane
Whitburn, Tyne and Wear SR6 7JL

From Mr David Henderson

Sir, - The plans for leadership development are a start. But they don't go far enough, and they don't start at the right level. Leadership in the Church of England starts with all of its ordained clergy and lay leaders. And this is where leadership training needs to start.

I observe that the old model that all parish decision-making and priority-setting is vested in the ordained parish leader remains dominant. This is control, not management, and certainly not leadership. The source of this lies firmly with the theological colleges. So a large measure of leadership-development training and practice needs to be injected into theological education. There is plenty of theology to provide a basis for it.

Moving up into senior leadership, again the need for continuing leadership-development training and application is essential. The idea of creating a 150-strong talent pool, however, to focus this into is misguided. As with primary, secondary, tertiary, and adult education, individual learning progresses at different rates and at different times. To anoint a chosen 150, however done, will appear to close the door on those who are not in the 150, even if they have the talent and potential to develop later and/or differently (cf. the effect of failing the 11-plus in the past).

At a time when the Church needs the knowledge, skills, and talents of those who come to ordination later in life with experience of the wider world, will the door to the 150 already be closed on them? Would, for example, Justin Welby have risen as he has if the proposed talent pool had been in existence?

Continuous leadership-development training from ordination training onwards for all ordained and lay leaders is the urgent and fundamental need. A senior-leadership talent pool of 150 is questionable at best.

155 Barrack Lane
Bognor Regis PO21 4ED

From Canon Jane Charman

Sir, - Why is it that the Church of England treats its bishops as a species apart, requiring specially trained handlers and a separate enclosure in which to feed and reproduce? The Green report both assumes and affirms this puzzling culture, and also develops it to a new level by setting apart a boundaried cadre of clergy from among whom it is hoped that the bishops of the future will emerge.

This week, I have heard bishops arguing seriously that the selection and formation of episcopal leaders is nobody's business but their own and does not concern the rest of the Church. The Green report is by, to, and mainly about bishops, and is rightly being protected from scrutiny by any other decision-making body.

We should wholeheartedly disagree. There is no scriptural or other theological warrant for such a splitting of ministries. The ministries of lay and ordained people, including bishops, are complementary and interdependent, and their proper character is only perceived in relation to one another. What could be more significant for the people of God than the kind of bishop who is called to serve among us, especially at a time of challenge and change? The intimate connection between the ministry of a bishop and that of his or her flock is expressed in the service of consecration, which cannot proceed without the spoken assent of all present.

The primary reason that the Green report should be widely discussed and its proposals scrutinised is theological.

4 The Sidings, Downton
Salisbury SP5 3QZ

From Canon Hazel Whitehead

Sir, - I write in relation to the "Talent Management" report, which I welcome for several reasons:

It identifies a necessary, radical change in perceiving the way in which bishops and deans are prepared to exercise ministry. It challenges the efficiency and effectiveness of the 'preferment' list.It gives high profile to the value of professional development and CMD. It recognises the value of the best offerings of the secular/business/management world in order to learn from them for the mission of the Church. It is good practice to invite external agencies or individuals to offer a critique of any aspect of our church life in order for improvements to be made.

There is a corollary to every one of these admissions, however. It is difficult to think of any other case in our church life where such a radical change was introduced without full consultation or communication with all those affected. Any new system needs to be introduced with a sense of ownership and buy-in if it is to work well, especially when such large sums of money are involved.Higher-quality professional development needs to be in place (and, therefore, the financial resources in place) for all those whom the Church has called to serve in lay and ordained ministry and discipleship - not just for those who have or who are seeking "higher" office. The mission and ministry of the Church should be the driver for the use of secular/business/management models rather than the other way round.

As the recommendations of the report are already being enacted, could we please consider, as they develop and unfold, and are delivered and assessed, how best to involve all those who have a legitimate interest in this work, i.e. the whole people of God?

Director of Discipleship, Vocation and Ministry
Diocesan House, Quarry Street
Guildford GU1 3XG

From the Revd Paul Hawkins

Sir, - It would seem inappropriate that the group entrusted with developing leadership in the Church of England should be chaired by a former chairman of HSBC Holdings. What have the current values of the banking sector and its methods of working got to do with leadership of the Church?

Is somebody who presumably believes people perform to their full potential only when incentivised by greed really able to give good advice with regard to Christian leadership?

What is more, HSBC was recently 

fined $1.9 billion by authorities in the United States for providing money-laundering facilities. It does not sound as though decent leadership had been developed in HSBC.

9 Buckingham Place
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1LJ

From the Bishop of Antsiranana

Sir, - The Green report proposes a programme of training which sounds fun. But I share the reservations expressed by the Dean of Christ Church and others about the propriety of this strategy.

Fast-tracking is well tried in the Church of England, as evidenced by our current Archbishop of Canterbury. Once you say, however, that all those in senior positions need to tick boxes you are constructing a prescribed technocratic vision of the leadership of the Church - one that may have had the nod-through of the College of Bishops, but which certainly hasn't had wider discussion and reflection. Neither the Beethovens of this world nor the Apostles would be likely to qualify.

Structured fast-tracking implies some kind of contract or commitment with those who are selected. Those who don't make it, and who are asked to leave, will need considerably more mentoring and support than your summary suggests.

How do we discover the gifts that are needed for senior appointments in the Church? Does talent need to be managed in this way? What is the best way to handle transition in career development? We have much understanding of these questions, but as Dean Percy points out, we don't seem to have drawn on it.

Rather than groom an exclusive talent pool over five years, isn't it more efficient to offer bespoke training once someone has been appointed? This should be available for all licensed ministers as part of their induction package. Existing processes to encourage people to apply for senior posts need beefing up. We need to be conscious of our blindspots - our implicit biases - but our existing MDR programmes should be picking up a wide range of potential. If they are not, that is where this £2 million should go.

Above all, we should be looking for that innate wisdom and courage that are the marks of inspiring, competent leadership. These modules, no matter how interesting they look, are not going to deliver that.

Evêché Anglican, BP 278
4 Rue Grandidier
Antsiranana, 201, Madagascar

From the Revd Keith Thomasson

Sir, - It would be groundbreaking if the Green report, when published, is accompanied by a positive critique and response.

This would be a valuable step in recognising that disturbing the talent pool currently used for leadership within the Church of England is necessary. What emerges could be quite exciting.

Alabaré Christian Care and Support
Riverside House, 2 Watt Road
Wiltshire SP2 7UD

From the Revd Michael Allen

Sir, - The Green report could give a boost to all continuing ministerial education, with its present low uptake. Clergy are busier, but lifelong learning is essential to innovative ministry and diocesan leaders' example could inspire.

I seem to read a different report from that jettisoned by Dean Percy. He accuses the steering group of lacking theological wisdom; and yet six or more received significant theological training from people like him. How would he do theological training more effectively?

I would have thought that the training agenda of "social understanding and empathy and emotional stability" undergirded being Chief Pastor with the common calling to be close to Christ's person.

I do hope the steering group consult well, including women's contributions, and, if need be, put off the start for a year.

Much of what they identify seems to me about being "an enabler of a prophetic leadership group".

8 Grenville Rise, Arnold
Nottingham NG5 8EW

From the Revd David Hewlett

Sir, - Colin Slee, preaching here shortly before his untimely death, said that he had told the then Archbishop of Canterbury what the title of his autobiography would be: Men in Grey Mitres. If the proposals of the Green report are enacted, he might have wanted to revise that to Men and Women in Very Pale Grey Mitres Indeed.

The Vicarage, Greencroft Avenue
Corbridge NE45 5DW

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