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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The building of strategic capacity within dioceses is far too
important to leave to bishops and their unaccountable advisers
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
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
It seems a complete waste of £2 million at a time when the
Church is struggling financially in many parts of the world to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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Corbridge NE45 5DW