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C of E leaders respond to ‘turbulence’ over Green report

19 December 2014


THE Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops this week defended a radical overhaul of the process for training and selecting future church leaders, in the face of online denunciations by clerics and lay people.

The report Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A new approach - referred to as the Green report after its chairman, Prebendary the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint - was revealed in the Church Times last week (News 12 December), to a lay and ordained readership largely unaware that it was even in gestation.

Among the many critics is Canon Jane Charman, Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral and director of learning for discipleship and ministry in the diocese. "We need leaders who have collaborative working in their DNA, not a new generation of heroic individualists," she said.

A General Synod member, she was an early critic of the report, and reported this week that she had secured an hour with some of its authors, including the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Caroline Boddington, the Archbishops' secretary for appointments, and Christopher McClaverty, a consultant seconded to the steering group.

Canon Charman's request for wider consultation was turned down. She said: "Mr McClaverty described our concerns as 'turbulence' which he interpreted as 'a sign that change management is working'. It was an extremely poor encounter, which raised more questions than it answered."

Among other critics, the Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, writing online on Sunday, was "worried about the erosion of the traditional Christian way of speaking about vocation and the spiritual path". His role was "much more than being a good corporate CEO who runs a tight and efficient ship".

The Assistant Curate of Shorne, the Revd Andrew Lightbown, who has an MBA and has taught students pursuing the qualification, published an open letter, asking: "Why do we, the Church, assume business and business schools have much to teach us about long-term sustainable success, when the very notion of long-term cannot be found in the DNA of the vast majority of corporations?"

Over the weekend, the only bishop to defend the report was the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent. "The critics of this report have fallen into a false dualism between spirituality and managerialism," he said on Monday.

"Nobody is setting aside the calling to priestly, prayerful, pastoral, and prophetic ministry as expressed in the ordinal - but bishops also need to be equipped with the skills required to function well in the public square, to lead with vision and strategy, to work with teams, and to confront difficult problems of change management, finance, and HR with appropriate emotional intelligence and self-differentiation."

In an exchange on the blog Thinking Anglicans, which published the whole of the Green report, Bishop Broadbent described the existing preparation and training for bishops as "pretty crap".

Archbishop Welby was more measured in a blog on Tuesday, in which he defended the reforms as a form of pastoral care - "proper preparation" - for those called to leadership. "Not to undertake this seriously is to put unreasonable stress on those in positions of leadership, neglecting to love them as we are called to do," he wrote.

He went on: "To leave the discernment of a vocation to the episcopacy to the brief moment of a CNC [Crown Nominations Commission] is absurd," he wrote. "One cannot leave it that late."

The process set out in the Green report "enables discernment to be carried out in a thoughtful and sustained manner over a period of a number of years, with excellent pastoral care for those who are not going to be appointed to senior posts.

"It is also absolutely essential that we have institutional structures that are seen to be fair and just. The experience of too many is one of profound rejection after a period of extreme crisis."

The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, in charge of implementing the report, argued that it was an opportunity to "revitalise outdated lists and processes. . . It is also absolutely essential that we have institutional processes that are seen to be fair and just, as the current experience of too many is one of profound rejection."

The changes would, he argued, prepare leaders for the "steep learning curve" they would encounter: "Arriving at moments of appointment and hoping that possible candidates may have had suitable development and possess the gifts needed is to abandon our responsibility."

He described the report as a "working document" - although its implementation is well under way. The closing date for applications to the post of "head of senior leadership management" passed a month ago.

The report was published on the Church House website on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, the Dean of Liverpool, the Very Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, said that the meetings of the Talent Working Group which fed into the report had been "unfailingly stimulating theologically - sparky and rewarding. . . Some of our most stimulating conversations were about the place, in any proposed 'system', of the maverick-prophet."

The funding for implementation of the report's recommendations comes from the £12 million the Church Commissioners released for research and development in 2014-2016, "in accordance with the Archbishops' objectives".

On Tuesday, the Revd Amanda Fairclough, who joined the Commissioners this year, said: "It seems the Green recommendations are likely to be implemented as they stand. That does not mean they are necessarily the best solutions to the problems identified, but neither does it mean they are the only solutions that will ever be tried. It seems reasonable to me that we should trust our leaders and judge the recommendations by their outcomes."


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