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Ministerial review and clerical self-searching

by
02 May 2014

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From the Revd James Graham
Sir, - I am grateful to Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 17 April) for contrasting ministerial review for clergy with self-appraisal. Until Common Tenure ushered in ministerial review, in the diocese where I serve (Lichfield) self-appraisal took place, assisted by an ordained colleague.

Participating in self-appraisal, I found it challenging and helpful; and, as an "assister", I found the experiences of colleagues uplifting, moving, and often humbling.

But self-appraisal has now gone, replaced by ministerial review, with no transitional arrangements for freeholders such as me. I have been "expected" and "strongly encouraged" to engage in ministerial review; and it has even been suggested (inaccurately, I hope) that, should I not do so, there will be no continuing ministerial-development diocesan funding for me, despite the fact that the benefice where my ministry is exercised contributes more than £60,000 in parish share.

Dioceses appear to approach ministerial review quite differently. Lichfield has a particularly bureaucratic, box-ticking, and task-driven scheme, called a "1800 review", which seems a bit odd and half-baked; and I am hoping that after a period the scheme itself will be reviewed and adjusted to make opting in more attractive and constructive. But my perception - am I right? - is that ministerial review is really intended for Common Tenure clergy, partly to provide a paper trail in case the history of a clergy member's employment ends up in an Employment Tribunal: "S/he may have had a breakdown through overwork, but we have written evidence through ministerial review of our advice to attend a course on How to Delegate."

Meanwhile, I am making my own arrangements for assisted self-appraisal with a soul-friend. And I am left with a series of questions. Why do differing diocesan schemes of ministerial review have to be so varied, both in content and tone? Why cannot sensible transitional arrangements be made for freeholders, instead of saying to them, "It's ministerial review or we have nothing to support you with"?And what proportion of clergy/bishops/canons/archdeacons, etc., are still freeholders, as opposed to being on Common Tenure? It seems strangely hard to find out the answer to the last question.

Canon Tilby's commending of self-appraisal is very welcome. That assisted self-appraisal could or should lead to the confessional seems fine to me. That route encourages real, prayerful self-scrutiny and great honesty, whereas ministerial review seems to entail a legalistic recording of targets usefully attained. Please could we aim for soul-searching instead of "outcomes"?

JAMES GRAHAM
The Vicarage, Church Street
Eccleshall, Stafford ST21 6BY

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