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Not on the agenda for Synod, Green remains hot topic

20 February 2015


Getting flak: Lord Green

Getting flak: Lord Green

TOLD by the Archbishops that the Green report "stands on its own merits" after the spotlight turned on Prebendary the Lord Green's record at HSBC, the clergy have been debating, although not on the floor of the General Synod.

"It's rarely a good idea to try and stifle debate. What usually happens is that people find other ways of surfacing their concerns, such as through social media," said Canon Jane Charman, a Synod member, on Tuesday. She is Director of Learning for Discipleship and Ministry in Salisbury diocese.

"Although it hasn't happened on the floor of Synod yet, in fact the Church is having quite a rich debate, and people are engaging with the issues around church leadership in a really informed, concerned, and creative way, and we are getting out the corporate wisdom which is what debate is meant to achieve. I know those who are responsible for implementing the Green proposals are listening, but perhaps they could do with signalling that a bit more clearly."

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, has criticised social-media discussion of Lord Green. On Twitter last week, he said that critics were "mostly playing the man, not the ball".

The Sub-Dean of Westminster, the Ven. Andrew Tremlett, wrote on Facebook last Saturday in defence of the "important and timely" report, and of Lord Green. He suggested that the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" had given way to "guilt by association".

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, wrote on his blog during the Synod meeting: "The criticisms still don't address the question of how we do then invest in ensuring that church leaders in the future are better equipped to do what is expected of them."

On Tuesday, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, rebutted the charge that critics could not offer alternatives. "In reality, there are quite a lot of alternatives," he said. "Why don't they talk to people who know what they are doing? No member of the Green-report group was academically qualified to shape a curriculum, and identify and purchase the right educational providers who might deliver training to our senior leaders."

The Revd Amanda Fairclough, a Church Commissioner, contrasted the preparation and publication of the Green report with the approach taken by the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, to the report on intergenerational equity: "It is not a decision that strictly requires formal approval or even debate at Synod," she said on Wednesday. "However, it is wise and collaborative of the Church Commissioners to explain their thinking, invite comment, and look for support, as Andreas did at Synod last week. It seems the House of Bishops have lost a similar opportunity with the Green report."

In a statement last Friday, apparently in response to a request from the Financial Times, the Archbishops said that they were "grateful to Lord Green for the contribution and expertise that he has brought to the work of the group on leadership training and formation. The leadership report stands on its own merits . . . [it] was completed and submitted before the current media focus on historic allegations against HSBC at the time Lord Green was either CEO or Chairman.

"None of the reports suggest there is evidence that he personally encouraged or orchestrated any scheme of tax evasion. The Church of England's opposition to tax evasion or aggressive tax management strategies remains firm. The reported actions of HSBC Switzerland were wrong and there is obviously deep concern about the issues revealed."

On Saturday, Lord Green resigned as chairman of the advisory committee of the lobby group TheCityUK. The chairman of its board, Sir Gerry Grimstone, said that Lord Green was "a man of great personal integrity who has given huge service to his country and the City. He doesn't want to damage the effectiveness of TheCityUK in promoting good governance and doing the right thing, so has decided to step aside from chairing our Advisory Council. This is entirely his own decision."


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