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Letters to the Editor

by
26 March 2021

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Positive experiences of patronage

From the Revd S. Douglas Lane

Sir, — I have been a patron to two parishes in the diocese of Norwich since 1973, 21 years lay, 27 years ordained. The late and much loved Bishop Maurice Wood discussed with me the impending likely outcome of the abolition of patronage (Letters, 19 March), and what did I want to do? I replied that I would be a working patron, the patronage having been in my family for generations, and I would succeed my late uncle, trained at Kelham.

In the event, the legislation failed, and patrons survived. I have been and continue to be a working patron, have been through four interregnums and presented the Rector to the Bishop at each change: over the years there have been times when advice has been sought, and this I have gladly given: in a benefice of seven churches of all traditions and with four patrons, I hope that I have remained a helpful constant. Many of my family are buried in one of the churchyards, and I have ensured the succession when I depart this mortal coil with a younger member of a related family steeped in the fabric of the two parishes.

It is easy to criticise patronage when it is obstructive and authoritative, but if managed with affection and commitment, it can be a positive benefit to incumbents and parishes in challenging times. My experience of patrons in my last two parishes (none diocesan) has been nothing but beneficial. It is an annual delight for me to spend the weekend in the parishes and take the Sunday services, and it is a privilege that I never take for granted. Just because of individual difficulties, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

SIMON DOUGLAS LANE
30a Belgrade Road, Hampton
Middlesex TW12 2AZ

 

Pattern of appointments affecting LGBT welfare

From Jayne Ozanne

Sir, — Honestly, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

First, the only bishop not to vote for a ban on conversion therapy is made the chair of the Living in Love and Faith project. Now, we have the only bishop who is part of the Evangelical Alliance’s Council — which advocates that LGBT people remain single for life and be subjected to church discipline if they form a partnership, let alone a family — appointed the co-chair of the Archbishops’ new Commission on Families and Households.

Of course, his co-chair, Professor Janet Walker, has rightly pointed out that they will need to address the “diversity of families and households in modern Britain”. But that does nothing to rebuild any trust with the LGBT community, who see decision after decision being made to undermine us, not reassure us.

The proof of the Commission’s work will obviously be “in the pudding”, but I do hope that we won’t have a third example of such worrying appointments. Otherwise, many will think that the Church is bidding for its own series of Yes, Minister.

JAYNE OZANNE
Address supplied

 

Safeguarding decisions at Christ Church, Oxford

From the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford

Sir, — I write as Christ Church Cathedral’s Safeguarding Lead, and I can, therefore, confirm exactly what was, and was not, in the leaked risk assessment (News, 19 March).

The version of the risk assessment leaked to the Church Times lists a timeline, including a “Second risk assessment” as having been carried out by Kate Wood on 22 October 2020. Instead of “Second risk assessment”, it should have read “Investigation”: this is what was carried out by Kate Wood and submitted on that date. That subheading was corrected in subsequent versions of the documents.

None of this has any bearing whatsoever on the complaint itself, or indeed the assessment of risk made in the documents. The risk assessments are confidential, password-protected, and with very limited circulations, designed to protect all those involved, including both the young member of staff who made the allegation, and the Dean of Christ Church himself.

It has even been sensationally suggested that the risk assessments in some way restrict the Dean’s freedom to be visited and supported by friends and family, or even to receive communion. None of this is true; and pastoral support has been in place for Martyn throughout.

It is very disappointing how one heading from those preliminary documents is being disingenuously used to imply that the assessments are somehow invalid, to generate mistruths, and to cast doubt on the CDM process itself.

GRAHAM WARD (Canon)
Christ Church
Oxford OX1 1DP

 

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — I read your report last week about the wholly disproportionate irregular risk assessment concerning Dean Percy. Taking the document at face value, I was one who criticised the independent investigator Kate Wood for exceeding her area of expertise.

The affixing of her name gave that document the authority of her experience and independence, which, it transpires, it did not have. Accordingly, she did not deserve my criticism, though legitimate criticism must now be considered elsewhere.

I hope that you will allow me to apologise to Ms Wood publicly for the upset and frustration that this aspect of the scandal will have caused her, and my inadvertent part in it.

MARTIN SEWELL
Member of General Synod
8 Appleshaw Close
Gravesend
Kent DA11 7PB

 

Leadership training in the Church of England

From the Revd Andrew Lightbown

Sir, — Your feature asks “Can leadership be taught?” (Vocations, 12 March). The reality is that leadership is tacitly taught, well and badly, through societal and other structures from our earliest days. The problem is that such teaching tends to categorise people into leaders, functionaries, and followers, while promoting leadership as a status good.

Any theological thinking on leadership needs to start with challenging perceptions of where people sit in the assumed leadership hierarchy, and the downgrading of leadership as a status good. Good leadership teaching should be an exercise in setting all of God’s people, lay and ordained alike, free to exercise ministry. In our teaching, we need to make sure that leadership training doesn’t facilitate a messiah complex, but is, rather, focused on bringing out the best in others. Leadership in the Church should be relational and enabling.

The management scientist Henry Mintzberg offers the following observation: “A leader has to be one of two things: either a brilliant visionary, a truly creative strategist, in which case they can do what they like and get away with it; or else a true empowerer that can bring out the best in others.” Leadership in the Church should, perhaps, always be concerned with the second of Mintzberg’s categories. The temptation will always be to educate potential leaders to fit the first.

ANDREW LIGHTBOWN
The Vicarage, Vicarage Road
Winslow, Bucks MK18 3BJ

 

From Canon Keith Lamdin

Sir, — As someone who developed a clergy leadership programme in the diocese of Oxford more than 25 years ago, and designed the pilot leadership programme for bishops, I read with interest and pleasure the article “Can leadership be taught?”

The curriculum was a delight to read, but I looked in vain for much sense of what leadership actually does: what it achieves.

I looked back at a lecture that I gave to bishops, and, for what it is worth, I described the function of leadership as the work to “develop new and enriched narratives of the diocese (sphere of influence) that enlarges meaning and therefore brings new confidence and hope”. I went on to suggest that to do this well a bishop needs to be at the boundary rather than at the centre of the usual narrative that they are part of, develop and train a critical awareness, which fosters healthy scepticism, and attend to all the data and transferences that are available to them.

Alongside the important issues addressed in the article, I hope that real work will be done on what the outcomes of good leadership are.

KEITH LAMDIN
2 Forge Close
West Overton SN8 4PG

 

From the Revd Michael Allen

Sir, — Teaching leadership helpfully promotes a range of personality leadership styles, all with a team focus. And there’s having to operate out of one’s comfort zone. It gives little attention to “followership” in different settings. It does say that women may have a different journey, as being up against perceptions that “a proper leader is a man.” Looking, then, for similar reference to perceptions for what BAME leaders can be up against, I find nothing offered.

In the past few years, I have had to see three lay and clergy BAME leaders unappreciated. I read also of national examples — even hounded for speaking of their experiences. Thirty years ago, we had the Simon of Cyrene Institute, Black-led, to encourage and nurture vocations and leadership of people of colour. My own perception is that people of colour may be up against an expectation to be subservient.

MICHAEL ALLEN
8 Grenville Rise, Arnold
Nottingham NG5 8EW

 

From Canon John Searle

Sir, — It was encouraging to read “Can leadership be taught?” and to know from those who train our ordinands in colleges and on courses how this is being done. They rightly highlight the importance of personal qualities and different leadership styles. One thing, however, seems to be missing. Trust is an essential component of effective leadership. Where leaders are not trusted, people are reluctant to be led.

Colin Powell, four-star general and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of American Forces, defined leadership as “the ability to provide direction and generate trust”. Direction without trust leads to control. Trust without direction causes confusion. How is trust generated? Good leaders exhibit several essential qualities.

They have a consistent integrity and coherent life philosophy. Their public and private faces are congruent. They walk the talk. They build teams by listening to others, drawing on their gifts, and patiently developing a consensus about the direction in which to go. They care for people and their community. People matter to them. They know how to manage change not only so that an organisation or community can develop, but also so that those who are part of it can grow.

These leadership qualities are the most effective way of finding unity of purpose and the development and implementation of direction. Furthermore, where there is trust, people are much more likely to accept it when a leader has to make rapid or tough decisions and, at times, say things that are difficult to hear.

None of us has a monopoly of these qualities. They require lifelong nurturing by prayer, reflection, and experience so that we may all come “to the measure of the fullness of Christ”.

JOHN SEARLE
Belle Isle Lodge
Exeter EX2 4RY

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