Under a new plan, Bishops and Deans in the Church of England will undergo a mandatory leadership training program including a residential element run by a secular university or business school. According to The Church Times, the program has already been signed off by the two archbishops and has a £2-million budget.
Eventually, the program will extend to bishops, deans, archdeacons, incumbents of large churches, and heads of mission societies in advance of appointment or in order to qualify for appointment.
For this to happen, a “talent pool” of up to 150 “high-potential individuals” will be identified and enrolled in an intensive training course, lasting up to five years, by which time they can be expected to have obtained senior appointment. The pool will be overseen by the Development and Appointments Group (DAG), and managed by an enlarged staff under Caroline Boddington, the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, based at the Wash House in the grounds of Lambeth Palace.
After two years of intensive, modular training, talent-pool members will be invited to join their bishop’s senior staff team to learn how to run a diocese. During that time, they will also be expected to undertake projects “with relevance for the National Church”, and be available for secondment.
Individuals will be rated “early promise”, “exceptional potential”, or “ready now”. The names of those deemed ready will be proposed to committees appointing the next generation of bishops and deans.
Those who have been in the pool will form an “alumni network”, tracked continually by the “talent database” and available for mentoring and coaching future leaders. Anyone failing to fulfil his or her potential will be asked to leave.
The plan identifies three areas of concentration:
– contributing to the Common Good, in essence involvement in local and national politics;
– reshaping ministry, i.e. developing the gifts of lay and ordained people;
– leading the Church for growth, implementing best practice for spiritual and numerical growth.
The report says the goal is to see leaders emerge from “a wider variety of backgrounds and range of skills than is currently predicted.”
Martyn Percy has concerns:
In terms of process, there is a problem about the composition of the group who produced the report. Not one ordained woman was on the review group – and at a time when the Church is about to welcome women bishops. This is breathtaking. Nor was there a recognised theologian, or an academic specialising in continuing professional or vocational education. And, despite the fact that the report raises secular “MBA-style” programmes to a level of apotheosis, no recognised scholar with expertise in management or leadership from the academic world formed part of the core working party.
In the actual text of the Green report, there are a couple of serious issues to wrestle with. First, it has no point of origination in theological or spiritual wisdom. Instead, on offer is a dish of basic contemporary approaches to executive management, with a little theological garnish. A total absence of ecclesiology flows from this. The report has little depth or immersion in educational literature.
A more notable absence is any self-awareness in the report: unaware of critiques of management, executive authority, and leadership which abound in academic literature, it is steeped in its own uncritical use of executive management-speak.
Percy calls for training for church leadership to arise from a different place than what this report suggests:
ULTIMATELY, the report is coy about the problem it is actually trying to solve: ecclesiastical preferment. No definition of leadership is ever advanced in the text. The report shows no evidence of having solicited the views of the led. Or of former church leaders. The executive managers already know what they are looking for in preferment – folk like themselves.
There is no critique offered of the expectations placed on church leaders. The text focuses on training people for management tasks that the review group take as givens. No different models of leadership are discussed, such as servanthood, collaborative ministry, or pastoral care.
Although executive managers are patently not the leaders of the Church, they none the less aspire to be in charge. If this report is put into practice, they will be. A few administrative offices either side of the Thames, based in Church House, Westminster, or at the Wash House at Lambeth Palace – secretariats that once served the Church – will become sovereign….
…We appear to live in an age in which all bishops must now fit the “executive mission-minded-middle-manager” paradigm. Our executive managers who run the Church tell us that this is what is needed.
Posted by Andrew Gerns