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Church of England management courses overlook God, say critics

Church of England management courses overlook God, say critics

By Barney Thompson
Financial Times
December 17, 2014

The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended plans to send senior clergy on leadership courses after critics said the proposal was full of "executive management speak" and barely mentioned God.

A 34-page report, entitled "Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A New Approach", recommends a "new and dynamic curriculum" to create a "broad and appropriately equipped pool of candidates with exceptional potential for the senior leadership roles" in the Church of England.

It proposes offering senior clerics a 12 to 18-month course with modules on "Building Healthy Organisations", "Leading for Growth" and "Reshaping Ministry", and recommends a mini-MBA, "targeted primarily at deans" but which could be extended further down the church hierarchy.

The report's 12-strong panel was chaired by Lord Green, the former HSBC chairman and trade minister, and included Christopher McLaverty, ex-head of talent and learning at BP, as "consultant design manager", as well as four bishops.

The recommendations -- leaked online before publication -- have come under fire from the Very Rev Prof Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, who called them a "dish of basic contemporary approaches to executive management with a little theological garnish".

He added: "This report mentions the word 'leadership' 171 times but the word 'pastoral' not once, and says very little about God. It is like writing a report about Tesco without mentioning groceries. It is a really poor piece of work."

The report's steering group contained no academics in the crucial areas of educational studies, management and leadership, or theology and ecclesiology, said Prof Percy. None of the authors was an ordained woman. "Any academic from those areas would have provided substantial critical interlocution with this report and those voices were excluded. Instead, we got a spiel of executive management-speak."

After writing an article for the Church Times that was highly critical of the proposals, Prof Percy said he had received "hundreds of emails and tweets, and I cannot find anyone who thinks this is a good thing".

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is a former senior oil company executive, defended the Green report in an article on the Church's Tumblr site. He said it set out a process "which enables proper preparation for wider responsibility to be held within a clear Christian context of development of personal spirituality and prayer".

Archbishop Welby added: "We can't simply go on as we are if we are to flourish and grow as the Church of England." The plan envisages 36 diocesan bishops starting the primary course next year. Training will be run by a leading business institution -- thought to be Cambridge University's Judge Business School -- and will cost £2 million between now and the end of 2016, plus £785,000 a year after that.

Linda Woodhead, professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University, called the report a "tentative step into the modern world of more meritocratic appointments but without really denting the patronage system" on which the Church still relied.

The authors had "dodged a big challenge", she added, in failing to propose truly opening up the process of advancement.


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