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Problems with Management style of leadership in the Church of England

Problems with Management style of leadership in the Church of England

By David W. Virtue, DD
September 6, 2021

Revelations of both bullying and sadomasochistic behavior in the Church of England by evangelicals will come as a shock to millions of Anglicans worldwide, most of whom are orthodox in faith and morals and who could not have imagined such behaviors occurring.

There is something desperately wrong with the leadership style among some Church of England evangelicals, an Oxford trained theologian told VOL.

The latest revelation concerns Bishop Anne Dyer of Aberdeen and Orkney who has been urged to step down after a report found that she presided over a culture of "systematic dysfunction" and "bullying". Priests and church employees claimed that Dyer made their working lives intolerable.

The Scottish Episcopal Church commissioned a review by Professor Iain Torrance, former moderator of the Church of Scotland, into "turbulence and discontent", but decided not to publish it as promised.

In the document, seen by The Times, Torrance, 72, called a decision by Dyer, Scotland's first female bishop, to suspend a respected priest without explanation a "scandal" and said that her position was "irrecoverable". He found that Dyer, 64, the Yorkshire-born former head of Cranmer Hall theological college at Durham University, had lost the trust and confidence of clergy.

"I cannot recommend the continuation of a tenure in which I fear that more people will be made to feel diminished and discouraged," Torrance, a former chaplain to the Queen, said. "Consequently, I recommend that, for the good of the diocese, she be immediately granted a period of sabbatical leave and step back permanently from the diocese."

She is not the first evangelical to be so charged with bullying and more.

Tim Dakin, 63, the former Bishop of Winchester, one of the five most-senior bishops in the Church of England, who never attended theological college, resigned in July this year after an unprecedented no-confidence motion was sparked by a financial crisis and his sacking of more than 20 vicars and staff. He had been accused of 'poor behavior and mistreatment' of clergy and staff.

Dakin is part of the evangelical wing of the Church of England -- a constituency already troubled by recent sexual abuse revelations of sadomasochism by the Rev. Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth. Fletcher and Smyth are both prominent evangelicals who have brought shame on evangelicalism in their grooming and abuse of young men. Fletcher was trained at Wycliffe Hall.

Wycliffe Hall is a Church of England theological college and a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is evangelical to the core.

Dyer was trained at Wycliffe Hall along with Bishop Jonathan Goodall, who recently left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic.

Another parish vicar, also a Wycliffe man, was subject this week to an archdeaconry visitation because of his bullying style.

In June, Canon Paul Williams, the evangelical vicar of Fulwood in Sheffield resigned. "There may be others who are concerned to read Paul's acknowledgement that there are some within the church family who have been left feeling hurt by their experience of his leadership," said one of his curates, Rev. Peter Scanman, reported in the Church Times.

The eminent missiologist Bishop Stephen Neill, raised a 'thorough evangelical' by missionary parents and who became a towering figure of twentieth-century global Christianity was, it transpired, a serial abuser. A biographer reports that his modus operandi remained the same in all the documented and known incidents of abuse where young men would be asked to report their good and bad actions. Neill would ask if they were prepared for punishment, and once they agreed would take them into a room and beat them on their bare buttocks.

One is forced to ask the question. What is it with the management style in the Church of England?

A source told VOL that the problem might be in what is being taught. "The PCC in one church has been told that the vicar has authority under God, the wardens have authority under the vicar, (a Wycliffe man) and the rest have to obey their authority like a wife obeys her husband! This is Roman Catholic ecclesiology - not biblical leadership which is called to enable people to develop their skills and gifts for ministry. (Eph. 4.12) said a source."

The abuse of power in the church as an organization needs to be taken as seriously as safeguarding issues as do sexual and fiscal misdemeanors, says Gavin Ashenden a former Anglican bishop.


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