Comments: Following up on the Green Report

As a business leader who is a Christian, I believe that the servant leadership model as exemplified by our Lord applies equally in the secular as in the church, also we the church can learn something from secular models of good leadership practice, for those disturbed by the Green report look for what wisdom we the church can benefit from, God and Christian practice is not absent from the business world!

Posted by Stephen Barney at Friday, 6 February 2015 at 8:52am GMT

Within the Body of Christ, Saint Paul tells us, there are all the gifts available for the Church ot be a significant enterprise in the way of salvation. (See 1 Corinthians: 12, 13, 14 & 15)

From Pastors and Teachers to Administrators; there is an opening for all the gifts to be exercised. What the Green Report seems to suggest is that the clergy ought to be 'on top of' the business of Church administration - an idea following on from the paternalistic attitude of a male-dominated ministry team that 'manages' everything - from presiding at the Eucharist, to deciding the way in which the Church should allocate its resources.

What, surely, is needed, is to encourage the equally important laity to share in the tasks that are not specifically assigned to the clergy class. In that way, there may be the sort of cohesion in mission and ministry that can keep the church - not only alive, but also fruitfully active, using the whole Body of Christ not just its ordained ministers. They have enough to do in their own specialised sphere of activity.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 7 February 2015 at 6:21am GMT

Stephen Barney

Whilst I am sure that your heart is in the right place I fear that your grasp of the law relating to corporate entities is rather lacking. The obligation of the officers of a company is to maximise profits for the shareholders of that company; they and they alone reap the benefits.
Of course, those holding very senior positions may, and do, award themselves huge bonuses, but that is justified by the claim that in doing so they are retaining for the company the skills which will maximise the profits for the shareholders.
By the same token, paying as little as possible to the workforce and suppliers is justified by the legal obligation to maximise profits.
I have considerable difficulty in finding anything in Christ's words which would suggest that He regards these as 'servant leadership models'; perhaps you could clarify your thoughts on this?

Posted by Stevie Gamble at Saturday, 7 February 2015 at 12:27pm GMT

Judging from today's newspaper reports about HSBC and Lord Green's refusal to answer questions on its tax avoidance practices and policies, one has to ask again whether he is the right person to be leading the Church's drive to be more business like. Is this what MBAs lead to?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:06am GMT

And now it turns out that HSBC were doing this, whilst Stephen Green was at the helm:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31248913

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:38am GMT

Think this article speaks for itself:

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/09/margaret-hodge-accuses-ex-chairman-lord-stephen-green-over-hsbc-files

To borrow an expression current in the secular world, OMG.

Posted by ExRevd at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:49am GMT

Stevie,

Delighted, as a public company director and a lay reader, I found being salt and light in the world (in the world but not of the world) a very interesting challenge.

I did try to square the circle of profits for the shareholders and good employment conditions for the workforce. Philanthropic companies have flourished (Cadbury model or co-operatives e.g. John Lewis). I would be interested to know what drives your cynical comments!

Posted by Stephen Barney at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 1:33pm GMT

one further thought if I may, when the Transport and General Workers Union Full Time official said some years later " We knew we could trust you because you are a Christian " it did seem like having made a difference!

Posted by Stephen Barney at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 4:19pm GMT

Stephen,

A factual statement relating to the legal position of corporate bodies is not 'cynical'. It's a factual statement, which you have made no attempt to rebut. Attempting to square the circle isn't possible when it comes to legal obligations, and it is misleading to suggest that the structure of John Lewis or Cadburys are common in the business world; they are, in fact, very rare.

in the interests of full disclosure I should note that I am a retired Inspector of Taxes; my final position was as a specialist technical advisor on the taxation of financial institutions and financial instruments. I am fully aware of the need to maintain the confidentiality of all taxpayers, and, indeed, all non-taxpayers; I can, however, legitimately point to the observations of the Public Accounts Committee on Lord Green's activities at HSBC as an indication of why I regard his report to be so tainted that it brings the Church into disrepute.

I very much hope that the Synod recognises the extent of the damage which would be done if the Church adopts it...

Posted by Stevie Gamble at Monday, 9 February 2015 at 10:11pm GMT

I also hope Synod addresses the implications of adopting the recommendations of the former head of HSBC in reorganising our corporate priorities re training and deployment.

However, since (if I've understood it right) the Green Report can be implemented without requiring the agreement of General Synod, I will be interested to see if any discussion of any aspect of its implementation is possible during the forthcoming session.


Posted by Pam Smith at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 2:55am GMT

Public discussion of this is becoming "shoot the messenger" - there are undoubted issues with the report, but the status quo has issues as great, and institutional drift is an inadequate response.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 8:01am GMT

The Guardian editorial today (Tuesday) makes explicit the link between Lord Green's activities or lack of them at HBSC and his report into the organisation of the Church.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 8:41am GMT

I'm fascinated by the idea that paying people decent wages runs counter to the requirement to maximise profits for shareholders.

Shareholders are not necessarily interested in short term gain but may be interested in the long term welfare of the company. And it is well known by now that the better you treat your staff the higher their productivity and the greater your customer satisfaction.
It's only a matter of time until this pendulum swings back again and we recognise that those societies who do best, and those companies who do best, are those with a sound social ethic.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 9:20am GMT

"I very much hope that the Synod recognises the extent of the damage which would be done if the Church adopts it..." Stevie Gamble

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any 'if' about it. The 'Talent Management' jobs have already been advertised and are in the process of being filled. I also recall Pete Broadbent saying that it was none of Synod's business!

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 9:46am GMT

Can I re-echo Mark Bennet's remark above?
Fine to have issues with the report, but I think it's crazy to think the status quo works well.
Attacks on Stephen Green and the HSBC dodginess in Switzerland. I think are a distraction. I prefer people disagreeing with the report on its own terms.
But if you disagree, do you really think that currently we have 'best practice'?

Posted by Robert at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 1:40pm GMT

A comment from below the line on the Guardian editorial (yes it really is this serious):


"By happy coincidence, the General Synod of the Church of England will debate tomorrow Lord Green's recent report on spotting and grooming clerical talent. Or, at any rate, it is due to do so.

His wisdom is therefore now to be applied in choosing the custodians of many of this country's most important historic buildings, in choosing the authorities responsible for vast landed estates and investment portfolios, in choosing the media's and many public bodies' go-to sources of moral and spiritual guidance, and in choosing the occupants of 26 seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom."

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 2:33pm GMT

Lest it be thought that I am being unfair to highlight the activities of HSBC under the leadership of Lord Green I think it may be helpful to provide another example. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs notoriously claimed to be 'doing God's work' whilst paying vast sums to himself and his staff as the global financial markets disintegrated under the weight of derivative instruments created by Goldman Sachs and other banks, including HSBC. Forbes Magazine has an interesting article on how they set about 'doing God's work' with the Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund

http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2014/10/09/doing-gods-work-with-the-devil-goldman-sachs-business-with-gadhafis-sovereign-wealth-fund/

I think it's helpful to ask ourselves whether ordinary people are likely to feel that this is, in truth, God's work; it's difficult to imagine Christ suggesting that someone should divorce his wife for a weekend, or helpfully arranging for people to evade rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.

It may be that there is no way back from this, and that the Church has irrevocably committed itself to training people to ignore Christ's teachings where those teachings conflict with the desire to maximise income and capital gains.

Erica, sadly it isn't well known. There are companies which are looking to future profits by building market share now; Amazon is a prime example. Unfortunately Amazon is also a prime example of a company which pays very low wages and seeks to squeeze suppliers to breaking point.

The Church had the chance to stand against this, and has apparently decided to join them instead...

Posted by Stevie Gamble at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 5:05pm GMT

Stevie,
yes, companies do get it wrong, badly. But they're rightly being criticised for it, and none has cited their legal obligation to shareholders in defence of tax avoidance.

It is perfectly legal for a company to act morally and with care for its employees.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 5:52pm GMT

Erica

I do not dispute that it is perfectly legal for companies to act morally and with care for its employees. Unusual, yes, but not illegal.

No-one has stated that HSBC was avoiding tax; it was providing means to its customers for them to evade tax, thus generating profits for the bank. There is a very substantial difference between avoidance and evasion; tax evasion is a criminal offence.

As for seeking to justify it, Lord Green has refused to make any comment at all. No doubt he has taken legal advice but the Public Accounts Committee has the power to compel witnesses, and frequently does so.

This isn't going to go away; the Church is embroiled in an ongoing scandal which effectively negates its claims to be championing the poor and the oppressed.

As I have noted in previous discussions on the Report there is a wealth of knowledge about effective leadership in public service, charities and similar organisations which could have been drawn on but wasn't. The Church is going to have to live with the consequences...

Posted by Stevie Gamble at Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at 10:35pm GMT
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