Monday, 8 March 2004

The jawbone of an ass

In the recent General Synod debate on Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds the Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, delivered a speech. The full text is now on the web and can be read here.
It’s well worth reading in full. But it is also worth bearing in mind who was on the working group that produced the report; press reports focused on Andreas Whittam Smith who presented it to the synod, but he was not alone, here is a list of the names, all of whom are responsible for the report:

Lady Brentford Third Church Estates Commissioner
Andrew Britton Southwark DBF Chairman and Chair of the Consultative Group of DBF Chairmen and Secretaries
Michael Chamberlain Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Finance Division
Philip Giddings Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Mission and Public Affairs Division.
The Rt Revd David James Bishop of Bradford
Canon Lyn Jamieson Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham
Andreas Whittam Smith First Church Estates Commissioner and member of the Archbishops’ Council (The Group’s Facilitator)

Now back to what Christopher Herbert said:

…This report is, in my view, another jawbone of an ass: it is clumsy, inept and brutal. It is clumsy because it refers to consultation - (it’s now becoming one of the most slippery words in the Church’s vocabulary): but nowhere in the report does it indicate where changes were made to the text as a result of that consultation. It is clumsy because it arrogates to itself decision-making powers about the distribution of money - and assumes that finance and policy are one and the same.

It is inept because it recommends taking money from Cathedrals, places which are, at the very forefront of mission - and does so in the name of mission.
It is inept because it arrogantly assume that Bishops have nothing to do with mission - when much of my time is spent precisely at points of mission; and treats us as “cost centre” which cannot (and I quote) be “insulated” from cuts.
It is inept because it fails to ask why our costs have gone up and does not explain that being HR departments of dioceses, which our offices largely are, new legislation e.g. on data protection or child protection cannot be instituted without cost.

But above all it is brutal because it joins others in the Church in despising the Bishops as leaders; it despises our rĂ´le in mission; it despises the fact that we have been called by the Church to be Bishops and does so, knowing that for us as Bishops to have to justify ourselves in public is a degrading and humiliating exercise. It is brutality with a smirk.
And it is brutal because it wilfully wants to set one part of the Church against another, Cathedrals v parishes, Bishops v Cathedrals - and there is no concept of Christian fraternity at its heart. No sense of reciprocity.

If I were its author I should want to have the grace to withdraw it now - and then spend time asking before God why such a clumsy, inept and brutal document has been placed before us.
In the interests of solidarity one with another I urge Synod to reject it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 March 2004 at 10:09 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: General Synod | News