Thinking Anglicans

Green report: after Synod now what?

Our previous roundup was: Following up on the Green Report.

Since then, there wasn’t any proper debate on it at the General Synod.

Andrew Lightbown has continued to offer comment:

Both of these articles deserve to be read in full, and taken seriously by the management of the Church of England. Here is an excerpt, but do read both of them in full.

…Let’s have a look at the ‘Christian leadership tradition’ drawing on the Rule of Benedict…

In chapter 3 of his rule Benedict acknowledges that some decisions can only be taken by the most senior member of the community. Accordingly he places two obligations on the abbot or abbess:

  • when any business of importance is to be considered in the monastery, the abbot or abbess should summon the whole community together and,
  • the community should be summoned for such consultation because it often happens that the Lord makes the best course clear to one of the younger members. Benedict endorses, and actively seeks out, the ‘wisdom of youth.’ Does the Church?

Benedict also tells his audience that it is only ‘when questions of lesser importance arise in the concerns of the monastery,that the abbot or abbess should consult with seniors alone.’

If we accept Benedict’s logic and apply it – reasoning by analogy – to the ‘discussions’ around the Green Report we can only presume that the House of Bishops regard the identification and development of the next generation of leaders as a matter of ‘lesser importance!’ Matters to be discussed by the bishops alone…


  • Erika Baker says:

    Yes, there should have been proper consultation through Synods, and no, the people who are largely responsible for increasingly out of touch, centralised management should not be the ones who put in place structures to reform their own failure.

    But this is where we are and it’s no good wishing we were somewhere else.

    Assuming that recent reports are right and we only have 10 years to save the church, and knowing what a slow tortoise the decision making process through Synods is… are the bishops not right to say that when the building burns you lead people to the exit, you don’t spend hours discussing where the exit might be?

  • Simon Dawson says:

    Erika, to extend your analogy, in a burning building the janitor or cleaner might be the person with the most intimate knowledge of the building, and the best person to lead people to safety.

    At the very least you need a leader who a. knows who the cleaners are, and b, has the willingness to consult with them before heading off blindly into the smoke.

  • Gareth P says:

    What now after Green indeed? Perhaps I could offer a rather depressing, but necessary, warning from Wales? We have an archbishop (interestingly, the Anglican Communion’s nominee for the CNC which appointed Justin Welby!) who has vigorously pursues his own agenda, while appearing to ignore the democratic process. The representation on our Governing Body (our equivalent of your General Synod) was slashed. It is now, effectively, little more than a rubber-stamping body for the bishops. The current bench of bishops is made very much in the image and likeness of the Archbishop. It is an openly discussed fact that he has resorted to questionable methods to exclude certain individuals from the episcopate (Jeffrey John among them, not least in ruling him out in 2008 on the grounds he was in a civil partnership). The effect has been to sap the morale of the clergy and laity in the parishes. We have already reached your projected 2057 target for those attending worship. There is a deep malaise at the heart of our Church. And this is simply because the people who are expected to put their hand in their pockets and fund the operation no longer feel they are stakeholders in its future. They are silenced and talked down to. Debate is stifled. The Archbishop presents himself as unchallengeable. And, while he continues to procrastinate about diversity and justice for minorities in the media, his actions seem not to match his words (threatening the late Jim Cotter with legal action if he blessed civil partnerships, for example). Please, Church of England, do not allow yourselves to sleep-walk into this deeply un-Anglican scenario. The forthcoming elections to General Synod are your one chance to ensure that the Archbishops are held to account for the spending and implementation of the Green Report and all that goes with it. Please, please don’t allow the outcome of the elections to be controlled from ‘on high’ along with everything else. You are synodically (not episcopally) governed. I just wish I lived in St Albans, so I could vote for Jo Spreadbury!

  • Savi Hensman says:

    I think, though, Erika, it might be the case where the cleaner, caretaker or someone else low in the hierarchy knows better where the exit is than the alpha male in charge!

  • Charles Read says:

    … assuming it is an exit and not a locked door. Also assumes the bishops know the way to the exit and the others don’t.

    I think GS showed that all of this is assumption and needs challenging.

  • Anthony Archer says:

    ” … are the bishops not right to say that when the building burns you lead people to the exit, you don’t spend hours discussing where the exit might be?”

    Erika is right. The CofE is not in a good place, although predictions of its demise in 10 years are somewhat wide of the mark. It is after all His church. The challenge is to take active steps now to focus on numerical and spiritual growth. For that to happen its leaders need to be on the same page, something of a challenge when we don’t offer any leadership training nor really hold diocesan bishops to account for much. If the Green Report is under attack from myriad people, as Revd Andrew Lightbown seems to think it is, then I can assure him that those people are not on the General Synod. There was barely a reference to it during Questions, which was the place to hold the torches to the Presidents and Bishops’ feet. The report has however ignited the issue as to what leadership needs to look like in the CofE going forward. Green is not the sole place for that debate. It will be taken forward in all dioceses. All Green has done is unlock Church Commissioners funds to allow every diocese to invest in some leadership training, initially for the bishops and deans themselves. The questions on the survival agenda are immense: (1) are we selecting the right people for ordination? (2) if (1) might infer that we need to raise the bar, how do we then deal with the current age profile of stipendiary clergy which requires a 50% average increase in ordinations in every diocese? (3) are our clergy really bought in to the need for numerical and spiritual growth? (4) do enough of our leaders (ordained and lay) really get it when we say we need people who can lead churches into growth? The General Synod’s response to the Task Group reports was generally favourable which suggests that the NCIs are now asking the right questions and leading the debate on how to shape the future.

  • Erika Baker says:

    Yes, everyone, the cleaner may know best.
    But there are thousands of cleaners and I have so far heard dozens of different proposals about what “must” happen now.
    So you’d need a process to identify which of the cleaners knows best and you would have to get a majority to rally behind that cleaner.

    What are people asking for?
    The Green report to be scrapped, a working group to be put together to write a report put together to detail the current problems of the CoE, maybe with possible solutions, this report to be sent to the Synods to be discussed, suggested amendments to be passed up the line, an amended version of the report to be put to the vote…
    How many years will that take?

    Or are we asking for something different?
    And in the meantime, are we ignoring the dire predictions that the money will have run out within the decade?

  • William Richards says:

    As has already been asked (the sole comment in response to the Archbishop’s Presidential address to the Synod), is the Archbishop bringing Synod with him? The failure to allow a debate on the Green Report is, itself, a sign of ineffective leadership. It suggests a high-handed disregard towards those who share in local and regional leadership of the Church. It means that more energy is going to be spent recovering trust and reversing all the negative energy; whereas a debate would have allowed us to move forward – even if the process and content had been revised in the light of the collective wisdom on Synod. If this is the kind of ‘leadership’ the Archbishops are modelling, no wonder we don’t want anything to do with the proposals in these reports – and no wonder Justin Welby’s presidential address on evangelism fell flat. The honeymoon does seem to be over and we are now reaping the harvest of (a) lack of episcopal experience; (b) a myopic theological perspective; and (c) a personality who seems unable to disentangle himself from the mentality of the public school-Oxbridge-boardroom old boy network. I am afraid that if he told me, now, that the Church was on fire (to prolong Erika’s analogy) I simply wouldn’t believe it.

  • Pam Smith says:

    But where does the analysis ‘We only have 10 years to save the church!’ come from?

    In itself, it is symptomatic of a certain style of macho leadership which assumes there is one solution and it must be powered through against all odds for the good of the very people who resist it.

    And – ironically – if the Green report is correct in saying the current leadership lack the skills for this kind of ‘Alpha male ( and female) leadership, is it a surprise they can’t push through their perceived solution?

    There Is No Alternative lives, and it is running the C of E 🙁

  • Jean Mayland (Revd) says:

    The Bishops represent the kind of leadership they want. ie You do as you are told and we do not consult. Green advocated this too. It is not the kind of leadership we need- ie one which consults and detestable and caries people along with it with enthusiasm. WE have not seen that in our Bishops for may years – to find it go back to Michael Ramsey and Robert Runcie and David Jenkins! I remember 2 of us sitting in David’s throne at Auckland Castle when we went into groups to discuss ideas and take our views to him It seemed to me to demonstrate his concept of leadership!

  • Charles Read says:

    Sorry Anthony but all the GS members I spoke to about Green are very unhappy with it and with the fact we could not discuss it. Some GS members (myself included) think Green contains things that are worth rescuing but in GS
    1. no debate was timetabled on Green -we debated and voted on the other reports in this set
    2. there was a discussion group on Green but I went to another one – a friend who went to Green said the mood music from the front was ‘this is not your business’
    3. several people sent in questions on Green which were disallowed, which is why only one appeared.

    I happen to like ++Justin and think he could be a very good archbishop, but he needs to lead in consultation very fast now to regain synod’s confidence. His usually well-received self-deprecating humour fell flat in his presidential address as it did not feel like a joke that he was a businessman accidentally wearing the wrong clothes.

  • John says:

    Here’s my solution:

    (1) We need bishops and archbishops who can make the case for Christianity in public debate. That rules out both the current archbishops and most of the bishops.

    (2) We need more ordinands. The last thing struggling churches need is different celebrants every week.

    (3) We need clergy at all levels who can talk and relate to people in a normal, friendly way. That rules out a frighteningly high proportion of current clergy.

  • Stevie Gamble says:

    It seems to me that it is worthwhile comparing and contrasting the behaviour of the Church in response to the ongoing criminal investigations and those in the financial world.

    I see from the Telegraph that:

    ‘Lord Green is stepping down as chairman of TheCityUK’s Advisory Council with immediate effect.’

    For those unfamiliar with it the Telegraph helpfully explains that:

    ‘TheCityUK is the UK’s national body for the financial and related professional services industry.’

    The Church, by contrast, is doubling down and standing by its man, and its plan.

    It may also be helpful to clarify that the techniques whereby the Swiss Bank happily provided clients with ‘bricks of cash’ are identical to those of the Mexican arm, and, indeed, elsewhere; this is what money launderers do, whether it’s for evading tax or washing the profits of Mexican drug cartels, terrorist organisations, human traffickers of children and, mostly, women for forced prostitution, illegal immigration etc. etc. etc.

    And, just in case anyone is in any doubt, money laundering is a serious criminal offence precisely because it enables drug cartels, terrorists, human traffickers, etc to carry on doing what they are doing.

    The lives of millions of people have been and continue to be destroyed, and yet the Church is silent. HSBC admitted that this is what it had done, and yet the Church is silent. The US is re-opening the HSBC criminal investigation, and no doubt the Church will be silent about that.

    The Bishops may have set the fire, but my only hope is that the Church may be reborn, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Perhaps the insights of Benedict may help to take us there; I only know that no matter how frantically the PR machine churns, this is not going to go away.

    I refuse to be silent about the awful realities being brushed aside, and I see no way in which anyone who cares about those millions of destroyed lives would wish to join a Church which seems to have forgotten that we must love our neighbours…

  • Daniel Lamont says:

    I agree that the CofE is not in a good place and that ‘something must be done’. I also think that the four questions that Anthony Archer poses are the right ones. However, I don’t agree that the Green report is the thing that must be done or that it adequately addresses Anthony’s questions. Erica Baker asks rhetorically if we want the Green report scrapped and that we start again and work our way through Synod committees, expecting the answer ‘No’. I was resistant to Mrs Thatcher’s ‘There is No Alternative’ and I am equally resistant to the Bishop’s version of ‘Tina’.

    What do I want? I would like the Green Committee to re-convene, probably without Lord Green in the chair, and review their report in the light of the comments made – for example the cogent remarks made by Mike Higton or Martyn Percy who do know what they are talking about – review the language used and review the training proposed. It should be possible to do this in a month. It could then be re-presented to the HofB and published properly. A revised document need not go through Synod.

    Of course we need to train and nurture senior clergy and have a proper selection process. I just don’t think this is it or that it will deliver what is needed. More to the point, this report has lost credibility and the HoB have lost yet more credibility. It is no use retreating into a comfortable headmasterly authoritarianism which would have suited Geoffrey Fisher sixty years ago. The authors and supporters of this report have forgotten that there are people in the pews like me who have to be led and that means being persuaded and not bullied. The refusal of the HoB and the Archbishops to contemplate that there might just be some flaws in the Green Report is an abandonment of leadership not an example of it. It is simply another example of the shambles at the top of the hierarchy. Is it any wonder that people like me are increasingly alienated and disillusioned – but our bums are needed on the seats to make the figures look good and our wallets are needed to help pay the church’s way.

    John’s three points are eminently sensible. It is fashionable to deride ++Rowan’s convoluted language and thought-processes but he, like Bishop David Jenkins, engaged a great many people both inside and outside the church unlike our current leadership.

  • Rebecca Lloyd says:

    Some of the comments on this report remind me of the famous Yes, Minister quote: something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done.

  • Jeremy says:

    ‘The authors and supporters of this report have forgotten that there are people in the pews like me who have to be led and that means being persuaded and not bullied.’

    This is where the Archbishop’s and Lord Green’s business backgrounds do not help.

    In a bank or an oil company, managers have subordinates who can be fired if they do not toe the managerial line.

    In a church, or for that matter in almost any non-profit, people need to be persuaded and inspired. Someone needs to set forth a vision and explain to people why they should give and work to support it.

    In this way, running a church is actually much more difficult than running a business!

  • Simon R says:

    A senior naval officer, speaking at a clergy conference, said that the troops stationed in Helmand needed to be personally persuaded to go out on patrol each day. Asked why they didn’t simply take recourse to a Court Martial process, he responded by saying that (a) it was complicated; (b) time consuming; and (c) that you don’t inspire people to give of their best when they perceive they under threat from those leading them. He also made the point that it was important to enable the troops to feel that they had some responsibility in the decisions being taken – and that they had complete confidence that those leading them were taking the risks with them.

  • Stevie Gamble says:

    Simon R

    During the Peninsular campaign, over a century ago, the British soldiers had a simple classification for their officers. They were divided into two categories: the ‘Johnny go ons’ and the ‘Johnny come ons’.

    Unsurprisingly the soldiers held the first lot in contempt, and followed the second; the same principle was at work in Helmand…

  • “It’s growth all the way down” as somebody might never have said.

    But that does seem to be it doesn’t it: growth, growth, growth. And people have rightly focussed on numerical growth (quantifiable) and spiritual growth (completely unquantifiable) in the CofE.

    Why are we so timid though? What the church really needs to survive, what it as an institution wants is *economic* growth. That is the subtext to everything that’s going on. The economic projections are bleak, the coffers will run dry at some point in the not too distant future, and the way to address that is growth, numerical and spiritual growth.

    Well, no. Numerical growth by itself will not preserve the institution of the CofE. You can attract hundreds of thousands of new Christians to the CofE, but unless you persuade them to part with their money the church is in as much trouble as it was before, probably more trouble.

    The economic support the church needs is actually indifferent to things like numerical growth. There is no difference economically between attracting 10 new people to a church who contribute X each, and attracting 1 new person to a church who contributes 10X.

    And yet this sort of approach doesn’t sound particularly palatable does it? But we must get real that this (economic) growth is the sort of growth we need to see if the institution of the CofE is to be preserved in its current form.

    Do we really want that? Do we really want to push for that?

    As Evelyn Underhill put it in her Concerning the Inner Life: “Do you see the great facts and splendours of religion with the eye of an artist and a lover, or with the eye of a man of business, or the eye of the man in the street?”

    Which is it that we want for our Church?

  • Erika Baker says:

    David Lammont,
    I like your proposal very much, thank you.

  • Stevie Gamble says:

    I agree with Erica; I like Daniel Lamont’s proposal too. I would go further and suggest that Adrian Newman, area Bishop of Stepney, be appointed as Chair.

    Before anyone complains that he doesn’t understand businesses I should note that Adrian was an economist before he became a priest; I had the pleasure, and, indeed, privilege of meeting him several times when he was Dean of Rochester.

    He has an extraordinary ability to reach out to people from all walks of life and draw them into the warmth and security of God’s love, without ever making anyone feel that they are ‘bums on seats’, because he does not see people, or think of people, as ‘bums on seats’. He sees them as people, each with their own individual needs and gifts, but all part of the community of Christ enfolded in his love which is infinite.

    It is very rare to meet a priest whose spirituality burns with all the fire of the Easter Candle, and even rarer to find it in a Dean; he came in for criticism for not being Dean-like, and no doubt he probably incurs similar complaints about not being Bishop-like.

    But I would trust him to lead the committee to try and solve the problems we recognise exist, guided by his extraordinary spirituality as well as by his intellect and his economic expertise. That may go some way to answering Alastair Newman’s question…

  • Malcolm says:

    Any GS member who wants “Green” and the Faith and Order paper on Leadership discussed in the open needs to sign Simon Kilwick’s private members motion on a Senior Leadership so it has enough signatures to demand a debate at York in July.

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