Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 13 January 2024

Gerry Lynch The Critic The failure of Anglican managerialism

Giles Fraser UnHerd Will the Church follow the Post Office?

Ian Paul Psephizo The crisis of episcopal leadership in the Church of England

Kelvin Holdsworth What’s in Kelvin’s Head What’s really happening to the churches in Scotland

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Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

Much has been written about the Vennells/Welby nexus as a symptom of what has gone wrong. It may, of course, be a symptom rather than a cause. The only selling point for managerialism is that it promises the prospect of increasing efficiency. However, when it is constantly shown to be manifestly inefficient, then there is nothing left. The whole of the gimcrack prospectus has failed. Alas, even after Welby goes the stain of the managerial movement will take long to disappear: so many people are invested in it, and one of the common features of the decaying ‘national’ or ‘mainstream’… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

You can pick up a very nice church in Strathkinness, down from where I used to live, for a song. Probably will become a pub of some kind. There are some very nice Manse properties for sale up and down the land as well. Prices seem like fire-sale to me.

Alastair (living in Scotland)
Alastair (living in Scotland)
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

My understanding is the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland engage professional surveyors to provide a valuation. Usually available with a home report. The consideration of an appropriate valuation for a church building very much depends on views of alternative uses and likely development costs. Keep in view in Scotland it is usually “offers over”.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Alastair (living in Scotland)
1 month ago

Redundant churches are not an easy sell. My local parish has been ordered to “dispose” of the remaining church building, a 120 year old stone edifice capable of accommodating a couple of hundred. We had it independently valued and it came back as less than £100k. It’s not listed, has ample grounds (with no graves), but it’s too big, too stoney, too churchy to be worth very much to anyone else.

Many manses that are being sold will be those in poorer condition, having been maintained on a “just enough” basis for decades, or actually unmortgageable due to non-standard construction.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

As an episcopalian who works and worships with the Kirk I’ve seen first hand the wrecking ball taken to the rural church. I do, however, have a certain amount of sympathy for the leadership. The financial situation of the Kirk is dire on a scale that the CofE can hardly imagine. The mentioned 1925 deal also disendowed the Kirk to a large extent, so it doesn’t have the luxury the CofE has of continuing to fiddle while Rome (Edinburgh/Canterbury) burns. The radical action plan is primarily a case of “things are terrible we must do something” turning into “this is… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Many thanks for these insights. I become Presbyterian north of the border, and have attended services at a number of places, chiefly below a line between the Clyde and the Tay. “The mentioned 1925 deal also disendowed the Kirk to a large extent”. I am not certain this is the case. The Kirk had been pretty comprehensively asset stripped in the century after 1560, and most especially in the years between the Act of Council 1562 and the Act of Annexation 1587 (which effectively extinguished the episcopate for the first time). By effectively depriving burghs and heritors of their property… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I’ll bow to your greater knowledge on endowment!

I don’t doubt that 121 could absorb some of the pain centrally, but I would be surprised if the amount saved would make a substantial difference at local level.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Part of the issue is that the Church of England does not have a middle management structure and does not select people for their middle management abilities. So when management tasks are loaded onto the structure it cannot accommodate them. So apart from a critique about the appropriateness of particular kind of management theory (measurement and the prioritisation of quantitative research and “data” amongst it and technical responses to human and pastoral and missional challenges), there is a parallel critique that the management responses are not well tuned to the kind of structures and resources the church possesses. One of… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I’m afraid Gerry Lynch has the problem with modernism and the Church exactly backwards, e.g.: “the Church often attempted to assimilate modernism. Those Christians, congregations, and denominations that did so the most thoroughly usually found their capacity to transmit the Faith to the next generations greatly reduced.” Rather the problem is that the “Christians, congregations, and denominations” that fought against modernism became the loudest, most publicized voices…and thus the face of Christianity, a Christianity that a scientifically, technologically aware public rejected. Why do the Millennial and post-Millennial generations view Christianity as anti-gay? Not because they see it as “modern” or… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

One the most fascinating things to observe in educating the generations named above, in seminary, is how intrigued they are with pre-modernity, formal liturgy, ancient rhythms, the Fathers (The Ancient Christian Commentary series and the Evangelical ressourcement materials), and some bewilderment with the previous generations embrace of gimmicks and “progress.” So, I’d be hesitant to broad brush “Millennial” generations. That could just be projection.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Since I have two Millennial sons, both baptized and raised in TEC, active in their teens in church life (acolytes, readers, making mission trips), I think I have a pretty good handle on how they and their peers think of religion in general. They are appalled by the general attitude of the “popular” Christian leaders today (at least here in the states) on issues such as human rights, immigration, health care, etc. And, as I said, those “popular” leaders have become the face of Christianity (and organized religion in general) to their generation. Yes, they have close contact with clergy… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I hear you. And they are not attending seminary. They are a category well known, and distinct from those who find ‘modernity’ and ‘post modernity’ the problem, not the context of their Christian living and hope. Such are our times. US ‘Millennial’ is not a univocal term. The Chemin Neuf movement in France is a traditional, charismatic and intellectually serious order, outsized in the category the US calls ‘millennials.’ (They have a base at Canterbury, FWIW). They must read in depth the philosophical and theological heritage of Christianity.

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

In the the context of the early 20th century church, Modernism referred specifically to a theological view that denied foundational articles of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth, the body resurrection of Jesus, and the reality of miracles. Opposed to it was ‘Fundamentalism’ which retained belief in these things but was, sadly, often tied up with forms of conservatism that amounted to intransigence in the face of scientific progress. I must agree wholeheartedly with Gerry Lynch that it was the embracing of this particular kind of Modernism that begin the death-spiral of the old denominations. After all, without… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
1 month ago

I think the ascendancy of the anti-modernist fundamentalists predates the last quarter of the 20th Century and starts before WW2 and only grew in the aftermath of that conflict. Modernism came to be associated with socialism and communism (or rather with extreme misinterpretations of those political and economic movements) and was rejected by probably 50 percent of the US population (the statistics in the UK are likely somewhat different).

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

There is a traditional use of the terms Modernist/Fundamentalist that means the early 20th century (as noted), in the literature. You are of course free to adjust that as an individual with an opinion, but the discussion is operating in the context as described. Don’t take this the wrong way. Scholars speak of Modernist/Fundamentalist and mean c.1920.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Hence the problem with academics today–they want to use words as they were defined a century or more ago and therefore might as well be speaking in tongues.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Look Mr O’Neill. The use of the language ‘Modernist/Fundamentalist’ is a virtual cliche. The players are well-known and as such the language emerged. This has nothing to do with academia. It was a cultural reality widely known as a point of reference.

Have a good day.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Maybe this will help you. It comes from that non-academic site called wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist%E2%80%93modernist_controversy

Gerry Lynch
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

The United States is an exceptional society – so is Ireland – but in the rest of the West, the collapse in both practice and allegiance came at a time when liberalism was in the ascendant in the Church and social democracy in the secular sphere. And, even the United States was typical in that the collapse was earliest and hardest in the parts of the Church which embraced most devotedly the idea of a desacralised Christianity committed to good works and progressive political attitudes. TEC being an important example, although a body full of youthful vigour compared with, say,… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

The Trumpist support base is not particularly young, and reflects surely the last gasp of reactionary conservatism rather than a pro-fascist “youth quake”.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

Perceptive thoughts to throw into the mix. They come alongside observations in my career teaching in graduate and undergraduate education.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

PS–do you mean the UCC? That is, United Church of Christ?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

Fascinating points, Gerry. Thanks as always.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

Thank you. Certainly it is the case that in parts of mainland Europe the extreme Right is gaining significant traction amongst the young: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/01/younger-voters-far-right-europe. Even if this is not based on racism per se, it is perhaps upon the perception that mass immigration has created a classic Marxian reserve army of labour which *may* have held down wages for some groups and *may* have put a floor under crushing house prices. There are, of course, strong countervailing arguments. However, when evidently affluent progressive politicians and baby boomers keep telling certain sections of the electorate – the large and expanding precariat… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

Thank you. I think the problem with migration at the southern border in the US is the massive scale. At some point we are facing ‘numberism’ — a kind of shock or glazing over. The population of Cincinnati arriving each month. (Oh, yea, well, is that happening?) Cartel leaders taking photos to send back to family paying 300k per unit, and their fellow cohorts in crime. Huge profits, like unto small countries’ budgets.Cost to the US system, 100K per person. Times millions. Where do they go? Court dates set for 2035. The ‘far right’ (European style) isn’t thrashing about alone.… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Many thanks for these points, although I am no academic. Taking the UK, I think it has to be the case that the levels of immigration over the last generation are higher that at any point in the history of the British isles, and the demographic consequences have been tremendous, and will become more so as the large generation born between 1946 and 1965 passes from the scene. The British have become inured to this, and the state, corporate class and media have invested enormous political capital in educating (or re-educating) people to accept it. It is not now understood… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

My sense of what you write is that it is too coherent, that is, it works logically in view of birthrates, etc. But no one watching this on any side of the political spectrum has sought to given any explanation for what is unfolding in unprecedented ways. It is like the proverbial lunch-box on the pedal of the steaming locomotive. No one is driving the train. ‘It is just happening.’ There is no ‘immigration system’ and there is a massive southern border. The incentivizing is massive — so much money to be made by cartels one cannot get their head… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Anglican Priest
Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I have to say the claims being made in your post about the character of irregular migrants echo those of the anti-migrant lobby in the UK. I can’t speak to the situation in the US but most irregular migrants here have no means of regular arrival, the system has deliberately prevented it. There is no way to apply for asylum prior to entry; no way to get a visa to enter to claim asylum; and you’re not able to board a plane or ferry without a visa. You could smash illegal entries in a day if you had legal means… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

“I can’t speak to the situation in the US.”

Thank you.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Many thanks, as ever. I suspect that the ‘loss of control’ to which you refer might be attributable to a reaction (or over-reaction) to the policies of the previous Administration. However, it might also have something to do with the working of the Mexican economy in recent decades. Over the last 50 years Mexico has suffered two major blows. The first fell in 1982: in the preceding decade Mexico had absorbed a considerable portion of the petrodollar capital which flowed through Wall Street in the wake of the 1973 and 1979 oil shocks. Then, in 1980 Volcker raised the interest… Read more »

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I’ve found these exchanges fascinating and troubling. I agree that collective policy failure to handle migration in ways which are seen as fair by those in importing countries, who see themselves as disadvantaged, is a risk to the polity. But can I ask about the factual basis for the reference by AP to iPhones? Is public money really being deployed like this in theUS? Value for money would seem to be absent, unless the kit is outdated stock offloaded by Apple for nothing. I know personally that Ukrainian refugees in Scotland were offered a SIM card, definitely not an iPhone.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Gerry Lynch
1 month ago

It’s an interesting point Gerry, but correlation does not imply causality.

The huge drop of in church attendance may have coincided with the growth of a more liberal style of faith. But was the drop off caused by the new style of faith, or could it be that a more liberal social and cultural attitude in the wider society simply meant that those people with little or no faith were suddenly able to choose not to attend church, unlike previous centuries.

Of course the answer may be both/and, not either/ or.

Best wishes.

Jo B
Jo B
1 month ago

It’s hard to derive much more substance from Ian Paul’s article than “everything I don’t like is woke modernist”, which has been the refrain of reactionaries for a couple of centuries now. His critique of managerialism founders because he tries to exempt managerialism from his own tribe as passion “about the need for spiritual renewal”. His assessment of London misses a number of key factors, not least of which is population density and excellent transport links, which allows a handful of well-resourced churches to pander to particular demographics across a vast population and give the appearance that they’re doing something… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
1 month ago
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

The obsession with managerialism and a slick presentation of evangelicalism has led to a steady slide into irrelevance for the CofE. It’s as if the BBC had noticed a decline in audience figures, and decided to alter the management structures, instead of addressing programme content. Many decades of religious and theological development has been totally ignored, resulting in a programme content laughably trite and meaningless. The English people have decided that although Jesus “wants them as a sunbeam” , the invitation is childish and laughable. Young people – and their gay friends – need to hear about an unconditional Love… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Speaking of ‘obsession’ — everything in your world appears to be about LGBT partnering or “settle down with a nice woman” alternatives. If this is the world of robust Christianity, then I can agree — why would anyone be interested? One can get that kind of ware anywhere.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

On the contrary. It is conservative evangelicals like yourself whose traditional beliefs are seen as alienating to the majority of people.
Perhaps only radical inclusion, with equality for all under God, will help restore a semblance of credibility for the Church. Pope Francis is attempting small steps in his own denomination to spread God’s inclusive Love, to the notable fury of conservative RCs who think the church belongs exclusively to them.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

You have trouble following an argument! I have no interest in making Christianity about finding a date of the opposite sex, or of encouraging alternative views. That is the world of your concern. It isn’t Christianity in any recognizable form, which is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and savior of the world in which we live. (I doubt in any way that Pope Francis is an ally in this cause, however one might choose to read the latest (for charity’s sake, call it) complicated ‘bless the sinner and do it in an ad hoc way’ statement).

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I greatly appreciate your parenthetical at the end. I think Pope Francis tried to please everybody and has ended up ticking off everybody. The whole idea of “it’s okay to bless same-sex couples, but for God’s sake don’t call it a marriage and don’t do it in public and don’t make it out any different than blessing a farmer’s tractor or someone’s favorite dog” was bound to please no one. But I agree with FrDavid H that conservative Christians have an obsession with bashing GLBT people, denouncing liberals in the harshest terms, condemning women to Hell if they think about… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

You are trying to be reasonable and neutral by feigning a detached position over contemporary social issues which provoke Church decline. .Pope Francis has upset many American “conservatives” who see through his “complicated” statement on same-sex blessings. He once quipped it was an “honor” to be attacked by Americans..https://apnews.com/article/pope-francis-vatican-conservatives-abortion-us-bbfc346c117bd9ae68a1963478bea6b3

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

“I have no interest in making Christianity about finding a date of the opposite sex, or of encouraging alternative views.”

And yet the people with whom you align yourself seem to have no other topic of discussion when it comes to religion.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

The people I align myself with? My friends and colleagues in France? In Scotland? In the CofE? In the ecumenical context which has been my academic home (Yale, St Andrews, Toronto)? I have no idea who you are. I doubt you have a much clearer a sense of who I am. The wiki entry people prepared for my name tells you ‘who I align myself with’ in the eyes of the general public.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

“…Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and savior of the world…”. A mini-creed which acts as clue to one’s hypothetical world–one emanating from a mythological world view. While I’m at it pulling a few conversational loose ends together, from today’s Gospel (RCL) ” Very truly, I tell you you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”. Myth alluding to myth. Quite lovely actually,

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Um – Anglican Priest has published at least one OT commentary in a well-known mainstream series which is not especially famous for publishing conservative evangelicals. He has also mentioned many times that he participates in Catholic worship in France. I think you may be off the mark in describing him as a conservative evangelical.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

This is the problem with allowing anonymity on this site. Anglican Priest has often been critical of my own posts. Nevertheless I am aware of his depth of knowledge and I reflect carefully on (if not always agreeing with) what he says. But that would be a lot easier if I knew who he was and could understand the context he comments from.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

I apologize. My name became such a lightning rod that it was impossible to speak objectively without being attacked for this or that. I am obviously an outsider here vis-a-vis the reflexive voices which dominate.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thanks for the reply. It’s not so much knowing the name, but understanding the context that person is speaking, from to help me evaluate the comments and feedback. But I think I am there now.

I think you and I understand the world and our faith very differently. But that’s fine. It keeps me on my toes.

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Thank you. Sorry for any unintended confusion. I wear/have worn a number of hats and at times it just seems easier to be a generic ‘Anglican Priest.’ I listed publishers chiefly to show their range. The majority are hardly what here at TA is called ‘con evo.’ WJKP, Augsburg Fortress, Bloomsbury are good examples. Walter de Gruyter and Mohr Siebeck are top-end German publishing houses that resolutely stay away from church politics (they don’t need big print runs to service this niche). Refereed journal articles have traditionally sought to avoid this as well. I have also served churches in the… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Thank you. I fear for FrDavid the term “conservative evangelical” just means, people I don’t like and who don’t think the Gospel is about ‘getting married to the right woman or the right LGBT person.’ I was trained in higher criticism in Europe and then at Yale, was raised in a variety of Episcopal contexts, have taught students from Reformed, Methodist, Catholic, generic evangelical, Lutheran, Mennonite, Orthodox, and the occasional Episcopalian or Anglican (they aren’t as keen on serious biblical studies). As you note, I have published with Bloomsbury, WJK, Fortress, Baylor University, de Gruyter, Mohr Siebeck, Brazos. I am… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thank you, that helps, and confirmed my suspicion.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Ok. Your distinguished CV still doesn’t disguise your “conservativism”.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Why would that be necessary? The simple point is that I am never been called a ‘con evo’ in my life. I taught at Centre Sevres and the Catholic University of Paris, as well as institutions widely known to be ‘liberal’ in stance. Thank God those days once were.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

If you are willing to give us so much of your CV, why not also give us your name?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

He has long contributed on this site giving his name. But now chooses not to do so.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

I thought people knew I was Christopher Seitz. I like a simple moniker. You can google me. Sunday blessings.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

I am another who finds non-naming confusing here – without the addition of a wind chill factor.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thank you—yes, wind chill of -44ºC and ice fog in Edmonton this morning! We’re about to fire up the car and go to our local Mennonite church for morning service (at which the preacher will be an Anglican layman!).

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Just don’t confuse conservative scholarly opinion, Evangelical or Catholic, with scholarly consensus.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Scholarly consensus — did I miss the memo on this? Or, is this yet another one of your modernity fantasies (emoticon smily face). The scholarly consensus on Q? The scholarly consensus on the formation of the pentateuch? The scholarly consensus on critical editions of the Vulgate? The scholarly consensus on the Micmac saga? The best beer in Yarmouth?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Anglican Priest
1 month ago

Thanks AP. I think we may actually be in agreement on this. I can also agree with Tim’s earlier response to my comment. It was not my intent to advert to or otherwise imply a ‘scholarly consensus’ on anything. Quite the opposite. The gist of my comment is that there is no consensus. Consequently, one ought not to confuse any expert scholarly opinion with such–even when well argued and presented with confidence or as a virtual fait accompli. Thanks to you and Tim both for the opportunity to clarify what appears to be ambiguity in my quick retort. Not much… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Got it.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Yes, I totally agree with this, Rod.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

I don’t confuse liberal scholarly opinion with scholarly consensus either, Rod. In fact, I doubt whether there is such a thing as scholarly consensus. Whenever people make confident pronouncements on TA, liberal or conservative, seemingly in full assurance that the whole world knows they’re right, I find myself thinking “Well, I know some people think that way, but…”

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Not perhaps evangelical but certainly conservative…and decidedly opposed to “radical inclusion”

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Volontiers!

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I am not opposed to radical inclusion, though I am opposed to ‘radical inclusion.’ The former I take to mean the heart of what the church celebrates in Epiphany. The latter is a recent cultural cliche, which is neither ‘radical’ nor ‘inclusive’ but mainstream and targeted, a neologism beloved of its proponents and the tribes they represent.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

I read Giles Fraser’s article myself this morning, before attending church, and immediately drew it to the attention of my vicar, and several friends. His comments fit in with a previous thread, regarding the overall decline in attendance, which we’ve been discussing among ourselves. I cannot comment on the Post Office debacle, and this isn’t really the place anyway. What I can speak on is the problem of ‘minster’ or centralisation which Giles talks about. Going back to my Fountain Trust days, one of their slogans was ‘to be real, it must be local’, meaning that for the spirit’s powers… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago

Yesterday’s Times ran a full-page article on Paula Vennells which included a couple of interesting quotes: 1) ‘A fellow non-executive director who has worked alongside Vennells told The Times she was professional, diligent and always up to speed with the boards’ tasks. “I thought she was honest, I still think she is a decent human being.” ‘However, it was possible that Vennells took answers about Horizon at face value and could have lacked “courage” to ask difficult questions about the developing scandal. [He] pointed to a broader issue of the lure of the British establishment – because there was a… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Thank you for wording this carefully, Janet. Looking at the media there may be a risk that Paula Vennells becomes the major scapegoat here, and becomes the focus of of the blame and venom, when it is clear that knowledge of the faults at Fujitsu was widespread both within the commercial management and within Whitehall and Downing Street. According to the Guardian the reluctance to accept that the Fujitsu project was terminally damaged spread as far as Tony Blair as Prime Minister. So I think it is good you are asking questions about systemic not personal failures. Following that theme,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

I’m sure you’re right that it’s more difficult for women to get away with challenging. And also easier to blame a woman when she is perceived to have got it wrong. Vennells does seem to have been at fault, and certainly should have given up her CBE long before she did, but there were problems with Horizon long before she was on the scene. And as you say, pretty much the whole Establishment – except, in this case, the Royal Family – seems to have been involved in perpetuating the injustice. She seems to be carrying the can for all… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Vennells is not a victim.

The idea that she is a scapegoat constitutes an affront to the hundreds of people who have seen their lives destroyed by her regime.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

The regime wasn’t hers alone. She inherited it. And it was maintained by a number of other powerful people, including the various Post Office ministers, ciivl servants, and the Prime Minister. She deserves blame, but she doesn’t deserve all the blame. This is why I’m queasy about docudramas. In dramatising a true story, the writers usually omit the nuances and mitigating factors. The result is half-truth and, since drama demands a clear villain, scapegoating and mobbing attacks on the perceived ‘bad guy’. I’ve been following this very complex story in Private Eye and The Times for 10 years, and Paula… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Trust me, you are in a minority if you think the moral outrage we are witnessing is the scapegoating of Vennells. People were told lies by the post office again and again. Vennells was the chief executive of the organisation. She was either incompetent or complicit in the lies that destroyed people. There are no other options She may well have been promoted way beyond her abilities. I would agree that is a possibility and would be the responsibility of those who appointed her. There is evidence she was close to being appointed as the Bishop of London which would… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, maybe I too am a member of the minority you are so clear about, but like Janet I think the size of the target on Paula Vennell’s back is increased because she is both female and an Anglican priest. What is truly shocking is the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes ‘ scenario Private Eye commented on in virtually every edition for 10 years but which gained no attention, and during which time the Japanese owned company has gained more and more contracts and taken successful legal action against another UK Government department when it did not want to use them. Maybe… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Being in a minority doesn’t worry me, but I suspect a lot of people think that framing Vennells as Public Enemy No 1 (to use the Times’ phrase) is going too far. It’s just that it’s difficult to say so when the furious public are looking for a scapegoat. I have not said Vennells is not culpable: she clearly is. But she is not solely culpable. She was not CEO during the whole of the many years Horizon was at issue; she did not bring it in, and even while she was CEO she shared responsibility with others. The Post… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter, it’s hardly worth saying that Janet is in a minority. So what? Prophets, unlike populists, usually are. A black and white world shorn of nuance and untroubled by complexity will always seek out scapegoats. We don’t have to join them.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Peter,

Has it occurred to you that in your own single minded focus on Paula Vennells, to the exclusion of all the other guilty parties, you are providing evidence for Janet’s and my suggestion, rather than supporting your own case?

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Can commenters who mention Paula Vennells at least spell her name right? Double L. I’ve corrected several recent comments but it’s getting tedious.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

You clearly did not read what I actually said. I specifically noted that the people who appointed Vennells are culpable.

I am not advancing a “case”. Hundreds of people had their lives destroyed. Innocent people were put in prison.

Vennells is not a scapegoat. She just isn’t.

The claim her gender is part of the story is tendentious in the extreme. Everything cannot always be reduced to sexism.

Sometimes it is about other issues

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

So why aren’t you inveighing against the software designers at Fujitsu, or Tony Blair who signed the Fujitsu contract, before Vennells ever became CEO, despite having been warned that the software was flawed? Aren’t they also responsible for hundreds of people having had their lives destroyed?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Vennells had the responsibility and accountability for the private prosecutions launched by the Post Office. Those prosecutions destroyed the lives of innocent people.

That is the reason she now stands condemned.

Neither Tony Blair nor Fujitsu were responsible for those prosecutions.

You are conflating categories that are entirely distinct

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

Many of the private prosecutions (and other actions) took place several years before PV joined the Post Office. It is simply untrue to blame her for all of them.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

“Some of the prosecutions were initiated before Vennells was involved” would be a more accurate characterisation.

The evidence that a remedy for injustice was needed had reached the standard of being “beyond reasonable doubt” during her tenure.That evidence was rejected.

For that catastrophic failure – which affected all of those subject to injustice – she was certainly responsible.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Chris Carter
Chris Carter
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

No one is blaming her for all of them.
But her nerve is quite extraordinary.
Never mind Welby – did she herself believe that she was a credible candidate for Bishop of London?
Let’s see how she performs under questioning, but she seems to have sailed into the job and sailed out again without any sense of shame whatsoever.
Is she a greater target, being ordained?
Yes. And rightly so.
Do we not, should we not, expect more?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Chris Carter
1 month ago

So Paula Vennells being on the shortlist for Bishop of London is Paula Vennells fault, and not in any way the responsibility of Justin Welby who suggested she apply, or the responsibility of the selection committee who shortlisted her.

Going back to Janet Fife’s original post, there are serious systemic failings here, both in the Church and government. But if all we do is slag off Paula Vennells we will never analyse and fix the systemic failures.

Chris Carter
Chris Carter
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

It wasn’t me – it was the system!
Up to a point.
And one cannot be forced onto a shortlist against one’s will.
She must have believed she was up to the job. (Actually that’s so delusional I wonder whether it will form part of her defence…)
I’m afraid with great (CEO) power comes great responsibility.
Legitimate criticism is not the same as “slagging off”.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Chris Carter
1 month ago

No one is saying that Vennells is innocent, or that she showed good judgement in agreeing to be considered for the bishopric, or in hanging on to her CBE for so long. But in focussing blame almost entirely on her, neglecting other players and cultural and systemic factors, we are failing to identify what makes it likely for such a travesty to occur again. That worries me. As for the bishopric, would you or I be able to resist an Archbishop persuading us that our particular combination of talents and experience is exactly what is needed for this particular diocese… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

And have you never, ever made a mistake, acted incompetently or been less than you wished, Peter? Judge not, lest you be judged, the Lord said. And let him who is without sin cast the first brick.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Please stick to the issues and do not personalise it in the way that you are doing.

The idea we must not stand in judgement on Vennells is ludicrous.

Last edited 1 month ago by Peter
Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

The scandal, so far as concerns the prosecutions, occurred between 1999 and 2015. Vennells held senior positions in the Post Office from 2007 until her resignation in 2019. It is disingenuous to suggest that because she inherited it she is somehow less complicit and/or responsible. It clearly didn’t help that having had an unremarkable career before the Post Office she hardly arrived with any capacity to influence a change of culture and approach. She was clearly content to go along with it all and enjoy a wholly indefensible bonus culture. It was wicked in the extreme.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anthony Archer
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 month ago

I have not said she is less complicit or responsible. I have said that other people are also guilty. But, for some reason, they are not receiving the same level of opprobrium.

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

I’ve been following these comments with interest. I would normally be sensitive to the gender bias risk, senior woman transgresses, a handy target. But she was well placed to pick up on doubts. I hope she did but commentary elsewhere has suggested that she placed great emphasis on protecting the reputation of the PO. And as a priest I think she could be expected to have an ear for the the griefs of the persecuted. So both by seniority and vocation I think she has a lot to answer for. But she is not alone and I am dismayed by… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

They will in due course. Criminal prosecutions against both the Post Office and its directors, for fraud, perverting the course of justice, malicious prosecution, and obtaining executive compensation by deception (an offence I have invented – basically theft – but you get the point) will all come into play.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 month ago

Possibly TA correspondents should bear in mind that there is an official public inquiry being led by Sir Wyn Williams. Let’s leave the subject of possible prosecutions to the competent legal authorities.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Of course, but TA is never short of speculation and surmise. Now that there is proper publicity for the scandal (the public inquiry was getting precious little) it’s not rocket science to see what the issues are.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 month ago

No rocket science, but still best left to the professionals. One issue, which I’m certain the public inquiry will address, is the sheer improbability of hundreds of subpostmasters all fiddling the books, even over an extended period. That improbability alone should have sounded alarm bells to investigate an alternative reason for the shortfalls.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Well, as I point out below, the official inquiry led by Sir Wyn Williams (a retired High Court judge) should get to the bottom of things.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

I’d support your queasyness, Janet. One of my personal dislikes is the ‘trial by media’ which we sometimes see regarding historic controversial criminal cases – often unsolved – in which journalists and others judge someone ‘guilty’ – but with no authority, or indeed responsibility for the consequences. (Shades of the Fatty Arbuckle case, of many years ago)

And, quite honestly, besides Royalty, the only well known Establishment figure who hasn’t been dragged into this, or indeed retains any credibility at all, is Larry, the Downing Street cat!

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

Anglican Priest is a scholar with an international reputation.

He is more than able look after himself, but that does not mean it is right to stand and watch whilst he is obviously being treated badly by commentators on this site

Stick to the issues, people

Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Peter
1 month ago

I agree. Please no further comments unless related to the articles linked in the OP.

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

Ummm….. sticking to the issues would be very helpful as a couple of threads since Christmas have been very unpleasant. But from the viewpoint of a little nonentity sometimes in the pews, as far as I can see the venom and patronising contests are far from one sided and it does not make me want to rush off to church more often

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

I have read a lot of the Save the Parish stuff, and I find myself agreeing and disagreeing in equal measure with Giles Fraser’s assessment. Three things spring to mind: Context, Diagnosis and Treatment spring to mind. Firstly, I dont think we have really understood and got our heads around the context in which the church is ministering right now. If people are still hungry for purpose, meaning and identify in their lives – where is the church in all its many forms? So yes clergy are getting further distanced from the context and people if they end up stuck… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
1 month ago

This line of his Kelvin Holdsworth’s jumped out at me: “The upbeat mood is partly because I think that quite a lot of clergy really do believe that the SEC has what many religious people in Scotland need right now. Liturgical worship and ethical values that align with the population are a great starting point.” The line prompted me to shift from the question of why are fewer and fewer people coming to church and toward, why do I continue to attend? Reflecting upon that, I think Holdsworth is on to something. The nature of Anglican liturgical worship together with… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Rod, you describe a certain style of Christianity I recognise. A broadly Anglican liturgy open to the mystical and numinous; intellectually curious; and with an inclusive, generous, community based ethos. A way of being spiritual or being Christian for the curious and uncommitted, as well as for those with a deeper Christian faith. I can only speak for where I live in southern England, but I would argue that that style of faith is alive and well. But, sadly, only in sufficient numbers to support a flourishing church in the bigger cities. Those of us who like that sort of… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Yes finding community can be a problem; but I can resonate with your post, especially the final para. I get sustenance liaising with others inside and outside the organized religion paradigm who are committed to human values. I mentioned my friend the MD in the comment above as one example. There are others I could reference who were nurtured by the Church in their youth, some not a part of it anymore, others who are still. In both cases their lives are still governed by the overall values they picked up in large measure from early Christian formation. So what… Read more »

James H
James H
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Simon, what you describe sums up so eloquently how I feel about things as a retired cleric, a bit burned out after 40 years and trying hard not to be cynical about what the institution I served has become. l don’t know the answer to the question you pose, but I love the question and I hope that on sites like this we keep on posing it until we work out an answer.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  James H
1 month ago

Dear Rod and James, Thanks for your comments. I have been thinking about this over the past few days so I am now encouraged enough to attempt a fuller response. Many people are asking how we build up the church congregations and return to historical levels of church support. My question is, when we look back at past those past centuries with, apparently, massively high church attendance, how many of those people actively chose to be there through a sincere Christian faith, and how many in those churches had no faith whatsoever, but were forced to attend? Using the diplomatic… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  James H
1 month ago

So where does that leave us? (Continued from Previous) As far as hard power goes. Talking specifically about the Church of England, we have inherited all the expectations, obligations and infrastructures of that original State enforced faith, with a presence in every parish in the land, but with absolutely no funding nowadays from the state to support it, just the voluntary contributions from an increasingly aged population. So how do we adjust to the new voluntary paradigm, and what level of institutional structure is appropriate and affordable? I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think we should… Read more »

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

Having read of the disposal of churches in Scotland I am prompted to think that if the congregation has shrunk in size why don’t they meet in home of a church member. The early church did and many a new church on a housing estate begins in a similar way. Also the sale of redundant churches can be the start of a new vibrant ministry. I know first hand of such a ministry in Burghead. A closed, near derelict building now houses a thriving, growing multigenerational church. It is not all bad news.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Expecting the Kirk to turn on a penny and immediately, and successfully, change its way of “being church” is not particularly helpful, especially as what many rural churches lack is leadership and confidence. To the congregations struggling with the fallout this sort of comment just seems tone-deaf.

I also don’t believe many congregations have one or more members capable of accommodating even a small (10-15) congregation for public worship, and certainly not who would be willing to do so week in, week out.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

My comment is certainly NOT “tone deaf” as you put it. I am not expecting the kirk to suddenly do anything. My comment about house meetings was a suggestion. There may be opportunities for shared premises for Sunday meetings if the congregation is too large for a house. I have seen this work well too. Why be so negative and judgmental about comments/suggestions?

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Bob
1 month ago

Maybe because I’m sick of people looking in from outside with minimal clue about situation and behaving as if there are simple or easy ways forward.

Baptist Trainfan
Baptist Trainfan
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

While I think there is much of value in “house churches”, they also have their drawbacks. Clearly they can only grow up to a certain size (we don’t usually have Roman villas with a large atrium!) although can encourage amoeba-like splitting and hence growth. Some people find it hard to handle the “intensity” or lack of anonymity that is inevitable when meeting in a smaller group; they can’t just “fade into the background”. (On the other hand, early Methodism was based on the small-group Class Meeting). More fundamentally, people feel bereaved and lost of their tradition is lost: “normative” styles… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Baptist Trainfan
1 month ago

That last point was, in part because they’d outgrown living rooms. Having been involved with them regarding hired premises, they have the advantage of flexibility, but the disadvantage of not having your own ‘place’ where notices, equipment etc can be left from week to week. And, in one example I knew, of being driven out by an Anglo Catholic parish priest, chairman of the community hall committee, who would not tolerate evangelical rivals.

ScottishPresbyterian
ScottishPresbyterian
1 month ago

While the massive reduction of parish churches in Scotland is bad enough, the other side of the equation is the creation of 12 ‘super presbyteries’ to replace the 49 previous ones. Indeed the imaginatively named Presbytery of the Island of Iona covers the whole of the Highlands and Islands and half of the land area of Scotland! As well as an exercise in centralisation, this also has the benefit (as some would see it) of corralling the most theologically and socially conservative parts of the Church into a single presbytery.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  ScottishPresbyterian
1 month ago

I’d be interested to see your working on the Presbytery of Iona having the most conservative parts of the church. In places where the Free Church and Free Presbyterian Church have strongholds it seems to me that the Kirk would represent the liberal end of the spectrum. Certainly the churches that have made a big song a dance about allowing divergence on equal marriage and gay ministers have been predominantly in the big cities. The Kirk Session in my parish church agreed unanimously to consider applicants with a civil partner or spouse of the same sex, and they’re far from… Read more »

ScottishPresbyterian
ScottishPresbyterian
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Jo, I am certainly NOT suggesting that those in rural areas are all fundamentalist, and certainly not bigots. However, the Highlands is quite distinctive from other rural areas of Scotland’s e.g. for some churches there ministers who do not speak Gaelic need not apply. It is not that many years ago, for example, that a number of elders in the presbytery of Skye refused to attend a joint service conducted by the visiting Moderator of the General Assembly because she was a woman. I remember saying a while ago to a Kirk insider that it appeared nonsensical to have a… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  ScottishPresbyterian
30 days ago

There are hardly any Gaelic-speaking congregations in the Highlands (not sure there are any, to be honest). Even where I live in the Hebrides worship is in English and while there are Gaelic speakers it has long since been only preferred for ministers, not required. It’s true that you will find bastions of progressive ideas only in larger cities, but that’s also the home of bastions of regressive ideas. Rural parish churches may be small-c conservative in that they don’t change easily (heck, have you ever seen a church that does?), but that’s a long way from the ideological conservatism… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

That’s also true south of the border, Jo. As a student I lived in Birmingham, but later returned home to rural central Staffordshire, where I served in a parish church and a market town nonconformist church, both very traditional in outlook. Seeking to understand all the social changes of the ’80’s (womens’ equality and ordination, gay rights etc) I found I had to keep going back to Birmingham to keep in touch with friends who were involved with it. There is an enormous geographical gap in culture and attitudes between ‘progressive’ and conservative thinking which gets wider the further you… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

There is a significant Black community of long standing in Nova Scotia, some descendants of United Empire Loyalists. Their presence here, including their Christian presence, is rich and powerful although not without the challenge. They still face systemic racism. (See the link below re: Africville.) A sister of Viola Desmond was a member of a parish I served here. (see 2nd link). Africville https://humanrights.ca/story/story-africville Viola Desmond https://parks.canada.ca/culture/designation/personnage-person/viola-desmond When I was an undergrad at St. F.X, I recall getting into an argument with some Mormon missionaries in the Student Union building (very earnest young men in pairs with white shirts and… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
1 month ago

It has taken me a little while to ‘get my thoughts together on this’. Attendance, and size of ‘Worshipping Communities’ are in decline, and have been for some years. Some ‘policies’ and practices in some places have had some ‘success’, tho it is uncertain about their replicability or sustainablity. In parallel, the numbers of clergy are in decline, and those of bishops have increased markedly. In many organisations such ‘data’ would give rise to the expenditure of much ‘resource’ on management and IT consultancy, The CofE’s General Synod was set up in 1970. The Archbishops’ Commission was established in 1999.… Read more »

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