Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 27 January 2024

Martin Sewell Surviving Church From Culture Change to Winning Ways

Steven Shakespeare Redefining marriage? Opposition to same sex marriage and the limits of the claim to ‘biblical’ orthodoxy

Anon ViaMedia.News Mini-MBA Course for the Talent Pipeline in the Church of England: Revised Strategy Module

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Peter
Peter
24 days ago

Opposition to same sex marriage does not, by its own logic, support male dominance over women.

Shakespeare knits together a set of obviously tendentious assertions to reach this clearly false conclusion.

It is propaganda, not analysis.

Last edited 24 days ago by Peter
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Peter
24 days ago

Prof Shakespeare’s historical analysis shows how marriage develops over the centuries adapting to more enlightened practices. Male dominance over women is a biblical position, and therefore acceptable to some evangelicals today. To suggest Fr. Stephen is spreading propaganda is utterly ridiculous. Presumably, as a biblical fundamentalist, you are vociferous about Jesus’ ban on remarriage after divorce. Or is it just gay people who are targets of your judgemental propaganda?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Peter
24 days ago

Far be it from me to paraphrase Prof. Shakespeare, but isn’t he arguing that a literal interpretation of Scripture to support a conservative evangelical position against same sex marriage; if it is to be consistent also opens up the possibility of child marriage, polygamy for men and the possibility of marriage to an enslaved woman? I fail to see what is tendentious about that.

As is so often the case the conservatives pick and choose the verses that they believe support them as they trot out their unpleasant twaddle.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
24 days ago

We live in a time where the distinction between satire and reality is paper thin. Well done “anon” a humorous read for sure but I did keep thinking that this was all too plausible as the actual blurb for such a course offered to our bishops.

Shamus
Shamus
24 days ago

Loved the mini MBA piece. “Use the right jargon, and you will go far”. Everyone seems to be using the word “legacy” at the moment. That’s probably a good one to drop in. Heartily sick of strap lines and all the other meaningless mid Atlantic twaddle.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Shamus
24 days ago

When we return Shamus to primitive Gospel simplicity, it seems Jesus had only one strap line ” Repent and Believe the Gospel” and at the end of the Gospel in commissioning his disciples prior to his Ascension, it becomes even more simple and basic “He who believes will be saved, he who does not believe will be condemned ” When we lose a sense of Gospel Urgency in the Church we open ourselves up to so much nonsense! Jonathan

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
23 days ago

‘Repent and believe’ was John the Baptist’s strapline. Jesus was notable for varying his approach according to his audience, rather than using one slogan or method with all. But he did say he had come to fulfil this scripture: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Lk 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2a) Imagine if that was the… Read more »

Nigel Ashworth
Reply to  Shamus
23 days ago

Here in Manchester we have “Church for a Different World”. No, me neither.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Nigel Ashworth
23 days ago

Ah yes, a friend from that Diocese asked me if I knew what that one meant, when it first appeared. My response (based on a lot of experience of the corporate and public sector worlds) was ‘nothing beyond providing a wonderful example of the perils of groupthink’. I gather, from the snippets those there have shared with me, that groupthink dominates much of what emerges from on high in that Diocese…

peterpi -- Peter Gross
peterpi -- Peter Gross
Reply to  Nigel Ashworth
23 days ago

Are there extraterrestrials lurking about in Manchester?

It sounds like yet another effort to be relevant and attract “the disaffected young”, or however the PR-types are referring to them these days.
I am curious what comes after Gen Z. Gen AA? But that sounds like a group for alcoholics.

Last edited 23 days ago by peterpi -- Peter Gross
T Pott
T Pott
24 days ago

Should be in the third toilet roll from the left.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  T Pott
23 days ago

This was meant for my sister. Sorry

Realist
Realist
Reply to  T Pott
23 days ago

But yet strangely apposite when discussing Diocesan strap-lines!!

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  T Pott
23 days ago

I thought maybe that was where you kept your ‘mini-MBA’, small enough to be stored inside a toilet roll. Lol!

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  T Pott
23 days ago

So not your verdict on Church for a Different World ??
Is it to avoid trying to sort the problems out in the one we’re in do you think? ‘Would work better on the moon’ as it’s strap line…

Alison Milbank
Alison Milbank
23 days ago

A brilliant mini-MBA satire which accords with many of the critiques I have read in the past on this excellent site. Yet when are the people of God going to move beyond private fun to action? In my town as elsewhere, I’m sure, ordinary people now associate the C of E with the Post Office’s managerial sins so this is the ideal point for real opposition with refusal to cooperate in the deaneries and for the members of the General Synod at their meeting in February to prove they are more than flunkies.

Andrew Lightbown
Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  Alison Milbank
23 days ago

As someone with a full fat MBA and who has taught MBA courses do I now have a mini DBA?

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Andrew Lightbown
23 days ago

Goodness no, Andrew! The C of E has no interest in real learning undertaken at institutions where people actually know what they’re talking about, and where high quality research and competent handling of data underpin conclusions. That’s to be ignored, or buried when it says things other than the desired mantras of the day… Far better to latch on to out of date, discredited, management and leadership models, peddled by overpaid ‘Diocesan this and that-ers’ and badly chosen consultants, together with half-baked (and misinterpreted) growth research, laud them as guarantees of success, and keep pouring millions of pounds down the… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
Reply to  Realist
23 days ago

“The C of E has no interest in real learning undertaken at institutions where people actually know what they’re talking about, and where high quality research and competent handling of data underpin conclusions.” When I did the mini-MBA for cathedral deans it was taught by and at something called Cambridge University (Judge Business School). As Dean of Newport, I had wondered whether this course might have something to offer to one with no management experience. My English colleagues had widely varying opinions of it. The Church in Wales decided that the money could not be found at short notice. However,… Read more »

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Lister Tonge
23 days ago

Nice little earner for the Judge… I think their tuition fees for this year to do the MBA are £65k Depends on whether you call the year 24 weeks as it’s Cambridge -which is around £3k a week, or longer, in which case of course it’s cheaper …. But £5k for 5 nights ? Though I suppose they did have to put you up?
What was your view of the quality?

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
22 days ago

Just to be clear: no slapping down intended – more a wry comment. I suspect I agree with most of what Realist and many other commentators think about the general, mistaken attempts to preserve the institution at all costs. As to the course: much of it was irrelevant to me, but was hugely appreciated by some of the big boys and girls with much more complicated institutions to administer. For example, the session on risk-managing for acts of terrorism was a bit wide of the mark for me. Lovely St Woolos’ cathedral struck me as not likely to be hi… Read more »

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Lister Tonge
22 days ago

As a graduate of said institution of learning, though not of the Business School there, I should take this subtle(!) slapping down with good grace, I suppose! But I have to say that with the greatest respect to Cathedral Deans, if the Bishops have been taught at the same place, the evidence of the impact of their studies on the practice of many of them rather implies to me that either standards have slipped a lot since I attended this venerable institution, or (more likely) the pedagogical (or androgogical if you prefer) approaches taken to the learning experience need rethinking.… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
Reply to  Realist
22 days ago

My apologies for not having replied to you directly but I hope you have seen mine above.

Your last paragraph expresses much of my own thinking in terms of the flourishing of the church’s mission.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Lister Tonge
22 days ago

The key problem with the MBA type approach as currently offered to potential senior Church leaders is its lack of theology – ironic in that Judge is not far from Ridley Hall which had an excellent research unit / project on Christian leadership which was properly theological. When I challenged this at General Synod I was told that people in the senior leadership learning community (!) had all studied theology already so did not need any more. What they lacked was MBA type stuff. Well, I am pretty well qualified theologically and as I have ascended the greasy pole of… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Charles Read
22 days ago

I dont understand why we appear to demonise this MBA stuff so much. Good management/stewardship is needed. It has been brought in because of historical incompetence and lack of accountability. The problem it seems to me is that it has been divorced from theology rather than being yoked to it. The best of both can be used well to advance the kingdom surely?
It is another challenging partnership or marriage which the church seems incapable currently of reconciling. Maybe there could be a “covenanted friendship” between the two?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
21 days ago

Fair point but it would be cheaper to hire a trainer and do it in house. It needn’t even be a permanent recruit, there are freelance trainers out there.

David G
David G
Reply to  Kate Keates
21 days ago

The debate on strategy and organisation will rest on prior assumptions. As bishops are mothers/fathers in God, and the church a household of faith, the shape and identity of a church is more like that of a very extended intergenerational family. The incomprehension of congregations, deaneries etc at the HQ-imposed strap-line is of the same order as it would be if you applied one to your own family, or sat down at a family gathering, and suggested there might be a family strategy. Most would treat the suggestion with politeness, but otherwise ignore it with benign indifference. Dioceses are no… Read more »

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  David G
20 days ago

I agree that Charles Handy – whilst somewhat dated in some of its language – still has a huge amount to say. Can I also commend a more recent addition to the canon, which is the writings of Patrick Lencioni. “The Advantage” talks about organisational health in a very creative way. Whilst his “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” are now being played out in the church for all to see. They are: 1. Absence of Trust; 2. Fear of Conflict; 3. Lack of Commitment; 4. Avoidance of Accountability; 5 Inattention to Results. I rest my case!

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
20 days ago

It is demonised because there is absolutely no evidence linking the undertaking of such MBA courses and good management and stewardship. I work with lots of senior leaders with MBAs – yet to see any evidence of its value.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
22 days ago

Apropos of the MBA piece, the only good taglines are ones that also work in conversation. The Patriots won six rings with ‘do your job’ as their slogan, because it summaries the entire approach: “we’ll train properly, and do what we have trained to do, and then we’ll score lots of points and that’s the point of sports”.

If the CofE went for, say, ‘we are all God’s children’, that would mean something and be useful. It says something.

Of course, the risk then is that one has to say something 😉

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  FearandTremolo
22 days ago

Indeed, but that assumes one has something to say, and that it is worth saying…….
Was it Einstein who said it is better to keep quiet, and have people think you a fool, than speak and prove it?

Pilgrim
Pilgrim
Reply to  John Davies
22 days ago

Ah… I think that quote may have come from Abraham Lincoln.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pilgrim
22 days ago

Other candidates include Mark Twain and St Francis de Sales! But possibly strongest of all, a paraphrase of Proverbs 17:28.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Pilgrim
21 days ago

Well, whoever said it, it is certainly very true

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Pilgrim
21 days ago

I’ve done a bit of research. The quote wasn’t attributed to Lincoln until the 1930s; its first appearance was in 1907 in “Mrs. Goose, Her Book” by Maurice Switzer.

‘It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.’

Of course, Einstein may have quoted Switzer. That’s how many sayings get misattributed, if quoted by a person more famous than the originator.

c52
c52
Reply to  Janet Fife
21 days ago

Also attributed to Job 13:5 If only you would be altogether silent!     For you, that would be wisdom. and Boethius: „Intellegis me esse philosophum?“ „Intellexeram, si tacuisses.“ And I met it in “Yes, Prime Minister”: Sir Humphrey Appleby: Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses. James Hacker: What does that mean? Sir Humphrey Appleby: If you’d kept your mouth shut, we might have thought you were clever. James Hacker: I beg your pardon? Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, not you, Prime Minister. No, that’s the translation. Bernard Woolley: No one would ever have thought Sir Humphrey was saying that about you. Sir Humphrey Appleby:… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  c52
21 days ago

Yes, the thought was original to Proverbs, as far as we know. But the more humorous expression of it seems to have originated with Switzer.

Pilgrim
Pilgrim
Reply to  Janet Fife
21 days ago

Rowland and Janet, thank you, much appreciated, learning all the time in this household.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
Reply to  FearandTremolo
22 days ago

“the only good taglines are ones that also work in conversation”

I can assure you that Southwell & Nottingham’s tagline “Wider. Younger. Deeper” is frequently used in conversation locally, though I doubt it’s for the reasons imagined by its writers.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Laurence Cunnington
22 days ago

Jumping Jehoshaphat! They must be the laughing stock of the county. Did no one at diocesan synod point out that there might be sniggering in the streets?

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

There are quite a few potential ‘misinterpretations’ in hymnology and the ‘language of Zion’ which I’ve come across over the years – what sounds reverential and biblical to us can have all manner of meanings read into them by others. “Touched by the Holy Spirit” is one of them, “Here I raise my Ebenezer” another. Adrian Plass wil certainly have a good take on this subject!

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
21 days ago

I have an old praise LP on which ‘Jesus, draw us closer’ is followed by ‘Cause me to come’.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Janet Fife
21 days ago

Correction – the first song was ‘Bring my body closer’. Which is even worse.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
21 days ago

But our most common example of a misunderstood term is ‘Christ’s Passion’. ‘Passion’ means only one thing to most people, and it isn’t ‘suffering’.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Laurence Cunnington
22 days ago

All slogan writing committees need to include at least one 14 year old to weed out this sort of thing before it becomes public.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Laurence Cunnington
22 days ago

The really sad thing is this piece of dodgy nonsense isn’t even original – it’s ‘borrowed’ (I believe the trendy young folks say it’s ‘a hommage’ – complete with grammatical issue and mock French pronunciation) from American megachurch pastor Andy Stanley, whose books are obsessed with going ‘Deep and Wide’, resulting in the wonderfully Carry On-esque entitled recent sermon on his website: ‘Deeper and Wider Than Ever’…

Plagiarised smut…whatever next?!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FearandTremolo
22 days ago

‘Of course, the risk then is that one has to say something’

There’s no shortage of talk in an internet age.

Francis James
Francis James
22 days ago

5 days for CofE mini-MBA reminds me of the MN combined first aid & ship captain’s medical course, which in 5 days qualified me to act as GP, Surgeon, & Dentist, whilst onboard. With the aid of the associated Guide Book (last chapter contained service for burial at sea!) some Captains achieved remarkable things, but nobody kidded themselves about their skill level. 

Adrian
Adrian
Reply to  Francis James
22 days ago

Speaking in a personal capacity, good management is useful, and has a place within the armoury of senior staff and bishops, BUT I suspect that the language of armouries is inappropriate, as is the weaponisation of Human Resources, and the training given is poor, in terms of depth. There’s not enough reflection on the value of people, and treating individuals with dignity and respect, trusting your team (especially parochial clergy). But hey, there is no place for bad management. A competent personnel manager is useful, to ensure people stick to their own policies, but they are often excluded from processes,… Read more »

Frank Nichols
Frank Nichols
22 days ago

There are some good strap-lines, many of them quite old. I offered Mass 40 years ago for some Sisters. Over the altar: “Jesus only, Jesus always, Jesus in everything”
Enough said…

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Frank Nichols
21 days ago

‘Making Jesus known’ is the current strap line in this diocese. Peace to the sisters inscription but some of us would be happier with the overt proclamation of the ‘Kingdom and Glory of God’
Would that not be in line with the Jesus of the Gospels and be perhaps a bit more accessible?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
21 days ago

I’m not sure if the average person in the street knows what we mean by ‘the kingdom and glory of God’

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Janet Fife
20 days ago

Quite so. And I am not sure they get ‘Making Jesus known’ either’.
God is at least a good starting point.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Frank Nichols
21 days ago

40 years ago they were called ‘mission statements’. When I was a child, ‘slogans.’

Peter Reiss
Peter Reiss
22 days ago

I think there is a fairly consistent biblical view of marriage, clearer across the Old Testament but not challenged in the New as far as I can see. The core of marriage is that a man takes a woman – the phrase ‘take / took the woman’, or in some cases a tribe or family taking women, is pretty frequent and consistent. Sometimes the woman’s father or brothers are included in the conversation and give the woman. The C of E has followed this traditionally with the father of the bride giving his daughter to the groom! In almost all… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Peter Reiss
21 days ago

I am beginning to wonder about this Peter. How sure are we that these Hebrew Scriptural narratives, especially the very early ones, were against a patriarchal structure? It might need a more nuanced analysis. There have been a number of books recently proposing the idea that patriarchy was not necessarily the human norm, and that in many very early societies, and in more recent indigenous cultures not exposed to colonial transformation, then other ways of being often existed. Some may have been matriarchal, but a huge number existed with some form of balance between the genders, and with women have… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
21 days ago

I think your last paragraph is something worth repeating: the Bible describes an evolving definition of marriage – at times more patriarchal, at times less. The complaint today is that Christian marriage shouldn’t adapt to embrace secular views on marriage but I would argue that over the past two thousand years the church view of marriage has repeatedly changed to embrace secular attitudes and that just continues the mutability of marriage during the Biblical period.

Peter Reiss
Peter Reiss
Reply to  Simon Dawson
20 days ago

I think there have always been women who can, and have managed to, get their own way despite the men around them. In a patriarchal society women also are often “in charge” of the home, which could explain your examples of Sarah and the wives of Jacob, and also Bathsheba. Proverbs 31 is one of the most positive pictures of a woman, and Abigail is an interesting and adroit woman. My point was that the model of marriage in the OT Scriptures is consistently of a man taking a woman not of a mutual coming together of two people. Whether… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Peter Reiss
20 days ago

Thanks Peter. I don’t have a firm thesis myself on this, that’s why I used the phrase “I am beginning to wonder”. But there is certainly some excellent scholarship coming out challenging some of the assumptions about patriarchy in those early cultures.

So I thought it was worth putting the comment out there. I think it is a question worth asking.

Tim Evans
Tim Evans
Reply to  Peter Reiss
21 days ago

Peter, Thanks for this neat summary of some of the cultural realities within which the biblical texts are embedded. Given the paucity of NT evidence about what happened in the church e.g in Philippi or Rome, it’s difficult to know how the first generations of Christians worked with this bundle of traditions. But I agree there’s not much there that challenges the OT assumptions. If we read the NT as the start of a trajectory rather than as a fixed set of rules then it can lead to a range of valid patterns today in different cultures, even within one… Read more »

Realist
Realist
21 days ago

Well the efficient management of the C of E has just reached another all time low. Stipendiary clergy have received an email telling us our stipends will be paid one day late. That might not seem much of a problem, but many stipendiary clergy exist financially rather than live, so when your bank account is empty and you have bills due to be collected from it, you have a problem. The email says bank charges will be reimbursed, but what if you don’t have a buffer sum or access to an overdraft? I’m among the fortunate ones. I’m of the… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Realist
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Realist
20 days ago

Don’t be so unreasonable- who knew that February was short of days?

On a serious note, that is outrageous and potentially humiliating if you have to write individually asking for the charges back…. Never mind tiresome things like credit ratings

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
20 days ago

Absolutely! There’s been a lot of very credible research recently showing how close many stipendiaries are to living in poverty, if not there already. Some Dioceses are responding well – there’s been a flurry of emergency access funds being made available. But in others there has just been the usual hand wringing concern and zero practical help. It makes me particularly cross as it’s yet another example of how the C of E regards front line clergy as at best an irrelevance and at worst with contempt. These are people, who have real lives, and some have dependents. Is it… Read more »

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Realist
20 days ago

My CofE pension is paid at the end of the month, not earlier.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Realist
20 days ago

I believe quite a lot of employers pay on the 25th of the month or closest weekday before the 25th. That can be particularly helpful at Christmas. Fat chance of The Commissioners doing that I suspect.

Fr John Caperon
Fr John Caperon
20 days ago

Anon’s ‘Revised Strategy Module’ article is an utterly brilliant parodic take on the current C of E and it’s no surprise it won the support of Alison Milbank after her splendid ‘The Once and Future Parish’. But the Church still has fundamental weaknesses in its management and organisation, and something surely needs to be done, even if current attempts are laughable. Discussing some years ago with Martyn Percy the problems created by a troubled and destructive parish priest, I was reminded by him that the Church isn’t an organisation but an institution. True. But this didn’t mean, I suggested, that… Read more »

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