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We don’t need more spreadsheet vicars If the Church of England is going to die, I wish it would prepare to do so with a bit more Christian dignity

Simpler, humbler, bolder. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty

Simpler, humbler, bolder. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty


November 26, 2020   5 mins

“It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with the management alone.”

With these words from Frederick Winslow Taylor, the so-called science of management consultancy came into being. And an era of misery began for those on the receiving end. In time, the language softened, the management gurus discovered technology and a smarter bedside manner, but the principles remained roughly the same.

Perhaps it is my inner Marxist struggling to get out – Gramsci said Taylorism inevitably gave rise to thoughts of revolution – but I was reminded of Taylor’s guiding principles as I looked through the recent directive from head office, outlining the new thinking on the organisational structures of the Church of England. The report is a series of impenetrable soul-sapping flow charts and space-ship style infographics that make those graphic medieval explanations of the trinity look like child’s play. It’s a powerpoint friendly “Vision of the Church of England in the 2020’s”. It seems the bishops have had the management consultants in. And the result is thoroughly depressing.

 

Taylor was born in 1856, outside Philadelphia, in a strict Quaker family his mother an ardent abolitionist. His great work ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ was published in 1911, and it became the founding text of what became a burgeoning industry in the twentieth century. The big idea was that, armed with a more systematic approach to labour — basically a stop-watch and a clip board — the management class was able to extract greater productivity from those actually doing the job, towards whom he felt nothing but scorn.

“One of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding monotony of work of this character.”

Given that it was founded on such ideas, it is unsurprising that workers learned to rue the day when the slick and smiley management consultants turned up at the factory door, promising greater efficiency through organisational restructuring. Much of it, of course, was an elaborate con. As one former management consultant confessed in The Atlantic some years ago: “We kind of liked failing businesses: there was usually plenty of money to be made in propping them up before they finally went under
”

The church’s new thinking is summed up as “Simpler, Humbler, Bolder”. That sounds fine — but look a little deeper and you begin to understand that it is a euphemism for a programme of cost-cutting, parish shrinking and the invention of new (cheaper) forms of church — “a mixed economy” — outside the parish structure.

“The Church of England has written its own Treaty of Versailles, and it now going to spend a decade looking for someone to surrender to,” as Fr Marcus Walker has pointedly described it. Or as another wrote: “Come Holy Spirit, synergise those key deliverables.”

Now, I am not saying someone is making money from all of this. But I am saying that planning for failure is encouraging it. The re-engineering plan is the administration of decline dressed up as humility: run by managers, fed by slogans, designed for consumers. The language they — I suppose I should say we — increasingly now use is a curious merger of the scriptural with a kind of technocratic systems think.

Relationships with head office are increasingly mediated through electronic forms not conversations. The church says it wants to resist centralisation, and yet the centre keeps on growing, constantly bloated by the felt need to write new reports that nobody reads, develop high sounding initiatives parishes don’t want and are written in an uninspiring insider language that lacks any sort of gospel poetry.

But the people in the pews simply do not understand it. Words that one still remembers as having an inspirational purpose have been requisitioned for leaden management-ese. Under this new semantic inflection, the gospel no longer sounds like the source of life and hope. It has become a core competence.

Why not join us for “digital lab webinars”? the new churchofengland.org asks. All of this is distracting chaff, for the heart and soul of the Church of England is in its parishes. “This is why the asset stripping of our parishes over the last 30 years is so serious and concerning,” as the Archdeacon of London, Fr Luke Millar, wrote in response to this new plan yesterday. He continued: “the sense that we have at the moment that the ‘parish is bad’ and anything else is good, that inherited church is inherently un-missional, that the parochial patrimony should be swiftly swept away, is a generational mistake which we must avoid.”

In 2005, the high priests of management consultancy, McKinsey and Co admitted that “Change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated. We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.” I do not mind that the church is behind the times. But I wish it was behind the times by centuries not by 30 years. And employee (clergy) resistance to this new look Church of England feels, to me at least, utterly overwhelming.

I firmly believe that the parish church has a lot more yet to give. It remains the jewel in the crown of the Church of England. But it must be properly resourced – and that means the centre has to give up much more of its wealth and power and return it to the local church. Abolish General Synod maybe. Cut the number of Diocesan posts, yes even the number of bishops.

But if the Church of England is indeed going to die, I wish it would prepare to do so with a bit more Christian dignity. We are a death and resurrection body of people, and we must trust more in that inspiring pattern of life than the cheap consolation of those who pretend we can be great again — if only we radically re-organised around the idea that we are some sort of pop-up business with God as our product.

When challenged about organised religion, I often quip that we in the Church of England generally go in for disorganised religion. And I kind of like it that way. The charismatic power of the divine cannot be neatly corralled into the channels of any one institution. But that doesn’t stop some from trying.

Of course, it may be that, like watching sausages being made, the formulation of policy is always more off-putting than what ends up on the plate. But out in the parishes, many of us are longing for inspiration, for a renewal of the energy and enthusiasm that first inspired us to work here. Instead, we are being drip fed indirect messages that the work we are doing is the ailing arm of mother church, a draining cost centre that has lost its way.

It is our vocation as a church to keep the flame of faith alive in these most secular of times. But we do not sustain God, God sustains us. He doesn’t need our help to survive, He simply asks for our faithfulness. And there can be a kind of martyrdom in that, as zoomed-out exhausted clergy remain committed to their place and their calling, and as the lonely prayer “thy kingdom come” rises from now Covid-emptied churches.

It’s more and better priests that we need, saying their prayers, serving their people. More clean-cut spreadsheet-savvy vicars who can parrot this new gospel of secular management speak? Not so much.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Michael Joseph
Michael Joseph
3 years ago

Fantastic piece. The lack of vision, the lack of any historical sense, the lack of any form of imagination is what really depresses me about the management/HR/process-worshipping industrial complex. It’s all so soul-crushingly dull, which is bad enough. What’s worse is that what they propose never works. Ever. It just kills everything it touches.
It’s not just the church, either. I work for an organisation that used to have the reputation for being innovative and doing amazing work without crushing levels of bureaucracy. Not any more. The consultants came in, HR departments expanded like a parasite (why do organisations need so many HR staff?!) forcing processes on everybody to ‘make us work more efficiently’ and hey presto, swathes of good people leave to be replaced by mediocrities and the whole organisation begins to look and act like some bloated and incompetent public sector department. Hey ho.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Joseph

HR is where woke lives and does its business.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago

There are so many brilliant phrases in this superb article (and I say this as someone who is not a believer and does not attend church) that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps the best is that he doesn’t mind the church being behind the times, but he wishes it were measured in centuries, not just 30 years.

I remember as a junior naval officer reading some recently issued guff referring to the “senior management team” by which was meant the Captain and First Lieutenant. People who are in harm’s way do not want to be managed. They want to be led. Leadership is rooted in self belief, mission, values (in the case of the Armed Forces, patriotism and self-sacrifice). But the same applies, or should, to the church. To the extent that it does not, the church need look no further to explain the alarming decline in church attendances, and the inexorable increase in the average age of believers. “For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?”

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

I liked very much that quote too.

Ian Standingford
Ian Standingford
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Yes, it’s one I shall remember, and use….

Richard Spicer
Richard Spicer
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

It is a direct parallel with the NHS. if we could go back 30 years to a time when it was run by doctors and nurses things would be much better and we could have saved the billions of ££s which have disappeared into the pockets of management consultants. They and interfering politicians have done great harm to an institution which should be much more wonderful than it currently is.Politicians, managers HR etc. should facilitate, not meddle.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘Forgive those who spreadsheet against us, and lead us not into powerpoint…’

The CofE under Justin Wellness (sic) has become a truly risible and useless organisation. And it was pretty bad before he took over.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

which is why he was chosen – the perfect sacrificial lamb to lead “The Church” to the slaughterhouse

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Some reasons for justifying these statements would be useful otherwise they can be dismissed as prejudice.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

The Archbishop of Canterbury produced a video from his kitchen!
He should have insisted it was produced in a Church.
Truly risible & pathetic.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

If I remember rightly the video was of the Archbishop celebrating the Eucharist(Communion). This does not have to be done in a church. As long as the sacramental presence of Christ is handled with respect it can take place in any appropriate place and it’s neither risible nor pathetic to do so. I have celebrated the Eucharist on hospital wards, at death beds, on dining and kitchen tables and on a fold-up table outside. It’s not the location that matters at the end of the day but the presence of Christ with His people .

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago

I feel for you Giles! I live in a contemplative community, trying to follow the Rule of Benedict, and it creeps in even here – my pet hate is “outreach” but there are lots more – it’s Orwellian newspeak, and you can’t help feeling that those who use it are utterly lost. Our scribes and pharisees perhaps

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

Contemplative communities are self-serving. Perhaps that’s why you’re afraid of reaching out and serving the community that sustains you?

Micheal Thompson
Micheal Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

Who says that he is afraid of serving the community that sustains him ? Seems to just be tired of “newspeak” to me. Maybe you should just try to accompany him ?

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

Erm a bit sweeping wouldn’t you say?

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

you’re right, we’re very lucky. That said, on Monday, I spoke to 150 people, from venezuela to Indonesia, about love. So, not afraid of reaching out, even if I’m talking bollox – https://youtu.be/8eQpq_DG7t

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

Surely you mean God-serving?

brianlyn
brianlyn
3 years ago

Wonderful photograph on top and at least one out-loud laugh underneath: “Come Holy Spirit, synergise those key deliverables.” But the reverend’s analysis applies to more than the CofE. Hang all the lawyers Shakespeare said, but consideration might also be given to hanging all the Human Resources managers everywhere, because everywhere they control workers and, indeed, their bosses. Worst of all, they control the language. They have appropriated what is appropriate, a word that has taken on almost sacramental significance.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  brianlyn

“Come Holy Spirit, synergise those key deliverables.”

Apparently the consultants recommended that the Ten Commandments be replaced by the Ten Core Values, but that was a bit too much even for the C of E.

Tim Gardener
Tim Gardener
3 years ago

What is the purpose of a gathering of the church?

Justin Welby is a manager by background so it’s unsurprising that management science radiates from him. But the biblical perspective on this question is greatly obscured by noise and action, two thousand years of distance and now the application of management science.

When the New Testament church gathered they had spiritual business to do, kingdom business which made the gates of hell shake. The idea of “public worship” or “collective worship” didn’t really make much sense in their context. Theirs was no social gathering or therapy session or sing-a-long. Each person was expected to contribute a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything was focussed on building up the body to live lives of sacrificial worship. When the early church gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus, their meetings were characterized by the inescapable sense that “God was really among them” as the secrets of hearts were revealed. God’s kingdom differentiated utterly from the regimes of this world in terms of righteousness, joy and peaceable living in the Holy Spirit.

The challenge for us is this: if we had that taste of God’s presence then would we be satisfied with anything less than meeting together with that expectation? Would we be even the slightest bit bothered whether management science supported or not? (Or indeed whether the civil authorities considered it legal or not?)

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Gardener

Perhaps this is why many people count themselves as Christian but prefer a quiet personal relationship with God, foregoing church most, if not all, the time. It has happened before, after the Reformation, at least now we are free to choose, nobody cares, we don’t have to pretend to worship in one way whilst being passionately devoted to another and risk our lives in doing so.

Meanwhile, now in 2020, there are over 4 and a half million Catholics in the UK (many of them converts from the C of E) compared to 1.1 million regular church going Anglicans.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago

I know that this goes against fashionable ‘egalitarianism’, but I think that feminisation in the 1990s started a lot of the rot. (My view on this has been strongly reinforced by many of the feminist contributions to Unherd.)
Feminisation has contributed (as in the public sector and some corporate sectors) to the rise of bureaucracy and ‘HR’ and to the influence of New Age or ‘wellness’ ideologies. More than that, it has replaced the idea of priestly ‘vocation’ with a ‘job’ for which ‘anyone can apply’. The obsession with ‘inclusive language’ replaces spiritual sustenance with an insipid vegan gruel. It looks as if the C of E is determined to become a female-centred sect, a synthetic religious movement akin to Wicca.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I feel this is unfair to women, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps you’ve confused touchy feeliness with the feminine

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  David Simpson

‘Touchy feeliness’ is cover for the most cruel and insidious abuses of power. I don’t want to be unfair to anybody and I have re-read my comment in the light of your words. However I’m afraid I stand by the causal link I have made.

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘feminisation’. Perhaps you could expand?

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

Female priesthood; feminist-inspired ‘theological’ dogmas; anodyne ‘inclusive’ language; eco-spirituality; emphasis on personal fulfilment and ‘mindfulness’. And, coupled with that, the way in which one is regarded as a bad person or not modern/progressive/inclusive enough for not ’embracing’ or being in any way sceptical about these innovations.

Tony Nunn
Tony Nunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I was initially skeptical about the ordination of women (before it happened) but now think it’s probably the best thing to have happened to the CofE in centuries. And whilst I have no enthusiasm for inclusive language, particularly when it involves the bowdlerisation of beautiful old hymns, I don’t think women are necessarily to blame for that.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Nunn

In what way is it ‘the best thing to have happened to the C of E in centuries’? You make this statement but with no supporting thoughts or arguments.

I take the opposite view, to a large extent, and have set out a few reasons why I reached that conclusion. What are your counter-arguments? I shall listen respectfully and am willing to change my mind or at least qualify my view.

judith.m.wright
judith.m.wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

Can’t agree with you. My late father was opposed to ordination of women but then found himself having to select a future vicar of a rural parish church where he was church warden. After praying long and hard he decided that the best candidate for the post was the lady. 20 years later she is doing an excellent job. Forget “isms” and dogma of any kind. We find workable solutions through faith and courage

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago

It might be that there is a difference here between cities and rural parishes; I speak from the experience of London I’m afraid!
Certainly the phenomena I have described don’t seem to have affected Reform Judaism or the Church of Scotland (other contributors might contradict me on this?), both of which have women as Rabbis and Ministers respectively. Therefore the gender issue need not be the underlying factor, although with the C of E (in London perhaps especially) it seems to be the basis of the cultural shift towards eco-religion and what someone else called touchy-feely!
I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say ‘workable solutions’? It’s the sort of phrase that (please forgive me here) politicians use. It looks straightforward, but can have multiple meanings.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

Surely a solution is by definition “workable”?
Management-speak is replete with some truly bizarre tautologies.

judith.m.wright
judith.m.wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

Well I meant it in a straightforward way. I’m not a politician. The parish I referred to which has a female vicar had its own particular problems, needs, challenges…whatever word you want to use. She has provided practical and spiritual leadership. In different circumstances she may not have been the ideal choice. Horses for courses…

Tony Nunn
Tony Nunn
3 years ago

Indeed we do – and it’s at the parochial level where that happens. As a member of a flourishing and active church, I am confident that parishes can still be a source of comfort and inspiration to their local communities, despite the “management-ism” emanating from the centre.

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

It’s been a male-centred sect for around two thousand years until those bloody women came along with their demands to be involved. Bloody transparency, revealing the abuse of power wielded by men held in such high esteem their parishioners wouldn’t question them. The Anglican Church has been behind some of the most horrendous abuses perpetrated on children, most of which continues to remain undisclosed.
I have respect for those who commit to living by and worshipping in the Christian faith and sharing that with others. I have no respect for the Church as an organisation and the political power and influence it continues to wield. RIP CofE

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

It doesn’t help your cause that you resort to swearing. Also, I think you will find that quite a lot of child abuse has been perpetrated by women. Think of Irish laundries and a case that emerged a few years ago in Scotland (I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the institution) where there was a mass grave of children who had died in the ‘care’ of nuns – and where survivors (of both sexes) reported physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
These are not Anglican examples, but they show that child abuse is by no means a male monopoly. Nor is elder abuse: there have been many cases of women being charged with abuse in care homes.
All abuse of this kind is equally despicable whatever the gender of the abuser.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

It was the Sisters of Nazareth houses. Aside from the physical and sometimes sexual abuse, children were told that they were possessed by ‘the Devil’ or their parents were dead (when they weren’t). This was an entirely female environment and nothing to do with ‘patriarchy’.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

This is funny. You truly cannot see why such an
entirely female environment is the product of a patriarchal organisation?

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

Nuns hardly qualify as women in the general sense, being a product of the misogyny and general abuse that has been part and parcel of Christianity since the invention of the religion.
Considering all this, and more, I think Emily’s use of the term ”bloody women” is apt as I am fairly sure she is using it in a rhetorical sense.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

I don’t get this. If they don’t qualify as women, what are they? Non-binary? Neuter? Products of misogyny: again, this sounds like a slogan. As for ‘bloody’, it just comes across IMHO as needlessly unpleasant and aggressive for no good reason.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I think you are reading a tad too much into the comment, Senor Bear.
Nuns, are groomed/required to be ‘sexless’ in as much as they are celibate.
Certainly their lifestyle and attire are not geared in any way to attract a mate.
Their second class status in regard to their position in the church is a product of patriarchy.

If your opinion in the IMHO was not humble what would you regard it as?
Arrogant?
If you are unable to spot the irony in Emily’s use of the term ”bloody women,” this may be a problem for you. I understood it well enough.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

To be honest you’re reading to much into this. I’m not bothered about her use of language – I just didn’t think it strengthened her argument in this instance. I used the example of the nuns to show that there could be abuse perpetrated by women as much as by men. I’m not going to accept that these nuns were victims of patriarchy: they were just evil psychopaths using religion as an excuse for appalling crimes.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

The term ”bloody women” was not meant to strengthen Emily’s argument, per se but rather to demonstrate a likely reaction from male counterparts.
Much as I am sure there were many men, conservatives and labour who would have used the term that ”bloody woman” in reference to the late Margaret Thatcher.
No doubt many were psychopaths, but the system they operated in was there because of a patriarchal hierarchy.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

Yeh? What institution in the West wasn’t patriarchal in that time. Or even outside the west.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

You seem to have been fully indoctrinated with feminist propaganda which is regrettable. You might like to read some fact based history books instead of relying on received opinion.
I recommend anything by Dr. Roberta Gilchrist.
Have your eyes opened.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I’m just old enough to remember when Germaine Greer first made headlines so I’m au fait with the terms, Claire.
I realise that the foundational tenets of Christianity are all built upon fallacious claims as are Judaism and Islam, but on the basis of your claim of ”feminist propaganda” ( whatever this term really means, especially these days) one can hardly dispute the esteemed(sic) views of the albeit likely made-up biblical character of Saul of Tarsus, and how he viewed women in the church, even if this view was made in the forged (pseudo-epigraphic) text of 1 Timothy.
So I think I’ll stick with my original assertion if it’s all the same?

Regards.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

Ah a post-modernist. Choosing to stick with views in a book rather than looking at evidence which shows what actually happened suggests you prefer igno rance and prejudice over truth.
Well I’ll leave you with that, but it’s a pity.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Maybe we are talking at cross purposes here.
Are you suggesting the Church, its history, practices and doctrine are not based on patriarchy?

I will add this – from the horse’s mouth, one might say – which might help you understand a little better.

https://www.jesuitinstitute

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

‘There are three sexes ““ men, women, and clergymen’ (Revd Sydney Smith)

Not sure where that leaves nuns

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Emily Brown

“It’s been a male-centred sect etc” – utter feminist nonsense, women were integral and played an important part from the beginning of Christianity in the Middle East.
In Europe, from the time of Augustine’s mission at least, there were abbeys run by nuns, eg, Etheldreda the abbess at Ely in the 7th century, her sister Seaxburh who succeeded her and another sister, Wihtburh, was an Abbess of an important abbey in France, all three became popular and revered saints after their deaths, and that is just 3 examples, there were many more. Nuns and pious women at all levels of society received patronage and admiration.

The first book to be written in English by a woman was by Dame Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love.
One of the most extraordinary and influential intellectuals and musicians of the Middle Ages, Hildegarde of Bingen, was a nun.

Feminist ignora nce is astounding, all mouth and no bloomers.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Nuns and pious women at all levels of society received patronage and admiration.

Such as Mother Theresa for example, yes?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

Yes.
I am guessing that your comment is a snide one though and you are coming from Christopher Hitchen’s position, may he rest in peace.

Mother Teresa and her fellow nuns and monks cared for thousands of poor and destitute, they provided, and still provide, somewhere clean and comfortable for them to lie down, to bathe them, feed them and comfort them.

Perhaps you have been lucky in life and have never suffered serious pain and starvation, homelessness and with no family or friends to care for you, in which case you may find it hard to imagine the relief of the loving care that Mother Teresa gave to those thousands of poor people.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Considering the amount of money she received over the years, one would have thought a decent hospital bed and top of the line medical facilities should not have been beyond the realms of possibility?
But then again, when considers that the Catholic church is as corrupt as many of those who donated to MTs’ ”cause” it is hardly surprising such luxuries were not forthcoming.
And notwithstanding the nonsense surrounding her sainthood she had chronic doubts about the efficacy of her ”faith”.
Furthermore she celebrated suffering.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I want Fire&Brimstone &Hellfire Preachers Where are they now?..on USA TV?..

mark.a.farthing
mark.a.farthing
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I think you’ve avoided ‘fashionable egalitarianism’ at the expense of indulging in fashionable old fogeyism. You assert, without any evidence, that feminisation (whatever that is) has contributed …. to the rise of bureaucracy etc. At best, you’re mistaking correlation between the increasing number of women in the church for causation of the church’s parlous state. Why should an increasing number of women in the church mean that the idea of a priestly vocation is diminished? And why should inclusive language be any less spiritually sustaining than non-inclusive language? Again, you merely assert these things without offering any evidence for them.

There are many reasons for the decline in church attendance. When I was a child, in the 1960s and early 70s, very few shops were open on Sundays. School sport and other extra-curricular activities tended to happen after school Monday to Friday and on Saturdays. And the nascent anti-religion lobby was far less vocal than it is today.

But today we have many activities for children (and therefore commitments for parents) on Sundays, most shops are open on Sundays, and the devoutly atheist lobby is taking full advantage of the proselytising opportunities provided by the internet. We’ve also had the child abuse scandals in both the CofE and the RC churches and, although not a Christian scandal, there’s been the rise of Islamist terrorism; both of these have given religion a bad name. There’s also been an increase in the extent and level of scientific education, and I think that encourages scepticism of religion.

I think all of these things have combined to make us a more questioning and less deferential society. But I must say that the women priests I’ve met (and as a member of the CofE I’ve met a few) have been no less deeply spiritual and have no less of a vocation than their male counterparts.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago

Fashionable young fogeyism please, Mark!

I’m quite pushed for time today and would like to write more, but on your bureaucracy point: there is a correlation between the expansion of bureaucracy and management culture and the rise of political correctness, including feminist dogmas and a process-driven mindset. In my comment (or possibly a clarifying comment below) I did refer to the trend towards an ersatz eco-spirituality (and yes, before you ask, I care very much about the environment. I also referred to the influence of New Age and ‘wellness’ ideologies and ‘feminist liturgies’.

On the ‘inclusive language’ issue, I am not ‘against’ it in an extreme or binary way, but certain forms of it can be dehumanising. To give a recent secular example, my husband (I’m using the term ‘inclusively’, you could say, as we’re a same sex married couple!) had a fall at a railway station some months ago and I had to call for an ambulance. The 999 operator repeatedly referred to him as ‘they’ and ‘them’ even though I equally repeatedly said ‘he’ and ‘him’. In the end I said to her: ‘he’s a human being and a man: please show some humanity yourself!’ There was something profoundly dehumanising and dispiriting about the neutral word ‘they’. It suggested a bureaucratic coldness and lack of concern for people as individuals.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Suggesting that people who disagree with you are old fogeys is insulting, and once you are reduced to insults in an argument you have catagorically lost that argument.

The causes you outline for the decline of the C of E are reasonable and I agree with them, but you have left out two of the most significant, probably because you personally prefer to ignore them, nevertheless they exist and many people have noted them :

1. The ordination of women may have had a detrimental effect. This does not call into question the sincerity or piety of the individual women. However, feminism is a profoundly egotistical social development in many of it’s aspects, which is completely at odds with Christianity.

2. The constant, gradual incline towards progressivism or wokism. Each decision to give way, to placate the progessives, compromises Christianity. S e x between men or between unmarried men and women is forbidden, both are sin ful, all of us sin every day of course, in one way or another, so holding fast to this biblical tradition does not have to be cruel or rejecting, gays and unmarried lovers are still loved by God, but the rules are the rules and should remain absolute, otherwise what is the point ?

Both these causes are rooted in individuals demanding the C of E and Christianity bend to their demands rather than them being willing to submit to God’s will. People see this, perhaps only instinctively but they see it and it has had a negative impact on their faith, in the Church at least.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

If you were able to demonstrate the veracity of your claims regarding ‘sin’ and the supposed will of (your) God then your argument might be worth considering.
As it is, it holds less water than a Galilean fisherman’s net.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
3 years ago
Reply to  Chinese Bear

I’ve had similar thoughts. Certainly, the sudden acceptance of female vicars and bishops after thousands of years of men leading out in Church services seems like a wanton act of destruction.

andrew.wootten
andrew.wootten
3 years ago

I don’t believe in the existence of a God / Gods. However, if you are going to run a church, at the very least you should give off the impression that you believe.

Davy Longshanks
Davy Longshanks
3 years ago
Reply to  andrew.wootten

“Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” etc etc. It can only succeed by NOT trying to be things to all people. But…….hey ho.

Pierre Whalon
Pierre Whalon
3 years ago

I remember well my first College of Bishops meeting. I joined the new bishops and asked what their formation was like. One looked at me morosely, and said, “Manage decline.” I asked him to repeat it, thinking I’d not heard aright. “Oh yes,” said another, “It’s manage decline.” That was in 2002… Although I am immensely grateful for the years I was invited to attend (which ended in 2013, you’ll understand), this was thoroughly disspiriting, though certainly not as depressing as for my colleagues in the CofE.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

More faith, more bowing to the holy mysteries, less “moving wit the times” and modernisation. Islam states the eternal truths (as it sees them) in the old words and forms, and the faithful are comfortable with that. The C of E needs to stop espousing management gobbledegook and leftish sociology and get back to a faith based religion. Then slowly the believers might return.

And the Rev GF is right. Let the parishes drive the agenda, stop centralisation. It’s what happens to every successful business and turns them into unsuccessful businesses

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It’s interesting that the traditionalist wing of the Catholic Church “ old form of the Mass, with Latin and smells and bells, rosary processions and proper fast days and feast days etc – is expanding and attracting younger people while the modernist secularised mainstream Church is ageing and dwindling, at least in the anti-religious West. When young people are asked what attracts them to the traditional form of worship they invariably use words such as reverence, holiness, beauty, faith, wonder, awe, prayerfulness, and definite values. Which sort of proves your point.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

What is most glaring is the absence of faith. As far as I tell the C of E is pretty much agnostic on the existence of god and careful to avoid talk of values or principles lest it cause offence. If only we keep quite about the god thing and make it clear that we don’t sand for anything then we can be popular again.
It is not Justin Welby’s fault but he is a one man epitome for the failure of the church. Insipid, uninspiring and without leadership qualities he comes across as a mediocre management consultant obsessed with process and with no feeling for the actual product. May be his appointment, or the appointment of someone like him, was the inevitable denouement in the final act of C of E.
There was a not the nine O’clock News sketch where a vicar (Mel Smith) was quizzed on whether the church would eventually admit devil worshipers, to which he responds “well I suppose it’s inevitable really”. Says it all really. As things are radical Islam has more going for it than the C of E.

Mark McKee
Mark McKee
3 years ago

Well argued indeed. I do think that Giles put it well that clergy (and congregation) ‘…do not sustain God, God sustains us. He doesn’t need our help to survive, He simply asks for our faithfulness.’ That is key here. The CofE has stopped being faithful to the gospel and is more interested in asset management and ecology, which makes it no different from any secular organisation. Under those terms God will let it fail

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago

Poorly managed urban regeneration has contributed much to the breakdown of communities. The C/E has, for the most part, failed to remain integral to community life. Concentration on ‘business’ as the most important element of the Church’s survival became the main focus after the pension fund was negligently mismanaged. An unwillingness to serve the community by effective and practical outreach was one of the final nails in the coffin.
The (mis)management of the business aspect of the organisation is why the Church is fatally wounded. The resistance to transparency, ethics, responsibility, accountability and growth through community-centric outreach is why I no longer care.

h.allen.irish
h.allen.irish
3 years ago

The Anglican church in the U.S. is facing terminal decline, and most of the leadership’s energy seems to be on amassing and consolidating the still considerable resources of the institution. I am aware of a controversy between a bishop and a home for aged women that the diocese is trying to wrest control away from the trustees with the intent of closing and selling it and seizing the proceeds for the diocese’s coffers. This reminded me of a famous Rhett Butler quote: “What most people don’t seem to realize is that there is just as much money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization as from the upbuilding of one.”

Peter
Peter
3 years ago

The diagram looks very like a modern representation of Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and, by my count, actually does have 9 Circles.
Apart from the pleasures of Hymns A&M, the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible, the C of E has never been one of my favourite institutions, possibly due to an excess of boring school chapel attendance when young, but it did command my respect.

However, in latter years, the haphazard desire for “modernity”, starting with the dreadful New English Bible, and leading now to the management culture, at the loss of any spirituality or sense of a rooted religious belief, has reduced that respect considerably. I am left to contemplate these changes, with, for comparison, the true qualities I admire and as embodied in an elderly Canon of my acquaintance.

The entirely pusillanimous behaviour of the C of E (and not just that Church) during the present C19 epidemic has been the final straw, and the sole surprise is that Johnson, who regards religion as a sort of “optional extra” akin to gym-going, hasn’t inveigled some feeble senior cleric to stand at a lectern beside him. The coincidental symbolism of there being three beside each other at his dishonest presentations is remarkable.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago

“I do not mind that the church is behind the times. But I wish it was behind the times by centuries not by 30 years.”

Nice thought 🙂

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago

Am I alone in finding the ‘Jesus-shaped’ vision diagram intensely amusing. I look forward to the demise of the CofE and this seems the best way to bring it about. Did Mikhail Gorbachev use the same consultants? Like a previous commenter, I have seen a good organisation destroyed by this sort of thinking and I can’t understand why people are still paying huge sums for advice from people who have never run a similar organisation themselves.

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

You are not alone. I cringed ðƾ˜¬

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

If I were a consultant – which I’m not, otherwise I’d be damned – my honest advice would be for the Church of England to wind itself up and put itself into administration.
Genuine believers will gravitate towards the Greek or Russian Orthodox Church. They don’t try to flatter people or attempt to be “relevant” to the point of self-destruction. The diagram embedded in the article is satanic.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Why the Orthodox Church? Why not the western Catholic Church?

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

One reason is Francis, who is trying to turn the Catholic Church into the Church of England – progressive, tolerant, and bland. Another reason would be the disastrous changes introduced by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
The most compelling reason is that the Russian Orthodox Church is the true church.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Russell

Fair enough. I would see it as the eastern branch of the true church, culturally and historically foreign to me, but as you say, theologically sound

Mark Harvey
Mark Harvey
3 years ago

Policy and process driven organisations thrive on data and targets, led by the managerialists who think they’re justified to restructure as they see fit, both for corporate gain and to augment their CVs. They nearly always overlook the impact their proposed changes will have on those charged with implementing them. This soul destroying, stress inducing philosophy has polluted almost all sectors of our society, draining the spiritual joy from most endeavours designed to improve the lot of our fellow citizens. If only the CofE could address this through a spiritual revival at parish level, informed and led by parishioners and their priests, and ditch the dreadfully dull and dreary spirit-free management speak that has, apparently, engulfed it. I despair.

Joy Bailey
Joy Bailey
3 years ago

I live next door to a very old church and couldn’t tell you the name of the vicar. Last time I went there to a funeral, I just tuned out while the vicar of the time told us all the ‘truths’ we should just believe without question. As an atheist I couldn’t stomach his holier than thou attitude. Across the road is a Christian Fellowship church who bought our village pub, turned it into a wonderful coffee shop where they run games afternoons and all the workers are volunteers. While closed they have run the food bank and done a weekly post on Facebook with recipes and support. No wonder they have to run 2 services because of lack of space! I’m fundraising and supporting them as are half the village.

carolstaines8
carolstaines8
3 years ago
Reply to  Joy Bailey

Excellent. I live in a village where the Vicar backs off if I approach her ( can’t say I blame her given the suggestions I want to make about “her ” church) and the church is totally unused at the moment.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
3 years ago

I’m an atheist who married in a church, and promised to raise his children in “the Christian way”.

I feel I’m meeting that promise, though not in a sense that would satisfy C.S. Lewis.

The God of the Bible (like every other God proposed by man) is too absurd and contradictory to contemplate. But the Golden Rule, forgiveness, and charity are Good (capital G).

The Church of England should indeed aim to die a graceful death.

Keep the churches. Keep the singing. Stop pretending God exists. But promote traditional values, do good in the community, and preserve our heritage.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

The Church supports ‘Globalists’ Agenda ,UN,WHO,EU against voters wishes here&USA
Needs to be relevant Too Woke&PC ..no wonder attendances are at record lows

judith.m.wright
judith.m.wright
3 years ago

So who, among the spreadsheet vicars, is going to challenge Chris Whitty on his monstrous suggestion that we refrain from hugging granny at Christmas? For many people this will be their last Christmas regardless of Covid. Terror of death is the chief affliction of our society. This is where the church should provide guidance.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago

Yes, terror of death guarantees all power to whichever vile charlatan is promising that you will live for ever. Follow my insane instructions, don’t sit on a park bench, wear a muzzle, don’t hug or kiss anyone and you will live…. er, er, long enough to die in a bed on a morphine drop or whatever.

Chinese Bear
Chinese Bear
3 years ago

Usually my other half and I entertain my parents over Christmas. They live about 100 miles away. This year we have agreed not to do this but to hold out until the spring when the vaccine is (hopefully) in circulation. My parents are in their 80s, my husband has respiratory problems. This seems a logical decision. We’re not delighted with it but it is better than taking selfish and unnecessary risks.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

Just watch out that you don’t make it granny’s last Christmas as a result of your hug.

Chris Whitty is to be commended for making explicit this basic truth which the government doesn’t want to upset people with. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens. UK HMG gets a big fail so far. OK – so everyone is free to mix more at Xmas. Should they? The consequences of that decision should be made more clear to people. The public are being given the impression that such additional mixing is totally safe, without any doubt. That is far from the truth. Your granny, your choice. Where is her informed consent?

judith.m.wright
judith.m.wright
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

My grandparents and parents died years ago. They retained their wits til their last days. I would have respected their wishes. Back in the day ones elders were respected, not treated like clueless infants. I came from an educated family who understood risk and had the intellectual stamina to read and assimilate evidence based information. So no, it wouldn’t have been my choice but theirs.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

That’s absolutely right – for any old person still with capacity – many very old people don’t have it and this is ascertained both legally and medically.

But there is a further complication here – academic in respect of your forebears if they are all dead. An old person could decide that contact with their grand-children is more important to them than any risk of death/ill-harm from Covid-19. But if they live in a home with others, that personal choice could mean that they take the virus back with them and infect many others who had elected to avoid this risk.

So such behavioural choices cannot simply be taken in isolation from the circumstances of others.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago

“It is only through enforced standardization of
methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working
conditions, and enforced cooperatio…..” etc

“Perhaps it is my inner Marxist struggling to get out…..”

I laughed out loud at this. If you really do have an inner Marxist, the one thing he(it) would want is central control, and enforced conformity!

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

The Church of England is in the mess it’s in because it refused to heed the the writing on the wall in the 1970s.
It was clear then that membership figures were in decline. Although some churches did something about it most remained complacent, stood against change and refused to engage in fresh thinking and action. There were movements inspired by the Holy Spirit which the Church as a whole should have entered into. But only a small minority did and they are now the large vibrant congregations effectively serving their communities and planting churches in other places. These movements of the Holy Spirit included the Charismatic Movement, Mission England with Billy Graham, John Wimber’s ministry and the Alpha Course.
Furthermore too many clergy were just not up to the job. They were generally good people but they lacked vision and faith. Too many refused to see the need to change the emphasis of ministry from the pastoral to the missional in which evangelism and church growth spiritually and numerically was of the essence. The minority of clergy who were prepared to change and exercise courageous faith in leading their churches into growth have seen precisely that.
It was also clear in the 70s that our financial position would become unsustainable unless there was a significant increase in giving. The Bishops eventually got round to asking church members to consider giving 5% of annual income to the Church. 35 years on no diocese has achieved that. The dioceses of Sheffield and Bradford have got close whereas better heeled dioceses remain shamefully low. The major reason for this position is the Church’s refusal to take on board the Bible’s teaching on giving including the tithe,and seeing generous and sacrificial giving as an expression of love and gratitude to God for His blessings,especially for the gift of His Son who died and rose again for our salvation.
Despite the Church’s missed opportunities over the years I am joyful and hopeful about the future because of what God is going to do and that is to give our Church and Nation a time of great spiritual revival and awakening. Hopefully there will be no more talk of management theories and digital lab webinars then.

johnwhenry
johnwhenry
3 years ago

I know I’m probably not the target of Giles’ venom in this article – he’s aiming his sights on far bigger fish than the likes of me. I also know he’s built his profile on forceful opinion pieces like this one – which is designed, in the short space it has available, to raise passions rather than set out nuanced arguments. And as an ex-McKinsey consultant, I also could not agree more with him about the much-needed challenge to the crass managerialism that seems to be frequently clumsily applied in the Church of England. I’m no fan of the tumble dryer either.

But as a self-supporting assistant curate who has spent several hours of this day (over and above my basic weekly commitment), utilising core ‘management consulting’ skills (i.e. spreadsheets and Powerpoint) to attempt to re-work the financial accounts of my curacy church, this article feels a bit hurtful and insulting.

I’m Anglo-Catholic enough to acknowledge that boring stuff like, you know, making sure the Church can pay for heating next year, comes well below pastoral, sacramental, liturgical, and theological responsibilities. Saying my prayers comes before INDEX() and MATCH() functions. (Geek joke, sorry). But I’d like to humbly ask Giles to leave the poor spreadsheets out of it.

The first principle young consultants are taught at McKinsey – before spreadsheets and PowerPoint – is that the first step to solving any difficult problem is to get absolutely clear on the nature of the problem you are trying to solve. It seems simple but it is fiendishly difficult to do well for any complex problem. And, to my reading, Giles never really sets out the problem clearly (at least not in this article). Instead, he plays on trite sound bites, quips and anecdotes, not to mention making unfair assumptions and setting up straw men. (For example, for some reason that I have yet to figure out, ideas and approaches from the world of business and management are, by definition, at odds with the very idea of the Parish. Is it really that black and white?)

In any case, crass managerialism may well be a sad and damaging presence in the Church of England. But there is a great deal more to management consulting and management theory than 100-year-old Taylorist operational theory. Assuming that Giles actually cares about solving the problems he sees in the Church, I think he (and we) would be a lot more effective if he would take more time to acknowledge and explore this complexity, and then present more targeted and nuanced critiques that could actually be acted upon.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

I share your views on management consultants – all they really do is borrow your watch to tell you the time, but dress that up in gobbledegook and glitzy graphics.

The fundamental problem your “business” has is that its core product was dreamed up by men 1695 years ago at Nicene, based on the life of another man who had been born 325 years earlier. Whilst you can dress that core product up in different packaging, it is still the same old product and there isn’t any way to innovate it into something else, which would be of more interest to the general populace, who are your customers and potential customers. As the loyal customers you have dwindle in numbers, your business will shrivel and eventually die and there is not all that much that can be done. You are absolutely right though, any business with a declining customer base should be looking to cut the management overhead far more savagely than the front-line interface with customers and potential customers.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

i love the front-line interface – way to go.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

“We are a death and resurrection body of people, and we must trust more in that inspiring pattern of life than the cheap consolation of those who pretend we can be great again ” if only we radically re-organised around the idea that we are some sort of pop-up business with God as our product.”

Excellent!

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
3 years ago

Brilliant, Giles. For me the CofE is in the last chance saloon. I have just about had enough.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago

Contemporary Taylorism is the perfect model for the Church of England, which lost its soul a long, long time ago.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

At least they’re all singing from the same spreadsheet. (I have had that one lying around for a few years, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to deploy it).

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
3 years ago

Hilarious! That “vision wheel” reminds me of something from the early days of New Labour. They came up with something very similar; utterly vacuous but doubtless thrilled the working group who paid God knows what to have their vision expressed. In both cases it’s symptomatic of people who can’t actually do anything but what to find the computer programme code so they can press a button and watch everything take shape. It was very Blair, Yvette Cooper, Mandelson in character.

Yes, I can just see Welby and the rest nodding sagely at this. I mean, “Christ Centred and Jesus shaped” – we can all see how that captures the essence so well can’t we?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

aaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!!!

jcharleswallace
jcharleswallace
3 years ago

Thanks, Fr. Giles. I agree with Fr Luke’s comments. I am currently engaged in doctoral research on church planting from Anglo-Catholic churches. My research churches all are plants within a benefice / parish in other church / church owned buildings. The theology of place as seen in parishes is vitally important as a facet of Anglo-Catholic incarnational ministry.
If anyone wants to know more, please email me – john.c.wallace@durham.ac.uk.

For those who have not read it may I recommend ‘God’s Church in the World – The Gift of Catholic Mission edited Susan Lucas, Canterbury Press 2020.

Keep up the good work.

neilyboy.forsythe
neilyboy.forsythe
3 years ago

It beats spreadcheeks vicars, that’s for sure.

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell
3 years ago

I saw the Spreadsheet Vicars live back in 2009. What a band! The crowd went crazy during the performance of their smash hit “Thine is the Kindle, the Powerpoint and the Google”.

Cave Artist
Cave Artist
3 years ago

Basic principles; don’t try to be relevant. It irritates people. Focus on the primary objective which is delivering the sacraments. Be reliable, communion at the same time every Sunday without fail. Trust in the importance of ritual and tradition, people like consistency and history. Sadly though the C of E carries the seeds of its own destruction with its lack of communion with Roman church. It is as lost as it is possible to be even with the facile assistance of the consultants,

h.allen.irish
h.allen.irish
3 years ago

The

vince porter
vince porter
3 years ago

Ahh! but the Peter Principle never goes out of fashion. And, by the way, does the Church of England still exist? I thought my diseased mother was the last example.

Tony Nunn
Tony Nunn
3 years ago
Reply to  vince porter

I could (on behalf of the CofE) quote Mark Twain….

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
3 years ago
Reply to  vince porter

I’m sorry.. You inadvertently made me laugh. I presume – hope – you meant deceased mother?

vince porter
vince porter
3 years ago

Ha! thanks for pointing it out. I’m having a laugh at myself.

Michael Saxon
Michael Saxon
3 years ago

The protestant churches can’t be re-made in their old image. New wine cannot be poured into in old wine skins. For the new way to ‘do church’ that respects the times in which we live go to http://www.lastpost.net and also go to Amazon for the book NGC: Next Generation Church: A Church Determined to Grow Expansively and Spark the Restoration of Western Civilisation.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

The Church of England has refused to heed the writing on the wall going right back to the 70s. I know. I was there.
It was clear then that the attendance and membership figure were well in decline. There were churches that started to do something about it. But for the most part complacency, dislike of change and an arrogant refusal to engage in fresh thinking and action reigned. From the 70s there were movements of the Holy Spirit which if welcomed by all clergy and churches would have seen the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church which would have been glorifying to God. The charismatic renewal of the 60s and 70s, Mission England with Billy Graham of the early 80s, the “signs and wonders” ministry of John Wimber of the late 80s, and the Alpha Course of the 90s brought much spiritual renewal and where they were taken up churches grew spiritually,numerically and in effectiveness in mission. Many of these churches have planted new churches in other places.
Sadly too many clergy were not up to the job. They were generally good people who were dedicated and worked hard but they lacked vision and faith. Too many were complacent refusing to see the need to change the emphasis of ministry from the pastoral to the missional in which evangelism and church growth was of the essence. For too many of my colleagues church growth was a dirty word(s) and they now wonder why we are where we are. The few clergy who were prepared to change the emphasis of their ministry and exercise courageous faith and perseverance in leading their churches into change and growth have seen precisely that.
It was also clear in the 70s that our financial position would,in the long run, become unsustainable unless there was a significant increase in the level of giving. The Bishops eventually asked church members to consider giving 5% of income to the Church. 35 years on no Diocese has got near. Two that have got the closest are Sheffield and Bradford. Better heeled Dioceses such as my own (Hereford) remain disastrously and shamefully low. The reason for this is that congregations have not been taught the Biblical principles of giving and have not been encouraged to see financial giving as a loving response of gratitude to God for His blessings, most of all for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our Salvation.
Despite the lost opportunities of the last 50 years I am hopeful and joyful because of what I believe God has in store for our land and even the Church of England – namely a great spiritual revival and awakening. Praise God there will be no more talk of management speak and digital lab webinars then.

Andrew McIntosh
Andrew McIntosh
3 years ago

I like to think I’m as atheist as they come and even I find that chart pictured here the essence of depressing. Tom Waits was right, and God really is away on business.

https://www.youtube.com/wat

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago

I would love Giles to tell us about how the C of E is handling all this wonderful rather vocal dissidence. Is ex-communication looming?

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

We don’t need more of any kind of vicars. We need less. Demand for The Church of England’s output is declining and staffing has yet to keep up with this reduction. Some customers are just not buying at all but others are moving to competitors, whose output is growing.

As it reduces in size and rationalises, the CofE might usefully further professionalise its management and make better use of its resources – it still has a very long way to go. It has surplus assets, poorly managed. It has dreadul HR practices – both in terms of inequality of opportunity for women, homosexuals and other diverse groups and its poor response to abuse. Spreadsheets might not be particularly spiritual, but neither are writing wine appreciation articles on online media and political campaigning – render unto Caesar….

carolstaines8
carolstaines8
3 years ago

The C of E needs to get out of its committee, quinquennial and synod mindset if it is truly interested in surviving. Get out and meet people where they are, stop bleating on about how changing their approach to homosexuality will split the Church, and take a good hard look at the clergy it employs….I know three C of E clergy who are homosexual, at least!
There are many imaginative people working under the umbrella of the C of E, people who have a fresh approach to taking the simplicity of the Christian message to folk, but they never get an airing beyond preaching to the quire.
Personally, I’m leaning quite heavily towards the Salvation Army, who, although I’m sure they also have fractious committees, get out and behave in a Christian way towards those who are most in need.
Reflecting on Christs response to the money lenders and nefarious traders in the temple, we could do with a clean broom in the C of E.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Well said!

Stephen Wikner
Stephen Wikner
3 years ago

Oh, well written, Sir. And I say that as someone whose chief contribution to the common weal has been in ‘admin’. If only someone somewhere up the greasy pole would listen to what you’re saying. Sadly, I fear little short of disestablishment and a return to the catacombs will reverse the process you describe. Let’s hope and pray I’m wrong.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Institutionalised religion, whatever ‘faith’ that might be, particularly in the multimedia, internet age, is a far more fiercely competitive market than it ever was.

The more overtly Western, liberal Christianity and, more specifically, the CoE that many of us are familiar with seems unwittingly, but perhaps appropriately, to have been far more instinctively open to ‘market forces’ than most in search of expanding its reach and appeal in the face of an ever more disparate, apparently indifferent ‘market’.

These constant attempts at ‘market responsiveness’ rather than, seemingly counterintuitively, concentrating on its core brand have proven to be its undoing as it has led to a far greater propensity to fragment in comparison to other more resolutely monolithic, conservative and protectionist religious market offerings and in doing so it has simultaneously eroded the vital economies of scale alluded to in this piece by the gentleman above.

Hence the PowerPoint…..

In short, over the decades, in their attempts to please everyone they have, in fact, pleased no-one and are now reaping the unwelcome results (for them) of what they have sown.

David Tomlinson
David Tomlinson
3 years ago

Dull piece of reactive repetition. So easy to take half a story and tear it up. For most people the parish has no meaning and the church is an invisible irrelevance. The CofE the article yearns for has never existed. The contemporary story of church is in fact richer, deeper and more wonderful than the authors bland generalisations allow for. Stories of life and experiences of love abound sure it isn’t perfect but then if it was Giles wouldn’t have anything to write about.

Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
3 years ago

Another despairing whinge from GF. despite the massive taxpayer subsidy from the church’s wholly unjustified charitable status, it still cannot balance the books. That’s because the product is obsolete. So many people have seen through the nonsense of religious belief and simply want nothing to do with it. The soonervitvall collapses, the better the world will be.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew McGee

I think that’s sort of what he’s saying. Certainly, if the product is obsolete, this kind of carry-on is not going to save it – as he says, it would be better to die with dignity.

David Simpson
David Simpson
3 years ago

or possibly, very undignifiedly (if that’s a thing), on a cross

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago

It’s more and better priests that we need, saying their prayers, serving their people.

This is practically an oxymoron – more than one, probably.
Why would a better priest be one that says his prayers?
What has prayer ever accomplished where rolling up one’s sleeves and getting one’s hands dirty has failed?

An increase in the number of priests merely swells the ranks of those who would punt ridiculous unsubstantiated nonsense and further the cause of indoctrinating children to accept such rubbish.

Less priests is the ideal scenario, with the ultimate goal to do away with this profession entirely.
Furthermore, I suspect those former professionals who have signed on to the Clergy Project would wholeheartedly agree!

Tony Nunn
Tony Nunn
3 years ago
Reply to  attaleuntold

Why would a better priest be one that says his prayers?

I would have thought that was obvious. Assuming a priest is meant to be a servant or representative of God and not just some kind of glorified social worker, then surely one who actually communicates with his/her “boss” is better than one who doesn’t.

Emily Brown
Emily Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Nunn

Perhaps the better priest would be one who tries to live by the principles of their faith and communicate and share that in a practical way. Too many priests swish around middle class parishes in a dog collar and black dress and worship and operate entirely within the confines of the parish church.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Nunn

Maybe if the prayers they said were demonstrated to have any real effect then such action might be encouraged? I imagine that even those Catholic priests who pray for forgiveness for the children they have raped and abused really know they are effectively ”pissing in the wind”.

After all, wasn’t there a survey conducted a few years back which revealed around 40% of the clergy didn’t even uphold belief in some of the foundational tenets of Christianity – virgin birth, being one of them.

I reiterate – the better/best priest is one who is honest enough to walk away and deconvert.