April 20, 2021 - 7:00am

Exciting news from the Church of England. The Diocese of Sheffield is to appoint “four further Associate Archdeacon Transition Enablers.”

Yes, really! Not one or two or three, but four. Indeed, four further persons of this description. At this rate, the North of England will soon be overrun with them.

One question though: what is an Associate Archdeacon Transition Enabler? The title, while awfully impressive, is somewhat ambiguous. Is the purpose of an AATE to enable Archdeacons to transition? If so, what are these Archdeacons transitioning to? Butterflies, perhaps.

Consulting the Diocesan website, I discover that “the intention is to create a collaborative context that enables Deaneries, Parishes and Mission Areas to embrace significant change.”

No, me neither.

I would try to fathom out this mystery — but lack the necessary motivation. For a start, I’m a Left Footer, and we have enough troubles of our own. Furthermore, from my own experience of management speak, I suspect that the number of words in a title is inversely related to the seniority of the role (and certainly any extra pay). Finally, if “significant change” means something wonderful — as opposed to, say, taking an axe to the parish system — then shouldn’t it be more clearly expressed?

As I recall, Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs” not to “enable their transition”.

Writing for UnHerd earlier this year, Giles Fraser accepts that the C of E cannot avoid organisational reform. However, he’d prioritise the needs of the parishes over the ecclesiastical bureaucracy.

He’s not wrong. Rather like certain football clubs currently in the news, the bishops should think very carefully before alienating their “legacy fans”.

Then again, joining (or rather re-joining) the ecclesiastical equivalent of the European Super League might be just what the Church of England needs.

How’s that for a “transition”?

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.