Wednesday, January 07, 2015

In Praise of the Green Report

Nearly half of the Church of Englands paid employees think the CofE is 'Bad' or 'Quite Bad' at supporting and developing talent (full data here p9). You would therefore think that a report addressing how we could do this better would be greeted with delight. Not so.

The 'Green Report', an internal report which seems to have been intended for publication this month, was leaked/announced by the Church Times just before Christmas. To say the CT wasn't impressed was putting it mildly. A lot of vigorous discussion followed (links here, here, here, here,  and now a new set based on the report getting an award from the FT for opaque English)

The report addresses two unquestionable issues
1. The Church of England faces a time of massive challenge and change. Society is changing fast, and the CofE, on current trends and in its current form, does not have a long term future.
2. Training and development of clergy is inadequate, to put it kindly. For the report, the focus is senior leadership (principally bishops and cathedral deans), but this is a specific instance of a more general problem. (something the Church Times itself has recognised)

The focus of the report is the current training and induction of Bishops and senior clergy, and the development of generations of future leaders for the CofE. It looks at how to align this training with the stated priorities of the CofE (growth, reshaping ministry, and contributing to the common good), and how best to develop the senior leaders the CofE will need in the future.

Justin Welby explains part of the rationale, probably better than the report itself:
We talk much about discernment and do little as an institution. To leave the discernment of a vocation to the episcopacy to the brief moment of a CNC* is absurd. One cannot leave it that late. The process of the Green Report enables discernment to be carried out in a thoughtful and sustained manner over a period of a number of years, with excellent pastoral care for those who are not going to be appointed to senior posts. It is also absolutely essential that we have institutional structures that are seen to be fair and just. The experience of too many is one of profound rejection after a period of extreme crisis.

There's always a suspicion that some of those criticising the report haven't actually read it, so here's a few quotes to give a flavour:

the aim is to "develop clergy of exceptional leadership potential to make a significant impact in every area of the Church’s endeavour, and to be more open to the emergence of leaders from a wider variety of background and range of skills than is currently predictable... the church must be more intentional about drawing in those with high potential who do not appear to ‘fit in’ "

‘the goal is more ministry, not more bureaucracy’

“This generation of leaders faces a huge challenge in terms of balancing the development of their spiritual life and developing the skills needed to lead the Church through a period of profound change. These leaders have received little (or no) leadership training to prepare them for the challenge."

“the current MDR (on the job training for clergy) process is too fragmented and of variable quality to provide a suitable foundation for talent and leadership development processes”

The report states that internal trainers and theological colleges 'failed to provide sufficient challenge' for senior leadership development in the CofE, which may or may not explain why one former theological college principle has been a highly vocal critic of the report.

I was at theological college in the 1990s, and whilst the theological and some of the practical training was good, training related to leadership was non-existent. At no point did the college seriously address issues of character, holiness and integrity, at no point did we look at how you develop teams, identify gifts, lead change, set a vision or grow a church. Yes we could theologically reflect with the best of them, and we could empathise until some of us were past oral caring. It was only when I was invited to join the Arrow Leadership Programme at CPAS, 2 years into my curacry, that I discovered what was missing. The vague uneasiness I'd had at theological college that we were skirting round something fundamental turned out to be right. Here was a whole stack of perspectives, insights, personal challenges and skills that have turned out to be indispensable to me in local church leadership.

In identifying future leaders, the Green Report proposes a 'talent pool', a rolling 5 year programme of spiritual and leadership development (yes, spiritual development, it's not all business-speak) for people identified as having the potential for senior posts. Critics of this speak as though the 'talent pool' was being imposed upon a void. Far from it. Patronage societies, old boys networks, theological networks, there is an array of informal 'talent pools' already at work within the CofE. Look at the appointments made by Robert Runcie when he was ABofC. Do we want the best people in our senior leadership roles, or just the best connected?

It's also clear that those in leadership need more support and help with issues of integrity and spirituality. Chris Brain, Mark Stibbe, Mark Driscoll, and plenty of ordinary parish clergy: every year there are new additions to the casuality list of people who lost it personally, theologically, or spiritually and crashed off the road. The more demanding CofE ministry becomes, the better prepared and supported our leaders, and especially our senior leaders, need to be.

And what is better, a new bishop who has the role sprung on them, or someone who's already had time to think, learn, experience and prepare? Jesus is clear fairly early on with Peter that he'll have the foundational role in the early church, but he has a few years of apprenticeship to serve first. We face the same issue with any position of responsibility in the church - churchwarden, childrens leader etc. We're not great at planning ahead, and many of these roles are filled by the last person to say no, rather than someone who's been prepared and trained up. Lets face it, the CofE is poor at this across the board.

If we are to be good stewards of the gifts that the Spirit has given the church, then we should do our best to develop them. And this needs to happen all the way through the church. Talent spotting (or 'discernment' to use the churchy word) needs to be normal good practice for everyone from the home group leader to the Diocesan Bishop. And not only spotting talent, but developing it, supporting it, and making sure practical and personal gifts are deeply integrated with prayer and character. The Green report seems to me to be a step in the right direction.

*Crown Nominations Commission, which appoints bishops

Update: for a very helpful executive summary of the Green report, go to this post at Useful in Parts. also has a rolling list of links to comments and commentary.


  1. Well said, good to hear some positive reflective comment on it!

  2. Thanks Kevin, I always like to go for the gap in the market

  3. Yes, the big gap! Nice reflections, but a couple of astonishing ones.

    'At no point did the college seriously address issues of character, holiness and integrity.' Seriously? You didn't talk about your own prayer life, your discipleship, obedience to God and character in your formation group or with your tutor? Really?

    Second, you did Arrow in your curacy (or curacry!). Right—in the second half of your ordination training then. So your training did in fact cover all these points!

    There is much nonsense spoken about training on the basis that you need to learn everything in three (or two) years at college.

  4. Ian - we had 'spirituality lectures' each week, but there was nobody that I was accountable to for my prayer life, discipleship, formation and obedience to God. It was left up to students. Tutor groups were a lottery, only one really worked in the 4 years I was there, and they were mostly an excercise in avoiding serious discussion.

    Arrow I did voluntarily, by invitation from CPAS. It wasn't a formal part of my training, so I can't really give the CofE any credit for including it in my IME. If my training covered these points, it was nothing to do with anything I was being offered at theological college or through POT.

    I don't think you need to learn everything at college, and some of the leadership stuff is better learned on the job, but I only learnt about it through Arrow. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. I enjoyed being at St. Johns, but my wife did a year with YWAM at the same time, and they were digging deep into issues of character and discipleship at the same time as theological college wasn't, it was a very stark contrast.

  5. ta for the post

    - like others (I suspect) when i read the 12/12 Church Times article on the leaked report my reaction was "oh no - more management jargon applied uncritically to the CoE".

    - once the report became available (12/12 on the thinking anglicans website, 16/12 on the cofe one) I had a chance to read it and my reaction mellowed as the report was more subtle and nuanced than the Church Times article had suggested

    - for those who haven't got the time to read the whole report I've summarised it in a post - and linked to all the other comments on it I have found so

  6. Sarah Rowland Jones8/1/15 8:33 pm

    Well, I overlapped with you, and I can say that I found heaps of input on spirituality, character, integrity, prayer life, being aware of one's 'buttons', working with old baggage etc, both in fellowship groups (some, I agree, were better than others) and elsewhere. But I do think there was, rightly, a bit of an onus on us to take responsibility for ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to others - and perhaps some did try to avoid it. And during the final year and leavers' course (a different year to you) we did get quite a lot of input on leadership, change management, and so forth. That said, though, I agree that there should be opportunities throughout ministry to develop a range of management skills that support the primary tasks of ordained ministry. My concern would be if these came to drive the process, which is perhaps where the fears lie in some heated responses. Now, if the Green Report had been presented as part of a package that also included the FAOC report, it would be a lot more holistic. [Sarah RJ - I can't get the 'comment as' bit to work!]

  7. Oh, in the end it did. The preview had me as 'anonymous'!..

  8. Sarah - that's good to hear, but just scanning my bookshelves now I can't find a single book on leadership which dates from my time at college, though there are plenty of bible commentaries, and several on pastoral care, spirituality and worship.

    I'd like to see a wider process that embeds 'talent spotting'/discerning spiritual gifts and vocation at every level of the church, so that every ordained person is trained specifically in how to develop and release other people in ministry and leadership, and sees this as a core part of their role in the parish. Every parish should have a 'talent pool' of future leaders and ministers who are getting an investment in their discipleship and spiritual gifts from the church leadership. For the sake of many, invest in a few: it's what Jesus did.