Wednesday 2 December 2009

Clergy numbers and deployment

I return from a period of monastic study and reflection, and meet with a group to discern a clergy apppointment. Meanwhile Doug Chaplin has been raising significant questions about local clergy deployment cuts under the challenging title “The Big question in an elderly and inward-looking Church”. This relects acute and timely ventilation of similar and significant issues by Ruth Gledhill and, especially, John Richardson. I don’t know details of the various anecdotes circling the ether, but it’s good these questions are being raised openly.

What I wonder about is the quality as well as quanitity of staff appointments and the criteria we put in parish profiles, and the way they relate to the rule.

Benedict’s criteria for job selection are clear. Relying on pragmatic knowledge of a person’s deeds revealing their character and intentions in community, people are given opportunities to prove themselves faithful, diligent and competent. They should work to the best of their ability, in an ordered way, within the fundamental balance of prayer, contemplation, work and rest, accepting radical mutual accountability to God through the community, incuding the disciplines of chapter and listening to the least voice. Discernment should be led by the abbot, shared with the community. High commitment to Conversion, stability and obedience, Gospel zeal, competence, openness to others score high. Ego, opinion, outside status and Politics score low.

Such appointments are difficult, if not impossible, if we...
  • are not sufficently a community to know our people properly and what they bring to the party;

  • pretend or waffle about our intentions for the job

  • do not observe the highest standards of justice in our equality and diversity practices. There are indications in Jesus’ teaching we would aspire to even greater and more honest relationships with our people than, say, Marks & Spencer, but we have to treat our people at least as fairly as they would treat theirs.

  • score results rather than motives, surrender awarenss of competence, balance and intentions for a vague concept like “performance.”

  • allow dirty information or untested assumptions into the process, including politics in the mean sense and anecdotal based assumptions

  • measure character mainly by checking for failings, rather than accounting it in positive descriptive terms as we weigh any offer to take on a job
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Matt Wardman said...

Specify that you mean Benedictine (order, not alcohol...) Benedict rather than Pope Benedict?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Fair Cop, Matt! Though I would, in fact, be delighted if the present Bishop of Rome and his operation were wholheartedly to embrace best practice relating to transparency, accountability, equality, opportunity and diversity. It would add considerably to their moral authority, but I realise would involve even more change thsn it does for those churches which have begun to walk seriously in that direction!

Diego said...

Thank you very much for this post.
It is refreshing to read these words coming from a Bishop.
I believe that going back to historical roots (such as the Rule of St Benedict) would do a lot of good to the Church.
Appointments of clergy must be a tough thing to do today and there are a lot of spiritually and community aware clergy and ordinands which might not do as well as others in a 'Performance review' or in a HR-style Appraisal.
Tackling the shortfall of parishoners is not a solution; it is just an emergency measure. However, empowering ministers with the right spiritual and theological training (and fostering a real sense of fellowship between diocesan presbysters) could help to form better, larger Church communities.

Anonymous said...

Vinaigrette Girl here.

If you really want to discern whether the least voices are heard, watch the faces of people your candidate thinks they don't need, whilst they're speaking to someone they do... Look at the third row back, or on the margins; look and listen. Even allowing for dyspepsia or malcontentedness, the people for whom the 'party' isn't actually being held, even if they're present, won't have their 'party faces' on, and will be more honest in their facial expressions and body language.

It's old, old, old advice from the days of personal servants: if you wanted to know the measure of a man you looked at his servants when they thought they were being unobserved. If you wanted to know if a man's recommendation of someone else was sound, and you didn't know him that well, you would engage him in conversation, to watch his manservant's face; the same for lady's maids. It's a very useful and accurate way to gauge several aspects of people you may wish to promote; particularly if they are to hold power over others.

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