Thursday 7 January 2010

Dignity at work: Systemics

A few things are becoming clear to me from the excellent discussions we have been having on clergy bullying (of and by):
  1. The doctrine of original sin happens to be true, and reveals itself esoecially at work, like it does among drivers. Bad stuff goes on everywhere and at all times. I met a postie recently, who told me his Union took a less than laid-back Buddhist attitude to his refusal to join in a recent strike. One of the worst and most disturbing example of bullying I’ve encountered was of a member of the clergy by a journalist from a national newspaper. So we’re all in this thing together. There is none guiltless, no not one — why should we wish to be deceived?

  2. Christianity is a social and personal means of redemption — a process of grace working through real people. Therefore this phenomenon does matter, and does, continuously, need to be addressed. Failing to engage with it denies dignity to the victim and the possibility of redemption to the perpetrator. G. K. Chesterton was right to say, in his quaint way, “we are sick and very sad who bring good news to all mankind,” but that can never be the last word. Jesus said “by this shall all know that you are my disciples, by the love you have... love one another as I have loved you.” That is the Gold Standard — not a discussion starter, but a way of life.

  3. Whistleblowing and transparency are essential weapons against abuse. They can never, however be the whole answer, because making them so puts most, if not all, the responsibility on the victim, as though it was somehow their fault. This is morally wrong, because it leaves control (with diminished responsibility) in the hands of the institution, not the victim.

  4. Therefore those who lead the institutional Church, fallen people that we are like everyone else, need to do serious intentional work to create a consistent culture of respect and justice within our own spheres of influence and authority. That defends the faith much more effectively than making snarky comments on atheist websites. Throughout the organisation, in every way, as far as lies in us, we have to express values that support human dignity. I have disussed this question carefully with some vastly able big hitters who have led particular UK public institutions through the transformation of their cultures of equality and diversity. This has convinced me that the only way we can transform ours is by producing and enforcing, in a publicly accountable way, routines that express these values. This will sometimes mean the organisation moving ahead of people. So be it. It’s only as this is done that decency becomes the shared norm in any organisation.

  5. The basis for real Church life is not Instutionalism. It’s repentance and faith. As I read the NT I ask “what kind of attitude to relationships would you expect in a community which existed on this basis, and was trying to do it now as a way of life together?” the answer is mutual accountability — each to the other, all to each, each to all, corporately to God. This is the NT principle that is sometimes quaintly called “mutual submission.” We all have eccentricities. One of mine is that when I put a new priest in, and they make their declarations and oaths, I often express publicly my view that this ceremony marks me as being as accountable to them as they are promising to be to me. Ministry is fruitfully exercised with mutual accountability — anything less is a control game that leads easily to abuse.

  6. Finally, please help me out. We are currently considering how to further the work of our Diocesan Committee for Racial Justice to advance Equality and Diversity best practice. The new Equalities Act will bring various strands together, and it’s important for our work to reflect reality and opportunity, and to be morally cogent and consistent with our values. This process of discernment makes me ask, “Prcatically speaking, what kind of a body, involving who, how, will best secure and advance in our diocese our accountability to values of equality, diversity and justice?” all answers, please, gratefully received...
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UKViewer said...

The MOD as a major organisation turned around its Diversity and Equality systems in the 1990's.

I can commend to you the Diversity and Equality Advisors course run by the Defence Academy (Cranfield University) which I attended and I will freely admit, turned me around.

It is one week long, but is intense and covers so much ground with exposure to so many different facets. It makes you confront your ideas and prejudices (that you did not know you had) and, if taken on board, sends you away changed.

This course, redesigned for the Church to meet its needs would equip an Advisor at Diocesion or Deanery level to assist with planning, implementation and delivery of the Policy.

Anonymous said...

To address point 6, I've seen several people go through the process of discernment for ordination and, as a social scientist, I feel that a starting point for improving the process is to collect data to build a better picture of where the problems in the process actually lie. If you just go with leaders of the church's gut feelings I think they're likely to have a distorted view of what's going on because most people don't want to admit or are even conscious of the way that they discriminate against people based upon their race or background.

I think a good first step would be data collection at the point of BAPs. It's not ideal because a lot of problems with discernment occur before people even get near to a BAP, but the paper work of a BAP provides an opportunity for data collection and will at least give you an accurate picture of who gets to that point and gets through. You could attach to the BAP paper work an equal opportunities form, of the sort lots of us have filled in, asking for a few tick box questions about age, gender, race, disability and background, making clear that this won't be seen by the people on the panel. After the BAP you could also include anonymous feedback forms, which won't be seen by anyone in the decision process or in their future career so that it won't affect their career, to ask them about the BAP and their experience of discernment prior to it.

Ideally if you had the money it would be good to get independent consultants in so that no clergy would so the confidential information in a non-anonymous state and they'd have more experience with addressing diversity issues. However, failing that you could still do something like this in house.

Ann Memmott said...

Bishop, valuable work indeed regarding equality and diversity.

The Equality Bill will, as we know, attempt to integrate discrimination and harassment relating to age, disability,gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex & sexual orientation. A potentially huge relief to employers and school Governors/church Advisers like myself who have to have a separate policy for each of these things at present, each with different laws relating to them.

A good structure for promoting God's equal love of all is one in which we consider three things, I think:

Jesus's commandment to love everyone, even if they're different.

The need to also respect everyone as an equal, yet also to offer quiet acknowledgement and respect for the vulnerabilities and needs of each person in the world around us. If well done, not patronising, but empowering.

The need to include individuals who represent those characteristics in the committees and the decision-making processes: "Nothing about us without us", as we say in both the fields of disability and LGBT matters. It can be so tempting for any group to only include "people like ourselves" on committees, or include only those least affected by the issues, and add in a token report or snippet of information from those who are deemed too different. But equality needs to mean just that. Who do we fear being with because of difference? Invite them. I do. Great fun, wonderful people.

We gain so much by that new respect, new love, new friendship.

Vinaigrette girl said...

Hm. Perhaps being very conscious of the dangers of valuing theory over praxis would be worth pursuing. George Fox, when he decided that neither Oxford nor Cambridge divines could address his condition, found that this disillusioning of the acceptable face of elegant theory was a key factor in his finding Christ.

Some priests write great books but still aren't actually very fruitful as priests. You might look to what internal capacity you have at hand but have overlooked (we have two saints in our little parish but they'd have to be netted and darted to get them to slow down long enough to ask them to share their points of view!).

By their fruits shall ye know them. That's quite a good criterion, we're told...

Steve Hayes said...

It all sounds horribly abstract and bureaucratic. What are values of equality, diversity and justice? How do they manifest them,selves when present? And where do you want to see them present in the diocese? What in the diocese actually counters those values? What is "best practice"? Who can prescribe such a thing to whom?

It sounds to be in a similar category to the health and sfety things you mentioned in snowstorms -- bureaucracy gone mad.

When i was in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, there were manifest inequalities. Clergy in rich parishes got morte money than clergy in poor parishes. Therefore clergy in rich parishes were reluctrant to move to poor parishes. When one comes acrossw concrete instances of inequality, one can tackle them, but "best practices in equality" sounds like a very vague and nebulous concept to me.

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