Business plan for the CofE???
In May of this year Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch, Oxford, as the "Thy Kingdom Come" prayer campaign got under way, challenged the Church of England's way of mission.
Looking back over the blogs on the PCN website I was struck again by the item of May this year by Martyn Percy, Dean of Christchurch, Oxford. Martyn’s focus at the time was a challenge to the whole “Thy Kingdom Come” prayer campaign getting under way. A campaign that had come to symbolise, for many of us, the wrongheaded attempt to rebrand the Church of England. The Church, I believe, is becoming more managerial in the worst possible way and aggressive PR is part of the package. As Martyn wrote ‘It is like a business doing even more hard selling, with increasing desperation, but unwilling to ask the consumers why they aren’t buying.’
Yet there is no self-doubt among those leading this drive for change. Welby, former HTB man, told Michael Gove in the Spectator “I think the tide is turning in this country. We are seeing many churches growing,” and speaking to an evangelical gathering: “I believe from the bottom of my heart that the long years of winter in the church, especially in the Church of England, are changing. The ice is thawing, the spring is coming.”
Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington we know wanted the rural churches to have a reality check. Thorpe leads the church planting strategy which is a key part of Welby’s approach. It’s to this strategy that the Church of England’s funding is now aimed. The allocation of church funds is seen as a crucial way of effecting the change the evangelical leadership wishes for. As Thorpe has observed, “83% of people live in urban areas, but 83% of church finance doesn’t go there. But it should.”
Graham Tomlin, the bishop of Kensington examples the St Mellitus training programme as the way to develop the leadership of the future. Tomlin said of the programme that St Mellitus is training in a new way, with a new ethos, with a lively, energetic, can-do, positive atmosphere… now we need the kind of people who can build an outward-looking church with energy and vision. (Makes me wonder what many of us have been doing all these years.)
Recruiting the next generation of church leaders was the topic of discussion as 600 clergy from across London came together in 2017 for Calling London. The Diocese of London invited the ordained Chief Executive of the Post Office, Revd Paula Vennells, to address those attending. Nothing remarkable in that at first sight. A female priest in a high-powered role what could be wrong with that? Except is Paula Vennells really the right advisor to call? Certainly her business like no nonsense approach would fit in well with the current Church strategy. The Revd Paula Vennells has led the Post Office as it has undertaken the largest branch modernisation programme in UK retail history. So maybe a good fit and the right one to inform Church of England planning as it undertakes the largest “branch modernisation” programme in UK church history if the Bishop of Islington gets his way.
The Revd Vennells is not unalloyed good news though if one looks at her stewardship of the Post Office. Many sub-postmasters faced criminal charges as the Post Office toughed it out and failed to admit its IT had problems (despite Parliamentary committee pressure to own up and be transparent there was no confession from Paula or firm purpose of amendment.) Paula Vennells has indeed led the Post Office to profit on the back of its ongoing “transformation” programme. Profits rose from £13m to £35m for 2017/18. However £22m of that increase in profit was in large part due to putting further squeezes on the country’s under-remunerated postmasters and sub-postmasters. The remuneration of the sub-postmasters for the services they provide was cut by £17m, and that followed a £27m cut the previous year (while her own remuneration rose 7% to £718,000.) I suppose this is Paula Vennells way of helping the rural sub postmasters to face reality in the same way Ric Thorpe wants to do to the rural church. Perhaps this is the model the Church of England thinks is appropriate.
The Post Office was a part of village life and its sub postmasters have borne the brunt of change and now our rural parishes, historically the backbone of the Anglican church, are wincing in pain. The C of E for centuries has seen itself as a church serving the whole nation whereas now, as we are led by those who will expect its “membership” to sign up to every article of the creed, it will find its connection with the country actually shrinking despite its raucous campaigns.
with thanks to The Guardian and Private Eye