Church of England governance upheaval ignores elephants in the room


(Photo: Unsplash / Adam Rhodes)

It would appear that senior Church of England officials do not feel that the electoral process provides the kind of people they want at the top of the institution. It is if the new report of the Governance Review Group (GRG) is representative of the way the CofE hierarchy thinks.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York want a more streamlined governance structure for the National Church. So they set up the GRG led by the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines.

He unveiled the GRG’s proposals on Tuesday. The report recommends a single body to oversee the CofE under the suggested name of National Services of the Church of England, which would perform most of the functions now spread across seven National Church Institutions (NCIs).

They are: the Council of Archbishops, the Church Commissioners, the Church of England Pensions Board, the Central Services of the Church of England, the National Society and the two Archbishops with their palaces and their staff.

“While we recognize that the Church of England has historical reasons for its fragmented organizational ecology, we were nonetheless convinced from the start that the status quo in its present complexity is not sustainable or fit for the future mission of the Church, ”says the GRG report. .

“This complexity does not nurture the Church organization so much as it encourages confusion, duplication, and accountability gaps. Our first information gathering exercise reinforced this view.”

The report will be presented before the first meeting of the General Synod in November for its new five-year term following elections this month. Bishop Baines hopes that the Synod will “take note of the report” allowing it to be discussed in more detail at the February meeting.

The proposal for a single governing body was widely covered by the media. But what appears to have been omitted from the coverage is some of the report’s rather sinister rhetoric.

Take this statement in section 190: “In the Church of England a significant number of appointments to governing bodies are made through the electoral process. In our opinion, this does not meet what the Church needs from its governing bodies.

“The bodies of the Church which elect or appoint people to the governing bodies of the Church of England are not themselves very diverse bodies, which means that the people they elect or appoint to the governing bodies of the Church of England. governance tend not to provide the diversity which is one of the requirements of the UK Code of Corporate Governance. “

Put simply, it would appear that the members of the GRG, which include the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, and the former first Church Property Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, are unhappy with the kind of people the General Synod elects. on the existing CofE governing bodies.

Seems familiar? As the defeated Labor local councilor said after the May election: “The voters let us down.

But there is another darker dimension to this. What do the Marxist utopians do when they take over countries? They abolish the free press and they abolish free elections.

The GRG did not go so far as to propose the complete abolition of democracy in the governance of the CofE. They want a nominating committee to be set up that “should ‘sift through’ those who wish to run before the election to verify that they have the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and behavior to do so. be able to exercise their duties as a director responsibly and effectively “.

“In carrying out this selection process, the nominations committee should seek to keep in mind the objective of ensuring that the body to which it appoints has the appropriate composition (including skills, knowledge, experience and diversity) among appointed and elected members.

“This pre-electoral screening – although rigorous – should not be so onerous that it takes away democracy,” the report said.

It remains to be seen to what extent the newly elected members of the General Synod are reassured by this apparent desire to maintain democracy.

But what is clear is that an upheaval in governance cannot take the two elephants into the CofE room. This is the drop in attendance, which of course reduces the number of volunteers available to serve the Church locally and nationally, and the doctrinal chaos in the CofE.

If the house is divided over the spiritual and moral message that its inhabitants display on its windows, how can this house stand?

Does “Holy Scripture tell us only the Name of Jesus Christ, by which men are to be saved,” as stated in the 39 articles of religion of CofE?

Or can one go to heaven being a good Muslim or a good Buddhist or a good secular humanist?

Is the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage the only appropriate context for the expression of sexual love, as the Book of Common Prayer says? Or is sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman now allowed for Christians?

The CofE is deeply divided on these central issues, as well as a number of other issues, such as the allocation of resources. Should the money go to more central positions or to support the creaky parish system?

Is placing your governing body in one room instead of having multiple bodies in different rooms of the house very unlikely to change that?

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Morecambe, Lancashire.

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