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.