3 Minute Theologian

Words about God and Life for the Attention Deficit Generation

What to read in five month’s isolation

August Courtauld, after being relieved, May 1931

August Courtauld, after being relieved, May 1931

If you ever find yourself isolated on the Greenland Ice Cap for five months, with no one else to speak to, or be with, and no knowledge of when you will be relieved, then follow August Courtauld’s advice:


Purchas His Pilgrimes.
Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens.
A Tarpaulin Muster, Masefield.
The Brassbounder, Bone.
The Ghost Ship and Other Tales, Middleton (Benn).
Two Years Before the Mast, Dana.
The Golden Key, Van Dyke (Scribner).
Under Sail, Riesenburg (Cape).
Fenceless Meadows, Adams (Hutchinson).
Great Waters, Hutchinson
Almanach des Gourmands, M. Florence.
Life of C. M. Doughty, Hogarth.
Peter the Great, Graham.
My Brother Jonathan, Young.
Joseph and his Brethren, Freeman.
Portrait in a Mirror, Morgan.
The Legion of the Damned, Doty.
Cambridge History of Empire, Vols. I-IV .
The Star Spangled Manner, Nichols.
The Art of Forgetting, Shepard.
Essays and Fantasies, Lucas.
The Aftermath, Churchill.
The Nature of the Physical World, Eddington.
The Universe Around Us, Jeans.
The Compleat Angler, Walton.
Great Poems of the English Language, Harrap.
The Red Rover, Fenimore Cooper.

Quoted in J. M. Scott, Portrait of an Ice Cap: With Human Figures (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953), pp. 120-121.

I am ashamed to say that I have read none of those.

Silence: the barking of dogs

There was, of course, no necessity to write at all, but in all animals abnormal experience urges communication. The more stupid the dog the more it barks, and nothing makes for more chatter than ignorance.

Christopher Burney, ‘Preface (to the Second Edition, 1960)’, in Solitary Confinement; the Dungeon Democracy (London: Macmillan, 1984), p 2.

The medicalization of morality

The medicalization of what have previously been considered moral issues is a broader cultural phenomenon. This trajectory is irresistible—who wants to be the last asshole standing, issuing condemnations rather than solicitude? But here we see the sly logic by which democratic nonjudgmentalness gets turned to advantage in unregulated capitalism, with the aid of an expansionary psychiatric establishment. To capital, our moral squeamishness about being “judgmental” smells like opportunity.

Matthew Crawford The World Beyond Your Head, (2015), p. 107

Crawford is speaking specifically of gambling and the thanatos principle which is built into corporate controlled gambling in the U.S.  But his insight applies more widely. 

MDR 10: A brief bibliography

All links were valid in April 2012. Some, and especially the diocesan ones, may no longer be functioning.

Archbishops’ Council. “Capability Procedure: Code of Practice Made under Section 8 Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009,” April 27, 2010. <www.churchofengland.org/media/56741/10%204%2027%20Capability%20Code%20of%20Practice%20-%20FINAL.pdf>.

———. “Ministerial Development Review Guidance.” Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, January 2010. <www.churchofengland.org/media/56739/MDR%20updated%20120209.pdf>.

———. Ordination Services: Study Guide. Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England. London: Church House Publishing, 2007.

———. Review of Clergy Terms of Service?: Part One (GS 1527). London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2004.

———. Review of Clergy Terms of Service?: Part Two (GS 1564). London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2005.

Bazerman, Max H., Rafik I. Beekun, and F. David Schoorman. “Performance Evaluation in a Dynamic Context: A Laboratory Study of the Impact of a Prior Commitment to the Ratee.” Journal of Applied Psychology 67, no. 6 (December 1982): 873–76. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.67.6.873.

Bristol Diocese. “MDR: Ministry Development Review, More about the Questionnaire.” Diocese of Bristol?: Ministry Resources, 2011. <www.bristol.anglican.org/ministry/mdr/questionnaire.html>.

———. “MDR: Self-Assessment Questionnaire,” 2011. <www.bristol.anglican.org/ministry/mdr/sample_questions.pdf>.

Culbert, Samuel A. “Get Rid of the Performance Review!” The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2008.

———. “Why Your Boss Is Wrong About You.” The New York Times, March 2, 2011, NYC edition.

Culbert, Samuel A., and Larry Rout. Get Rid of the Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing—and Focus on What Really Matters. New York: Business Plus, 2010.

Department of Trade and Industry. “Discussion Document on Employment Status in Relation to Statutory Employment Rights,” July 2002. <www.delni.gov.uk/employment_status_consultation_document.pdf>.

Diocese of Canterbury. “Ministerial Development Review Pack: Growing Forward Together.” Diocese of Canterbury, January 2010.

———. “The Bishop’s Ministerial Development Review,” October 2010.

Employment Relations Act. C. 26, 1999. <www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/26/contents>.

Freedman, David H. “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.” Atlantic Monthly, November 2010.

Friedman, Edwin H. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 2nd ed. New York: Seabury Books, 2007.

General Synod of the Church of England. “Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations,” February 2007.

———. Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure. 2009 No. 1, 2009. <www.legislation.gov.uk/ukcm/2009/1/contents/enacted>.

Grint, Keith. “What’s Wrong With Performance Appraisals? A Critique and a Suggestion.” Human Resource Management Journal 3, no. 3 (1993): 61–77. doi:10.1111/j.1748-8583.1993.tb00316.x.

Ioannidis, John P. A. “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” PLoS Med 2, no. 8 (2005): e124. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124.

Kiechel, Walter. “When Subordinates Evaluate the Boss.” Fortune 13 (June 19, 1989): 201–3.

Longenecker, Clinton O., and Dennis A. Gioia. “Neglected at the Top: Executives Talk about Executive Appraisal.” Sloan Management Review 29, no. 2 (1988): 41–47.

McGregor, Douglas. “An Uneasy Look at Performance Appraisal.” Harvard Business Review 35, no. 3 (June 1957): 89–94. doi:Article.

Nickols, Fred. “Don’t Redesign Your Company’s Performance Appraisal System, Scrap It!” Corporate University Review 5, no. 3 (June 1997): 54–59.

Petrini, Catherine M. “Upside-Down Performance Appraisals.” Training & Development 45, no. 7 (July 1991): 15–22. doi:Article.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey. “The Trouble with Performance Reviews.” BusinessWeek: Managing, June 30, 2009. <www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jun2009/ca20090630_570973.htm>.

Thiselton, Anthony C. “Some Thoughts on Theological Principles Relating to the Employment Relations Act.” In Review of Clergy Terms of Service?: Part One (GS 1527), by Archbishops’ Council, 57–64. London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2004.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. 2nd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958.

MDR 9: A Conclusion

In brief, the secular iterations of MDR, according to their secular critics, have been over-sold and under-delivered. Furthermore, secular appraisal schemes have added to the (justifiable?) sense of political and economic manipulation of subordinates by superordinates. If we take the secular critics seriously, then MDR, implemented thoughtlessly or carelessly, could become an exercise in evidence-gathering for capability procedures, a medium for expressing unacknowledged and unjust power relationships, or, at best, a three-yearly cycle of presentation and re-presentation of ministerial needs. All these outcomes have the danger to be a perfect breeding ground for tokenistic participation and cynical disengagement.

The fact that the nationally mandated guidelines for MDR allows a measure of lee-way for each bishop and diocese to structure MDR appropriately for their needs, may allow an escape from such dire consequences. MDR, as it will be worked out, needs to be modest in both its aspirations and, more importantly, in the way in which it is described through official discourse. Part of this modesty will be an honesty about the contingent and subjective nature of the process. It needs to encourage the quality of the relationship between reviewers and reviewed, rather than any necessity to ‘get through the questions and write up the report’. It will be very important for dioceses planning a triennial episcopal meeting that the bishop truly is situated at the ‘heart of the process’, and that the reviewees feel that their concerns are heard, and acted upon.

Until now, according to Respondent E, MDR has been ‘mostly harmless’. Whether it continues to be so benign remains to be discovered.

Ayn Randed (nearly branded…)


There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Original Page: Ephemera 2009 (7), http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2009/03/ephemera-2009-7.html?m=1, 19 March, 2009

MDR 8: Three Concerns (iii)

3. Peer-review

Some dioceses wish to implement 360° review (of a sort) by providing for ‘confidential feedback from those who experience [the reviewee’s] ministry first-hand.’[i] This is a high-risk procedure. Peer review systems, beginning once more with the best intentions, very quickly break down into opportunities for professional and personal revenge. The US Army’s peer review process quickly became known as the ‘SYB system’— Screw Your Buddy[ii]. This tendency is particularly acute if peer review is allowed to be anonymous in a misplaced drive for ‘objectivity’. As Culbert puts it: ‘Hate mail, I suppose, is similarly “objective.”’[iii] The choice in truth-telling is often an exercise in a moral choice between preferring Y, ‘your best friend’, and X, ‘who regularly beats you at squash’[iv]. Anonymous peer review is, in the end, ‘just a slicker way for people to push what’s in their political interests to establish, without having their biases and motives scored and their viewpoints discounted’[v].

Furthermore, there appears to be no provision made for a similar process in the MDR of ‘senior staff’ in the diocese: will the Bishop and Archdeacons subject themselves to ‘confidential feedback’ from ‘a range of people who have direct knowledge of [their] ministry’?[vi] If not, why not? Perhaps they are familiar with the study of Walter Kiechel which described the dangers of ‘subordinate review’:

Don’t try it, for instance, in a primitively authoritarian organization, one being downsized, or anyplace with minimal communication up and down: it will only feed the general paranoia.[vii]



[i] Diocese of Canterbury, “DoCMDR,” 2.3.

[ii] Catherine M. Petrini, “Upside-Down Performance Appraisals,” Training & Development 45, no. 7 (July 1991): 15. Cited in Grint, “What’s Wrong,” 75.

[iii] Culbert, “Get Rid (WSJ).”

[iv] Grint, “What’s Wrong,” 62.

[v] Culbert and Rout, Get Rid of the Performance Review, 54.

[vi] Diocese of Canterbury, “DoCMDR,” 5.3.

[vii] Kiechel, “Subordinates evaluate.”

The Plain-Chant Whinge


The flat top of the truncated pyramid was in fact quite large, with plenty of room for statues, priests, slabs, gutters, knife-chipping production lines and all the other things the Tezumen needed for the bulk disposal of religion. In front of Rincewind several priests were busily chanting a long list of complaints about swamps, mosquitoes, lack of metal ore, volcanoes, the weather, the way obsidian never kept its edge, the trouble with having a god like Quezovercoatl, the way wheels never worked properly however often you laid them flat and pushed them, and so on.

The prayers of most religions generally praise and thank the gods involved, either out of general piety or in the hope that he or she will take the hint and start acting responsibly. The Tezumen, having taken a long hard look around their world and decided bluntly that things were just about as bad as they were ever going to get, had perfected the art of the plain-chant whinge.

Terry Pratchett, Eric, Discworld 9 (London: Victor Gollancz; Corgi, 1991).

[H/T Dr Hannah Matis Perrett]

MDR 7: Three Concerns (ii)

2. Power and Language

Questions of power are unavoidable when MDR is related to the capability procedures of the ‘Clergy Terms and Conditions of Service’[i]. Although ACMDR 2010 says that MDR and capability are two separate procedures, it makes clear that the latter is dependent, at least in evidential terms, upon the former:

…it would be open to question whether the capability procedure had been properly followed if the written record of the MDR did not provide evidence that issues about performance and the need to improve had been raised with the office holder.[ii]

There are two Sprachspiele at work here, to misapply Wittgenstein[iii]. The two language-games are ‘development’, ‘celebration’ and ‘vocation honouring’ on the one hand, and ‘capability’, ‘final written warnings’, and ‘performance [falling] below an acceptable minimum standard’[iv] on the other. As Wittgenstein said:

Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from one side and know your way about; you approach the same place from another side and no longer know your way about.[v]

This oscillation between language-games has not gone unnoticed. As Respondent A puts it: ‘The new regulations of 2009 would seem to move quickly from grace to works…’. It will require scrupulous practice to deflect suspicions about the ultimate motivations of MDR, and to prevent it from being seen as the first stage of a capability procedure.

The solution for this is, once again, trust and relationship. Longenecker and Gioia conducted a qualitative survey on the way in which performance appraisal was conducted in seven large American organizations, each with a long-standing culture of performance appraisals[vi]. Even those who were responsible for conducting appraisals for others experienced ‘apprehension’ when they themselves were appraised. The primary source for this was the ‘quality of the working relationship between appraiser and appraisee’[vii], and the major factor which affected that was the subordinate’s level of trust in the superordinate. One of their executive respondents said:

Trust is paramount if the appraisal process is going to work… If it isn’t there 365 days a year, it will really show up on the day you get your appraisal. It becomes very easy to be cynical with your boss if you think he’s playing mind games or political games with the appraisal… As the trust factor goes down, the subordinate’s anxiety factors will go up.[viii]



[i] Archbishops’ Council, “Capability Procedure: Code of Practice made under Section 8 Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009”, April 27, 2010, <www.churchofengland.org/media/56741/10%204%2027%20Capability%20Code%20of%20Practice%20-%20FINAL.pdf>.

[ii] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 8.1.

[iii] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), §7.

[iv] Archbishops’ Council, “Capability Procedure Code of Practice,” 2.1.

[v] Wittgenstein, PI, §203.

[vi] Clinton O. Longenecker and Dennis A. Gioia, “Neglected at the Top: executives talk about executive appraisal,” Sloan Management Review 29, no. 2 (1988): 41–47. The methodology is stated on p. 42.

[vii] Longenecker and Gioia, “Neglected at the Top,” 44.

[viii] Longenecker and Gioia, “Neglected at the Top,” 44. Elisions in the original.

MDR 6: Three Concerns (i)

1. ‘Episcopally-centred’

Although MDR within the Church of England has originated on a national and legally-required level, it will be implemented diocese by diocese. The ecclesiology of the initial measure (‘MDR is episcopally led’[i]) requires it: it is ‘the bishop [who is] responsible for ensuring that a MDR scheme is provided…’[ii]. Every diocese will therefore need to take the bare wording of the Measure and the accompanying Guidance and contextualize both for its own situation. Thus, one diocese modulates the wording of the ACMDR 2010 into a more affective register: ‘it is the bishop’s intention to be at the heart of ministry development.’[iii] The bishop’s authority and ethos is intended to inform and shape the entire culture of MDR within his diocese: ‘The reviewer should be…conversant with the bishop’s vision and expectations of his clergy in general…’[iv]

The episcopal-centeredness of MDR is, however, immediately undermined by understandable, logistical, reasons: ‘In most dioceses [the bishop] is unlikely to be able to conduct all reviews himself’[v], so he ‘may wish to delegate some of his functions…’[vi]. This means that although the bishop might intend to be at the heart of the process, in practice he will infrequently be seen by his reviewed clergy; a triennial meeting the most commonly mentioned cycle. It is easy to foresee this being perceived, at best, as the interview with a distant area manager, and, at its worst, Culbert’s ‘intimidation aimed at preserving the boss’s authority and power advantage’[vii].



[i] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 3.1.

[ii] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 3.2.

[iii] Diocese of Canterbury, “The Bishop’s Ministerial Development Review”, October 2010, sec. 1.3. Henceforth referred to as DoCMDR.

[iv] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 4.4.

[v] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 4.1.

[vi] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 3.1.

[vii] Culbert, “Get Rid (WSJ).”

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