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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.

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.”

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).”

MDR 5: The Preposterousness of Objectivity

Part of this problem comes from MDR’s pretence of objectivity. As ACMDR 2010 puts it ‘MDR is expected to be searching’, and, to achieve this therefore, ‘the reviewer should be able to take an objective view.’[i] This is in defiance of the scepticism of secular critics who have argued that there can be no such thing as objectivity in an appraisal process. Culbert warned:

Most performance reviews are staged as ‘objective’ commentary, as if any two supervisors would reach the same conclusions about the merits and faults of the subordinate. But consider the well-observed fact that when people switch bosses, they often receive sharply different evaluations from the new bosses to whom they now report.[ii]

The claim for objectivity is ‘preposterous’ says Culbert[iii], as it is impossible to separate an assessment of the subordinate’s attributes and achievements from the ‘evaluator’s self-interests’. Accordingly, what you see is what you are determined to see.[iv]

This is a function of what Erwin Friedman called the cult of ‘data deluge’[v] in our society, a cult which is a ‘learned superstition’: it takes the form that ‘[i]f only we knew enough, we could do (or fix) anything’[vi]. The proliferation of data, and the anxiety that accompanies the proliferation (based upon the nagging worry that you have not collected enough of the right kind of data) is analogous, Friedman argues, to ‘substance abuse’: the orientation towards data collection and collation ‘overwhelms leaders… confuses them with contradictory results… [and] emphasizes weakness rather than strength…’[vii].

Friedman’s critique of a ‘social science construction of reality’[viii] was borne out by, ironically, an empirical meta-study of medical research papers. In 2005 John Ioannidis demonstrated that,

assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories, researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time.[ix]

Even in medical research, Ioannidis argues, there is no such thing as objectivity: what you see is what you are determined to see, even if you are unconscious that you are determined to see it. Or, as Ioannidis puts it, ‘claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.’[x]

Ioannidis’ study fundamentally questions ‘scientific’ and ‘empirical’ studies. What are the consequences for the social scientific methodologies as used by some dioceses in preparing data for MDR? In Bristol Diocese’s MDR Questionnaire seven respondents, including the reviewee, grade 64 heads along a double 5-point scale. This is incapable of producing a statistically meaningful result, let alone acknowledges what Friedman calls the necessary ‘emotional processes’:

…in any data-gathering process, attempts to separate out the intellect from emotional processes not only omits a crucial variable, but in effect become[s] anti-intellectual and actually may be down-right “stupid”.’[xi]

Paradoxically, therefore, MDR may only be able to approach ‘objectivity’ by more honestly admitting its conditional and subjective nature:

…the closest one can get to ‘objective’ feedback is making an evaluator’s personal preferences, emotional biases, personal agendas and situational motives for giving feedback sufficiently explicit, so that recipients can determine what to take to heart for themselves.[xii]

The best means of assessing subjectively is within relationship, and one which is based upon equality, mutuality and ubiquity. To investigate the way in which clergy and lay ministers in the Church of England have already experienced this factor and/or its absence in MDR, I conducted an entirely unscientific and subjective straw-poll of ministers within the southern province of the Church in January 2011. The sample was statistically insignificant, and evidentially flawed, but according to Friedman, Culbert and Ioannidis, that was the point. In my straw-poll, an incumbent, (Respondent A), put it: ‘an annual meeting doesn’t help with establishing a quality relationship’, in which everything need not be explained and context has already been explored. Respondent C (a priest-in-charge) said about the existing processes: ‘It can feel a bit like jumping through a hoop—and personally I would probably find a more thorough, ongoing, mentoring/supervision approach much more helpful.’

Grint concurs: ‘the highest level of satisfaction with appraisal systems tends to relate to those subordinates who already have a satisfactory relationship with the appraising superordinate.’[xiii]

Without that satisfactory relationship MDR is fatally flawed. For Respondent B, a lay minister who is also a GP, MDR is akin to all forms of professional review: it ‘makes people, who are trying really hard, feel bad.’ Furthermore, ecclesiastical MDR strays into areas of family and personal life, obliging reviewees to evaluate statements like ‘I make time for developing relationships with friends for my own leisure’[xiv], and answer questions such as ‘In what ways are you able to develop/keep up hobbies/interests?’[xv]. Such questions, about work/life balance and impact on families, can be intrusive if they are felt to contribute to the judgement made by a superordinate about the subordinate minister’s competence or suitability to do the job:

…matters like ministry / family balance should be kept under review in the context of a sacramental and spiritual relationship with a spiritual director, not in a bureaucratic relationship with the diocese. (Respondent B)

This belief was reinforced by Respondent C: ‘my wish is that MDR came off the back of a relationship, preferably with one’s Father in Christ.’ The implication is that, so far, it has not.

A priest in another diocese (Respondent D), who before he was ordained worked in voluntary sector training and was a (lay) MDR reviewer for ten years, affirms the centrality of relationship, not processes, to the success of MDR:

The lack of relationship is key. With clergy I’ve seen a number of times I seldom see real progress on the issues that frustrate them most. Why would I? Nobody supports them in tackling these issues throughout the rest of the year. So they come back the following year and re-present the same problems. A summary sheet of issues raised and goals set passes across the Bishop’s desk (at best) but there is no response from him, unless it is time for their triennial interview.

There is no point in promising that the ‘Review’ part of MDR will lead to ‘Development’ when it does not: otherwise it will merely reinforce the sense that MDR is more about control than celebration, domination rather than development. Or, as one secular management academic puts it: ‘Better for employees to think the boss doesn’t care than for them to think that he betrayed them.’[xvi]



[i] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 4.5; 4.4.

[ii] Culbert, “Get Rid (WSJ).”

[iii] Culbert and Rout, Get Rid of the Performance Review, 49.

[iv] Grint goes further and, convincingly, argues for the social construction of reality, of which appraisals are merely a part: ‘as far as the assessment procedure is concerned, we are what our superordinates say we are.’ Grint, “What’s Wrong,” 65.

[v] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: leadership in the age of the quick fix, 2nd ed. (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 98.

[vi] Friedman, Failure of Nerve, 97–8.

[vii] Friedman, Failure of Nerve, 98.

[viii] Which is, for Friedman ‘a worldview’ focused on classification and categorization of individuals based on psychological diagnoses or membership of categories of ‘culture, gender, class, race, age’ and so on. He contrasts it with an emphasis on the ‘emotional processes that transcend those categories’. Friedman, Failure of Nerve, 3.

[ix] David H. Freedman, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science,” Atlantic Monthly, November 2010, 80.

[x] John P. A. Ioannidis, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” PLoS Med 2, no. 8 (2005): 700.

[xi] Friedman, Failure of Nerve, 99.

[xii] Culbert, “Get Rid (WSJ).”

[xiii] Grint, “What’s Wrong,” 65. See ‘Questions of power and language’ below for more on the apprehension factor involved in poor relationships.

[xiv] Bristol Diocese, “MDR: Self Assessment Questionnaire.”

[xv] Diocese of Canterbury, “Ministerial Development Review Pack: growing forward together” (Diocese of Canterbury, January 2010), 5.

[xvi] Stewart Black of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, quoted in Walter Kiechel, “When subordinates evaluate the boss,” Fortune 13 (June 19, 1989): 201-203.

MDR 4: Secular Critics

MDR is here and unavoidable. It will have its impact on the development of canon law, ecclesiology, and the relationships of bishop to clergy and clergy to Ordinal. It is not my intention in this article, however, to consider these important subjects. Rather, I wish to examine the way in which, having taken so much trouble with ‘baptizing’ secular performance appraisals, the Church of England took so little notice of the secular critics of performance appraisals. There is a large, and increasing, number of studies in the secular, academic and business journals in which ‘performance reviews’, ‘appraisals’ and ‘development interviews’ have been severely criticized by practitioners and scholars. Significantly, this has been going on for more than fifty years.

In 1957, Douglas MacGregor identified and critiqued the unspoken assumptions at work in performance appraisal[i]. Samuel A. Culbert said performance review ‘kills teamwork and hurts the bottom line’, and functions as ‘intimidation aimed at preserving the boss’s authority and power advantage.’[ii] David Pfeffer has argued that ‘performance appraisals don’t accurately assess performance’, and that this fact was demonstrated by empirical experimentation in the early 1980s[iii]. Fred Nickols advocated that to ‘improve performance, cut costs [and] free up resources’, any ‘change-minded senior executive’ should give serious thought to scrapping the performance appraisal system, which ‘devours staggering amounts of time and energy, …depresses and demotivates people, …destroys trust and teamwork and, adding insult to injury, …delivers little demonstrable value at great cost.’[iv] As Keith Grint puts it, ‘rarely in the history of business can such a system have promised so much and delivered so little.’[v]



[i] Douglas McGregor, “An Uneasy Look at Performance Appraisal,” Harvard Business Review 35, no. 3 (June 1957): 89-94.

[ii] Samuel A. Culbert, “Get Rid of the Performance Review!,” The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2008. Culbert has turned this into a book: Samuel A. Culbert 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). See also his recent op-ed piece on the same subject: “Why Your Boss Is Wrong About You,” The New York Times, March 2, 2011, NYC edition.

[iii] Jeffrey Pfeffer, “The Trouble with Performance Reviews,” BusinessWeek: Managing, June 30, 2009, <www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jun2009/ca20090630_570973.htm>; Max H. Bazerman, 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): 873-876.

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

[v] Keith Grint, “What’s Wrong With Performance Appraisals? a critique and a suggestion,” Human Resource Management Journal 3, no. 3 (1993): 64.

MDR 3: ‘Secular Best Practice’

As MDR progressed through Synod, Prof. McClean’s working group wrestled with the relationship between, on the one hand, vocation, priestly service and accountability to God, and, on the other hand, practices widely recognized as effective and virtuous in the secular world. Some in Synod thought that Athens should have nothing to do with Jerusalem (or Harvard nothing to do with Canterbury). McClean disagreed: ‘it was all but impossible to sustain the idea that accountability to God or the concept of vocation can only be applied to the clergy.’[i]

The influence of secular practice was sufficiently important a topic for McClean to commission a theological annex to GS 1527 written by Prof. Anthony Thiselton[ii].

According to Thiselton, ‘the extent to which secular good practice should apply to clergy’, or whether ‘the rights and responsibilities of clergy’ are permitted the ‘force of law’, actually requires a consideration of theological matters of divine action and divine agency, an exegesis of 1 Corinthians 6.1Open Link in New Window–8, and an exploration of the differences between ‘covenant’ and ‘contract’[iii]. Such ‘theologizing’ of MDR continued in ACMDR 2010. Scriptural, if not theological, language was grafted, in a Pauline manner, into the standing tree of secular appraisals. Whereas MDR may conclude with a requirement of a written record which includes a ‘review of past objectives or priorities and completion / movement towards them’[iv], it properly begins with the promise of opportunities to be ‘thankful’ and to ‘lament’, recognizing that ‘ministry is a gift and a trust’, and office holders are ‘responsible to God’[v].  And individual dioceses have taken the theological register even further. Bristol Diocese has implemented MDR by a self-assessment questionnaire, to be completed on-line. The questionnaire asks the reviewee to rate eight statements for ‘Importance’ and ‘Performance’ under eight different headings.[vi] The statements are representative enough of secular performance reviews, but the eight different headings show the theological grafting of the scheme. Each comes complete with a (unreferenced) scriptural and liturgical epigraph.[vii]



[i] Archbishops’ Council, GS 1564, para. 14. The interim report was GS 1518.

[ii] Anthony C. Thiselton, “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 (London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2004), 57-64. Hereafter ‘Annex 3’.

[iii] Thiselton, “Annex 3,” 1.

[iv] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 7.1.iii.

[v] Archbishops’ Council, “ACMDR 2010,” 2.1; 2.2.

[vi] So, for example, ‘Self-Discipline & Lifestyle’ is accompanied by ‘Endeavour to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ, that you may be a pattern and example to Christ’s people’: 1 Tim. 3.5Open Link in New Window and Tit. 2.7Open Link in New Window, by way of The Ordinal’s Declarations. Bristol Diocese, “MDR: Ministry Development Review, more about the Questionnaire,” Diocese of Bristol?: Ministry Resources, 2011, <www.bristol.anglican.org/ministry/mdr/questionnaire.html>; Archbishops’ Council, Ordination Services: Study Guide, Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (London: Church House Publishing, 2007), 16,38.

[vii] Bristol Diocese, “MDR: Self Assessment Questionnaire”, 2011, <www.bristol.anglican.org/ministry/mdr/sample_questions.pdf>.

MDR 2: The Origins of Ministry Development Review

More than ten years ago the then Labour Government passed a new Employment Relations Act[i]. Within the Act, a section (23) gave the Secretary of State for Employment the power to confer employment rights on certain individuals who were previously not considered to be employees. These people, sometimes referred to as ‘atypical workers’, include among their number homeworkers, agency and casual workers, and office holders; within that last category is counted most clergy and ministers of religion. This new secular power directly addressed the quaint idea that God was the only employer of clergy within the Church of England, although he allowed the Church Commissioners to pay the employer’s contribution to National Insurance! Through the exercise of Section 23 Church of England clergy might have become employees, and thus availed themselves of rights and privileges of employees previously denied them (including the right to appeal to an Employment Tribunal and claim unfair dismissal).

In July 2002 the Department for Trade and Industry began a consultation process, inviting responses as to ‘potential effects of, and justification for, extending the current framework of statutory employment rights and whether there may be alternative approaches.’[ii] A hotchpotch of custom, regulation, statute and measure which had previously determined the employment of its clergy was to be reformed, and so the Archbishop’s Council of the Church of England responded that

The Church of England firmly believes that the clergy… are entitled to terms and conditions of service which adequately protect their rights, recognize their responsibilities and provide proper accountability arrangements.[iii]

To prove its good intentions, the Council commissioned a report from Professor David McClean of Sheffield University, and others, to review the way in which Section 23 rights might impinge upon the office- and licence-holders of the Church of England. Eventually, after producing two full reports in 2004[iv] and 2005[v], draft regulations in 2007[vi], numerous guidelines, updates, and FAQs, the Measure was passed in July 2008 and presented to the Houses of Parliament in April 2009[vii]. It came into effect on 31 January 2011.

Much of what is contained in the Measure does not concern me here, such as the revised form of tenure with which every office-holder will now be invested (‘common tenure’)[viii], the ownership of the parsonage (the most controversial part of the Measure’s process through General Synod), or even procedures to be followed under allegations of unfair dismissal. Rather, I wish to consider a part of the Measure which was present in Professor McClean’s very first report to General Synod: the desirability, and now the legally mandated requirement, for every office-holder in the Church of England to follow a ‘Ministerial Development Review’ process (hereafter MDR).

Although MDR was never a requirement of the Section 23 review (as acknowledged by McClean[ix]), it very quickly became part of the Church’s review process: ‘reflection on the role of the ordained ministry has also led to notable developments in ministerial review’[x]. Subsequently, McClean’s working group reported that they were

convinced of the importance of ministerial review in affirming the work of clergy, providing support, identifying training needs, developing potential, and protecting clergy against unrealistic expectations of parishes.[xi]

And so MDR became part of the regulative framework of the Church of England, and, for those clergy holding office under Common Tenure, part of the ‘conditions of service on appointment’[xii].



[i] Employment Relations Act, c. 26, 1999, <www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/26/contents>.

[ii] Department of Trade and Industry, Discussion document on employment status in relation to statutory employment rights, July 2002, 2, <www.delni.gov.uk/employment_status_consultation_document.pdf>.

[iii] Archbishops’ Council, Review of Clergy Terms of Service?: part one (GS 1527) (London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2004), para. 5.

[iv] Archbishops’ Council, GS 1527.

[v] Archbishops’ Council, Review of Clergy Terms of Service?: part two (GS 1564) (London: Church House Publishing for the Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, 2005).

[vi] General Synod of the Church of England, Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations, February 2007.

[vii] General Synod of the Church of England, Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure (2009), 2009 No. 1, 2009.

[viii] The McClean group helpfully provide a partial history of the discussions about freehold at least in GS 1564, Annex 4.

[ix] Archbishops’ Council, GS 1527, para. 9.

[x] Archbishops’ Council, GS 1527, para. 9.

[xi] Archbishops’ Council, GS 1564, para. 16.

[xii] Archbishops’ Council, “Ministerial Development Review Guidance” (Ministry Division of the Archbishops’ Council, January 2010), sec. 3.3, <www.churchofengland.org/media/56739/MDR%20updated%20120209.pdf>. The Archbishops’ Council Guidance will be referred to as ‘ACMDR 2010’ in the text.

MDR 1: Ministry Development Review, Appraisals, and Power

A week ago, Simon Parke (?@simonparke) wrote a brief piece on “meaningless staff appraisals” for The Mind Clinic. My good friend, Fraser Dyer (@fraserdyer)1), tweeted the link to me, saying that Simon’s questions reminded him of me.

I have no idea why: it’s not like I wrote a piece on Ministry Development Review and its secular criticism for Modern Believing more than three years ago. Oh, wait… I did!2

Dilbert Performance

Ministry Development Review, the (barely) baptised ecclesiastical version of staff appraisals, or performance appraisal. Like most things, introduced into the Church as the result of a half-digested implementation of a 30-year old business practice, the church version ignored all the problems which had been identified, explored and critiqued from the secular, business, theorists. This is what I attempted to do with the paper. What do secular critics say about performance appraisals? What do these criticisms say about the way in which the Church has attempted to introduce MDR.

The paper is appropriately tedious— the literature on such meta-business is never gripping. The work is four years old, and has not been updated in the light of one whole cycle of MDR having now been gone through. The questions about power and motivation remain.

I have divided the paper into nine parts (in an attempt to pique your interest). If you want to read the whole thing, then email or DM tweet me, and I will send you a PDF. The first extract, MDR 2, appears on Monday.

  1. Have you ordered and read his book yet? If not, why not? Who Are We to Judge?: Empathy and Discernment in a Critical Age (SPCK 2015 []
  2. Justin Lewis-Anthony, “‘Promising Much, Delivering Little’: Ministry Development Review and Its Secular Critics,” Modern Believing 53, no. 2 (April 2012): 140–51. []
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