Words about God and Life for the Attention Deficit Generation

Tag: bishops

General Failure: in the Army, in Business, in the Church?

This CartoonChurch.com cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the Church Times.Last month’s issue of The Atlantic had a fascinating and disturbing article which examined the gulf between American veneration of the military and the general and pervading incompetence of its general staff (General Failure by ).

Ricks discussed the decreasing phenonmenon of the relief of general staff, that is, removing those deemed and proved to be incompentent from their post. During World War Two general staff were removed from command regularly and suddenly: the removal of Generals Jay MacKelvie and Eugene Landrum from command of the 90th Infantry Division allowed the 90th to become an effective force.

Those days are long gone, now “a private who loses his rifle is now punished more than a general who loses his part of a war” says Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling of his experiences in the Iraq War. Of the hundreds of generals deployed to combat operations in the wars of the last decade, not one has been relieved of duty, and yet, we have good evidence that the wars might not have been wholly successful and without cost: politically, economically, strategically, tactically. Why is this?

Ricks suggests two reasons: first, wars are inevitably political creatures. The wars since the World War Two have been “small, ambiguous, increasingly unpopular wars, ” in which success is a harder thing to define than in WW2. It is hard to relieve a general of his commands, because in the face of the lack of any definition of success, a fired general tells the public that “the war was going poorly.”

The second reason is sociological: armies and generals are part of the wider changes in North Atlantic society: we became “corporate”, believing that the business is the best model for any and every form of social endeavour: a corporate society, like a corporate army becomes “less tolerant of the maverick and more likely to favor conformist ‘organization men.'” Those who become successful in such organizations do so by submitting their loyalties and abilities to the service of the organization. In Riches’s words, generals “began acting less like stewards of a profession, responsible to the public at large, and more like members of a guild, looking out primarily for their own interests.”

What is the purpose of being a general? It is no longer to “save and take lives; to advise presidents on our most fundamental national issues; to shape their own institution by deciding how to select and groom their successors… [through a] hard-nosed but flexible system [which allowed] the most competent to rise quickly” and swiftly culled the ineffective or incompetent. Rather, to be a general is to protect the rights, privileges and powers or being a general, and you don’t do that by firing or disciplining other generals. Once you are in the star-club, you remain in the star-club. The mystique of the military in a corporate society requires that.

As Ricks’s says:

Instead of weeding out bad officers, senior leaders tended to closely supervise them, encouraging habits of micromanagement that plague the Army to this day. Mediocrity also led to mendacity…

A parish priest may allow the wrong type of material to be placed on his church roof. A bishop may lead a diocese which is wholly dysfunctional in its Child Protection. Which one will be disciplined?

I was talking yesterday with a friend of mine, a senior priest in a diocese outside the Church of England. He wondered how he could make a stand against the creeping corporatization of his church’s culture. Bishops are terrified of letting parish’s slip (financial Armageddon is looming just around the corner): the only solution seems to be to import ideas, structures  assumptions from the business world1. Key Performance Indicators, Professional Development Dashboard, SMART Targets, Accountability Reviews. The bishops will now closely supervise, they will micromanage, and, whenever people are micromanaged mendacity will be the result: “look at how every indicator in my parish in up-lifting into the black, bishop!”

And yet corporatization is no guarantor of success or longevity: in the 1920s the average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of US companies was 67 years. Today it is 15 years. According Richard Foster of Yale University, by 2020 75% of the S&P 500 index will no longer be in existence.

As a Church what lessons do we have to learn from business?
Anything other than how to fail faster?

As a Church what lesson do we have to learn from the military?
Anything other than how to protect the generals better?





  1. because we all know how successful those are! []

Refusing to see what’s really at stake

Today the Pope will issue a pastoral letter on the seemingly never-ending sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic church in Ireland.

As part of his preparation in writing the letter, last month the Pope summoned the bishops of Ireland to the Vatican for a meeting to discuss the allegations, the convictions, the cover-ups and the attitudes that led to such a sorry state of affairs.

The meeting did not go well, but not for any reasons you might have thought. There was little sense of shame, or contrition, or repentance, or reconciliation reported in the media, secular or catholic. Instead, The Tablet reported that a number of bishops were angered by the ceremonial formality of the meeting:

The Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, said people in Ireland had been “rightly angry at the apparent pomp and ceremony and the kissing of the Pope’s ring” by bishops when they greeted Benedict XVI.1

Really, Dr Walsh? Were the people of Ireland really angry that the Vatican palace is a formal and ritualised place? Were the laity of Killaloe pained on behalf of your hurt amour-propre? Was diplomatic and ecclesiastical protocol the major issue of the meeting? Tell me, Dr Walsh, how is life in the eighteenth century?

This was a meeting at which the chief pastors of a church, having utterly forgotten their responsibilities to pastor and care for the most vulnerable and trusting, were to be called to account. And you didn’t like the seating plan.

It seems that there are bishops, in all churches, who are men of strong and certain principles, chief of which is they are a very senior and important people2, and should be treated as such. A friend of mine, who once trained baby cathedral clergy, told them the greatest challenge they faced in their ministry was the confusion between working in a big and important building and thinking themselves to be big and important people. Willie Walsh (obviously distracted by the BA strike) has succumbed.

Today the Pope will issue his pastoral letter. What’s the betting some big and important bishops will complain about the typeface?

  1. ‘Vatican formalities anger hostile Ireland’, The Tablet, 13 March 2010, p. 42 []
  2. h/t Clayboy []

Kill George gets episcopal recognition

Kill GeorgeIf You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him: Radically Re-thinking Priestly Ministry has been out for a month now, and it is beginning to get episcopal recognition.

The Bishop of Grimsby, David , mentioned it in his post-ordinations blog post:

As the cost of employing priests increasingly depends on the generosity of congregations, we need to ensure that those in stipendiary ministry bring a quality and competancy  which supports such generosity.  At the same time, the church needs to ensure that it is using all vocations to ministry in such a way as to honour the gifts and talents of those call by God not only into the ordained ministry but also into Reader and other lay ministeries.  Justin Lewis-Anthony recent book – “If you meet George Herbert on the road, Kill Him” challenges the Church of England to rethink how we unfold the practice of priestly ministry.  As the resource of stipendiary ministry reduces, it is time for us to understand how best to use the gifts and talents of those who respond to the call of God.

BTW, a prize to the person who can spot the most glaring typo in the book (which, of course, invalidates the whole argument!) — hint: it’s on p. 9.

LC08 : The Bishops have come!

Well they’ve only gone and done it.

The pile of bishops arrived today, finding themselves, bewildered, in the University of Kent’s equivalent to Heathrow Terminal 5:
The University of Kent\'s equivalent to Heathrow Terminal 5

Once meeted, they were greeted (with “difficult” bishops being identified by specially trained volunteers)

The difficult bishops have been identified by specially trained volunteers

The volunteers had to deal with refugee quantities of luggage:

(Not every bishop can afford those lightweight, collapsible mitres).

To find their way around the campus a system of Aramaic insignia has been devised (based upon textual variations in the Dead Sea Scrolls) — very clear as I’m sure you’d agree:

The “World’s Greatest Living Ecclesiastical Conference Cartoonist” will soon be plying his wares from this des res:

Some bishops have already found themselves, curiously, at home:

Others were being “inculturated” into the fine English tradition of queuing:

Some bishops’ wives (or perhaps she is a bishop herself?) remembered that there is a garden party at Buckingham Palace coming up:


into retreat!

LC08 : The Bishops are coming! The Bishops are coming!

Canterbury Cathedral from the university hillThose of you who have followed the link (to the left) to the church where I am allowed more than three minutes, will have discovered that my parish incorporates the campus of the University of Kent at Canterbury. Something seems to be happening at UKC; all sorts of activity is going on, at a time of the year when we should be enjoying the peaceful absence of students.

Normally well-informed sources tell me that “the bishops are coming! the bishops are coming!” This can’t possibly be correct. Hundreds of bishops from all over the world descending upon a poor rector’s parish? This is boundary crossing of the most egregious kind! And nobody has asked my opinion on the matter, let alone my permission!

If the Anglican Communion has really descended into the worst kind of transgressions in this way, then I, for one, am prepared to document it. Stay tuned to 3 Minute Theologian over the coming three weeks and see if these episcopal rumours are true. Find out what cross-border incursions actually look like (when togged up to an impossible degree)!

In the meantime, this is what the calm before the storm looks like:

The Circus tent in Rutherford College Carpark, where the bishops are alleged to be meeting
A circus tent has appeared in the car park of Rutherford College. Allegedly this is where the bishops are supposed to be meeting. In a circus tent? Surely not!

A labyrinth is being built overlooking the Cathedral
A labyrinth is being built overlooking the Cathedral– difficult bishops will be shown into the labyrinth, without the directions on how to get out.

The Senate House of the University

The Senate House of the University, in which we find…

The Prayer Space

…the Conference “Prayer Space”.

(Not yet finished because a carpenter needs to come to install 800 bishops’ thrones).

Keep your eyes posted here for more “Signs of Life at Lambeth”™.

Anglican Roots : 1784 Samuel Seabury consecrated first American bishop

So far, the acute-eyed among you will have noted, that in this series about Anglican Roots, as we prepare for the Lambeth Conference of the world-wide Anglican Communion, we have heard very little about the world beyond the Tweed, the Severn, the Irish Sea or the English Channel. A lot of what we have said has been about the Church in England as well as the Church of England. Where did this W.W.A.C. come from then?

It certainly didn’t come from the Church of England’s own self-understanding. As we have seen, the most consistent thread throughout the Church of England’s history is that it is self-governing and autonomous, in as much as the sovereign, the chief magistrate of the realm, allows it to be: “no king, no bishops” and no Church of England. How would that work in lands which weren’t ruled directly by the king, in the new trading posts and colonies which began to emerge in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century?

Stuck in Frobisher Bay with FrobisherThe first Church of England service to be held outside the lands of the English crown was a celebration of Holy Communion at Frobisher Bay on 3 September 1578, presided over by Robert Wolfall, chaplain to the exploration voyage of Martin Frobisher. The first service within the lands which later became the United States was probably in a bay in Oregon on 19 June 1579 when the crew of the Golden Hind and Sir Francis Drake landed to repair the ship. Attempts were made to set up permanent settlements on the west coast of North America in the later years of the sixteenth century, but all failed until the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia in 1607. The Church of England was designated the established church there in 1609, in the lower part of New York in 1693, in Maryland in 1702, in South Carolina in 1706, in North Carolina in 1730, and in Georgia in 1758.

But what did “established” mean in this context? It certainly didn’t mean “bishops”. The parishes were expected to be self-financing and largely self-governing. The Bishop of London, William Laud, was appointed in 1632 to over see the overseas churches in the king’s dominions, but he was never expected to visit the parishes(!). Instead he ruled by commissaries, and, for many years, this light touch governance seemed successful. By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, there were perhaps 400 parishes in the American colonies. But it was built on thin roots. Most of the parishes were served by priests sent out from England; there were very few local men ordained priest— the long months of sea voyage to England to find a bishop to ordain them was a strong disincentive.

And then came the Revolution. How was a Church which placed so much emphasis on loyalty to the King to deal with a Revolution which overthrew the authority of that King? By 1783, when the War of Independence ended, almost 80,000 loyalists had left the colonies, most (50,000 or more), heading for Canada. By 1790, in a nation of four million, Anglicans were reduced to about ten thousand; in Virginia, for example, of the 107 parishes which existed in 1784, fewer than 42 were able to support a priest between 1802 and 1811.1 Others, who wanted a balance between national loyalty and religious conviction, attempted to find another way. Samuel Tingley, an SPG missionary in Delaware and Maryland, attempted vagueness (a very Anglican solution!): rather than praying “O Lord, save the King” in the Office, substituted “O Lord, save those whom thou hast made it our especial Duty to pray for.”

In 1783 the Clergy Convention of Connecticut recognised that if the church in America couldn’t have a king, it still needed bishops. They elected Samuel Seabury to be bishop, and like Don Quixote, he left home on a voyage to seek consecration.

Samuel SeaburySeabury was a colonist, born in Groton, Connecticut, in 1729. He trained as theologian at Yale College and then as a doctor at the University of Edinburgh. Whilst in the United Kingdom he sought ordination, and returned to the colonies as a missionary for the SPG. When the War broke out he resigned his living in Westchester, New York, and served in private medical practice and as chaplain to the British army. And yet when the war ended, he had remained in the United States. He was unsuccessful in finding an English bishop who would ordain him. They were reluctant to interfere in the affairs of an enemy nation, and anyway, the canons required the newly consecrated bishop to swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown, something that Seabury as an American was manifestly unable to do.

Disappointed, he travelled north, and discovered in the Scottish Episcopal Church three bishops willing to do the deed: at the time the Episcopal Church in Scotland was (amazingly) not in communion with the Church of England: it was made up of non-juring bishops, who had refused the oath of loyalty to William of Orange. They had strong Jacobite sympathies. Consecrating Seabury would be one in the eye for German George (III) and his bishops. On 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, and the first colonist (ie, non-Englishman, not working within the Church of England) to the episcopacy. As such, his consecration marked the beginning of the world-wide Church of England, otherwise, and more accurately known as the Anglican Communion. (Incidentally, the English Parliament concerned that this marked the beginning of some fiendish Jacobite religious plot to overthrow the English crown, cleared the way for future consecrations to happen in England by removing the requirement for the oath of loyalty).

A word about a word

Finally, a word about a word; Anglicanism. Although, as we have seen “Anglican” appeared, sort of, in Magna Carta, and a play on the word appeared in the story of Pope Gregory the Great and the Angel-Angels, the grammarians among you will have noted that Magna Carta used “Anglican” as an adjective: the “English Church”. When did “Anglicanism” emerge as a proper noun?

Perhaps you would like to have a guess.

The earliest that the OED can date the use of the word “Anglican” to mean characteristic or defining of the established Church of England is [drum roll please] … 1838.

John Henry Newman, in the journal The British Critic said this:

The heroine… after going through the phases of Protestantism… .seeks for something deeper and truer in Anglicanism, or, as Mr. Palmer more correctly speaks in his recent work, Anglo-Catholicism.

Shortly after defining the word he left the Church.

The next use of the word was in 1846 by Charles Kingsley in a letter:

Decent Anglicanism… having become the majority is now quite Conservative.

The reason the word was only coined so late in the church’s history has been noted by Stephen Sykes:

… the very concept of ‘Anglicanism’ itself has a history. It was invented in the nineteenth century, possibly as an English adaptation of the (French) ‘Gallicanisme’, an anti-papal tendency within French Catholicism… ‘Anglicanism’ is a term with no fixed content and it can be, and has been, used in a more or less blatantly one-sided way in the course of its history.2

In other words, beware of someone using the word “Anglican” in unfamiliar surroundings. It might not mean what you expect it to mean.

  1. David Hein and Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. The Episcopalians (New York: Church Publishing, 2004). []
  2. Stephen Sykes, ‘The Genius of Anglicanism’ in Unashamed Anglicanism, p. 219. []