The Crisis in governance and leadership in the State and the Church of England and necessary action …
… is the subject for this session of the Jesmond Conference. Of course, in this Reformation anniversary year we could ask, 'what would the Reformers say was required of a leader in the Church in particular?' Let me begin, then, by giving you John Wycliffe's answer. Wycliffe, from two centuries earlier, was not a Reformer but the 'Morning Star of the Reformation' as he is called. However, this is what he wrote about the Pastoral Office. He said it was threefold:
"the first pastoral office [or duty of a pastor] is to feed the sheep spiritually on the Word of God that through pastures ever green they may be initiated into the blessedness of heaven.
The second pastoral office is to purge wisely the sheep of disease that they may not infect themselves and others as well.
And the third is for the pastor to defend his sheep from ravenous wolves, both sensible and insensible."
That is brilliantly simple from a former Master of Balliol College, Oxford.
But since the pastor's time is to be spent feeding the flock with the truth, on the one hand, and defending it against error, on the other, it is essential that the pastor knows what is true, what is false and who is the enemy – what are green pastures, what are diseases and who are wolves. And so that is why Church leaders need to work with an agreed agenda – or with a framework - that enables them to make those judgments and then to take strong action in feeding, caring for and defending the sheep. Indeed, any organization whether it is the Church or State, or in the Church or State, requires four essentials: one, an agreed agenda; two, competent leadership; three, enabling structures; and, four, client sensitivity. So what is the agreed agenda for the church?
As we saw in the last session, the supreme agreed agenda must be from Canon A5 or what it sanctions. That is why in 1993 some of us among the clergy of the Church of England decided to spell out more clearly what Canon A5 implies. For many clergy were sitting light to its clear teaching. The problem went back to the 1960s with its radical 'Death of God' theologians and new moralists and the 1970s with openly active homosexual clergy and the promotion of homosexuality within the church. As there was no disciplining of these folk or outlawing of these heresies and immoralities, the Church automatically became doctrinally and ethically pluralistic. This in turn tragically legitimated the growing atheistic and immoral secularism outside the Church in the wider culture including in our schools. Also tragically, many orthodox clergy and lay folk, evangelicals included, were unable to resist the consequential forces of secularism that were now both inside and outside the Church.
And they were adjusting their theology and practice accordingly. This is what sociologists call 'cognitive contamination' which I have mentioned before and is defined as, "a gradual, typically unconscious process of adaptation to the prevailing worldview." This happens when people are put fairly and squarely into social settings that are hostile to their own convictions. For such new settings, if consuming greater time and energy commitments, have greater social and cultural strength than their old more faithful Christian associations. That was happening during my 15 years on the General Synod (from 1975 -1990) with formerly orthodox evangelicals who became bishops and joined the House of Bishops or lesser clergy who were synodical aficionados. In the colloquial phrase, many went 'native'. All that was why that group of us in 1993 needed to remind people of Canon A5 and spell out what it really means in the controversies of the Church. Canon A5 (you will remember) says:
"The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal."
So to avoid all confusion and have maximum clarity regarding the doctrinal boundaries of the Church of England, we wrote that specifically we lay emphasis on the following doctrines implicit in Canon A5:
- The triune personhood of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the historical incarnation of the Son of God through the Virgin Mary.
- The substitutionary sin-bearing death, bodily resurrection, present heavenly reign, and future return to judgement of Jesus Christ the incarnate Son.
- The universality of sin, the present justification of sinners by grace through faith in Christ alone, and their supernatural regeneration and new life through the Holy Spirit.
- The calling of the Church and of all Christian people to a life of holiness and prayer according to the Scriptures.
- The primacy of evangelism and nurture in each local church's task of setting forth the kingdom of God.
- The significance of personal present repentance and faith as determining eternal destiny.
- The finality of God's revelation in Jesus Christ and the uniqueness of his ministry as our prophet, priest and king, and the only Saviour of sinners.
- The infallibility and supreme authority of 'God's Word written' and its clarity and sufficiency for the resolving of disputes about Christian faith and life. (See Article XX)
That Article XX, by the way, is so important, as it includes these words on the Anglican method of biblical interpretation – often the contentious issue:
"the Church hath … authority in Controversies of Faith, and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither [listen] may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another."
In addition to those doctrinal basics, we then needed to highlight some ethical concerns implied by Canon A5. So we wrote that our understanding of God's way of life for his people includes:
a. The special teaching responsibility of ordained leaders within the every-member ministry of the body of Christ, and [note] the need to provide for its continuance.
b. The unique value of women's ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.
c. The vital importance of monogamous life-long marriage for the care and nurture of children, and the well being of human society.
d. The rightness of sexual intercourse in heterosexual marriage, and the wrongness of such activity both outside it and in all its homosexual forms.
e. The urgent need for decentralisation at national, diocesan and deanery level, and [note] the need radically to reform the present shape of episcopacy and pastoral discipline, to enable local churches to evangelise more effectively.
Incidentally, that was drafted by Jim Packer, bishop Wallace Benn and myself and formed the Reform Covenant that we at Jesmond Parish Church signed up to in 1993. Has it been effective? It is hard to say. At least it has provided for younger men preparing for ordained ministry a common sense way of exegeting Canon A5 and, indeed, of hearing about Canon A5, of which, I suspect, a number of bishops are ignorant.
But let us not think leadership confusion is unique to the Church. It also is in the world and in proportion as people believe and act as if there is no sacred canopy at all and multicultural pluralism is a good thing. This is because in pluralistic societies, whether religious or secular, a new concept of leadership functions (I quote) …
"… not to further what is common but to insure a social order within which people, who regard one another as strangers and potential enemies, can follow differing beliefs and ways of life without in the process doing unacceptable harm to one another ... No longer is it necessary for those in authority to stand close to the common tradition or exhibit a range of virtues prized by all. What is necessary is to have the skills of a manager of conflict and the expertise of a technician. The job is to manage conflict in ways that allow people with various desires and 'life plans' to coexist …
"Inclusivity", which in the context of the new authority is interpreted as the amalgamation of people with vastly differing beliefs and ways of life, becomes not only the method but also the end of the exercise of authority. In theory that is the way the new authority works. In practice things are often quite different in that those who inhabit the postmodern world of plural world views and who are invested with authority fail again and again to act in impartial ways. Instead they seek power as a means to pursue a particular set of interests and to use their authority to further those interests."
So writes Philip Turner in his helpful essay, Episcopal Authority within a Communion of Churches.
He actually was writing about the Church. But all of that is significantly true about the State in the secular Western world as well.
Of course, in one sense all leadership is managing conflict; but traditional leadership is managing conflict within agreed goals and objectives, which the leadership is trying to achieve. Real leadership deals with conflict over methods, not goals or agreed agendas. A planning meeting, for example, encourages different conflicting ideas. But this is creative conflict. However, what you have now on the part of the senior leadership of the bishops in the Church of England is the desire for 'good disagreement' theologically. In theological terms it is good disagreement between good and evil goals and objectives, with the aim being for the proponents of these divergent goals and objectives 'to walk together'. This, of course, may be possible in the world, but quite forbidden in the Church. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5.9-11:
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one."
They are to be excommunicated until they repent. What then is the necessary action to restore true Church leadership. The answer, surely, is to work for the good of the next generation and so no one should be recommended for ordination unless they give evidence of three things.
First, they will not be "hired hands" keeping the sheep. In John 10.11-13 Jesus says:
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep."
So the pastor or minister has to be prepared to fight the wolf. In modern terms it is not enough simply to feed the sheep by being a good Bible teacher. The hired hand does that, but then he just will not fight the wolf. Rather he flees when he sees it coming, with his ultimate motivation being not the good of the sheep but his own job satisfaction in whatever way that comes. So there must be no ordained "hired hands".
Secondly, potential ordinands must intend to follow Jesus' teaching on servant leadership that you have in Mark 10.42-45, where you read:
"And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"
We must note verse 44 that says, "whoever would be first among you must be slave of all". For to be the slave "of all" you have to be tough "with some", if they prevent you from being the slave of "all'', by unnecessary demands of too much time or energy.
And thirdly, potential ordinands must give evidence of the will and ability to follow Paul's philosophy of ministry that you have in Colossians 1.28-29:
"Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."
The goal of Paul was getting out the good news of Christ - "him we proclaim". That involves "warning everyone" – that means being negative when necessary, and warning over what is bad, false or destructive; but it must go along with positive "teaching". And that requires "wisdom" – so the proclamation needs to be reasonable; and it must be balanced - it is "all" wisdom not just some! And the goal is for spiritual growth in Christlikeness, to present everyone "mature in Christ". But all this requires hard work "toil" – late nights and early mornings. And it involves conflict – that is the meaning of "struggling" – Paul had no time for "hired-hands" who ran away from wolves. But the great thing is that you have Christ's strength - "his energy" that "he powerfully works" within you.
We have earlier discussed the third essential of any organization enabling structures and the disabling character of synods in the Church of England. But we haven't discussed the appointment of senior leaders, the bishops. Briefly in conclusion may I say this? Given the pluralism of the Church, at present, mathematically (with the single transferable vote) the structure is likely to give, from the three Anglican traditions of Evangelical, Liberal and Anglo-Catholic, a bishop whose gift is keeping the maximum number happy, rather than leadership.
Regarding the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, certainly much is desired. Again speaking from my time on the Synod and the appointment of Archbishop Runcie's successor, I am not sure that it was and is ideal. For I knew that the appointment of the Chairman of the Appointments Committee for the Archbishop of Canterbury (now the Nominations Commission) was in the gift of the Prime Minister.
So I took what action I could as, at that time, I knew personally Brian Griffiths, the head of Mrs Thatcher's (10 Downing Street) Policy Unit. Soon, seated next to him at a pre-Christian Institute Lecture dinner in Osborne Road, Jesmond (just a few hundred yards from here), I took the liberty of telling Lord Griffiths of a fact. That was that before long Mrs Thatcher would be asked to appoint the chairman of the committee selecting the next Archbishop and he no doubt would be asked for advice. So home work needed to be done! Nothing more was said. However, I was thrilled months later to learn that Lord Caldecote, a great supporter of the Christian Institute and other Evangelical societies, was appointed chairman. The committee appointed George Carey.
By contrast when Carey retired, the pro-homosexual relationships lawyer, Dame Butler-Sloss,* was appointed by Tony Blair as chairman of the Commission. I was not thrilled that Rowan Williams was appointed.
Surely these are not enabling systems. In the next session we will consider some alternatives.
*But Butler-Sloss herself, later, did draw the line at Same-Sex marriage.