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Who Is The Church Of England For?

 Selecting the next Archbishop of Canterbury

I suggest that the Crown Nominations Commission, responsible for choosing the next Archbishop of Canterbury, ask the candidates this question  (Who is the Church of England for?) before proceeding any further with the interview. As well as their answers, the reactions of the candidates may reveal more than they intend. What is your answer? I doubt if it would cause a lay person any problem, but if you ask many clergy this question, they will pause (lost in thought) for a while before responding that the Church exists to serve God.


Classic Pyramidal Structure

An expert on organisational development would take this answer and come up with a proposed structure very like the papacy: a tier of management with God at the top, his vicar on earth (the Pope) next, then the cardinals, bishops and clergy. At the bottom are the lay Catholics in an amorphous mass. The laity, of course, are here represented by the pawns – their function is to support the clergy (and the buildings) and bear their weight.  The structure exists, it would seem, in order to support the Pope and his entourage, who in turn serve God.


The Protestant Management Revolution (The Reformation)

The sixteenth century Protestant movement of northern Europe,  arguably including the Church of England, came about in part because some could no longer accept a human authority figure as the voice of God on earth.

Plenty of Church of England bishops, however, agree with the former Bishop of Durham, Professor N T Wright, that:

A new Archbishop must be allowed to lead. ..Who, after all, is running the Church of England? We have Lambeth Palace, the House of Bishops, General Synod, the Archbishops’ Council, the Anglican Communion Office, and (don’t get me started) the Church Commissioners. How does it all work? In an episcopal church, the bishops should be the leaders. Rowan hasn’t bothered much about structures, but with six hands grabbing at the steering wheel someone now needs to take charge.


A Structure to Serve the ‘People of God’?

I propose a different model, where the Church of England in particular, and the Anglican Communion in general, exist to serve the people of this planet in general, and its adherents in particular. This is based on the ideal put forward by Lord Baden-Powell in the Scouting movement.

The Scoutmaster is the base of a pyramid of shared responsibility and service to the apex of the pyramid; the Scouts. This responsibility (and the attendant authority) flows upward to serve the goal of advancing the aim of scouting.

• Scouts and the youth of the world are the only reason the world Scouting movement exists – and they sit on top of the organization. They are ultimately the most important people in Scouting.

• The volunteers in each National Scout Organization have the greatest influence over the quality of the Scouting programme in their country. These volunteers are responsible for the “care and feeding” of their Scouts and the growth of the Movement.

• The regional volunteers and professional staff are there to provide training, inspiration, and resources that the National Scout Organizations (NSO) need to be effective and successful in their mission.

• And the World Scout Committee, at the bottom of the organization chart, is responsible to provide the resources, vision and global coordination of Scouting around the world, so that the regional leadership and the NSOs can be successful.

I think the job description of the World Scout Committee as being responsible for resources and vision is a good description of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. As the Anglican Communion is not a Church, however, it is not appropriate for him to attempt global co-ordination.


The lectionary for today includes Mark 10.42-45:

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercised 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 the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve”


The explanation of the Scouting pyramid is by the Chairman of the World Scout Committee at their 39th World Conference in Brazil in 2011.

I am indebted to Charlie Farns-Barns, a member of the Lay Anglicana Forum and subscriber to this blog, for telling me about the pyramid model

15 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

A good post and food for thought. If asked, I would say that the Church of England is the people in it, who in Christ, with Christ in them, form the Body of Christ. (Paul gives us this tip).

Adopting the Pyramid model makes this clear. Those Bishops and Clergy and administrators at the foot of the church, become the foundation of it. Theirs is a consultative, collaborative leadership role, coordinating stuff, to enable the mission that Christ calls the church too, through its people.

Built on sound foundations, the church should flourish. Selecting the best material for the foundational leadership needs discernment and a bit of worldliness.

The leader needs to be inspirational, to clearly articulate the Gospel and bring it alive into the lives of everyone who chooses to hear it. He or she needs excellent top HR and PR support, to ensure that the message is widely disseminated and well received.

The leader needs to be a good arbitrator and able to balance all traditions, not on a tightrope, highly tensioned, but on a pathway, broad enough for all to be alongside each other. Even a motorway with 6 of 7 lanes (The M25 of the Church) and not be caught up in the traffic jams, but to allow traffic to move freely through all issues that arise. No lane closures due to accidents. No collisions due to careless driving. No closures due to foggy doctrine or unfair weather.

And, off course, to be the Roadside assistance available to all through prayer, worship, liturgy and God’s grace.

22 March 2012 17:57
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, UKViewer – I like the image of what the Americans call a Freeway, I think, for free-wheeling Anglicans. With guidance when needed. Perfect!

22 March 2012 18:04
Claire said...

My first thought was the church is here to help the people serve God.

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, I agree with you. But on Linked In we had quite a debate about this with several priests highly indignant at the idea that they need have any particular relationship with the congregation at all. This did surprise me. I cannot go into further detail, much as I would like to, as the conversations are privileged, but the link is in the Anglican Communion group.

Simon Martin said...

Might as well be hung for a sheep as for lamb. I’m not an Anglican, though I’ve worked for (and been seconded to) and with several provinces. My encounter, Laura, with the idea you identify as espoused by some priests in your LinkedIn network is a major reason why I’ve never taken the plunge and ‘joined’ the Anglican Church. But then, that isn’t a majority view, and I know plenty of priests at various levels in the food-chain for whom this is anathema. (And of course, ministers in other denominations have their own versions of the same thing.)

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you for confirming that this attitude/idea is indeed in circulation, but it must surely be a minority.

23 March 2012 07:05
22 March 2012 21:59
22 March 2012 20:28
22 March 2012 18:37
Nancy Wallace said...

My immediate response on reading your question is that the Church of England is for all the people of England. That is the point of the parish system – the parish church is there to serve everyone living in the parish whether members of the Church of England or not. As far as its structures go each member is a servant of Christ, a lay leader/deacon/priest is a servant of the servants of Christ, the bishop is a servant of the servants of the servants of Christ, an archbishop is a servant of the servants of the servants of the servants of Christ. This is the upside-down pyramid. I think Archbishop Rowan models that servant ministry. I would hope his successor also does so – but that does not preclude being a leader.

Lay Anglicana said...

I am glad we agree Nancy – as you say, the model is particularly strong in the Church of England where part of the role as the established church is to serve all the people of England. You will see from my reply above to Claire that I was rather taken aback to find that what I had regarded as a self-evident truism was not so regarded by several clergy.

But there is also a fine line between leading and riding roughshod over. I didn’t care for the tone of Professor Wright’s comments, which suggested to me the latter. Perhaps I am over-sensitive!

22 March 2012 20:31
22 March 2012 18:54

It´s a place to worship God…not the only place to worship God…Bishops either endeavour to fasilitate or block…time to get rid of the road blocks (especially the ones on the Freeway). Leonardo Ricardo

Lay Anglicana said...

Anglican Churches, like those of other denominations, need to be elastic enough in their structure to allow room for growth. We need an Archbishop of Canterbury who will let in fresh air and light, rather than arriving with fixed ideas of how to keep the fetid atmosphere going. Women bishops (hopefully) will be a start. Talking to the laity as if they were (they are) stakeholders would be a great next step. And then we’ll see…

Charley Farns-Barns said...

A few thoughts, Laura.

When I first met it, the pyramid Scout model was of the normal orientation with the point at the top. In the top was written in large letters “The Boy”. (Now of course it would include girls. And it’s singular because the boy feels the effects of the entire edifice on himself as though it’s all aimed just at him.) Below “The Boy” is the layer of local leaders who are responsible for his physical AND moral development. Every other layer below them, the district campsites, the regions, national and international layers are there to support the leaders in their work, providing training, larger facilities and opportunities, specialist advice such legal and financial services, etc. These lower levels are out of sight to “The Boy” but provide the foundation that underpins the entire edifice. And all of it is there to support “that boy”.

Of course, outside that training of “The Boy” the organisation functions the other way up when it faces the world – it can’t have “The Boy” facing up to government, raising finance, etc. But it was made very clear to us trainee Cub Leaders how we were meant to work – “The Boy” was at the top. (As an aside, we were made to sit on the floor as lectures proceeded “because that’s how the cubs saw us”!! Very salutary, believe me!)

Note the inclusion of moral development. This was always difficult but never shirked. I was in a Church sponsored group and its Christian aspect were never as strong as I now feel they should have been, they were still there. Much of it came through physical activity which required mutual help and support. When you’re swinging on the end of a rope you learn to trust others! It seems to me that the Scout model has a lot to show us if we’re really to be ministers following in the footsteps of the servant-king. It’s worked for years and still succeeds. Charley F-B.

Lay Anglicana said...

Many thanks for this clarification, Charley.

I was very struck by your explanation the other day about the pyramid used by the Scouting movement. I tried to find where Baden-Powell introduced it, but couldn’t find it in an online version of ‘Scouting for Boys’ so I think it was probably an internal document (unless you know different?). I took the pyramid image from the 2011 report by the Chief Scout, so it looks as if political correctness has taken over in changing ‘The Boy’ to ‘Scouts’. This is a shame, as I quite see that it now misses the element of treating each scout as an individual. Very interesting. We will have to keep it uppermost in the minds of the Church as it moves into its ?post-Covenant phase under the leadership of a new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Charley Farns-Barns said...

Well old girl why not do it now? “Let’s do the show right here!” (Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland in “Strike up the Band” 1940?)

You’re a clever clogs with the graphics and your readers will sort the details out – it doesn’t take the brian of an archbishop to redesign the CofE! I’ll kick it off.

At the top of our pyramid in BIG LETTERS goes the word “The Parishioner” (I can’t think of anything better but it sounds a bit clumsy). In the layer below that we have the vicars, curates readers,LWLs, etc. Below that we have the PCCs & deanery(?)
Next is the bishop and diocean offices. Below that we’ve archbishops and the Queen!
And then a thin layer of internationalism. We emphasis that all layers below the clerics are there just to suppport them in their work with “The Parishioner”.

Over to you! Regards, Charley Farns-Barns.

29 March 2012 06:52
Lay Anglicana said...

I think you’ve done the designing Charley! – as for the graphic, we had better wait till we get a new archbishop or some sign that things might change.

29 March 2012 10:29
Charley Farns-Barns said...

No, no! Don’t wait that long. Do it now so the new ABC can how things should be! And anyway, I’m sure others will have other ideas. Many want to put God at the top in all church hierarchies but here we’re talking how the hierarchy should see itself and how it should function. This is revolutionary stuff (bit Christian really)but many will dissent. Charley F-B.

29 March 2012 14:40
28 March 2012 22:08
28 March 2012 19:02
23 March 2012 07:09
22 March 2012 21:55

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