And here is my real beef with Welby’s Church: managerialism. The backdrop to Welby’s appointment was the banking crisis and the subsequent Occupy camp at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Church needed to get a bit more this worldly, many thought. It needed to understand finance and business. When it came to capitalism, Welby was a grown-up, having worked for Elf Aquitaine in a previous life. And 11 years in the oil industry clearly shaped his thinking about organisational structures. The old, slightly bumbling high-table, soft-power understanding of Lambeth Palace was not for him. Welby wanted to change things and have access to levers of real executive power.
But the Church of England is not set up like this. It never has been. The parish system is the very model of subsidiarity. If anything, the Church is a bottom-up institution rather than top-down. You bow to your bishop, but you don’t necessarily do everything he asks. Under Welby, however, the centre has grown ever stronger, the parishes increasingly weaker. Max Weber famously divided power into the charismatic, the traditional and the legal/rational. Welby is the first archbishop who has tried to govern through the latter.
The “Save the Parish” movement was established as a fightback. Too many bishops became middle managers, hidden behind their laptops. Directives and new initiatives came down from head office, which many of the clergy, myself included, received with an inner groan. In the face of declining attendance, we all had to learn that evangelical up-speak, and get on with the paperwork. Morale has plummeted.
The Church’s reaction to Covid was the depressing conclusion of Welby’s legal/rational approach to power.
This is first rate: serious but not unsympathetic. It aligns with my thoughts: there is much to like about JW. He has been unfailingly kind towards me despite my implicit criticisms on Safeguarding. All the more reason to be “Father in God” rather than CEO https://t.co/qeiCvC9rIm
— MartinSewell (@SewellMartin) March 21, 2023