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September 28, 2005

Looking for a new Diocesan Secretary - or searching for the Archbishop's new Management Network Co-Ordinator?

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - is baffled by the ads appearing in the Church Times.

In a few days time just down the road from me at the ancient church of St Mary-le-Bow, the Archbishop of Canterbury and six senior bishops will gather at a private ceremony to confirm Dr John Sentamu as Archbishop of York. It's a big job and the new Archbishop will need all the support he can get. Happily for him, it looks as if help is on the way. In this week's Church Times – a paper which rivals Sewing Machine Monthly for sheer excitement – there is an expensive advertisement for a new General Secretary for the Diocese of York.

This advert announces that silver-haired fifty-nine year old Emily Blenkinsop and ladies like her need not apply. Emily is the sort of person who loves Matins from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. She walks her little dog every morning, does charity work in the cottage hospital accounts department, tends her garden in the afternoon and reads Barbara Pym novels in the evening before tucking herself up early with a pot of camomile tea. Emily is of course too old for the job. And though she's an expert administrator, she's also not cool enough for the York Diocese whose advert says right at the top:

Looking for a quiet life in a simple organisation hidebound by tradition? Read no more!
May I just take a teensy little bit of issue with this advert before I go on? I mean, obviously the York Diocesan politburo who devised this ad knows nothing about tradition. Tradition is not what makes you "hidebound". Tradition is that which is tried and tested by time and use and so acts as an antidote to mindless innovation.

So what do they want in York? They spell it out in glorious gobbledegook:

The Diocesan Secretary will play a vital role in developing the mission of the church. She or he will be a member of the senior management team contributing to the strategies and policies that will take mission forward and manage all the support and business functions in a customer-focused way, co-ordinate the operation of the network with more than a portfolio of management skills...

How exciting and thrusting and not "hidebound by the tradition" of writing intelligent English the Church authorities are. In fact, anyone who talks like that advert ought to be told to go and wash their mouth out. It's just like anything on any one of the hundreds of pages each week in the public sector employment vacancies section of The Guardian. The advert is so trite, banal, clichéd and jargon-ridden as to be unintelligible. It's just the usual claptrap of boring management-speak.

The ad is hidebound by a tradition of speaking that is wholly bad. Of course we expect nothing better from the corporate fools in the "management teams" of insurance offices or the superannuated bureaucrats in our bloated public services. But the Church is supposed to be based on the supreme notion that the Word was made Flesh. And whatever the deep theological implications of that luminous phrase, it does at bottom carry the meaning that speech and writing is to be about something solid and tangible. What is the Church doing parroting this sort of vicious inanity?

It's certainly not being radical and prophetic – or as the idiots in the York Diocesan Office would say – "cutting edge". It's just doing what the Church always does so well: following secular fashion only, like some Prince Consort, one dutiful pace behind.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.


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I'm thoroughly confused. If Dr Mullen thinks tradition is such an unmixed blessing why does he object to the Archdioecese of York behaving in a way which (he holds) has become traditional in the dear old C of E?

Posted by: Innocent Abroad at September 28, 2005 06:05 PM
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Business functions? Customer-centered? In a church?

Posted by: Robert Marchenoir at October 2, 2005 03:16 PM
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