Another Day, Another Mission Strategy is launched

Ah, a new day brings with  it a new mission strategy. All the stipendiary clergy in the diocese have been sent a set of questions that will lead to the next grand plan for the diocese.

Usually, I can muster a fair amount of cynicism at these exercises. Not so with this one though. No added cynicism is needed as it tells us what the outcome will be on the first page. Presumably that means that there is no point in filling it in and sending it back.

Those preparing the survey, which contains all the usual questions, say:

We are convinced that such a strategy needs to be built upon the wisdom and experience of the Regions, truly owned by them and eventually rolled out through them. We are also convinced that the first stage involves gaining a picture of the reality of congregational life in each Region.

Not much room then in this exercise for those who think that the Regions are one of the bits of the diocesan structure which waste time and lead to a decision making process that can be dangerously profligate financially. Thinking about St Mary’s as a congregation of about 300 or so souls, the region affects only three or four of us. I do try where possible not to go to Regional Council meetings as they are bad for my health and wellbeing.

When the regions report at Diocesan Council (which holds the real financial clout in the diocese and which is often barely quorate as it needs representatives from every Region present) we hear a wearying litany of inaction and dreariness that bears no relation to the so-called Action Groups in the diocese.

It is these structures which are most in need of change in the diocese. If you want my two pennyworth (and you are reading my site, so I presume you do) then I’d want to have a look at the Bishop’s Staff Group. It needs a name change, a makeover and a couple of other people elected to it from diocesan synod to make sure people are properly represented. Give it the power to make decisions and a sense of being owned by everyone and the alarming decision making powers of the Diocesan Council could be extinguished once and for all. Make the regions free to do what they like (including ceasing to be) and inhibit them from being able to decide anything that matters and you’ll have a diocesan structure which has a chance of working well.

Later on in the preamble to the document, we are told the process which will be used to impose the outcome:

Out of these meetings, we hope to discern 7 Regional representatives who will then form a Working Party with the two of us to progress the work towards its ultimate launch in spring 2011.

I think that the terms of this review are flawed. This process hasn’t had the benefit of discussion of the Staff Group, the Chapter or the Diocesan Council and I think it might have benefitted from that. Hopefully it will be on the agenda for a conversation at the upcoming Stipendiary Clergy Conference.

Its hard to think that I’ll be enthusiastically filling in this document until and unless there is some kind of assurance that the decisions have not all been made. I’ll put it on one side and we’ll see.

Another curiosity from the document is this statement:

Bishop Gregor pledged during the episcopal election to promote a strategy of growth for this Diocese, a strategy that would encompass the many different facets of church life needing to change and grow: new ways of being the church, diocesan policy for selection and deployment of lay and ordained ministers, lay leadership, stewardship, spiritual renewal and yes, numerical growth.

I know that must be true if its been sent out to us all, but the funny thing is, that it just doesn’t sound like +Gregor. It sounds more to me like the last dying gasps of localtruelycollaborativewholeministryforthewholebodyofall
thebaptisedtotalpeopleofgod.  Or whatever its called this week. (For more details see this post and its comments)

If you want to take part in the current review more than I seem to do, you can do so by downloading the questions here.

And anyway, what would you do if you held the diocesan fairy wand in your hand and were granted three diocesan wishes?


  1. three diocesan wishes?
    (i) Scrap every Diocesan body, council and group; let Bishops commend and expound the Gospel, and care for their clergy.
    (ii) Devolve every decision to the locally accountable group; let priests be priests and not bureaucrats.
    (iii) Let go of the Anglican communion for the sake of the Kingdom.

  2. You know, in all the years I’ve been a member of the SEC I didn’t know about the Diocesan Fairy Wands. But now you mention them I can see that there must indeed be such a thing. In the spirit of openness I would like to see them processed in at the beginning of General Synod with the candles and placed on the Table. Carried by small children, perhaps?

    Do you know if they are different colours?

    And where is The Diocese of Argyll and the Isles’ fairy wand at the moment? Is someone else looking after it and therefore has two? Or is it waiting in a dusty filing cabinet for the drawer to be flung open and set free?

  3. Please allow me to jump in before anyone from the Diocese Across the Water feels obliged….

    Ruth, you should know by now. It is the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles. Not the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. Nor indeed the Judean Peoples’ Front.

  4. As the Chair of a Regional Council, and a member of Diocesan Council, I feel well and truly “whupped” by your words, Kelvin. If I were the MDO or the Bishop or Dean, I would feel similarly put down. There are folk who are genuinely trying to put together a strategy for mission that works and is not smothered by cynicism from the outset. I think a bit of support or a word of encouragement or advice may have been a bit more helpful.

    It is true that some Regional Councils may not be working, but that certainly isn’t helped by clergy staying away from them because it’s bad for their health. On the contrary, it needs these priests to be there, to stand up and question what’s going on or not going on and help shape them into a body that works. The theory is a good one, but Regional Councils will fail simply because some folk will share your attitude towards them. As a member of the Bishop’s Staff Group and a member of Diocesan Council, I find it totally incredible that you choose not to attend and disseminate information from these two bodies, and indeed incredible that you have not taken your Regional Council by the scruff of the neck and shown it how it can be more productive and engage more dynamically in current Diocesan policy.

    I sit on Diocesan Council too, and am amazed at the power you think it has! Very often, it seems to me, we cannot make any decisions until they are ratified by the Bishop’s Staff Group, or things come from the Staff Group that we are told to ratify. Debate is sometimes rare and I feel Council is a pretty toothless being, and exists only to ratify what others in more lofty positions want to happen. (Paisley was a prime example of this).

    It’s dead easy to sit there and snipe at those who are trying their damndest to wake the sleeping and encourage growth and life. Instead, we need to pull together and make sure something is put in place that is effective and that we can all buy into.

    Maybe the Clergy Conference will give us a start, but banging in and damaging the process before it has begun is perhaps not the most constructive thing you’ve done of late.

  5. Hi Kenny – thanks for your comments. I think you are quite right in some of the things you say, though not in others.

    I agree that it was not a constructive way to engage with this to put all of my grumpiness into a blog post and wish now that I had kept quiet.

    There are some things which you’ve not got entirely right though. I’m not a member of the Diocesan Council, as it happens. Also, your assumptions about the way in which decisions were made about Paisley are not quite right. However, learning from what you’ve said, I’m not inclined to post more about that on here, but I will be saying more about it in meetings as appropriate.

    My comments about Regional Councils are influenced by two things only – the local ones which I have been to and the reports from the Regions which are given at Diocesan Council. (I usually find these quite shocking).

    As it happens, I disagree with you about clergy health. Should regional council meetings ever affect the health of clergy, its certainly time to stop going. We don’t think nearly enough about one another’s wellbeing.

    I do however take the general point that my blog post was unhelpful. Though it does still represent my views, I’m sorry that I posted it online in the first place and wish I had thought twice about it.

    I guess lots of us who keep blogs sometimes make mistakes and this one was one of mine.

  6. Now I feel like a heel! I’m lucky inasmuch as what I post is largely ignored or unread, so I can rant when I like without too many consequences, unless it annoys or causes hassle for the upper echelons in our little Church.

    I know, of course that you are not a member of Council, but you do attend as Provost of the Cathedral and are allowed to contribute.

    You did say that Regional Council were bad for your health and well-being. I am concerned about that, and yes, I wish we were all a bit more concerned for each other, but my suggestion was that you took steps to ensure that these meetings were a little more constructive and actually did what they were set up to do. I agree that reports back to Diocesan Council are often dreadful. I shiver when I hear reported that the highlight was a Coffee Morning held in Little St Reubens, but how do we change that?

    I often think that the old RCC was much much better at disseminating information down to parishes, and every parish felt part of the processes of Church Government, but new models are indeed needed. I think new processes may well emerge from this new initiative.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the negativity in this particular post. You seem to be redeeming yourself in subsequent jottings.

    The truth is that we need you, and your vision, on board, and the Clergy Conference may well be a good place to begin.

  7. Kelvin says

    And we’ve got yet another Mission Strategy document to get our teeth into at General Synod! Hurrah!

    And you know what I think of that one?

    Well, let me tell you, I think………

    No, maybe I’ve learnt my lesson.

    For now, anyway.

  8. I just can’t wait… and I hope tou DO say what you think!


  1. […] To wrap up Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow explains that as a new day dawns a new mission statement is launched […]

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