Philip Murphy describes how the New Managerialism came to Leytonstone

UNDER THE SHADOW of the cross of Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest, on the eve of Holy Cross Day 2000, the Deanery of Waltham Forest made history. Deanery Representatives willingly voted to have fewer clergy than the Diocese was prepared to allocate.

Was this an act of self-sacrifice towards the entire Diocese of Chelmsford? Hardly. What happened on that evening was the culmination of a scandalous chain of events which, it has been claimed, has involved the use of Charitable monies in the undermining of Orthodox Parishes; Catholic and Evangelical.

Over three years before, on the 29th April 1997, the Deanery Synod agreed to hold a Deanery Mission Audit – subject to funding. The total cost was close to £30,000 of which the Church Urban Fund made a significant grant. For this princely sum there was the promise of each parish receiving:

a detailed analysis of the community;

an analysis of the social and cultural needs of the parish;

an analysis of the current human and material church resources available to meet the discovered needs of the parish;

indications of the match, and mis-match, of resources to needs;

possibilities of co-operation with Anglican and non-Anglican neighbours.

And all of this without the auditor intending to meet incumbents on a one-to-one basis!

The Deanery was promised much (but concerned only with the staffing levels in order to meet the stated 25 clergy posts that would be available in 2005).

The Diocese was also promised a great deal, not least a ‘model of pastoral examination that may be suitable for implementation elsewhere’. Be warned, dear reader, of this ‘model’!

The consultants chosen were Divercities, led by Mr. Julian Stanyer who, it was claimed, would be seeking to understand the parishes.

The mountains of paperwork that then followed in order to understand the parishes are too dull to bore anyone now. However, amongst a 23 page questionnaire to clergy there was the request to state the level of participation in the Church as opposed to it being hierarchical. (Are these opposed?) The laity were not spared this mindless babble, having 22 questions to answer such as ‘are you a Christian?’ For the record, 100% of parishioners at Saint Margaret’s Leytonstone considered themselves so to be. God reigns high in the opinion polls around here! At the end of all of this, there were two main volumes published. 109 pages of Statistical Data (which included tables without keys) and a 74 page report of Conclusions. Each parish received a third report of the statistics of the Congregational Response.

Some £30,000 later and drowning in paperwork, the deanery rejected the conclusions! Not without good cause when you consider the division that it went on to create.

‘Autonomy’ the foundation of freehold parish life amidst the wider Church of England had, the report claimed, verged on anarchy. The Deanery had become a ‘confederation’ the report announced and warned us in no certain terms that:

‘such organisations invariably fall apart. In the international context, we have seen that the transition from Soviet Russia to a Confederation of States, is now falling apart in a state of anarchy.’

No doubt the Deanery would have benefited from the appearance of Kate Adie to give us an in-depth analysis!

In these days of management structure, the Audit felt that the Deanery (which has no legal standing) was weak because of an ‘absence of formal powers and explicit controls’.

And so the proposal was a ‘federation’ model which, by chance, saw the closure of seven Churches of which six were either in the Reform tradition or Catholic Parishes which had passed some or all of Resolutions A, B and C. No surprise in a report which claimed that:

‘There is a common purpose across the Anglican Deanery of Waltham Forest but it has been obscured by divisions amongst the clergy. We very much hope that the Alternative Chapter will cease the damaging role that it is playing in undermining the work of the Deanery;’

It is an interesting assumption that there is a common purpose which is not common.!

It is worth noting that Mr. Stanyer did not request to attend any Alternative Chapter meeting, nor to my knowledge did he ever speak to any of its’ members about its function and role.

But then Mr. Stanyer did write to me to explain that I had ‘not fully grasped the nature of the audit’ which should be ‘executed in a spirit of humility’. Perhaps humility is just a bit too expensive financially when it comes to a Deanery!

It is not fair to continue to dwell on the lengthy and misguided conclusions of this tardy report. However, there remains the concern of what may be seen as an abuse of Charitable Monies and the warning to all other Deaneries not to follow this ‘model of pastoral examination’.

And so was borne the Audit Implementation Group (AIG) who at no cost would create a new Report and Conclusions, having bombarded Parish Clergy with yet more paperwork. Ultimately the report provided for the allocation of 21 Clergy of Incumbent or Assistant Status, 3 Title Posts and 1 Community Development Worker. This is where you, dear reader, joined the ecclesiastical roller coaster.

At the latest meeting of the Chapter I raised the point that having found the process of cutting back clergy so painful, and when parishes were critical of the constant planning for the decline of priestly ministry, it was a surprise that the AIG so happily agreed to cut back yet one more post and provide for this Development Worker. The view of the majority of the Synod felt that this worker ‘for the whole Deanery and the Borough was worth investing in’. This post, they felt, should be backed up with funds from the clergy stipends pot.

Three and a half years down the line of the Deanery moving to audit itself; and £30,000 having provided little more than paper for recycling, the Deanery of Waltham Forest has shown its true colours. Sacramental Ministry is not important here, and the precious monies given by parishioners towards that ministry can be promised to posts which may further the social work of Waltham Forest Borough Council, but will not provide the bread of life, the words of absolution or the healing touch of Christ to the People of God.

The Deanery of Waltham Forest has made history, and Christ on the Cross looks down and pleads forgiveness.

Philip Murphy is Vicar of Saint Margaret’s, Leytonstone, London E11, in the diocese of Chelmsford.