Bishops told to stop acting as CEOs 'chasing growth targets' and instead help depressed clergy

Church of England bishops must stop acting as CEOs 'chasing growth targets' and return to being shepherds of their flocks, clergy are being told.

The Church's increasingly 'organisational and bureaucratic' approach leaves clergy feeling 'guilty' if they don't meet growth targets, a priests' support group was told, as the CofE desperately tries to halt decades of decline.

Justin Welby admitted to struggling with depression himself since becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in an interview with Alistair Campbell.GQ

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, said a target and business-like approach instilled under the current Archbishop of Canterbury, a former oil executive, was contributing to clergy stress and mental health problems.

He called for an end to 'blue-sky' thinking and warned that 'every step that the church takes down the road of managerialism and organisation is a step away from the public'.

It comes as the Church's ruling general synod is planning a Military Covenant styled deal between clergy and the wider CofE after vicars reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion than other professions.

Welby has instilled a programme of 'renewal and reform' designed to reverse the rapid decline across the Church. Included in the wide-reaching plans is a 'mini-MBA' styled course for bishops to learn management skills.

But Percy said: 'The church has become too organisational and bureaucratic. Sharp missional evangelistic thinking has created a culture where clergy feel like employees, chasing targets - and they feel guilty when they don't achieve those targets, or when they can no longer relate to what has become an organisation.

'This has fuelled the growth in clergy stress,' he told the 362-year old Anglican clergy support charity, Sons & Friends of the Clergy.

Clergy reported higher levels of emotional exhaustion than other professions, according to the Church of England Experiences of Ministry SurveyPixabay

Bishops' role as pastoral leaders and teachers also needs to be 'recovered', he said, warning they were acting like business managers.

'They need to stop being the CEO of an organisation that is chasing growth targets, or a kind of "area manager" but instead must understand that the two key symbols that a Bishop holds are a chair (to teach) and a pastoral staff (a symbol of care). Bishops need to be good teachers and great carers, not great leaders or CEOs or managers of organisations. We can get that from good lay leaders and diocesan secretaries,' he said.

The comments at the annual general meeting of the Sons & Friends of the Clergy last week came after chief executive Jeremy Moodey said mental health problems among vicars were increasing. He said 30 per cent of Anglican clergy had suffered from depression since their ordination and more than 40 per cent had at some stage thought about giving up ministry because of stress.

In response the charity agreed to change its objectives, enshrined in a 1678 Royal Charter from King Charles II, to include 'the promotion of health' among Anglican clergy and their families.

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