In the past couple of years I have attended so many interviews that I stopped counting them ages ago. I am now in a position where I have enough experience of these that I can discern common themes and trends.
It is apparent to me that, despite fancy words about vision, mission and pastoral care, the number one concern of the interviewing panels, especially the clerical members, is leadership. So much so that even if you are a contemporary St. Francis you do not get the job unless you are also Alan Sugar's, slightly more cold-hearted and manipulative, twin brother.
What on earth does this say about the laity of the Church of England?
For years the laity has been claiming more authority for themselves in the running of the Church, in particular at the parish level. Quite rightly, the clergy have encouraged this and we are now in a position where the "Father knows best" paradigm of the parish priest is a thing of the past and all changes and initiatives in a local church have to be approved by the congregation members. However, failure to please every member of the laity on any and every any given proposal leads to hissy fits, letters to the bishop, cancelling of weekly giving and threats of leaving the church from those who do not get their way. Archdeacons and bishops, fearful of losing more money and ever mindful of the declining numbers of their church, bend over backwards to appease the complainants whilst often, if not always, making the parish priest the fall guy. No wonder so many good priests in the Church of England are having nervous breakdowns and leaving the ministry.
To put it bluntly, it seems to me that the laity of the Church of England are demanding the authority of adults whilst insisting they only have the responsibility of children. In stead, of promoting the damage control form of leadership amongst its clergy, surely the more Christian and sensible thing to do would be to give the laity a good slap round the face and insist that they are responsible for their own behaviour. In some of the parishes I have been to the laity have actually been proud of their bolshiness and view the appointment of Attila the Hun as their vicar as a badge of honour.
For goodness sake people of the Church - Grow up, will you?!!!