A drive to make the Church of England leadership less “male, pale and stale” with a new fast-track promotion system for future bishops appears to have backfired after it emerged it was dominated by white, middle-aged men.
A secret “talent pool” – designed with echoes of The Apprentice – to train up young, more dynamic clerics for top positions has been established as part of a drive to transform the episcopate to be more representative of society, including with more female and ethnic minority membership.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said following the final vote last year to allow women to become bishops that he hoped to see a 50:50 split the sexes in the episcopate within the next 10 years.
So far six women have been made bishops but only one, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, has been consecrated to a more full diocesan bishopric, which brings with it elevation to the Lords.
Earlier this month the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell also lashed out at the “shocking” lack of black and ethnic minority clerics in senior positions, which he said was “borderline racist”.
Archbishop Welby, a former City oil executive, has spoken repeatedly of his desire to open the leadership of the Church up to new talent.
But the efforts to modernise training for senior clergy – including sending some on mini-MBA courses at business schools – came unstuck last year after an official report setting out the plans was savaged as being packed with “executive management speak” while barely mentioning God.
There has also been uneasiness about plans to dip into the Church’s multi-billion pound investment plan to pay for a new “renewal” plan.
The Church is phasing out its ultra-secretive “preferment list” from which bishops were picked amid claims it accentuated an image of an organisation run by an old-boys network.
The new talent pool, officially known as a “leaning community”, was intended to be more open – although the names of those invited to join it are not being published actively.
Every bishop has been asked to nominate up-and-coming leaders from their diocese to be put through intensive interviews before joining a five-year programme involving training courses and running major projects.
Although there will be no Apprentice-style public vote, those thought not to be making the cut will be asked to leave.
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