Stephen Kuhrt writes: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis was first published in February 1942. The book is made up of thirty one letters from a senior demon called Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood. Wormwood is a junior tempter assigned to lead a man who has recently become a Christian away from God. By viewing the Christian life from the perspective of evil, C.S. Lewis invited his readers to reflect on the various subtle ways in which the demonic was influencing them. The genre enabled Lewis to make hard hitting points about the human capacity for self-deception and the way in which Christians continue to be as prone to this as anyone.
What follows is an additional ‘Screwtape Letter’ inviting leaders within the Church of England to reflect on the spiritual factors involved in just one aspect of the deeply problematic culture that has developed within it.
My dear Wormwood,
Today I want to talk to you about bullying in the Church of England. Of all the things that we can do to discredit the Enemy, perhaps the most effective is leading those who claim to be his followers into becoming instruments of our oppression instead. Especially those in positions of leadership whom the Enemy intends to oversee the spread of that disgusting power called love. Our task is to make these ‘shepherds’ do the very opposite. If we can achieve this, the benefits for our cause will be incalculable. This is because nothing is more dispiriting to those who follow the Enemy, or more effective in dismantling the threat of his love, than when people experience the opposite of this within the church. Work effectively here and we can bring about the most tremendous outcome – ordinary Christians, so dangerous to us when they worship and act together, giving up on the church and retreating into hurt and confusion about why those with responsibility to care for them, have become channels of our power instead.
Our task in this regard, however, is a subtle one. If those with oversight in the church – bishops, archdeacons and that panoply of officers who occupy diocesan structures – become outright bullies, this will be too obvious. Consensus about the inconsistency of this with the message of the Enemy will too easily build, leading to that genuine reform of the church we dread. What will serve us best, most of the time, is helping such officers to become adept at enabling and facilitating bullying in the church whilst ensuring that they remain largely blind to this reality. Most of them started off their careers with a spirit of vague benevolence and, as we guide their path to becoming instruments of institutional oppression, it is vital that they continue to see themselves as good.
In working towards this outcome, we have several advantages which must be exploited to the full. The most valuable of these and the key ingredient in establishing the culture that we seek is that potent combination of insecurity and vanity that so easily flourishes amongst church leaders. Status symbols play a vital role here and we must work hard to encourage their corrosive power. Do everything you can, for instance, to keep their bishops from realising how incongruous it is for supposed ‘shepherds’ and ‘servants’ to wear elaborate robes, rings and mitres that mark them out so obviously from those for whom they are meant to care. Keep these same bishops from recognising how damaging it is for their Christian faith to be fawned over wherever they go and help them to ignore the fairly obvious signs that those doing this, most commonly Churchwardens and anxious clergy, are seeking to bolster their own status. Use the insecurity that all of this falseness generates to lead these leaders into further vanity as its ‘answer’. Keep these wonderful characteristics of insecurity and vanity feeding off each other and the result will be a spirit of highhanded petulance that is perfect for creating a culture of bullying.
Central to this is encouraging church leaders to make the transition from seeing the church as a community committed to the Enemy’s ministry and mission to a status providing institution needing to be preserved at all costs. The vital thing is that this transition should be largely undetected by others and invisible to such leaders themselves. It’s amazing what can be achieved once an energetic and committed vicar is domesticated through promotion and starts to play what they hilariously call ‘the long game’ whilst gradually surrendering to us more and more control. This process can be disguised through encouraging the liberal use of clichés and cant. You can have some truly diabolical fun here! Encourage bishops and archdeacons to sign off every letter with overly spiritualised language (‘be assured of my continued prayers’ etc), lead them into invoking the language of ‘mission’ for every area of church life, however blandly institutional and keep them using meaningless talk about ‘the very real opportunities facing the church in our twenty-first century context’, ‘the very real desire for reconciliation’ and so on. Above all, encourage these leaders to adopt an attitude towards church discipline that is entirely related to the levels of support or threat being presented to the status quo.
The latter point is vital. Nothing will serve our cause better than encouraging those in church leadership to show massive latitude and leniency to those exploiting the existing power structures within it whilst simultaneously allowing the most harsh and vindictive things to happen to those challenging these structures.
I will write to you on another occasion regarding safeguarding and the enormous damage that we can bring to the Enemy’s cause by ensuring that genuine safeguarding in the Church of England remains as ineffective and incompetent as possible. I mention it here, however, because it is the most telling example of just how much church leaders are prepared to tolerate if it poses no threat to existing power structures – or indeed supports them. Those who abuse vulnerable people within the church are always invested in the status quo facilitating their activity. It is vital that most Christians never make the connection with why those equally committed to the status quo are, as a result, so reluctant to deal with them. Much the same applies to the church’s response to other forms of misbehaviour or the most extreme forms of clerical laziness or incompetence. The crucial thing is to preserve the illusion that toleration of these things is, at worst, a misapplication of ‘Christian love’ rather than the instinctive support of existing power structures that serves our cause so well.
Make sure, however, that the very opposite approach is taken to anyone challenging the status quo. Particularly when clergy speak out against things that are wrong in the church or make any effort to deal with its problems. The response to this should be as vicious and vindictive as possible, although preferably in an indirect form that continues to facilitate its lack of acknowledgement. You’ll find that insecure bishops and archdeacons only need the slightest nudge from you to see anyone raising difficult questions about any aspect of church life as an appalling nuisance. The same will often apply to diocesan secretaries, directors of ordinands, safeguarding officers and, of course, many parish clergy as well. In a similar manner, their vanity and petulance will mean that only the smallest amount of encouragement is usually needed for them to view any challenge to their leadership or management as the most dreadful impertinence. Once these factors are present, it is a relatively easy step to lead these leaders into the practice of bullying.
For the reasons already covered, however, it is vital that most of this bullying takes the character of what is sometimes called ‘passive aggression’ ie. indirect and highly disguised forms of hostility. Fortunately, this approach to any difficulty is already foundational to the culture of the Church of England. It has several advantages. The hidden nature of passive aggression means that it is much less accountable than outright aggression and also much more flexible, allowing for ‘smoke screens’, ‘tactical withdrawals’ and ‘surprise attacks’. Crucially, it also allows those using it to continue their use of religious cant, increasing the demoralising effect upon those receiving this treatment. Most importantly, passive aggression, being founded on its users’ essential dishonesty to themselves, is perfect for creating what is called ‘plausible deniability’ resulting in a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the truth of what is happening. Encourage the persistent use of passive aggression by those in power and it will, in many cases, wear down its recipients until they hopefully give up on their cause – and perhaps even their Christian faith – in despair at the treatment that they are receiving.
It is time that I was more practical, nephew, and spelt out some of the techniques of passive aggression that you should encourage amongst those who facilitate, enable and practice bullying within the Church of England.
- Encouragement of other grievances to build a negative narrative. Anyone who has upset senior clergy and officials by challenging the status quo will have caused a similar upset by challenging established power structures more locally. Lead diocesan officers into subtle ways of emboldening those who have been offended in the expression of their grievances so that a consistently negative narrative is allowed to develop around the person being targeted. The perfect outcome is for that person him- or herself to be presented as a bully. Given that most within the Church of England see bullying as a protagonist not backing down at the first sign of discomfort within those they are challenging, this outcome is easily achieved. Use the hubris of those bishops and archdeacons involved to tell themselves that ‘pastoral concern’ is their motivating force for all of this. Play on the genuine sense of threat felt by the target’s adversaries to see this approach as entirely justified, however tenuous the evidence for their actual wrongdoing.
- Deliberately poor communication. This is a crucial tool. Once a number of grievances have been assembled, ensure that these are only partially revealed to the target. Lead those in charge of the process to present ‘confidentiality’ as the reason for this and away from acknowledging that, in reality, it is all about avoiding transparency. Encourage the officials involved to make the process as slow and tortuous as possible and keep them citing the ‘very real complexities involved’ as a way of evading the fairly obvious ethical problems with this.
- An unprincipled approach to process. This is another effective tool. Use the vanity of those in authority to make them feel that both their position and their wisdom justify their making up procedure as they go along. One example of this is encouraging bishops to present informal action (eg ‘asking someone to step back from ministry’) as ‘preferable’ to formal process. This can be a very effective way of prolonging matters, reducing accountability and making those targeted believe that, unless they cooperate, worse will come their way. If the process is kept informal, this will facilitate a constant ‘moving of the goalposts’ which will further wear down the person being targeted. When formal process cannot be avoided, another effective approach is to encourage those in authority to exploit loopholes within it. An example of this is the use of suspension by a bishop to punish the person being targeted, whilst officially maintaining that ‘suspension is a neutral act and not to be interpreted as a recognition of guilt’. Once again your aim should be to make those using such tactics completely indifferent to the lack of truth involved in this whilst making those being targeted only too aware of this. Hopefully, the recipients of this treatment will become exhausted and depressed and give up long before the baselessness of the case against them and its process becomes apparent.
- Constant use of religious cant. You’ll have already seen the ‘very real’ role that cant (‘the voluntary prolongation of genuine sentiment’) has in our endeavours. Work hard to encourage its constant use and use the churchy ‘bubble’ in which bishops and archdeacons exist to prevent them from recognising the scale of its insincerity. Ensure, on the other hand, that its true nature is very obvious to the person being targeted. Nothing will drive an earnest Christian into despair more swiftly than receiving a nasty letter from their bishop or archdeacon full of threats and passive aggression but signed off with sentiments such as ‘be assured, as ever, of my continued prayers’.
A final point, dear nephew. We won’t be able to convince all members of churches or their leaders to do these things. What we can do, however, is convince the majority to collude with such bullying. Our great advantage here is the same one that enables us to create such havoc with safeguarding within the church – that most Christians will, quite literally, prefer any outcome over one that will make their life more uncomfortable. Once again, cant is a vital weapon here. Encourage Christians who observe bullying within the church to spiritualise their inactivity away with statements such as ‘well of course, we don’t know the fully story’, ‘it’s important we don’t speculate’ and, best of all, ‘we must remember that God is in control’. Care is need here, however. Make sure that the Christians who evade action in this way are uncomfortably aware that they are doing this and steadily more conscious of the lack of reality involved in their ‘faith’.
The same must be encouraged at an institutional level. Particularly at those moments when the General Synod of the Church of England revisits this whole area. The danger here is the awareness of most of its members that the present nature of the Clergy Discipline Measure facilitates all of the factors mentioned above. An even bigger threat is the faltering courage of some of their number who wish to see this change. Our task to make sure their courage fails them and this is done by reminding these members of the Synod of how much they receive from the church’s status quo. Especially those with power to change things in this regard. The nervousness that this will create should then result in a few cosmetic tweaks but nothing that stops the Church of England continuing along that perfect path we wish for it – allowing the most dreadful things to be done by those who support its institutional status quo and the most dreadful things to be done to those who dare to challenge this.
Stephen Kuhrt is Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden in Southwark Diocese
43 thoughts on “How to encourage bullying in the Church”
As an ordinary member of the C of E, I can’t possibly say how much of this is true or justified. (Some of it, I have no doubt, is, sadly, and of course a lot of these methods occur in many other organisations.)
As a former churchwarden, I’m a little puzzled by the single unnecessary and negative reference to the unpaid people who do so much of the work for so little of the glory.
I have read several times, and cannot find any “reference to the unpaid people who do so much of the work for so little of the glory”, let alone a negative one.
Just to correct a wrong impression I may have given, I have huge admiration for Churchwardens generally and below is my attempt to signal this at my church. My current Churchwardens and many before them are worth their weight in gold – not least because of their willingness to stand up against the very things mentioned in this article. Apologies for seeming dismissive of all Churchwardens, Penelope.
Thank you. You have produced a lovely roll of honour for churchwardens. Your article is timely and thought-provoking.
Here are two ideas about what godly leadership is:
1. Being appointed to a particular POSITION which involves carrying out particular responsibilities. The person who is so appointed is ‘in power’. Since they are we have no choice but to cooperate with them – correcting them if they do wrong – but recognising their leadership both when they behave in a godly manner – and when they don’t.
2. Having a God given RESPONSIBILITY for particular people which exists whether or not the people being cared for recognise the person exercising the responsibility as a leader or they don’t – the authority of the person leading existing ONLY by the minute – only in as much as at every individual moment they are obeying God.
To correct what is a decades long pattern of apostasy is to act according to the first idea I listed about leadership above. It gives those guilty legitimacy – it says that they are God’s appointed people – that they are ‘in power’ – and that our duty as Christians is to express objection while remaining in submission to them. This MIGHT be true in the case of single examples of wrong behaviour which were not of a primary nature – but the situation in the Church of England is hardly that.
Only when those in the C of E wishing to be faithful act as if their obedience to God gives them greater authority than those currently recognised to be in leadership will there be change in the Church of England.
My personal favourite was the interview ++ Justin gave to Andrew Marr after the bishops locked clergy out of our churches in 2020. It was a textbook example of gaslighting, along the lines of “no, we haven’t given an instruction, it was only advice and guidance.”
It wasn’t. Apologise and/or back down but do not lie to us to save (your own) face: the ad clerum of March 24th used the word “must” seven times (almost Johannine, no?) As I said to my Bishop: Welby has now fatally and permanently undermined episcopal authority. This sets a precedent; from now on “must” means “we’d really rather you did this”.
But the best bit was this: “In the Church of England the one way to get anyone to do the opposite of what you want is to give them an order. It works with all of us.”*
Really? OK . . . and thanks! One to cut out and keep in your back pockets.
Coming back to Stephen Kuhrt’s otherwise excellent article, I would query this: “the use of suspension by a bishop to punish the person being targeted, whilst officially maintaining that ‘suspension is a neutral act and not to be interpreted as a recognition of guilt’ ”
I can’t see a problem with (or perhaps I mean “an alternative to”) suspension in response to serious allegations of misconduct. E.g. I’ve just taken a school assembly. Suppose someone accused me of sexually abusing a child. I would fully expect to be suspended from contact with children *at the very least* until the complaint was investigated. I honestly can’t imagine how hard it must be for clergy who are falsely, even maliciously, accused and who have to pull out of public ministry. What they feel, how they cope: it must be utterly, utterly awful. And it puts Bishops in an unenviable, even invidious, position. But surely suspension is the only possible course of action?
* The Archbishop of Canterbury to Andrew Marr, BBC1, 12 April 2020. Verbatim.
Yes The Archbishop DID say that Oliver and once again he cannot accept responsibility for his actions. A poor excuse of leadership.
Oliver, I have come off FB so I may not be monitored.
I think that when organisations become more than a certain size, the situation becomes impossible, since any time even one person does something, people say ‘Oh – they are all like that.’
Secondly, people do not acknowledge the fact that public figures are often asked to speak off the cuff and would have been better prepared or thought-out if they had been speaking with preparation.
Third, the higher your office is, the more thousands of things you are held accountable for by perpetual followers/sheep (even victims or ‘victims’) who are unwilling to step up to take responsibility themselves.
Fourth, we are living in a society that gives no mercy to leaders. That means that many of the best equipped do not apply for leadership. They would be on a hiding to nothing. So we get a less good average standard of leadership – but this is ‘our’ fault for being so unforgiving.
Fifth, as soon as one person breaks ranks, people (illogically) think that there is division everywhere so why should we listen to any of ‘them’?
All this is immature human nature at work.
This from one who hates faceless institutionalism as much as anyone does.
Bullying overt and complicit- two articles today – https://stephenmcalpine.com/2022/10/
Personally I would prefer if issues and concerns were addressed directly and in a forthright, detailed manner – rather than through this rather long and wordy analogy.
Also, many bishops (and others serving God in the Church) lead devoted lives, face a range of challenges and pastoral distresses, and are basically trying to be faithful and compassionate.
Where there are specific injustices, name them.
This kind of general attack on church leaders, vilifying them by portraying them as agents of the devil, is poor and (incidentally) affords far too much attention to evil powers, which are no joking matter. Fire back love and grace instead.
We are taught to support our leaders. I regard this diatribe as an attack on them.
If you want to critique, then speak straight, detail the specifics, because – for sure – the bishops are not some evil cabal. This article makes them seem like one. Safeguarding and responding to bullying are most serious matters. That’s obvious. I think they deserve a less concocted, less imaginary, narrative of investigation based on detail fact.
I wonder what Martyn Percy would have thought of this?
I completely agree with you Susannah. I would also suggest that a Christian and biblical discussion of leadership always needs to happen in partnership with what I would call ‘followship’. We are one body. If some leaders can, and do, dominate, bully and overpower, it is also true that followers can, and do, undermine, bully and break their leaders. Followers can be simply unleadable. The routine disparaging and criticism of leaders on social media discussion sites is one of the clearer illustrations of this.
Reading this article elsewhere on Ian’s blog may enlighten those who want some of the back story: https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/the-culture-change-we-need-in-the-light-of-abuse-scandals/
I actually agree with the need for forthright and open critique – where this is possible. But what happens if this has been tried, again and again and got nowhere? What happens if ‘open and direct’ communication in a spirit of trust had actually been weaponised against the person trying to be frank and clear?
My experience and knowledge of the situation faced by the author of this letter means that I have zero confidence in the relevant institutions and leaders of doing anywhere near the right thing. Time after time for the last 3 years, I am left amazed at the ineptitude, avoidance and poor values shown by those running the structures of the C of E.
Perhaps CS Lewis should have just spoken plainly about the gospel, hell and heaven? Perhaps he should have not bothered with all the ‘wordy’ business of Narnia, Screwtape and The Great Divorce? Why did he bother trying to be so clever with his analogies?
He did so because it was an effective way of expressing truth. And judging by most responses, this letter does the same thing.
Thank you for the link. Jon, which is far more factual and informative than the ‘Screwtape’ article. I am sorry for the distress Stephen has experienced, and doubtless the hurt suffered. I have been an IICSA interviewee and know full well how raw things can be, and the importance of professional safeguarding procedures.
Jon, greetings, And I too I want to echo Susannah here. I have long respected Stephen’s faithful ministry and know something of the background here. We must urgently do things better. In places this is happening, but still long way to go.
However – when it comes to this blog, Screwtape, Narnia and the Great Divorce – I do not think you are comparing like with like actually.
OK – the context (i.e. the previous article) changes the understanding – I wasn’t aware that it was about getting done for whistle-blowing when corrupt elements in the church hierarchy were protecting criminals – I thought it was about people getting bullied because their sermons had a doctrinal content which the higher-ups didn’t like.
There are things about this that I don’t understand – namely (in the previous article) why do people get fooled by the likes of Jonathan Fletcher? Don’t Christians (who are supposed to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit) have some sort of an intuition? Can’t they sense a mile off that there is something not right – and then make a sharp exit?
Don’t church-going Christians understand the meaning of the words of 1 John 2:26,27? I get the impression that there is a weird relationship between people and their leaders, which just shouldn’t be possible in a community of people who have the Paraclete within them, if there is the possibility of the issues raised in the previous article (which Jon linked to) happening in a church – and I’m wondering why Christians aren’t sufficiently prepared so that the likes of Jonathan Fletcher actually have a chance of doing the damage described.
Jock: “why do people get fooled by the likes of Jonathan Fletcher?”
The bully seeks control and will achieve that most of the time by being charming. Add status (vicar) to the mix and there will be many people who are unwilling to believe that such a “pleasant, godly person” is capable of bullying anyone. The bully is invariably a compulsive liar and good at manipulating others – so he will easily find ways to discredit anyone who claims to be a ‘victim’. My experience with Fletcher types is that they honestly believe all faults lie with other people and they never tire of blaming others (including their victims) – even when they are caught in the act of being abusive.
This type of church leader will also gradually surround himself with compliant staff. Those that challenge wrongdoing in the early stages will be persuaded to move on. Safeguarding is currently a joke in the CoE.
I don’t know how many of you have tried to be a whistleblower about a Bishop? I assure you it is not easy, based on a case I am familiar with, even when there is documentary proof that the Bishop has ‘a problem with recollection’ (in C of E speak). The safeguarding powers that be in the Church actively withheld this documentary evidence from two bona-fide C of E backed ‘enquiries’. The Bishop says A happened, the whistleblower says Z happened, and now, finally, the whistleblower has possession of that documentary evidence that demonstrates Z happened. The Church decides, without any semblance of due process, that of course A happened. More than twenty current/retired Bishops, including the current 3 most senior Bishops, know the full details of the whistleblower’s concerns, not to mention the entire NST etc. but all have chosen to walk by on the other side. We are repeating the whole Gerry Carey/Peter Ball/Neil Todd saga all over again in the sense of the deference the Church ascribes to Bishops. Has the Church learnt nothing in its treatment of whistleblowers over the last 30 years? What is the whistleblower supposed to do in such circumstances?
…. furthermore, it comes across to me that those in the clergy who complain about being bullied are all a bunch of wimps. Doesn’t Matthew 5:11-12 suggest that this is all part of the game and should be esteemed an honour? Besides, it all sounds so trivial. I don’t know anyone in the C. of E. who got thrown to the lions recently …..
The chap at Oxford?
I can name two in the same diocese right away. It happens all too often.
“…the bishops are not some evil cabal.”
How can you be sure of that?
It should be recognised that some clergy are victims, too, from members of the congregation or colleagues. When resisted, it can bring an unsubstantiated accusation of bullying from the bully, which can be highly stressful for clergy and their families. Yes, it has happened to me.
PS Dear Wormwood, a reminder that in our successful efforts to distance the church’s practice from its scriptures you must never, on any account, do anything so precipitate as to cause a schism. We are most effective when we work inside the church to bring it down. Attacking it from the outside only strengthens it. LLF was a prime example of our drip by drip strategy: the remaining people faithful to our enemy inside their organisation found little in it that they could hit against head-on, while it cast further questions on those who stood for the enemy’s scriptures and made them look intolerant. This is all to the good. Do not neglect the theological colleges, for that is where the leaders of the enemy’s organisation are trained. Make sure that they continue to teach doubt rather than faith in those scriptures, and victory will be ours.
All so, so horribly true.
Especially “Deliberately poor communication. This is a crucial tool. Once a number of grievances have been assembled, ensure that these are only partially revealed to the target. Lead those in charge of the process to present ‘confidentiality’ as the reason for this and away from acknowledging that, in reality, it is all about avoiding transparency.”
And “Nothing will drive an earnest Christian into despair more swiftly than receiving a nasty letter from their bishop or archdeacon full of threats and passive aggression but signed off with sentiments such as ‘be assured, as ever, of my continued prayers’. “
I go to mediation tomorrow with someone who won’t actually tell me what the problem is because ‘it would break a confidence’ ..
Basically, they have listened to gossip, made a judgement, and taken it upon themselves to put me in my place, without ever having talked to me .. the gossip being someone involved in bullying my clergy husband some years ago – before the complainant joined us.
Just don’t know where to go with the conversation when it happens.
This sounds very painful and difficult. I hope the mediation is well managed for you all. In the meantime, may I urge caution about what you post on social media in relation to this?
David – good advice. Craig Murray got 8 months in Sauchton for publishing this
(it was cited as one of the key ingredients in the contempt of court case).
Refuse mediation and exclusion unless you are told what the problem is. Tell the person attacking you that if they do not either back off or inform you then you will put it before the congregation.
Now apply this to the more ‘productive’ strands in the CoE – the big evangelical churches that bring in the money. Or all the ferocious wolves who are sticklers for ‘biblical correctness’, charm the socks off most people in the congregation but nevertheless feel entitled destroy and smear anyone who cannot be controlled by more benign methods.
Bearing false witness seemed to be treated harshly in the OT Deut 16: 15-21.
If accusations against someone are found to be false and unfounded, then to my mind the accused needs to be able to have the right to claim mandatory compensation against those (or the institution) that has falsely accused them and their names exposed.
Whoops! wrong passage . I meant Deut 19; 15-21
Chris – well, I’m a non-Anglican here – and I don’t pretend to understand what people are being accused of – what is the role of the clergy in the C. of E., what they can plausibly be falsely accused of, etc …..
But I’d make two obvious general points:
1. It would be unethical to suspend someone – or do anything that indicates that there might be a problem unless there is a prima facie case – which means that there is a case, which would be good enough to convict, without further evidence from the defendant (and – no – simply saying ‘oh such and such bullied me’ does not constitute a prima facie case – there has to be evidence).
Those within the hierarchy of the C. of E. who suspend people without a proper prima facie case, should clearly be put in jail.
2. Unfortunately, much stronger evidence is needed to establish that someone falsely accused and committed perjury than is needed to acquit the defendant. It would be very nice if false accusers were branded as such and put in jail – but the weight of evidence required to do this seems to be rather high.
I have seen all of this in the ‘secular’ world – I’m disappointed to see that exactly the same crafty manoeuvers are being used against innocent people within the C. of E.. A church is, after all, supposed to be more godly.
This article (and C of E links) at ‘Thinking Anglicans’ today may feed into this topic:
Thank you Stephen. As one who has suffered very severely in this manner, I can say this looks a pretty fair representation of the state of affairs. It gets worse when malignant narcissism or perhaps a degree of psychopathy is present in such a leader.
Oh dear I think now that the signing away of freehold was a mistake. It used to provide protection, a check, a balance to a totalitarian bullying bishop. If a cleric was made ill through bullying they could at least have a degree of security. Commin Tenure does not provide security for a sick/bullied cleric in the same way. Bishops can and have stopped paying stipends once six months sickness has elapsed. It is even worse for clergy on licence!
[commented deleted] This comment makes accusations against Stephen, which I cannot allow to be posted anonymously.
On another topic entirely, I hope Ian doesn’t mind but I see on ‘The Wee Flea’ that a newly appointed football manager in Victoria Australia lost his job a few days later when it was discovered he was a Christian and attended a Christian church. Purely being the member of a mainstream Evangelical Church meant he lost his job.
“By viewing the Christian life from the perspective of evil, C.S. Lewis invited his readers to reflect on the various subtle ways in which the demonic was influencing them. The genre enabled Lewis to make hard hitting points about the human capacity for self-deception and the way in which Christians continue to be as prone to this as anyone. ”
And of course, Ian, one must include oneself as being addressed by C.S.Lewis – as much as anyone else. Religious Teachers (especially ‘lecturers’) can be just as prone to this conceit as anyone. (I’m reminded of the wise old saying: “Do as I say – not as I do”. We’re all compromised).
What an interesting article and thread which has evolked varied views,all of which contain some elements of edification.
From the time that I became a Christian over 60 years ago I too have experienced bullying; at times very physical.
Having tavelled a lot I can say that in almost every Church Denomination
I have experienced varied forms of bullying whith the attendant despair
2 Cor.2:11 for we are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices
Ps 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass
Ps.66:12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
Today I can say that God has indeed brought me into a very whealthy place, I constantly feel that I am one of the richest people on this earth, blessed beyond measure.
Your article does identify the very real devices of our enemies and Satan
But God “keeps us as the apple of His eye”
David Runcorn – now that I have a better understanding of the situation, I am amazed at your negativity. What has been described in the comments below the line is a Kafkaesque situation, – in Kafka’s novel `the trial’ what the defendant has actually been accused of isn’t actually revealed.
You are an insider in the C. of E., you know much more than people like me – you have absolutely no excuse. The sort of satire that Stephen Kurtz wrote is actually a necessary tool for exposing what is going on – and, based on what I have seen in the comments below the line, I’d say that much more of it is needed.
No, S.K. didn’t direct it at specific examples, but people writing below the line have been able to point to examples, all of which follow a general pattern.
A procedure which may have appeared good is, quite predictably, being abused in a serious way.
I’m reminded of the year I spent in Lisbon (1998-99) when Graeme Souness was manager of Benfica football club. He kept losing matches right left and centre and the discussion in the lunch room where I was working was who would be the first Scotsman to leave Lisbon – me or G.S. (I was there on a fixed one year contract). Benfica losing to the left footed nuns of Braga was the final straw (Braga is best known as an ecclesiastical centre. They also have a football team which wasn’t really top flight – and Benfica lost to them). Of course, Graeme Souness got sacked – and the next question was how the club could avoid paying the enormous amount that they were obliged to pay according to the contract. My colleague said, `oh that’s easy – they’ll use the standard procedure – they’ll accuse him of molesting young boys in the showers.’
And that’s exactly what they tried to do! (Of course, in this case it was so transparent that it didn’t work).
It sounds as if procedures have been adopted in the C. of E. which might superficially and naively look OK at first sight – and, quite predictably, the unscrupulous elements have understood how to abuse these procedures. The sort of satire that S.K. wrote is, sadly, necessary.